Justine was Justine and therefore prone to be a) an annoying bitch, b) careless as hell and c) both of those things at 7 am.
The Atkins household sounded somewhat like this (it was hard to tell over the voices of so many angry females).
“Why do you keep doing this to me?!”
“Enough with the whining you idiotic cow – “
“Gloria, you don’t understand! You never understand!”
“And you wonder why you’re not married!”
A new voice bellowed from a bedroom next door. “WILL YOU TWO PLEASE SHUT UP? IT’S SEVEN. I’M TRYING TO SLEEP.”
There was a twin shout as the Atkins sisters screamed to the wall, “Shut up, Olivia!”
“Why is everyone in my family so bloody insane?” said Gloria, shutting the door. She could still hear Justine on the other side, raving angrily to herself.
Gloria promptly grabbed the freshest pair of work robes she could find, a slightly used pair of purple heels, got dressed and ran out the door. She could hear Justine screaming at Olivia as the door slammed behind her.
Some family that was.
“Do I have to come?”
“Because I’m returning a favor, Gemma! I have to do this for you at the very least after all you’ve been through the last few days!”
Gemma muttered mutinously under her breath. So went the idea of shifting plans last minute and working through lunch. “I’d really prefer you to call me Healer Clarke, Rhoda.”
Rhoda was peering past them distractedly. “Of course, Gemma. Now come on! We’ll be late if we don’t get past that nagging sack Yolanda Kennedy before she dumps more work on us!”
Gemma sighed. Only Rhoda Lee could talk about the Head Healer that way and still manage to run through (and nearly bludgeon in the process) a woman who had grown horns and a pair of twins who now resembled cactuses.
“Is she there? No, I don’t want to come – I don’t – I don’t want to, Glor – ”
“Will you shut up already?” hissed Gloria, all but dragging Pippa by her purse. Pippa struggled, scraping her feet into the pavement before whacking Gloria around the torso with the edge of her purse. “God, you’re being annoying! You look like I’m kidnapping you!”
“You are! I don’t – I don’t want to – ”
“Stop being so antisocial and get the hell inside!” Gloria turned around in a haze, her hair flying, her hands clawed around Pippa’s wrist - before abruptly walking straight into the glass door.
A few women on the other side gawped. Gloria shook her hair out of her eyes, and still maintain a vicelike hold on Pippa, nudged the door open with her foot.
“Nice entrance,” said Daphne, watching Gloria enter, glowering at the small girl shuffling behind her.
“Thanks,” said Gloria, huffing. She dropped into a chair and faced Daphne. “Nice to see you again.”
“And who’s this?” Daphne gestured to Pippa, who promptly turned red.
“This is Pippa.”
“Hi Pippa.” Daphne extended a hand; Pippa peeked through the bangs obscuring her eyes and gave the lightest and speediest handshake Daphne had ever seen. “Ah – um, alright then. Nice to meet you.”
“Same,” said Pippa.
Well, this was beginning to get rather odd, Daphne reflected. Gloria Atkins was now applying another coat of lipstick, looking perfectly at home beside a nervous girl who had the aura of a rabbit on its deathbed. “So,” she began with more attempted gusto, “should we order some lunch? Only, I don’t really see a menu anywhere, so I’m not sure – ”
“Oh, this place isn’t for lunch,” said Gloria. “You really shouldn’t eat anything here. It’s hazardous for your health.”
“That’s right,” piped up Pippa.
“But food – ”
“Look around. Do you actually see anybody with any real food?”
Three girls in another table were bent over a tin of biscuits. Another was sitting near the window, sipping out of a cup and staring out with a vacant expression.
“You mean this place isn’t for lunch?”
“Lunch is more like a figure of speech. Mostly it’s for lemonade. The tea’s alright, but it tastes a bit like vomit and metal. I’m not sure how that’s possible.” Gloria surveyed the place with satisfied familiarity.
“Then why are we here?”
“Because it’s fashionable!” said Gloria, “Everyone knows this is one of the most fashionable places in town for a modern witch to eat. The food’s so avant-garde and minimalistic.”
“And by that, we mean that they really don’t serve much,” said Pippa cheerfully.
“Well…if it is fashionable…” said Daphne, after some hesitation. Better to be fashionable and hungry than scooping up vomit-flavored tea. She looked at the place another time, still hesitating. It was a small, crowded shop with checkered floors, light pink walls and a proliferation of yellow tulips on the counter. There were several flowery candles on every table.
It looked like a ten-year old girl’s bedroom. But it was better not to say anything.
Fashionable. Be fashionable.
Rhoda Lee and Gemma Clarke entered The Love Lampoon fifteen minutes after Gloria and Pippa’s unseemly entrance.
If she had been more observant, Gemma would have bothered to notice the other occupants of the checkered monstrosity that were currently two tables to the left: a tall brunette, a pouty blonde and a fidgety girl who looked suspiciously like her very own fidgety companion.
“Isn’t this place lovely?” said Rhoda, absolutely beaming at the slightly misshapen table. “It’s just so wonderful here?”
“Why?” asked Gemma without much interest.
“I love everything about it! I love the walls – they’re so pink! And the scented candles! It always smells like roses and lavender in here! And the tulips and how it’s all girls and the title has the word ‘love’ in it! It makes me think it’s like a fantasy land in here. Like a beautiful castle in a romantic movie.”
“You do realize the full title is ‘Love Lampoon’, right? You do know what that actually means?”
“Lampoon? Of course I do! It’s a kind of a lamp!”
That statement alone was enough to make Gemma throw up her tea. That, and the fact that the tea tasted slightly vomit flavored.
She had barely eaten breakfast. The hunger along with the mass of walking, breathing incompetence beside her was enough to drive any rational woman to insanity.
Well, this was awkward.
Pippa didn’t understand people much. They were so annoyingly confusing.
And right in front of her, two of them had entirely flummoxed her, and in the short space of perhaps twenty minutes, looked like they had been best friends for as long as they had known each other. An accomplishment which Pippa had yet to succeed in, even with her twenty-plus years of existence.
Gloria was in the middle of a riveting tale of her last string of ex-boyfriends.
Pippa took a sip of lemonade (which was really the only reason she’d bothered to come. Half the things on the menu tasted horrifyingly vulgar and the other probably caused some form of painful death, but the lemonade was heavenly).
“ – and meanwhile, when all this was happening, Katherine somehow managed to throw a jinx, which actually ended up hitting him and there were just huge pustules everywhere and then he ran out crying. Apparently, now he’s developed a phobia for tomatoes because of me!”
Daphne’s giggle seemed to signal the end of the last ex-boyfriend.
There was silence.
Daphne seemed to realize Pippa’s existence. “And what about you, Pippa? Have you got any horrible ex-boyfriend stories?”
The first thought that sprang to mind was what ex-boyfriend? Such a story would actually require the existence of a boyfriend or any sort of male, who in the past, would have been at least partly willing to resort to romantic relations. This was still yet (and unlikely) to happen.
Pippa gave Gloria a wide-eyed, cornered look.
Gloria coughed, before beginning with, “Pippa works in the Ministry of Magic. She’s actually an assistant to James Potter. I’m sure she’s got plenty of horrible James Potter stories.”
Pathetic as it was, this far-flung throw seemed to do it.
A dark look creeped onto Daphne’s face. “Haven’t we all?”
“Oh, you too?” asked Gloria. “Because I’ve known that idiot for six years and he’s never once – ” She paused. “ – never once behaved himself.”
James Potter was a topic Pippa was willing to divulge on.
“He’s horrible!” It came out in a rushed breath. “I really, absolutely loathe him! He’s completely self-centered, crass, idiotic, and tasteless. He thinks he can get away with treating people below him like dirt because he’s so mighty and powerful and James he-can-go-to-hell Potter.”
Daphne’s eyes widened. “Oh not you too! You understand what I mean!”
A second glass of lemonade that Pippa had never ordered arrived, but she was too busy absorbed in the horror of being Phyllis that she didn’t notice.
And lemonade was lemonade. The glass was downed in haste before she ever noticed.
Rhoda wanted a second glass of lemonade. She said so to a waitress who was tapping her feet and barely listening to a word she had said.
In between the waiting, Rhoda endlessly prattled her home life and work life and personal life – none of which particularly mattered because it was hard pressed for Gemma to care about any life of Rhoda Lee’s.
Rhoda ended up forgetting about the second glass of lemonade. Half out of desperation, Gemma interrupted an inspired retelling of how she had taken in a lost dog when she was eight.
“What happened to your lemonade?”
“Oh! Thank you for reminding me! Let me go get a waitress!”
Josie was currently berating a disinterested Regina Jordan about the cruelties of putting up yellow tulips.
“Pink, I’ve told you – pink.”
“I know, Miss Ainsworth.” Regina stared at her nails, then at a scratch on the floor.
“I told you the yellow tulips are for the inside of the kitchen, not out here! Please remember, will you?” Josephine threw her hands up and said in her usual high-pitched airy voice, “What an embarrassment! What everyone will say about me, I can’t even imagine! Yellow tulips outside! It doesn’t even match the color of the walls!”
A small-statured girl with round cheeks and a bubbly smile approached them, ending the rant on yellow tulips.
“Hi, I asked for some lemonade a while ago and it never came.”
Josephine frowned. “Well, that’s rather odd. You know anything about this, Regina?”
“Don’t look at me. She asked for lemonade and I gave it to her like ten minutes ago.”
“I didn’t get anything…”
“I swear, Miss Ainsworth! I gave it to her!”
“Maybe you gave it to the wrong table?” asked Rhoda gently.
“No,” said Regina grudgingly. “I just put it on the table and your friend slid it over.”
“Let’s go check with table three,” said Josephine, smiling. “Perhaps they didn’t consume your drink and all could be well again. Regina, you can stay here.”
There was a dull reply of, “Yes Miss Ainsworth.”
Josephine led the way to table three, where a brunette and blonde were laughing over something.
“Excuse me,” she began cordially, as Rhoda peeked behind her. The two girls turned to meet the interruption. As they did so, a third girl shifted in her seat, appearing behind the brunette. “There seems to have been a mix – ”
“Rhoda?” said Pippa.
Rhoda blinked. “Pippa?”
“You two know each other?” asked Josie.
“Who is this?” asked Daphne, giving Josie’s flowery dress ornamented with beads a placid look, before staring openly at Rhoda.
“My sister,” said Pippa. “What’re you doing here?”
“Eating, what else?” said Rhoda. “I even told you about it! I suppose you forget again!”
“There’s been a bit of a mixup with the two orders – odd sort of a coincidence,” began Josie a second time, before Rhoda cut her off.
“Oh, let me go get Gemma! You know, the one who works with me! I’ve said so much about her to you, but you’ve never even met!” Within a second, she raced off and returned with a woman wearing a frown and an irritated expression. “Pippa, this is Gemma Clarke!”
And there it both began and ended.
Gloria Atkins, who went to meet Daphne Pucey, and brought Phillippa Lee. Whose sister was Rhoda, who knew Gemma Clarke. And of course, there was Josephine Ainsworth’s appearance, which was only a matter of the ill-timed and aesthetically displeasing appearance of yellow tulips.
Author's Note: And so the anger begins!
Thanks for all the support so far! We've only got a few more chapters to go before the biggest kidnapping (of sorts) of the century. Thanks so much for your continued support and I do hope you'll review this chapter letting me know your thoughts.
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