Cliff has me breaking all kinds of rules.
I throw on sweats and my high top Nikes, then toss my hair into a frizzy bun. With such wild curly hair, I’ll never have one of those cute messy buns that straight-haired girls rock. But I’ve managed to make it my own.
I’m supposed to work tonight, but I’ll come home and shower first. Still, just in case, I wing my eyeliner and dab on mascara. Looking at my reflection, I shake my head at myself. The odds of me running into Cliff today are pretty low. This is totally absurd. After another moment, I shrug and add lip gloss.
My hand is on my bedroom door knob when I hear a door slam. Frenzied shrieks and Spanish gush from my roommate’s mouth. I throw my door open and Esther barrels into my room.
Between high school and my roommate, my Spanish is pretty good, but she’s talking way too fast. Tears streak her cheeks, and she clutches her phone in her hand. I lead her to my bed and sit her down. After bringing her an ice cold glass of water, I calm her enough to talk.
“My car,” she gasps, her hands shaking. “Someone slit my tires.”
I bolt up straight. Eyes narrowing, I stomp toward the front door as if I can still catch the motherfucker. Right outside our front door, Esther’s car slumps pathetically. All four tires have long gashes in them. My jaw hangs open even as fury rips through me. Esther is a nice person—someone so quiet, she wouldn’t disturb a librarian. Cutting tires is never random, always personal. This doesn’t make sense.
I light a cigarette and Esther joins me outside. Red rims her eyes and blots her nose.
“Who would do this?” she whispers, hugging herself.
I shake my head. “No one followed you home?”
“Not that I saw.” She holds her hand out for my cigarette. I give it to her and light another for myself. Taking a drag, she grimaces. “I haven’t smoked since high school.” Still, she visibly relaxes. Once a smoker, always a smoker.
“Anyone you might have . . . annoyed?” I can’t imagine Esther ever pissing anyone off enough to make them want to slit her tires, but I have to cover all the bases.
Her head swivels from side to side. “No. Last night was actually a really good tips night.” Dainty eyebrows knit together. “Donny even asked me out.”
My eyes narrow. “Who’s Donny?”
Lips softening into a smile, Esther practically swoons. “This guy at work. He’s one of the chefs. I’ve been waiting for him to make a move forever.” She sucks on the cigarette, still smiling.
“He’s nice to you?” I’m losing hope. Walking around the car, I examine it again.
“Very,” Esther says. “He’s one of the ones who hold doors open and all that. He’s even brought me gifts—little things like chocolate. He brought me a rose last night.”
I blink at her.
Rolling her eyes, she puts her hands on her hips. “Valentine’s Day?”
I halt in my tracks, groaning. “Fuck,” I mutter.
Esther rushes to my side. “Did you think of something?”
“No.” I sigh, lighting another cigarette. “I kind of did something last night, without realizing what day it was.” Wrinkling my nose, I hope Cliff didn’t think it was all supposed to be some romantic bullshit. Or, even worse, that I was so desperate for a Valentine, I begged him to come home with me. I rub my temples. God, I’m pathetic.