(I tried to get pics of the rest of the food – but it went so fast I only managed to get pics of the tuna noodle casserole!)
Opening the front door, I found Ira and Leo standing on the welcome mat, holding sweet-smelling bundles.
Ira (chagrined smile decorating his face): “Sorry we’re late, but the Missus wanted to send along a casserole, and it took longer to finish baking than she’d anticipated….”
Me (relieving him of the cloth-covered dish): “Ira, anything your wife cooks is more than worth the wait. Come on in.”
Leo: “Hey boss, I brought cupcakes…”
Me (my stomach fluttered in response to his words – Leo’s knitting needles are talented, but his kitchen skills are infamous): “Did you make them yourself?”
Leo (lips twitching): “A dozen of the Alter’s finest.”
Me (quietly releasing the breath I was holding): “If you’d like to hang up your coats on a hook, we’re back in the kitchen.”
Leo (eyebrows rising in surprise): “We?”
Me: “I needed help. Don’t worry, I kept it in the family.”
The next few minutes were taken up with hellos and how-do-you-do’s as everyone introduced and/or reacquainted themselves with each other over wings, dumplings, and a scoop or two of casserole. (Which if eaten individually – was wonderful, but taken together? Tuna-and-noodle casserole, garlic-soy-sauce wings, and maraschino cherry & pumpkin seed cupcakes did not exactly meld well on one’s pallet. Despite that small hiccup, we still managed to do the dishes justice.)
Robbie (hand suspended over my phone): “You want to start the tape from the beginning?”
Ira (tilting his head at me): “Tape?”
Me (leaning back in my chair): “This last Monday, Josie Reville ordered a ride thru FLYT, from me specifically, and I sort of recorded our entire trip on my phone.”
Leo (laughing): “Sort of?”
Me (lips twitching): “Not the critical take away here, what is, is our conversation.”
Since we weren’t too far into the recording, we agreed to start over. When we reached the audio gap, where Robbie, Beatrice, and I left off earlier, I filled them in on the action occurring outside the range of my phone’s microphone. Until the recording resumed spitting out something more interesting than me shifting in my seat or the occasional blare of a car horn.
(I did think about sticking my phone out the window, but I judged that a bit overly keen.)
Drycleaning in one hand and phone in the other, Josie’s forward progress towards the Princess abruptly ended a yard from her front bumper. At which point, Josie attempted to fuse her cellphone to her skull, by simultaneously pivoting and tilting so her entire bodyweight appeared to rest against her right ear – and the phone firmly pressed against it.
My spidey senses (augmented by the naked vexation adorning her face and underscored by a light amount of finger-pointing) told me Josie’s trenchant heart-to-heart wasn’t going well.
Losing interest in Josie’s unusual but not unprecedented outburst of temper, my attention wandered onto her handful of long shimmering frocks. Frocks that rapidly bewitched the eye with their twinkling dance. Ignoring the fact the glittering display owed its origins to passing headlights and Josie’s intermittent finger jabbing, I continued to enjoy their sparkle and shine. So much so it took a minute for me to realize Josie had shifted her gaze off the ground, thru the windscreen and onto me.
Figuring this was my cue, I cracked open my door to relieve Josie of the hangers cramping her efforts at a more emphatic style of gesticulation. No sooner had I set foot on the pavement, Josie made me aware of my misread cue.
“I’ll let you know when you’re needed.”
Allowing Josie’s autocratic tone to roll off my back, I stiffly dipped my chin and retook my seat. Deciding to adjust my focus off Josie and her enthralling dry cleaning, I pulled a narrow notebook out from under my seat.
Pointedly keeping my eyes off of the glimmering gowns, I flipped to the correct to-do list and sent my pencil whooshing across the page. Crossing off the names of the novelties I’d placed on layaway at the Toy Shop this afternoon felt satisfying and unexpectedly nostalgic. The first time I ever took my life into my own hands was participating in a holiday toy craze. Not only did I drive two states over and nearly ended up engaging in fisticuffs with a desperate mum – the Princess received her first dent!
All so I could secure a Tickle-Me-Elmo for a four-year-old Robbie. (Worth it.)
Scarcely had the memory of that giggling scrap of red fur finished pulling a genuine smile from me, Josie’s tight voice moving past the Princess’s front wheel-well dimmed it considerably. “What’s so hard? We made sure there were only two options…Get him on board!”
In the midst of secreting away my notepad, Josie reached my door and hung up her phone. Apparently concerned I’d missed her arrival, she started tapping her acrylic nail against my half-opened window – thus extinguishing the remnants of my cheery reverie.
“Are you going to help me with this? Or do I need to do this myself as well?”
Plastering on a smile that probably looked as sincere as it felt, I once again exited the Princess and found myself immediately in possession of Josie’s fancy-pants laundry. Due to her shoving it into my arms. Taking a deep breath of the crisp air, I closed my eyes and counted the clicks Josie’s sky-high heels made against the asphalt. I’d reached the count of twelve when the squeal of the Princess’s passenger side door opening obscured her footfalls and most everything else, except her voice.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
The only upside to Josie slamming the door was it cut off the condescension of her words.
Leaning into the Princess, I slipped my seat forward and gingerly hung/laid the gleaming evening dresses across the backseat. After climbing behind the wheel, I engaged the engine and shifted into reverse. “Where would you like me to drop you off tonight? Back at the garage? Work? Home?”
“What?” Transferring her frown from the black screen of her phone to me.
“What’s our final destination? I need it to plan the most efficient route for your chores.”
Neither the faint squeak my seat made as I swiveled in place to see out the rear window or the increase in engine noise as I depressed the gas pedal detracted from the unadulterated derision Josie embroidered into her answer.
“O’Phoebe, always going the extra mile when no one asks you too.”