Graduations are generally brutal affairs. Heavy black gowns and bright summer sunshine are, even in the best of circumstances, an extremely uncomfortable combination. Chloe wore a fifties light cotton sundress with a halter top bypassing the bra she knew would get sweat soaked and uncomfortable in short order, cotton panties and sandals, making the best of a bad situation.
Three hundred names take a while to recite, but as a cum laud graduate Chole was somewhat less brutalized than her lower ranking classmates, slowly walking in a sun baked line. At the end, she threw her cap a foot in the air, caught it and was one of the first to exchange her gown for her degree, to fill the empty faux leather folder she got when they called her name.
Eric met her at the door of the changing room and kissed her. He couldn’t resist the halter-top, getting his hand under it and brushing Chloe’s nipple. Neither of them were aware that Elle and Mikey were interested observers until Mikey cleared his throat. Eric whipped his hand out, but when Chloe saw who it was, she grabbed it, put it back and pressed it into her hardening nipple.
“Who the Hell are you and what have you done with my baby sister?” said Elle.
“She’s in here somewhere, ask him, he’s looking,” answered Chloe, finally releasing Eric’s hand as he turned bright red.
“To answer a long-standing bet,” said Mikey, “are you pretty?”
Now it was Chloe’s turn to blush. “I used to be, sexy too actually, then I wore a mini dress and that got upgraded to drop dead beautiful.”
Mikey then put his hand over Elle’s breast, and kissed her. “Told you so,” he said. “The man for the job, bye the bye is Eric Perez, my cousin. It seems that the men in my family are obsessed with the foremost assets of Fredrickson women.”
“Can’t deny what’s in your face, or chest as the case may be,” said Elle as Elliot and Maddy came up.
Maddy made it a point to talk to Elle at the party. She was surprised to find that the post Mikey version was a sweet, somewhat naïve and thoroughly likable person.
Eric’s building was once a single small department store. It had been sub divided in the sixties into four sections, the last twice as large as the rest, and initially remodeled into a restaurant. Eric’s Dad bought it cheaply as an investment when the restaurant went bankrupt pulling out the anchor and dragging the stores down with it. The apartments paid for everything, and more, so the two other stores were vacant and the restaurant sported a weather beaten ‘For Lease’ sign. The middle building had the entrance to the basement, which grounded the whole thing.
When Chloe found out about everything investigating the possibilities of an antique store and a vintage clothing boutique, an idea came together. Chloe had six storage spaces bursting with antique and vintage pieces of all sorts, and two more with vintage clothing from the twenties to the seventies. She also had two like-minded friends with their own collections, Kathiah, and Rosemary.
Kathiah was a willowy blond type, five seven and Chloe outweighed her; natural blond hair, blue eyes and a fashion model build. Rosemary had a surfer’s build, muscular and very beautifully shaped; red hair, green eyes and D cups. And to top it all off, they had an idea for a restaurant that Kathiah had gotten a B with in an enterprise class.
The restaurant concept was ‘Sit Down, Shut Up and Eat! Home cooking with a vengeance.’ The lunch menu was a choice of sandwich, on white bread, the choices were PBJ, bologna, lunch meat, egg salad, chicken salad, and cotto salami; either an apple or an orange, and a small bag of chips. After the choice of the sandwich, the customer was in the dark as to the rest, handed a brown paper bag and if they wanted an apple instead of an orange or corn instead of potato chips were told that children were starving in Armenia and they were damn lucky to have what they did, ‘Sit down, shut up and eat.’ For Dinner, the entrees were: meat loaf, pot roast, roast chicken, Salisbury steak, pork chop, liver and onions, spaghetti and meatballs, and macaroni and cheese with a vegetable, either spinach, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts, restaurant’s choice and if you didn’t eat the vegetables you couldn’t order dessert. Sides were mashed potatoes, baked French fries or egg noodles. Dessert was either pie or ice cream the particular pie and ice cream flavor could not be specified. Any request for substitution was met with a recitation of the woeful condition of children in Armenia, an admonition to clean your plate, and finally, ‘Sit down, shut up and eat.’ Waitresses wore housedresses with curlers in their hair. There would be a full bar, and a glass of milk was served with each meal and unless the customer promised to drink the milk, the bar was closed to them.
Eric’s father, Hector bought it all and wrote them a sweetheart lease that, once the basement ended their need for storage spaces actually saved them about five hundred a month. Still in all they had to call in their families to renovate the spaces and staff the stores and restaurant, incorporate and get a liquor license. The restaurant, Remembered Elegance Antiques, Twiggy and a Half Vintage Boutique all took off spectacularly and the foot trade they occasioned did wonders for Back Story Books. Just before they opened Kathiah and Rosemary moved in below Eric and Chloe.
“Come here,” said Chloe, the night before the Grand Opening, “I have something I need help with.”
“That’s what I do,” answered Eric.
“I bought this in a hundred-dollar lot of what I thought was costume jewelry. Turns out this is one of three real pieces. It’s ten carat gold with a ring of so-so quality rubies around a two-carat oval Alexandrite with the hallmark of a Faberge workshop in St. Petersburg. It’s purple in artificial light, bluish green in sunlight. It’s worth about twenty to thirty thousand, but it would be a bitch to sell and the two others were investment quality diamonds I sold to the jeweler on Surf for forty, but he wouldn’t take this, no market he said. So, I figured I’d sell it to you for the hundred I paid for the lot it came in and you can use it as an engagement ring when you get around to asking, and I can wear it. I had the jeweler size it.”
Chloe wore the ring to the opening.
XII. Mommy Dearest