A grilled cheese sandwich, oozing with butter. Greasy fries. A thick chocolate milkshake.
Roxie should have listened to Allison. None of the menu items she had just laid to waste at lunch with Allison and Noelle were the solution to her life’s problems. Instead, the food sloshed around in her stomach with each stomp down the sidewalk to Graciela’s place.
Roxie had managed to keep her cool throughout the lunch, laughing and joking sarcastically at the appropriate moments. But now that she was alone, three words churned in her head like the three different foods her stomach was trying feebly to digest.
I told him, Graciela’s text message had read. A simple note, as if she were inquiring about Roxie’s day. But Graciela had told the man Roxie was dating that she had slept with James. This was apparently Graciela’s way of thanking a friend for five excruciating hours at White Elephant Weddings.
As she drew closer to the apartment, she heard the familiar and joyful bark of Socrates, Graciela’s dog, from across the street. Eyes narrowing, she looked around for the dog and its owner. It seemed that the showdown would end up happening outdoors, for all the neighbors to behold.
Good, Roxie thought. Soon everyone would see just how ghastly a person Graciela was.
The barking stopped when a male voice said, “Calm down, Socrates. Let me talk to her!”
Graciela crouched behind a parked Mini Cooper as his voice grew louder and she heard footsteps and the clicking of a dog’s nails on the street. She watched four human feet – two in tennis shoes and two in impossibly high heels – and four brown paws pass by the other side of the car. All eight feet waited for a car to zip by before continuing across the road.
“It’s great to meet you,” Javier was saying. “Graciela’s told me a lot about you. And so nice of you to help me walk Socrates! He’s a handful.”
A female tittered. “Oh, no problem!”
Their voices grew fainter as they crossed the street. When Roxie kneeled onto the cement, she didn’t feel the small pebbles that sunk into her bare flesh.
“So does a handsome guy like you have a girlfriend?” the female asked.
“Well –,” Javier began, before two cars zoomed past.
Well what? Roxie thought. Her nose was less than an inch from the sidewalk as she craned to see under the car. Not only had Graciela told Javier what Roxie had done. But now she had lent him Socrates – a certifiable magnet for other women!
The couple and the Canine Cupid were moving farther and farther away.
Graciela was torn: continue spying, or confront her betrayer? The sudden pain in her knees decided for her. As she slunk away from the car like the Grinch himself, she struggled to keep from turning around to survey the love blossoming just across the street.
She took the steps two at a time and jabbed at the intercom.
“Roxie?” Graciela said. Her voice was unusually calm. “I’ll buzz you in.”
Before Roxie could wonder how Graciela had known it was her, the buzzer blared in her ear.
When Roxie reached the sixth floor, Graciela swung the door open wide. She was already dressed up for her gig at the Salsa club that night, wearing a tight-fitting magenta dress and matching stilettos. As she stepped back to usher Roxie inside, both hands alighted on her hips.
“Can I ask why your knees are all scratched up like a little kid’s?” she said, laughing.
Roxie wasn’t laughing. She kicked off her platforms, flounced toward the couch, and turned, arms folded across her chest.
“I think I’m the one who should be asking questions around here,” she said.
“Whoa,” Graciela said, attempting to be serious. Her smiling eyes mocked Roxie. “This looks important. You sure you don’t want a drink first?”
Roxie tried to keep her voice steady. “We need to talk about the text message you sent. First of all, what business do you have telling Javier what I do? And not only that – ” She pointed a finger in the direction of the window overlooking the street. “You lend him your girl magnet and make sure he finds someone else!”
Graciela sauntered over to the dining room table and began to pilfer through a stack of mail. She picked up an electric bill, surveyed the details, put it back down. “This isn’t the same Roxie who went to White Elephant Weddings with me,’’ she said finally.
“What do you mean by that?” Roxie asked.
“Well, that Roxie went on and on about how she doesn’t need a man. How she loves being single. And how no man is ever going to trap her into marriage.”
Roxie shrunk a little. Maybe it had been somewhat inappropriate to be so negative while her friend shopped for wedding dresses.
Graciela continued. “That Roxie said she just thought of Javier as a friend.”
“But no matter what, you had no right to tell him what I did,” Roxie said, floundering.
“You’re right,” Graciela said. “I didn’t have any right to tell him. But you know what? I think I know Roxie a little better than she knows herself. I know the Roxie who’s right here in front of me, worried about losing a good thing.”
Roxie stared at the floor, feeling her face grow hot.
“That girl out there with Javier? She’s my cousin. And happily married. I didn’t get a chance to walk Socrates today and they’re helping me out. I texted you just to test my theory that you were lying about your feelings.”
Graciela stared Roxie down.
“I didn’t tell Javier anything,” she said.
by Jennifer Anthony
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 02:40 PM
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