2. No Return Policies
Joanne patted the bedside table trying to get her hand on her phone.
It was blaring ‘Bad Blood’ at full volume and disturbing Wolverine’s and her sleep.
She finally got her hand on it and slid a finger across the screen, mumbling a ‘Hello?’ as she placed it over her ear.
“What do you want? Your usual Expresso or-”
“One iced caramel cloud macchiato and one puppuccino. Actually make it two for Old Man.” She mumbled. She couldn’t start her ay without her dose of caffeine and she had spoilt her boy so much that he needed the puppuccino in the morning and he did not like it if it was whipped cream from anywhere else.
“Alright.” Olivia said as she hung up.
Joanne tossed the phone onto the bed and narrowed her eyes at her dog. He was sprawled across the king-sized bed while she had been curled up in a corner, about to fall off any minute.
She looked over at the custom-made dog bed she had built for him. Should have spent that money on an extra bed!
She hopped off her bed and stretched.
It’s a brand-new day! She thought as she opened the blinds.
She took in the scent of the early morning NY streets..
There was nothing she hated more than waking up from her sleep. She wasn’t a morning person. She doubted if she was even a person.
She grumbled to herself as she made her way to the bathroom. She brushed her teeth and did her business.
She looked over at her shower and scrunched up her face. Who in their right mind takes a shower on a Sunday morning?
Joanne walked out of her room and into the kitchen.
She was an amazing cook and she always had her fridge stocked. And today being a Sunday, she had the time to make whatever she wanted as well. But Joanne was one lazy ass and cooked only when she was ‘feeling’ it. And today, she wasn’t ‘feeling’ it.
Cereal it is.
Life of the frugal is the life I aspire. She thought to herself proudly as she made her way towards her cereal cabinet.
She grabbed a carton of corn flakes and a carton of milk from the fridge. And she had to pour some chocolate sauce over her cereal to make it less healthy and more tasty. She put everything back in its place made her way to the living room with the bowl and a spoon.
Joanne narrowed her eyes when she saw her Great Dane walk out of their room.
“Good morning Wolverine Lake, I hope you had a fantastic night at the expense of your master’s comfort.” She glared at him.
He gave her a short bark as if asking her to fuck off and made his way to the kitchen. Joanne followed his ungrateful ass and filled his food and water bowl before she made her way back to the living room, plopping down on the couch and turning the TV on.
She was watching news and munching on her cereal in peace when the front door opened and Olivia walked in, holding the tray of drinks. Four drinks.
“Stella not back yet?” Joanne quirked an eye brow, her mouth stuffed with food.
“She’s at Anthony’s apartment.” Olivia said, passing her best friend her coffee.
She placed Wolverine’s drinks on the coffee table and took her own and sat down.
“I tried to take Wolverine out for a walk but..” She shrugged and Joanne nodded in understanding. She knew her dog way too well; he probably wouldn’t have even budged.
He was only three years old but he acted like he was senile. Idiot. If she didn’t love him so much, she would have send him to some Military Style Puppy Camp.
“I am craving Lebanese food today.” Olivia said out of nowhere.
The mere word stirred Joanne’s tastebuds awake and she felt her mouth water at the thought of eating some Rice Pilaf and Chicken Kafta.
“I know this awesome restaurant. I went there with Mr. Alistair last month. I will make a reservation.” She jumped in her seat. It was only morning and she was already excited for lunch. The little joys of life!
Olivia looked elated. “Do that.”
“Only if you get me my phone from the bedroom.”
She narrowed her eyes at the little brat while she grinned innocently at her.
She gave in and went to fetch it.
Joanne thought Olivia could have just used her own phone but it was fine, her brain was too primitive and walking was good for her.
She came back while Joanne was enjoying her iced coffee and even Wolverine was attacking his whipped cream.
Joanne took her phone from her and unlocked it. She was about to go to the browser when she saw a notification from the bank.
She opened it, sipping my coffee.
Your A/C XXXXXX36 has been credited with USD20,000 on...
Joanne spewed out the coffee back in the cup and Olivia jumped back.
“You okay?” Olivia patted her back, concerned, as she coughed. Joanne showed her the message and her mouth formed an ‘o’.
Who the hell would sent me this much money? She thought as she placed her coffee on the table.
She quickly speed dialled ‘0’.
She picked up at second ring.
“Rodney, someone just wired me twenty k. Find out who it is.” Joanne said. Rodney just hummed and she could hear her typing away on her keyboard.
“Anthony King.” She said, and Joanne could just imagine the middle-aged awesome woman raising an eye brow in her mind. “Isn’t he Stella’s boyfriend?”
Realization dawned on her.
“Oh yeah. I will ask him personally. Thanks.” She said and hung up the phone not waiting for her reply.
“Who sent you the money?” Olivia sat down beside her, reaching over the table for her Latte.
Olivia was confused. Why was she taking money from him? Joanne rolled her eyes and cocked her head, Don’t you get it?
Realisation dawned on her.
“Oh. My. God. NO WAY!!” Olivia screeched a few moments later.
“Poor guy added one extra zero. Let’s not tell him.” Joanne laughed as she picked her coffee back up and took a sip.
“Eww.. You spat on that.” Olivia slapped her weird and disgusting best friend in the arm.
“My spit, bruh. What’s the big deal? You don’t have problem swallowing Zach’s spit or his..” Joanne motioned to the second cup of puppuccino Wolverine was on. “..whipped cream.”
Joanne cracked up as soon as she said it while Olivia hit her with one of the pillows, turning as red as a tomato. “You are soo yuck!!” She screeched while her best friend laughed, blocking her. After a few more hits, she too started laughing while Wolverine stared between the two of them wondering what was so wrong about eating whipped cream.
“Do you think she accepted?” Olivia said once the laughter died down.
Joanne shrugged. “She did.”
They both sighed.
That was super dumb of her.
“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??” Joanne started awake from her post-breakfast nap with Olivia shouting. She pushed off her boy’s drooling face from her neck and wriggled out from under him while he kept sleeping not giving a damn. She finally fell onto the ground and made her way into Stella’s room.
“Wait, how do you know?” Stella asked.
“Your man wired me 20k dollars.” Joanne yawned as she walked in.
Her eyes widened.
Yeah sister. The feeling’s mutual.
“I was kidding!” She held her head. “That was a joke.”
“Return it.” She turned to her friend.
“Nah.” Joanne clucked her tongue and sat down on Stella’s bed. “No return policies.”
“Jo!!” Stella looked at her unbelievably.
“That’s not the problem here, Stell. Why did you accept?” Olivia made her face her. “For how long do you even know this guy?”
Joanne stood up and went to stand next to Olivia. She was on her side on this one though she made no comments.
“Who cares Olivia!? He makes me so so happy! Not everyone gets to spent the rest of their lives with their first love like you.” She shrugged off the hands on her shoulders and sat down on the bed. “I have seen people who knew each other for ages divorce after just weeks of marriage. People who started off as one night stands have spent their whole life together. It doesn’t matter-”
“I saw that post on Pubity last week.” Joanne commented. And Stella glared at her. “What? Truth is truth.”
Olivia gave her a weird look.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet this woman who doesn’t read memes. What a waste of life! Joanne thought as she shrugged and gestured for Stella to continue.
“What I am saying is, Livy, it doesn’t matter how less of a time it has been-”
“I agree with you.” Joanne butted in again. So much for not making comments. “It doesn’t matter how long you have known each other. What matters is how much you know him.”
Olivia nodded and turned to Stella, pursing her lips. “How much do you know this guy?”
Stella took off her shoes looking hella mad.
“And I thought my friends would be happy for me.” She turned to Joanne. “You even predicted it.”
“Yeah, because I knew he was going to. I never said I approve of it.” She crossed her arms and stood there.
Honestly, what could Olivia and she even do? Stella was a twenty-three-year-old independent woman. She was fully capable and had the sole authority to take decisions about her life. They could only advise her as friends.
“Guys, I love him and he loves me. He wants me to marry him because that’s how it works in his family.” She said calmly.
“His eldest brother got married to a girl ten years younger than him. They weren’t dating and he got her pregnant, while he was engaged to someone else.” Olivia stated.
“At least he took responsibility.” Joanne commented but shut her mouth when Olivia gave her the eye. But she did believe that what the elder brother did had nothing to do with Anthony. Why was Olivia judging someone based on the deeds of someone else?
“Okay. Let’s not fight.” Stella said. “He has invited all of us to dinner tonight at his place, with his family.”
“Us?” Olivia pointed to herself and Joanne.
Stella nodded with a soft smile on her gorgeous face. “You guys are my only family.”
Joanne pouted and went and hugged her. “Now I feel bad.”
Olivia sighed and joined.
“Wait, does that mean I have to dress up Old Man?” She asked and they raised their eyebrows at their dear old dumb Jo.
“So Olivia, what do you do?” Rubina King asked as she cut her steak. Well seasoned tender delicious steak!
“I work at Her with Stella. I am in charge of Self-Care and Relationships.” Olivia said politely, which is her normal way of speaking.
“And you, Joanne?” She turned to the crazy human.
She cleared my throat and said, “Digital Media ma’am. I am in charge of our website maintenance.”
“Ahh.. So you are the ace card.” Daniella said. Daniella was Anthony’s second elder brother, Xander’s girlfriend. ”Her Magazine soared after they launched the website.”
Joanne smiled at the platinum-blond-haired supermodel-figured woman. “Yeah, and made my relationship with a lot of people sour.” She nodded while the table laughed light-heartedly.
“I see a future for you in writing.” Leon, the third brother said.
“She does. She criticises our articles.” Olivia smiled at him. And he had a different expression on his face when their eyes met. A lingering stare.
Lol, I should write a short poem out of it. Joanne laughed in her head as she saw the exchange. Nothing escaped her eyes. She was way too observant for her own good!
She captured him with her forest greens.
He saw paradise, for once, within his reach.
Should he reach out and capture it forever?
Or will he find solace in her memories when it’s over?
Yuck. No wonder I was kicked out of Literature school. She shuddered at the cringe.
The table fell into a comfortable silence. At least for Joanne. Everyone else were talking amongst themselves but she wanted to quickly finish her food so that she could go play with the little kid. Her asocial ass didn’t like adults. They were old and boring and thought speaking politics was cool.
The Kings had a beautiful family.
Anthony was the youngest.
His eldest brother was Gregory, 32. His wife was Anika, 22, and they had the cutest daughter, three -year-old Ava. Quite the age difference but they were in love and had such a beautiful family. That’s all that mattered.
What a joke!
Gregory didn’t even acknowledge Anika’s existence and she couldn’t care less.
Joanne was thinking they married only and only because of the kid.
The second one, Xander, was a silent brooding fellow. Joanne would have thought he was mute if he hadn’t introduced himself at the beginning. His girlfriend, Daniella, made up for it by talking non-stop. She was a sweetheart.
Wait a minute, how come they are not married when it’s a ‘family thing’? Joanne thought suddenly. I will have to ask Stella later.
Baby, I don’t want Baaad Blood.
She improvised the song in my head as she thought of the tension that may develop if she asked that question out loud. But she was itching to do, the only thing stopping her being the fact that this family was going to be Stella’s and thus she will have all the time in the world to ask the questions as she pleased.
The third one, Leon, was a nice funny guy. A little bit shy but still comical with a tolerable sense of humour.
Anthony being the youngest was pretty much the Granny’s boy. He pretty much acted like a nervous teenager all through the evening. And Joanne didn’t blame him for it.
The grandmother. She was guarded. The web designer couldn’t figure out her character. But she was sitting there and figuring out all three of them.
Joanne looked up at her. And she saw her, staring back at her, her eyes slightly narrowed, studying the young woman.
Joanne gave her her toothy grin and got back to her food, not letting her smile falter because that’s a mistake everyone make. You should never drop a smile as soon as you flash it. Let it linger for a bit and let it fade.
She’s onto me. Joanne knew that. Rubina King was just as observant as Joanne Lake was but Joanne probably had way more skeletons in her closet than the old lady ever will. But the thought that the woman was definitely onto her made her smile. Let’s see her try!
“What are you smiling to yourself for, young lady?” It was the Grandma’s voice. Everyone stopped talking and turned their attention to Joanne. She hated it when all attention was on her.
“Well, it’s a little something.” Joanne said smiling, acting all cool and composed.
“I would love to hear it.” She heard the edginess in her voice. No one else did.
Joanne narrated to her the story about the bet and how Anthony had sent her 20k.
“I sent it back though.” She held her hands up in surrender.
“Why? You should have just robbed him!” Leon said making all of them laugh.
“Stella blackmailed me emotionally.” Joanne pouted.
“When?” Stella laughed.
“You called me family. I was too touched I sent it back. I think it was her plan all along. ” She fake sniffed and everyone laughed.
But the grandma’s eyes stil lingered on her.
Try all you want.
You won’t get anything out of me.