Sebrina parked in front of the coffee shop and took the keys out of the ignition. She grabbed her wallet and opened the door. Celeb sat in the outside dining area, drinking coffee. The mid-morning sun beat down on her cheeks, making it nearly to warm to drink coffee outside. But the breeze made it doable. Through the window Sebrina saw a waitress filling a cone with ice cream. Maybe she should have chocolate ice cream instead.
The top edge of the iron fence jabbed against Sebrina’s hips as she bumped into the gate. Her lips shaped an O as she took a step back. She scanned the area: children smiled to themselves and adults pretended not to notice. The pain in her hips subsided and she focused on Celeb’s table, walking with her head held high. Pretend like it never happened.
The waitress walked by with the ice cream cone in hand. “Ma’am.”
The waitress turned toward Sebrina.
“Could I have a coffee please?” She asked, sitting down across from Celeb.
The waitress nodded. “Sure.” She handed the child the ice cream cone, then walked into the building.
Sebrina focused on Celeb, sighed and smiled.
“When did you have your last cup of coffee?” Celeb asked, leaning back in his chair.
“This morning.” Sebrina brushed her hair behind her ears and smiled.
“If you like coffee so much, why don’t you open a coffee shop instead?”
“Who says I want to open anything?” Sebrina shook her head.
“News travels fast.” Celeb leaned forward to drank his coffee.
“Only if you listen to news. If you didn’t listen then you wouldn’t hear about it.”
The tip of Celeb’s lips formed a hit of a smile. “What did you want to talk about?” Celeb focused on Sebrina.
“Business.” She sighed and scooched forward on her chair. “I hear you’re buying the feed store?”
“I’m going to bid on it at the auction.” Celeb nodded. “Don’t worry,” he winked, “I’ll treat you just like any other bidder.”
“If I don’t get someone to co-sign for me, I won’t be able to bid.”
The waitress stood beside Sebrina, coffee in hand. Sebrina turned and took the coffee from the lady’s hands. She thanked her, then turned toward Celeb.
“Find someone to co-sign for you.” Celeb studied Sebrina over the brim of his coffee cup.
“No.” She shook her head. “I need a partner.” She took a sip from her coffee.
Celeb sat his cup down and stared at Sebrina. The birds chirping and the surrounding conversations became clearer.
“—I thought you never wanted to work with me again?” Celeb tilted his head slightly.
“What makes you think I want you as a partner?”
Celeb lifted his eyebrows.
“We both want the feed store and if we don’t buy it, my sister will. And what’s worse: running a business with me, or having my sister run another business in town?”
“Have you ever operated a business before? Why do you want the feed store?”
“No, but neither have you.” Sebrina sat up straight, cleared her throat and wrapped her fingers around her coffee cup. “I know the feed store didn’t go bankrupted because people around here didn’t have a use for it. I believe if it’s managed properly it good do very well.” Sebrina leaned back. “Why do you want it?”
“Same reason.” Celeb swung his left arm over the top chair rail.
“If this is what it takes to . . .” Sebrina trailed off. There was no need to voice the rest of that sentence. “I’m willing to work with you.”
Celeb chuckled. “So, it’s true: you still don’t like me?”
Sebrina jerked her head up and shook it slightly. “Who said that?”
Celeb looked into Sebrina’s eyes and smiled. After a few seconds he looked into the café and stood up.
“All right, well, we’ll meet up tomorrow to sort out a plan.” Celeb’s figure shadowed over Sebrina.
“Yeah sure!” She nodded. “You can come over tomorrow after dinner, if that works for you?”
“I’ll see you then.” Celeb smiled, then turned toward the door to pay the waitress.
Sebrina nodded. When had Celeb started smiling like that? She tilted her head and picked up her coffee cup. She’d spent her entire freshman year despising him, yet she’d never noticed the feature of his jaw before, or his broad shoulders. Maybe that happened after high school, otherwise she would have noticed.
Sebrina stood in her room, staring at the full-length mirror. She held the jeans against her legs, then held the maxi dress against her body. If she wore a dress, it’d look like she put effort into their business meeting. If she wore the jeans it’ll look like she just got back from work and she had nearly forgotten about their meeting. Or she’d look like a busy working woman. Better to go with the jeans.
She pulled her hair from underneath her t-shirt as she walked into the kitchen. On the day when she wished her sister would work late, she was home early. She expected Celeb to be there at eight, giving her plenty of time to eat and clean up dinner.
“Why did you change?” April licked the marinara sauce off her finger.
“Celeb Johnson’s coming over after dinner.” Sebrina grabbed two plates from the cabinet and set them on the table.
“I thought you didn’t like him? Why are you dating him?” April poured the cooked noodles into the meatball mixture.
“I’m not dating him.” Sebrina poured them each a glass of water.
“Why is he coming over then?”
“To discuss business.”
“What kind of business?” April set the pot of spaghetti on the table and sat down.
Sebrina set a plate of buttered toast on the table and said, “You don’t have to know everything.”
“I didn’t become the number one business woman around here without asking questions.”
Sebrina folded her hands in her lap and looked at her sister. “Let’s pray.”
The girls said grace and ladled themselves each a plate of spaghetti. Buying the feed store would pay off even if it didn’t make any money. If she could knock April’s pride down a notch it would all be worth it. But if the store wouldn’t succeed, she’d not only make Celeb and her look like a fool, but she’d fuel April’s pride. But with Celeb on her side they were bound to make some money.
“He’s here.” April nodded toward the window.
“He is?” Sebrina looked out the window. Then she turned, punched April’s arm, and continued rinsing the dishes.
“I’ve never seen someone that excited to see their business partner.” April studied her sister, while placing the silverware in the dishwasher.
Sebrina focused on scrubbing the pot. Avoiding the urge to smile.
“But no, he seriously is here now.” April stood up straight.
Sebrina looked out the window. A dark green ford parked in front of the house. Half an hour earlier than she thought he’d be. Maybe he wanted to get home early. She dried her hands, then walked to the door. She took a deep breath before she opened it.
Celeb nodded and stepped inside. Sebrina stood beside him, hands folded behind her. She took several glances at Celeb as he slid off his shoes. His military green t-shirt highlighted his blond hair color. The strands of hair covering his ears showed signs of an over do haircut. Sebrina’s eyes shifted toward the muscles on his arm as he set his shoes against the wall. Had he started working out? In high school a strong wind gust could have snapped him in half. What happened to “high school Celeb?” How come had she not noticed the difference before?
“I have the forms we need to fill out and hand to the banker.” Celeb looked at Sebrina as he walked to the kitchen table. “Tomorrow we can bring him the forms and he can tell you what size loan you’re eligible for.” He set his files on the table and sat down. “I have everything on my end set up, but if we could maybe get a little extra money on your side it would help us with inventory.”
Sebrina nodded and slid a chair away from the table. She started to sit down, when her sister began to yell, she stood up straight.
“What inventory? Why do you need a loan?” April stepped closer to the table.
“We’ll need it to buy the feed store,” Celeb answered.
“You’re buying the feed store?” April stared at them. “You can’t, I’m buying the feed store.” April pressed her fingers against her chest.
“You’re not used to someone going up against you, are you?” Celeb asked, placing his folded hands on the table.
April’s mouth remained open, with her head leaned forward.
“May the best sister win.” Sebrina tilted her head, smiled at Celeb, then at her sister.
To be continued . . .