Oooh, Life Goes On, and its only gonna make me strong

Its a fact, once you get on board say goodbye cuz you can't go back

Oooh, its a fight, and I really wanna get it right

Where I'm at, its my life before me, Got this feeling that I can't go back

+^+^+^+^+^

Every weekday Milano would go to the shop, put her hand on the door to Moka's, and take a deep breath. Every day she would appear in the same navy blue skirt and top, the same dull grey mask that labeled her as a freak. Today, though, she paused for much longer at the front of the door. She didn't know what today could possibly be like. Not good, that much she knew, but she hadn't had a good day for about 13 years.

But Milano couldn't stand here forever, so she held her breath and swung the door, a little too fast and a little too hard and a little too dramatically. She looked up. No one else was even here yet, except Mr. Moka, half grumbling and half humming as he walked out of the hallway with business papers in hand.

"Milano! There you are. Good to know someone can get here on time," Mr. Moka said, and trailed off into grumbling about Jill always being at least twenty minutes late.

"Good morning. What should I do first?" Milano asked, hoping his trail of complaints would end long enough for him to answer.

"A big lot of new supplies came in earlier. You can put those in the storage room," Mr. Moka replied. Milano smiled a little, happy that Mr. Moka was too preoccupied to sound suspicious of Milano's constant volunteering.

She walked out the side entrance, where a lot of different sized cardboard cubes were laid, various packing stickers and numbers on the surface. She was so glad Mr. Moka was the only one here. He wasn't as much of a meddler as the other two, though he probably would be if he wasn't so busy all the time.

Jill was always late, Kif usually came about the time Milano did. Him being late was a rareity. Of course, it was because of last night.

She picked up two small boxes filled with polyester stuffing, pretty light. She walked back to the storage room and set them on top of a larger box. This was a big part of her job.

She studing the remaining dozen and a half boxes. Nothing would interfere with her sanctuary, not today. Good.

Kif will either be mad at me, awkwardly apologetic, or have a case of fake amnesia. If he's mad, Jill will be awful, trying to find out what's going on every second. If he's apologizing, she will act likewise. If he pretends nothing happened, she will sense something is up and will be a pain in the butt. No matter what happens, she'll be the same.

Today would be a good day for Jill to call in "sick". (That is, checking out the "sales of the century" that happen about three times a month.)

In fact, it would be a good day for Kif to call in sick. Today, like all other days, would be a wonderful day to completely avoid human contact.

No such luck. Milano froze at the sound of the front door opening and closing. It was Kif- the noise of high heels and purse hitting the floor was absent.

Her stomach wraped around itself. The crap was about to hit the fan.

+^+^+^+^+^

She sucked in her stomach, leaned forward. It was the only way not to look ridicolus in the mandatory high-heels. She fanned her fingers out underneath the tray, imitating the perky, generic waitress on the posters in the kitchen. The woman on the posters didn't have scarlet eyes constantly ready to say, "Bite me." And the waitress on the posters certainly did not have a mask hiding half of her face. The poster wairess didn't have a major attitude and lips permanently curled downward.

The voice in her ear mic was telling to get back to work. Time for another table, time for the same questioning eyes, all part of the job she hated.

+^+^+^+^+^

Chaos could be delayed further, if Mr. Moka was behind the curtain in his office, if Kif wanted to get started on his carpentry. If things were just right, Milano could have another 45 minutes of peace.

+^+^+^+^+^

She narrowed her eyes. She already knew what this "Valued Customer" was like. He looked like a sleaze. He was a sleaze. She had become very good at judging personalities.

"Hey, Sweets, what's with the mask?"

"What can I get for you today?" she ignored the first question anyone would ever ask her. Her teeth were clenched.

+^+^+^+^+^

Kif was standing in front of her. Words couldn't escape her mouth.

He looked like he hadn't slept well. "I'm sorry, Milano. I didn't mean to make you mad."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have thrown a fit."

"I was just trying to understand my friend."

Crap! Friends... "If you knew everything I've been through, you'd understand,"

"Can I know?"

"...I'm afraid not."

"You neeed any help with all these?" Kif asked.

"No, thanks," Milano said. She smiled.

+^+^+^+^+^

Thank God for breaktime. Thank God.

She walked over to the corner table, the one table she didn't mind going to, and plopped down in a chair. A girl reading a book was sitting next to her, feet set up on the table.

"Another bad day?" The girl asked, setting down her book.

"Yeah. Like always," She replied. "You make it okay, though, Stiletto," She reached over and hugged the purple haired pre-teen.

"Oh come on, Cilantro! It's not I have anywhere else to be," Stiletto said.

"I just wish you and me could find our other sister," Cilantro said.

"I wish I had gotten to know Mom and Dad," Stiletto said.

"Maybe we will find your other sister someday," Cilantro said, not quite sure if she actually believed it. "We could go on a grand quest to find her, like in your books."

"Yeah, right," Stiletto said.

The voice buzzed in Cilantro's mic again. "It's time to get back to work, Ms. Messina."

Authoress' notes: MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Uh. Ehem. Music is by Leann Rimes.