I got up early in the morning. I showered quickly, not bothering with anything more than washing my hair and dousing myself with soap. Breakfast was short, an expired Toaster Strudel and a can of Sprite. I was in a hurry, in case you couldn't tell. I had a job interview at 10:15 and I wanted to get over to the shop and see you first for a confidence-boosting pep talk beforehand. You are incredibly good at those, you know.

Traffic was despicable and aggravating to no end. How does it happen? All of the cars should be going the same speed, at least a good 65mph, and then suddenly they all stop for no apparent reason and speed up again after a mile or two. I don't understand it. If the bulk of the cars all were moving at the appropriate speed, there would be no problem. You explained it to me once; it was a psychological thing or a physics thing or something. I don't remember. I didn't get it. I did and still do think traffic is ridiculous.

I got to the shop around 9 and your car wasn't out back. That was strange. Either you weren't there, quite impossible, or your car had broken down. If the latter, you would have called me and had me give you a ride. Well, maybe that guy next door was leaving at the same time and you caught a ride with him. You always tell me how cute he is. I know you wouldn't resist a ride.

Reese was inside, rearranging that new display on the west wall.

"I thought you and Darce decided to keep that how it was."

She jumped at the sound of my voice, "Well she thought it would look best with that overlapping look and I've found customers are more drawn to the blocky spaced look. Seeing as she isn't here to fight for her side, I'm fixing it."

I glanced around. She was right. You weren't there. "When is she getting in? I wanted to talk to her."

Reese shrugged, "Who knows? She skipped the whole day yesterday and didn't even let me know. I didn't get here until noon and the store was still closed."

This is not like you at all. I wandered away from Reese, her dry voice irritating me about as much as the traffic. Where could you be? I couldn't do the job interview without a prep talk. Last time that happened I said "um" about half the time and "uh" for the other half. I was even overqualified for the position and I couldn't come up with one reason why I was a good choice for the job.

I walked over to the sales rack and dove inside. Like a little kid, I settled myself in the center of the circular clothes rack and hid among the dresses and shirts and the like. This tactic, hiding among the 30 off items, was pretty much a surefire way to make you appear. I had never known it to fail. It was my position of utter need, something you could sense miles away.

Now I just had to wait.

I waited for hours. Reese bustled around the store, doing this and that. Probably messing up more displays. A few times I heard her claim your designs as her own and I desperately wanted to correct her, but I felt if I came out of hiding I would break off the cry for help and you would think I didn't need you anymore. Then you wouldn't come. You had to come.

Fingering the clothes inside my fort, I wondered why you'd put those jeans where you hand stitched the night sky on sale. Most of these items were your Pity Reese designs, the newest clothing line you'd launched. She wasn't too bad at designing. She was better than the average person pulled in off the street. The thing was, in this store, next to all of your work, hers looked childish and of such poor quality that to sell it was really out of pity. Hence the Pity Reese line.

Why is she still working there anyway? Now that you're established, you don't need the monetary benefits of your joint partnership. In just the little while I'd been in the sale rack, a little over $600 of your own work had sold. If you need just an employee, you know you could hire yours truly. You don't need her designs. I'd have to ask you when you came in.

"Hey wake up."

I started and glanced around in confusion. A little girl, about six or seven, had stuck her head inside the sales rack.


"I said wake up. You aren't supposed to sleep in here. It's a store. Besides, it's pretty late and your mommy is probably going to be worried about you."

I glared at her, "Get out of my fort."

"It isn't your fort. It's mine."

"No, it isn't. Go look out there and see if there's a woman with long dark hair. It's brownish-red. It might be in a bun."

She backed out and I saw her feet move away. A few minutes later, she came back, "Nope. And the woman at the counter wants to know who is asking and where you are."

I sighed, "Go ask someone what time it is."

Sticking out her wrist, she pointed to a pink watch with cartoon characters all over. 9:30. Okay, it hadn't been too long.

Somewhere outside of our fort a woman's voice called, "Come on, sweetie, it's way past your bedtime and the store's going to close soon anyway."

I somersaulted out of the sales rack. Closing! I'd been here for hours!

Reese came to stand over me, "I noticed you around 10:30, and you fell asleep around noon. I figured I'd just leave you."

"Darcy never came in?"

"Nope. Just like yesterday. She's just being lazy, I bet."

Lazy isn't even in your vocabulary, much less your personality.