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Bikini Babes’ Carwash
By Suzie McLean
Artwork by Moira Nelligar
Copyright 2016 Suzie McLean
All characters in this book are 18 or older.
“I’m not going in today.” Tamika made the surprise announcement at breakfast. “Or at least, not this morning. I, um, have some shopping to do.”
Her eight sorority sisters continued eating, but behind raised glasses of juice or coffee, they exchanged worried glances. They’d had a feeling this was coming…
Finally Phoebe lifted one shoulder in a casual shrug. “Okay. What do you need to pick up? Maybe I’ll go with you.”
Damn, she hadn’t expected that. “Bug remover fluid.” Frantically Tami seized on the first thing that popped into her mind. “We ought to have at least one bottle on hand. And I thought maybe we could pick up an assortment of those hanging fragrance things…you know, the ones that look like pine trees, and smell like strawberry and coconut. We could give them out to our first twenty customers or something.”
“That’s a good idea,” Antonia flipped her long mahogany hair over one shoulder, and thoughtfully nodded. “But don’t you think we should wait until right before our grand opening to pick them up?”
“No. We might forget about it.” Tami spoke quickly, then flushed with nervousness. “I mean, you know how hectic those last few days are going to be. We should have as many things ready to go as we can. Otherwise important stuff’s going to get dropped.”
Nina chased the last bite of scrambled eggs around her plate. “Can’t argue with that,” she admitted. “Well, if you’re going to get it retail—and I assume you are, since you’re heading out instead of doing it online—the auto store is right down the street. So it shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes.”
Tami faltered, then gulped. “I don’t want to be there this morning,” she finally blurted, nearly tripping over the words in her haste to push them out. “I can’t! I’m sorry, I just can’t!”
The other girls watched in carefully blank silence as she leaped to her feet and rocketed out of the room. Then they exchanged troubled looks and sighs.
“She’s afraid of seeing Logan again, isn’t she?” Andrea ventured.
Grimly Nina nodded. “That would be my take.”
Andi’s sister, Selena, looked baffled. “But it’s been, what? Six years? Nearly seven?”
“Some things,” Elle countered in her whisper-soft voice, “you just don’t get over.”
“She was very young when Logan and she became lovers,” Muriel quietly added. “When he had to move away, she was heartbroken.”
Astra’s lips thinned with barely-suppressed anger. “He should have contacted her when he came back. At least just to say hi, even if he didn’t want to get involved with her again.”
Selena leaned back in her chair, and drummed impatient fingers on the big dining room table that had become their traditional meeting place. “Why didn’t she just call him?”
Muriel toyed with her half-eaten slice of toast, then slowly shook her head. “You know how traditional her grandparents are. Old-world Japanese, right down to the core. Remember how she had to fight just to be allowed to attend college? The only reason they finally gave in was because we all promised to watch out for her.”
“Yeah. And even then, we almost didn’t manage it,” Nina said sourly. “You want to talk about racial prejudice! Not one of us has a drop of Oriental blood in us…so they looked down their noses as if we were subhuman.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” Muriel chuckled, digging her elbow into Nina’s ribs. “But we are a pretty diverse group. American Indian and Jamaican,” she grinned, waggling a finger between Nina and herself, “Scandinavian, Italian, and Scottish.” Her amused gaze encompassed Astra and Elle, slid toward Antonia, and finally settled on Phoebe, Selena, and Andrea. “I just don’t think they liked your joke about having our own United Nations assembly under one roof.”
“They’re snobs,” Nina insisted with a scowl. “And they treat poor Tami like an unwanted outcast.”
“No.” Toni firmly shook her head at that. “They treat her like their granddaughter. It’s just that they never anticipated having to raise her themselves, and their ways are different from ours. They expect her to be meek, mild, seen but never heard, and utterly obedient. They don’t understand her independent streak—so they see it as our fault, because we corrupted her somehow.”
“She is meek and mild,” Andi pointed out with a lopsided grin. “When’s the last time you ever heard her raise her voice?”
“But not obedient,” Phoebe wearily countered. “Otherwise she never would have gotten involved with Logan Baird.”
Astra heaved a frustrated sigh, and began to coil her waist-length blonde hair into a loose bun. “Everyone goes through a rebellious phase when they’re fourteen. We did.”
“Yeah, but we only cut our hair ultra-short, and dyed pink streaks in it,” Elle retorted, slanting a telling glance at her identical twin. “We didn’t have a wildly passionate affair that nearly got us killed.”
None of them had forgotten those terrifying days while delicate little Tami had laid still and pale in a hospital bed, hovering on the thin line between life and death. It had taken her weeks to recover, physically, and months before they saw her smile again. But emotionally? That was still an open question.
“She needs to get over it,” Phoebe finally said, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the battered old table. “And there’s only one way to do it.”
“She has to face him again,” Muriel agreed, “and tell him what happened. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Slowly Phoebe nodded.
Nina read the fierce resolve in their eyes, and groaned. “Haven’t we had enough drama around here lately?”
“It’s the only way!” Phoebe insisted, swiveling around to pin her intense gaze on the older girl. “Trust me, I know!”
“We’ll be there for her,” Muriel added, reaching across the table to clasp Phoebe’s outstretched hand.
“We’ll all be there for her.” Selena reached into the center next, and was swiftly followed by Andrea.
Astra and Elle exchanged worried glances, then reluctantly followed suit.
Toni firmly nodded. “I’m in.”
Seconds ticked by while they waited…but finally Nina released a gusty sigh, and bleakly slapped her hand over theirs. “God help us,” she muttered. “And if this blows up in our faces, I’m going to say ‘I told you so’ until the day we all die!”
“Which will be sometime tonight, if Tami finds out what we’re doing,” Phoebe wryly interjected. “But we’re all agreed? We don’t tell her that the sign people changed their delivery time to this afternoon?”
“I almost told her yesterday when I got their e-mail,” Selena murmured, wincing. “But she was already starting to get jittery, and I knew it was because she was dreading today. So I kept my mouth shut.”
“Just as well.” Phoebe laid a soothing hand on her younger sister’s shoulder. “It’ll be better this way. Right?”
“Right.” Resolutely they all nodded, then broke apart and began gathering up their dirty dishes.
“Phoebes,” Toni added as she nimbly rose to her feet, “you had a good idea. Stick with her this morning, and go do some shopping. Make it a girl-to-girl thing. I can give you…thirty dollars,” she decided, after doing a quick mental tally. Their business start-up fund was almost gone—but this was in a good cause. “Pick up the supplies she mentioned, and treat her to a nice big ice cream cone. That will perk her back up.”
“The condemned’s final meal?” Selena quipped, then spread her hands wide in apology. “Sorry, bad joke.”
“She still loves him,” Elle said quietly. “She won’t admit it, but she does. This may not bring them back together…but if we can get them to talk to each other, and clear up what happened in the past, at least it will start her toward healing.”
“We hope.” Nina murmured the words under her breath, then gloomily carried her plate and glass into the kitchen. “God help us all.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
While her sorority sisters were worriedly discussing the past, Tamika was painfully reliving it. Every memory was so vivid and intense that she was drowning in a tidal wave of turbulent emotion.
Stubbornly, using every technique she’d learned from her college instructors and therapy counselors, she fought her way back to the surface, and realized she was huddled in the darkest corner of her closet, shaking like a leaf. That wouldn’t do…it wouldn’t do at all! Hadn’t she vowed to become strong? Hadn’t she managed to push those traumatic memories so deep that they no longer haunted her?
Apparently not quite deep enough. And she hated the way her hands and legs shook when she forced herself to crawl back out into the cheerfully decorated bedroom she shared with Toni.
Damn, damn, damn! She hadn’t had a panic attack this bad in years. She couldn’t allow it…wouldn’t allow it! But still it took every bit of strength she possessed to perch on the edge of her narrow bed, and focus on her breathing exercises until her pulse finally began to slow.
Accept the past. How often had they told her that? Psychologists, psychiatrists, even that eccentric spiritualist she’d nervously visited. Accept the past. Let it flow through you. Learn to cherish the good memories, then use them to build your new future.
She’d thought she had. So why could even the remote possibility of seeing Logan again reduce her to a quivering, helpless puddle?
“You won’t see him today.” She whispered the words aloud to give herself courage. “You won’t! He won’t be there…and even if he is, you’ll be far away.”
Nepal was looking pretty good, or the Siberian wastelands. The further away, the better!
She had to face him sometime; she knew that. But not yet. Not today. She just wasn’t ready!
Would she ever be?