“Trenton came by the Red tonight. He looked pretty awful.”
“Yeah? Did he leave with anyone?” I peeked out from the pillow.
Raegan hesitated. “Right before last call. He was sloppy drunk.”
I nodded, and then buried my face in the pillow.
“Just . . . tell him,” Raegan pleaded. “Tell him about T.J.”
“I can’t,” I said. “And you can’t, either. You promised.”
“I still don’t understand what all the secrecy is about.”
“You don’t have to,” I said, looking up at her, straight into her eyes. “You just have to keep the secret.”
It seemed like I’d barely closed my eyes when Raegan was shaking me awake.
“You’re going to be late for work, Cami! Get your ass up!”
“You just took off two days, last-minute. Cal is going to fire your ass! Get up!” She clasped her hands around my ankle and dragged me until I fell off the bed, hard.
She leaned down. “It’s eleven thirty! Get up!”
I looked at the clock and then jumped up, racing around my bedroom and swearing repeatedly. Barely brushing my teeth, I resorted to a bun and glasses. The Smurf didn’t want to wake up, either, and she whirred like a dying cat before finally starting up.
The clock on the wall at Skin Deep said 12:07 when I walked through the door. Hazel was already on the phone, and Calvin stood next to her, frowning.
“What the hell are you wearing?” he asked.
I looked down at my plum skinny jeans and black-and-white horizontal-striped long-sleeved shirt. “Clothes.”
“I hired you to be the hot piece of ass at the counter, and you look like my cousin Annette. What is this look?” he asked Hazel.
“Hipster,” she said briefly before returning to her conversation.
“Yeah. Like my hipster cousin Annette. Next time you come in, I want to see cle**age and sex hair!” he said, holding up one finger, and then two.
Calvin shrugged. “You know. Messy, but sexy. Like you just had sex.”
Hazel slammed the phone down. “Everything that comes out of your mouth is offensive. Hot piece of ass? Cleavage? You’re a walking sexual harassment lawsuit!”
“Is it the shoes?” I asked, looking down at my favorite black combat boots.
“The scarf!” he said, pointing all four fingers at me. “What is the point in having a nice rack if you’re going to cover it up?”
Hazel smiled. “It’s a cute scarf. I need a black one like yours.”
Calvin frowned. “It’s not cute! I don’t want cute! I hired a sexy, edgy bartender, and I got a hipster in a bun with no tattoos! I can handle you taking off and coming in whenever the f**k you feel like it, but it’s just wrong walking around here with a clean palette for skin. It looks bad if our own employees don’t trust us enough to ink them!”
“Are you about finished?” Hazel deadpanned. She looked at me. “He started his period this morning.”
“Fuck you, Hazel!” Calvin snapped, stomping down the hall to his office.
Calvin poked his head around the corner. “Has Bishop been in?”
“Godammit, Cal, no! For the third time today, he hasn’t been in!” Calvin nodded, and then disappeared again. Hazel frowned for half a second before turning to me with a smile.
“I think I’ll show him my fingers today. Might take the edge off.”
“No way,” she said. “Let him stew.” She was quiet for a minute, clearly working up to something, and then she elbowed me. “So. California.”
“Yeah,” I said, cocking my head while I pulled my purse over it. I tossed my bag on the counter and then logged onto the computer. “About that . . .”
The door chimed, and Trenton walked in, wearing a puffy navy-blue coat and a dirty white ball cap that was pulled low, shadowing his eyes. “Morning, ladies,” he said, walking past us.
He disappeared into his room, and Hazel shot me a look. “You mind-fucked him so hard.”
“It’s good for him. No man should get every woman he wants. Keeps their douchebaggery to a tolerable level.”
“I’m just going to . . .” I said, pointing down the hall. Hazel nodded.
Trenton was busy setting up his equipment when I walked into the room. Crossing my arms and leaning against the doorjamb while he ignored me was acceptable for the first few minutes, but then I began to feel stupid.
“Are you ever going to speak to me again?” I asked.
He kept his eyes on his equipment, and laughed once. “Sure, baby doll. I’ll talk to you. What’s up?”
“Calvin says I need more ink.”
“Do you want more ink?”
“Only if you do it.”
He still didn’t look at me. “I don’t know, Cami, I’ve got a pretty full day.”
I watched him for a moment while he busied himself with organizing white packages full of various sanitized tools. “Just sometime. Doesn’t have to be today.”
“Yeah, sure. No problem,” he said, picking through a drawer.
After another minute of Trenton pretending I wasn’t there, I walked back to the vestibule. He had been truthful. He had one customer after another, but even when he had a little time in between, he only came to the counter once, and that was to chat with a potential new client. The rest of the day he stayed in his room, or talked to Calvin in his office. Hazel didn’t seem concerned with his behavior, but she never seemed to be unsettled by anything.
Trenton didn’t come into the Red that night, and the next day was another six hours of Operation Ignore Cami, as was the next day, and every day after that for three weeks. I spent a lot more time on papers and studying. Raegan was spending more time with Brazil, so I was grateful when Coby popped over for a visit one Monday evening.
Identical bowls of steaming chicken noodle soup sat on the breakfast bar between us.
“I feel better. You were right, a program made it easier.”
I picked at the noodles swimming around in my bowl. “He’s never going to change, you know.”
“I know. Just trying to get my shit together so I can get my own place.”
“Let’s take these to the couch and watch a movie,” Coby said.
I nodded, and Coby set my bowl next to him on the cushion while I looked through DVD cases. My breath caught when I came across Spaceballs. Trenton had left it here the last time we’d watched it.
“Where’s he been? I figured he’d be over here.”
“He doesn’t really . . . come over here anymore.”
“No one thinks that but you.”