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PART FORTY-EIGHT

“I think you need a drink,” Suzann told Karla, holding the young woman’s hand.

“No, no. I’m fine.”

“You’re definitely not fine,” Stacie said. “I’m so sorry.”

“Yes,” Suzann agreed, “so am I. But what are we going to do?”

A tall, thin, slightly pockmarked young man with a long, ginger beard bearing plates, silverware, napkins and three dishes of Buffalo cauliflower slid into the table next to Stacie.

“Hey!” Stacie declared, offering him her cheek, “how are ya?!”

“Great,” he said, bussing her and placing the cauliflower in front of each of the women. “Busy, but great. How’s your head? Great to see you.

“Hey,” he continued, “somehow the kitchen made three of these instead of two, so I brought out all three. I’m Sean,” he added, offering his now empty hand to Suzann.

“Suzann, Sean. Sean, Suzann,” Stacie intoned as the two shook.

“And I’m Karla,” the diminutive blonde said, taking Sean’s offered hand.

“Ladies,” Sean said, smiling and nodding.

“They did, did they?” Stacie responded, head tilted to the side and right cheek drawn up in a smirk. “You’d better tell somebody to keep an eye on those guys. And are we talking my head? You’re the one who had too much to drink.”

“Me? Never. Yeah, I know just the guy to do it. And speaking of drinks, what are you having?” he asked, nodding to Stacie.

“An Other West Coast. Steph suggested it. Sip?”

“Please,” he said with a nod and quick drink. “Great choice. Good beer! Well, duty calls. Great to see you, Stacie. Thanks for the beer. Ladies,” he added with a laugh, disappearing back into the kitchen.

“I take it that would be the Sean half of Steven Tyler?” Suzann asked. “Cute. And personable.”

“Yeah,” Stacie replied, nodding her head. “Nice neighbors. He had a twenty-fifth birthday bash last week.”

Suzann smiled then asked, “Karla, why don’t you have a drink?”

“No, thanks. I’m fine with just my water.”

Suzann frowned at Karla, turned her head toward Stacie and said, “I think someone’s not being very hospitable. My guess is that this someone’s worried about the bill. Stacie? Who’s paying for my drinks today?”

Stacie pulled her head back in surprise before smiling and saying, “Why, I am, aren’t I, Suzann?”

“Yes, you certainly are. And since you’re paying for drinks I think it would be rude of me not to reciprocate and pay for our hors devours, no? Especially since your fawning neighbor who is sweet on you provided us with three for the price of two?”

“That’s certainly what my mother taught me,” Stacie replied with a nod. “And especially so, now, as you said.”

“And, furthermore,” Suzann continued, “isn’t it customary to bring gifts of food and drink to those in times of need?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then Karla here should eat with us and allow you to buy her a drink, shouldn’t she?”

“She should.”

“No, no. I just can’t. I mean, look what you’re doing already. Water’s fine.”

“Nonsense,” Suzann declared catching Loren’s eye and twitching her index finger in pantomimed request for the server’s presence.

Loren nodded, held up her index finger and came to the table immediately following. “How is everything? Sean brought the cauliflower, I see. Is it good?”

“Delicious,” Suzann replied, not yet having tasted it. “Would you be so kind as to bring Karla here a drink? She could use one.”

“Absolutely! Karla?”

Karla exhaled, shook her head, fished her ID from her front pants pocket and then smiled. “Yuengling, please.” She said shaking her head and passing the ID to Loren.

Loren glanced at the ID, smiled, handed it back, nodded, and declared, “One Yuengling, right away.”