â€śAll done.â€ť Nancy held out the box containing the cake as Connor opened his
front door. It was six oâ€™clock on Friday evening and pregnant Pamâ€™s leaving
party at the Lazy B was due to start at eight.
â€śBring it on inside. Here, let me give you a hand.â€ť As he took the pink and
white striped box from her, Connorâ€™s hands brushed against her own and the by
now familiar zapping sensation shot up Nancyâ€™s arms. Was this something sheâ€™d
ever get used to?
â€śYay! Letâ€™s see it.â€ť Mia, clearing a space on the kitchen table, said bossily,
â€śCome on, Dad, take the lid off.â€ť
Connor paused, looked at Nancy. â€śWhat if I donâ€™t like it?â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t worry. Iâ€™ll just go away and quietly commit suicide.â€ť
â€śFine, but where would we get another cake at such short notice?â€ť
â€śOh, get on with it,â€ť Mia exclaimed, briskly removing the lid. â€śBloody hell,
Nancy, itâ€™s all broken.â€ť
â€śWhat?â€ť Nancy stopped gazing helplessly at Connor and spun around so
fast she got a crick in her neck.
â€śHa, got you.â€ť Mia beamed at them both.
â€śHey,â€ť said Connor, studying the cake. â€śThatâ€™s amazing. Youâ€™ve done an
Praise from Connor was like warm honey trickling down her spine. Basking in the
sensation, Nancy watched him examine the more intricate details of the cake. She
wondered if putting on perfume to bring it over to his house had been a mistake.
Then she thought maybe not as Connor put an arm around her shouldersâ€”yes,
yes!â€”and said, â€śYouâ€™re a clever old stick, arenâ€™t you?â€ť
The warm honey abruptly vanished. Stick? Clever old STICK? What kind of
an endearment was that when it was at home?
â€śIgnore him.â€ť Sensing her alarm, Mia said consolingly, â€śItâ€™s just one of those
stupid things Dad says. He called me that once. So I called him a fat old fart,â€ť
she remembered with satisfaction. â€śThat soon put a stop to it.â€ť
â€śPlease donâ€™t try that.â€ť Connor turned to Nancy. â€śIâ€™m sorry. I just meant you
were clever. You donâ€™t look a bit like a stick. Anyway, weâ€™d better be getting
ready.â€ť He nodded at Mia. â€śDâ€™you have it?â€ť
Mia patted her jeans jacket pockets, found what she was looking for.
Embarrassed, Nancy said hurriedly, â€śI told you, I donâ€™t want any money.â€ť
â€śIt isnâ€™t money,â€ť said Connor.
â€śHere.â€ť Mia handed Nancy a laminated card. â€śNow youâ€™re a member of the Lazy B.â€ť
Overwhelmed, Nancy took the card. â€śYou donâ€™t have to do this.â€ť
â€śHey, wasnâ€™t I saying just the other day that you should come along to the
club?â€ť Mia, whose idea it had been, was looking delighted with herself. â€śWell,
now youâ€™ll have to.â€ť
Nancy turned the card over. Oh God. â€śYou really didnâ€™t have to do
this.â€ť Horrified, she gazed at the photograph of herself, purportedly
there for identification purposes. This one, taken almost ten years ago, showed
her with overplucked eyebrows, a truly hideous perm, and the startled look of
someone perched in a photo booth, unsure when the flash might be about to go
off. Excerpt that she hadnâ€™t been in a photo boothâ€”sheâ€™d been at one of Spike
and Carmenâ€™s parties.
â€śI asked Carmen yesterday for a picture of you,â€ť Mia explained. â€śSee? All planned.â€ť
Nancy said wryly, â€śAnd to think she used to be my friend.â€ť God, even her
passport photo wasnâ€™t as awful as this.
â€śYou can have another one taken at the club. Weâ€™ll do you a replacement card.â€ť
Connorâ€™s tone was consoling. â€śHey, look on the bright side. At least youâ€™ve
improved with age.â€ť
â€śThanks.â€ť Nancy forced herself to smile; he probably didnâ€™t mean to imply that
these days she looked passable, whereas back then sheâ€™d been a complete
â€śAnyway, I like curly perms; my aunties all used to have them.â€ť
â€śDad.â€ť Mia gave him a pitying shake of the head. â€śYou arenâ€™t doing yourself any
favors, you know.â€ť
â€śArenâ€™t I?â€ť Connor turned to Nancy. â€śArenâ€™t I? Am I getting it horribly
â€śNow you happen to mention it,â€ť said Nancy, â€śyes.â€ť
â€śBugger, Iâ€™ve lost my blarney.â€ť He clutched his forehead, looked tortured. â€śIâ€™m
sorry. I donâ€™t know where itâ€™s gotten to.â€ť
â€śTry looking down the back of your sofa,â€ť Nancy suggested. â€śWhen we lose
anything, thatâ€™s where it usually turns up.â€ť Reading herself to leave she said,
â€śAnyway, thanks for the membership. Maybe Iâ€™ll give the club a try over the
â€śCome with us tonight,â€ť Mia exclaimed. â€śWeâ€™ll be leaving here in half an hour. I
can give you the guided tour, introduce you to people. And youâ€™ll see Pam
getting her cake. Fancy that?â€ť
Nancy hesitated, glanced at Connor to see his reaction.
â€śOf course, you must come with us.â€ť Connor clutched her arm. â€śThatâ€™s a great
idea. Why didnâ€™t I think of it?â€ť
â€śProbably because youâ€™re losing your marbles along with you blarney.â€ť Mia
flashed him a sunny smile. â€śIâ€™ll be having to put you in a home soon.â€ť
â€śHow about it then, Nancy? Are you free?â€ť said Connor.
Nancy was having trouble concentrating; the electrical currents were still
zip-zapping excitedly up and down her arm. Gathering herself, she said, â€śIâ€™m free.â€ť
â€śGreat.â€ť Connor looked pleased.
Mia winked at her and Nancy blushed, suspecting that she and Connor had both
just been expertly set up. Mia was clearly a girl with a plan.
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