Stephanie was only a glorified clerk, but still, she had the ear of Billie McGinn, the spa’s absentee owner. Taylor had known Stephanie since they were 12, and she was a good soul, but given to fits of envy. He found her sitting on the platform steps with a quizzical look on her face.
“Yes, my love?”
“You’re not going to get that girl in trouble, right?”
Stephanie’s hand went to her chest. “Me? Why one earth would I do that?”
“Just making sure.”
“Just because she’s turning this joint into a whorehouse.”
“She’s been here exactly three weeks.”
“Maybe just have a quiet talk with her?”
“Me? Discipline her? Taylor, she makes seventy five bucks an hour, and I make ten. I’m not exactly her boss.”
“She’s just a dumb kid.”
“You know what I’ve noticed, Taylor? Rich men, and skinny girls, can get away with just about anything.”
Stephanie was one those people who were born to be overweight, which was compounded by her love of pasta, bread and potatoes. At Shipwreck Bay High School, her friends called her Steffie, and the bullies turned that nickname into “Fat Stuffie.”
“Well,” Taylor said, “she’s just starting out, so maybe a warning would be fair before you go tattling to Billie.”.
“I bought you a massage, Taylor, not a date with a whore.”
“You’re the one? That was your gift card?”
“I get the employee discount.” Steffie joked, then glared at him. “And this is how I’m repaid.”
“Thank you,” gulped Taylor. “For the gift. Very thoughtful.”
Steffie heaved a sigh, turned her back on Taylor and walked toward the reception desk. Only with her back turned could she admit: “I love you, that’s why. That’s why I did it because I love you. Okay? You don’t love me and you don’t give a damn.”
She rushed out the door. A chill dusty wind blew in from the street and as it swirled around him, Taylor shuddered.
He dressed, tapped his pocket to make sure he had his cellphone, left the spa, and walked up to the next corner and into the bright, busy Peace Love & Coffee. He bought a cappuccino, settled into a sunny spot at the counter, whipped out his phone, tapped out a message to Steffie:
Cammie was nowhere in sight. It seemed his best option was to just get the hell out of there.
Stef: I appreciate your thoughtful gift … nice to know someone remembers that Mom has been gone a year now. I’m fond of you but … since the Karen thing, I’m just in shock … not ready for a serious relationship. Let’s make a date for lunch soon…
He sent that message and sipped cappuccino. Maybe a minute went by before his phone vibrated, and he looked at it, expecting an answer from Steffie. Instead, it was a message from Cammie Vang.