Gromet's PlazaErotic Stories

The Secret Life of Rica 6: Trade Negotiations

by AmyAmy

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© Copyright 2015 - AmyAmy - Used by permission

Storycodes: F/f; Solo-F; M/f; naked; bdsm; spank; hairbrush; work; lateshift; public; molest; torment; degrade; hum; cons/nc; X

(story continues from )

Chapter 6: Trade Negotiations

Erica had Bea cornered in the kitchen.

“What did you do that for? I can’t share a house with him,” Erica said.

Bea looked up at the ceiling, avoiding eye-contact. “We need somebody for the rent right? Why not him? And he said he has a friend. We need the rent money.”

“Cut the Shades of Grey eye-rolling Bea. Fine. Yes. We need people, but it didn’t have to be my boss. Now I’m going to have to keep up this fake image at home too. It’s impossible.”

“Fake image? Rica. I don’t get it.”

Erica drew a box around herself with her hand. “You see this? This… This is fake. With the slutty outfit, the makeup and the curls… And the talking to people, that… It makes me feel like a slug that’s just had salt poured on it.”

Bea giggled. “A slug…”

“You’re no help at all. You realise fake Ree-ka only has two outfits, and I can’t afford any more clothes?”

“What clothes do you want?”

“You think I know? Look at me. Whatever you see. Whoever this is, the clothes they would buy.”

“I don’t understand. You’re you. Why don’t you do whatever you like? You could wear a cardboard-box, you would still look sexy.”

“What makes you think I want that?”

Bea paused, an odd grin formed on her face. “When are you going to do it to me? You know, my punishment?” Bea’s eyes were alarmingly wide. She was staring without blinking.

“Look, if I wear my old shirts and pants, he will remember I ran out of an interview like a mental case.”

“I still don’t get it.” Bea leaned forward, lips parted.

“I don’t want him to remember. Or tell Ellen. Ok? And stop that. You look like a fish.”

Bea popped her mouth closed.

“You can’t wear that collar either. He will see it.”

Bea gave a wobbly grin.

The stupid expression on Bea’s face was intolerable. “Bea… I do not want him to see it.”

“If you were really my mistress, I’d definitely do as you say. But you won’t even punish me. So you don’t get to say.” Bea tipped her head from side to side as if there was some strange tune only she could hear.

Rica made an angry noise in the back of her throat. “Bea. This is blackmail. This is topping from the bottom.”

“Oh really?” Bea stuck her tongue in her cheek, did the eye rolling again. “I was sure you knew all about that kind of thing. I’m right, aren’t I?”

Erica wished she could strike Bea dumb with a look. “Not as much as you, apparently.”

“I’ll swap you some of my clothes for those old shirts and pants of yours.”

“I can’t take your stuff. I already owe you for rent.”

“That’s why it’s a swap.”

“You don’t want my horrible old clothes. They are worn out anyway.”

“And so are mine. Well… They don’t have much left in them. They’re no good unless they look new. I like your clothes, they’ve had you in them.”

Erica tried not to think about how creepy Bea was being. “They won’t fit.”

“You can try them on and find out. I want to see you in your panties again. Oh, but you’re wearing a thong now aren’t you?” Bea swapped to a sing-song voice. “Even better.”

“No,” Erica furrowed her brow at Bea. “I’m not.”

“Yes you are. You’d have Vee-Pee-Ell in that dress otherwise. Unless you’re not wearing panties at all?” Bea had a stupid grin on her face like this was all the funniest thing on Earth.

“No,” Erica said. What else could she do with Bea except deny everything?

Interesting Arrivals

She swung the back of the hairbrush hard at Bea’s behind. A muffled squeak issued from Bea, who was bent over the Ikea footstool the guys had left behind when they moved out. She was naked from the waist down, with her ass in the air. Bea’s bum was already turning a rosy colour.

Bea had taken a perverse satisfaction in claiming her old clothes. It was like being robbed by a lolcat. It was hard to get angry, but all her stuff was still gone. Bea had turned out to be surprisingly canny. After negotiating over clothes Erica realised she needed shoes too. Bea had traded six pairs of horrible heels for Erica’s scuffed old boots. At the time it had seemed like Bea was being unreasonably generous, but she’d underestimated how much she loved her old boots. It wasn’t a sentimental thing. They were so comfortable and easy to walk in. The shoes on the other hand… She could get by with bare feet in the house, but outside she had to wear them.

Bea had described them as the prettiest pairs, but apparently, translated from Bea-speak this meant most uncomfortable and tricky to walk in. She nearly broke her ankle on the way to the bus-stop. At least her work-uniform shoes were flats, but they looked ridiculous with her other clothes, so she could only wear them at work. Her runners were another thing she’d left behind with her bag in Rimkoff’s office.

It was her own fault, but now Erica had nothing to wear that hadn’t been picked out by Bea, unless she counted the porn costumes hiding in the back of her closet.

This morning, she was dressed in the most casual outfit she could muster, a pair of silky electric-red shorts so short that her bum cheeks peeped out of the bottom and a pale pink baby-doll Tee with a big sparkly heart on the front. Apparently, they were pyjamas. Erica had her doubts.

“Nineteen,” Bea said, her voice strained and thin.

“You’re not running out of determination already are you Bea? These are just the strokes for blackmailing me into collaring you. After that, there’s stalking me at work when I told you not to, and those shoes you gave me… You aren’t going to be able to sit down for a week after I’m done.”

Bea said nothing. A pity, Erica would happily have given her more spanks for back-talking. Spanking the hell out of Bea was turning out to be wonderfully stress relieving.

There was a loud smack as she struck Bea’s bottom with the brush again. It jiggled briefly in response, reminding Erica of its velvet softness. No, she mustn’t let herself get distracted.

“Twenty,” Bea said, her voice starting to crack.

Erica struck again, landed a satisfying blow with a loud thwack. The hairbrush was a big flat one made from hollow plastic that made a tremendous noise whenever it struck.

“Twenty-one.” Erica heard her swallowing again.

Bea’s knuckles were white, her fists clenched. Should Erica have chained her to the stool? It took more self-discipline for Bea to keep herself there, but how much self-discipline did she have? But if she moved, that would be a reason for more spanks, wouldn’t it? Erica smiled to herself.

A loud knock came from the front door.

“Sounds like Andrew is here. Do you think his friend is with him too?”

“Yes Mistress,” Bea said.

“Should I keep you here like this? Maybe finish your punishment while they watch?” There was no way she could do that, but it sounded so cool and mistressy.

“As you wish Mistress.” Bea’s voice was a monotone.

“Not this time you slut,” Erica said. “Run upstairs and put a skirt on, but no panties. Make sure you have a scarf over that collar when you come down.”

“Yes Mistress.” Bea jumped up and hurried out into the hall, hands over her behind.

Erica put the hairbrush down and went to answer the door. Some guy she’d never seen before was there when she opened it.

He was about her age, clean-shaven, with short-buzzed hair, a fifties style black leather jacket and oil-stained blue jeans.

“Hi. I’m Mitch. You must be…?”


“Andy said it’s you and Bea right? Nice to meet you Rica.” He looked away, as if noticing something interesting by the side of the door. “So, how you feeling about us moving in?”

“Have you seen the house yet?”

“No, but Andy told me it’s ok. Anyway, it’s got to be better than the hostel and the location is good. Also, I hear there are these two really hot girls living here, so it can’t be too bad.”

Erica growled deep down in her throat. Her cheeks felt hot.

“Did he really say that?”

“No.” He paused for a smirk. “He spent way longer going on about you than that.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Between you and me, I think he might have a little crush on someone.” It was all she could do not to turn and run. Her face was on fire. She had to look like a tomato already.

Andrew barrelled into Mitch from behind. “Shut-the-up jackass.”

Erica staggered back. The two big lunks had nearly knocked her flying.

Both of them stood laughing at each other. She might just as well not be there.

“I’ll get you some keys.” She turned on her heel, walked back inside. They were welcome to their male bonding or whatever it was they were doing. She glanced back. Both of them were staring right at her. Both of them looked away, avoiding her gaze, eyes suddenly anywhere but her. What had they been looking at?

She picked up the keys from the kitchen counter. She twisted, trying to look back over her shoulder without being noticed.

Bea walked in, positioned herself on the opposite side of the counter, leaning over intimately, showing way-too-much boob. “How are they?”


Bea leaned in to speak quietly. “They’re both looking at your bum.”


Bea leaned back, her eyes on the boys. She furrowed her brows, her mouth twisting into a pout. “They better not be. Did one of them say something rude to you?” She had her volume turned up to loud.

“Stop it Bea.” Erica shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. They seem pretty harmless really. I didn’t panic. I usually panic. This is good.”

“I wish I’d seen it.”

Erica glanced over her shoulder. The boys had made themselves scarce. She looked back at Bea. “You didn’t miss much. Should we help them carry their stuff in? Is that the right thing to do?”

Bea shrugged. “Pick something small and light, make a big show of carrying it in. Act like it’s heavy. Then you can bake them cookies or something. Job done.”

“Oh. You are going to pay for that Bea.”

Bea giggled.

“Screw those guys, I’m not helping them carry their stuff,” Erica said. She spun the keys around her finger. “Oh. I was going to give them these.”

“Get rent money first,” Bea said.

“I’m an idiot.”

Bea giggled again. “You’re way nicer than I thought you were.”

“I thought you were into my mean image?”

“It doesn’t seem to make any difference either way.” Bea sucked in her lips and looked away. Erica felt her face heat up again. That face of hers, it was probably a major contributor to global warming.

“I can’t ask them for rent.”

“Yes you can.”

“Yes I can,” Erica said. But could she?

She walked to the front door. It was wide open. Both of the guys were lifting plastic stacker-boxes out of the truck, working fast. Where did they keep all that stuff in a hostel? There must have stored it somewhere else.

“I need some rent money from you guys,” she said.

They both turned at the sound of her voice. Two pairs of eyes zeroed in on her boobs. Her face flashed hot instantly. This stupid t-shirt was her most modest outfit and they were acting like this?

“Could you not stare at my boobs like that?” The words popped out of her mouth before she could stop them. She bit her lip. Dammit. What was wrong with her?

“Sorry,” Andrew said in a quiet voice.

“Sorry,” Mitch echoed.

Bea bumped her from behind, then caught her arm. She would have jumped a foot in the air if it wasn’t for that. “That Mitch guy sure is muscly. You think he works out?” Bea said. Her voice brimmed with fake innocence.

Mitch blushed and puffed himself up at the same time. He had to know she was kidding, didn’t he?

“Is cash alright?” Andrew said. He reached for his back pocket.

“Cash is always good,” Bea said. She stepped forward and held out her hand. How could she do that?

A Human Resources Issue

Erica called out another completed order.

“You need to shout louder Rica,” Andrew said. “There’s a lot of noise, you won’t be heard unless you use your lungs.”

“Sorry,” she said. She turned back to the waiting queue and gave it her best shot. “Medium value meal and small strawberry shake!”

“See, she heard that.”

“Here you are,” Erica said, pushing the tray towards the customer.

“You can get more hours if you want. It would be a big help if you could do a double tonight, six to two.”

A late night shift? Burger Bar’s day was divided into six four-hour shifts, but this outlet closed during the two ‘til six slot. The shift before, ten ‘til two was super unpopular. She’d always avoided it, even though it paid time-and-a-half. Everyone called it the suck shift.

“Who else will be on?” she said.

“Barney, Jane and Lilly… I think. Does it matter?”

 “Six heart-stoppers,” came the yell from the kitchen side. The burgers slid down into their rack. She began doling them out amongst the trays. Andrew was still waiting. Hadn’t she been about to ask him something? Yes, the shift.

Erica turned to Andrew. “Don’t think I’ve met Barney. He’ll be supervising?”

“Yeah. He’s a bit of a dick but he’s a good worker. He always takes the suck shifts.” He looked down at her feet. Erica’s eyes followed. Yuk. Her cheap brown flats were spattered with something. There was nothing else down there but beige tiles. What was he looking for?

“Suck shifts?” Erica said, her voice on automatic.

“Please. Don’t say no. I’m on the spot here. I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

Dammit. She couldn’t say no. She didn’t manage outright refusal well, she was better at hysterical panic.

“I’ll do it. Just this once though.”

“Thanks, I won’t forget it.”

She was so stupid. She should have asked for something in return. She could have asked him to clean the kitchen for a week. She could have asked… No, the extra money from the shift was enough.

The Suck Shift

Erica was on service with Barney. Things went smoothly for a couple of hours. Then the bars started to empty out and the customers turned loud and difficult.

“Can’t you understand English you stupid bitch?” The man in the crumpled suit sprayed her with spit as he spoke. “I asked for a dozen nuggets. Not spicy chicken-bits.”

“Sorry sir,” she said. Her face was hot, her hands were trembling. That thick feeling was starting to build up in her sinuses. She sniffed hard.

She felt something hard bump against her back. She glanced around. It was Barney.

“Is there a problem here sir?” he said. He was tall enough to simply talk over her head to the customer.

“Yeah, there is. This dumb bimbo can’t take an order straight.”

He’d definitely said he wanted spicy chicken-bits. It wasn’t like you could confuse the words. He was drunk. He’d forgotten his own order. She should say something. She should argue. Why didn’t she? What would she achieve anyway?

“Here sir,” Barney said, pushing a tray with the nuggets as well as the spicy chicken-bits to the drunk. “I’ll refund your money.”

The customer grabbed his tray. “Damn right.”

Barney leaned down close to her ear. “It’ll come out of your wages too, along with the other screw-ups, unless you can think of a good reason why not.”

What did he mean by that? What other screw-ups? There was a perfectly good reason for this, she’d done nothing wrong. Sure, keep the customer happy but no need to punish her.

She stared vacantly across the room. There was Bea sitting on a bar-stool by the window. She was wearing Erica’s clothes, Erica’s old shirt, Erica’s boots, Erica’s beanie hat. Erica clenched her fists. Bea was stalking her again. She looked away, pretended not to notice. The customer in front of her gave a long sigh.

For a few minutes Erica was too busy to glance at Bea. When she looked again two girls Bea knew from her course were hassling Bea. She knew that stance, the way they stood too close, closer than friends would. Had they confused Bea with her? The shorter girl tried to pull Bea’s phone from her hands, but Bea didn’t let go.

The taller girl with dark hair ticked her finger in a ‘no’ gesture. Bea leaned in close and whispered something. Tall girl’s face went bright red. What was her name? T-something. Tasmin? Tyler? Tammy? It didn’t matter. She grabbed her friend, the dumpy one with the white blouse, and blew out of the door in a tempest. Bea turned back to her phone.

A couple of hours later there was a momentary lull. She looked for Bea but she was gone. Something brushed against her bum. She jumped, a squeak escaping from her mouth. “What the?” she said, turning.

Somehow Barney had appeared behind her. He was standing close, almost touching. “What’s up with you?” he said. Would this jerk quit creeping around behind her? Every time she looked around, there he was, hovering.

She put her hand up. “Next!” she shouted.

The solitary customer shambled forward, another suit, fiddling with his phone, he glanced up at her. “Small value meal with a coffee please.”

She felt something brush her bum again. She twisted her head to look behind her. Barney was standing even closer than before. Didn’t this guy have any concept of personal space?

The late-night commuter swiped his card and stepped away. There were no other customers. Chances were it was just the calm before the storm though. Her feet and knees were killing her. She just wanted to slump over the counter and go to sleep.

She felt a hand plant firmly on each of her buttocks, squeezing, kneading, caressing. A smallish squeak escaped her throat before she could stop it. She jumped to attention, her heart thumping double time.

Of course it was Barney again. She daren’t turn to look. She could feel the heat of his body pressed against her.

“Problems. You’ll have to stay back and help me clean up,” he said.

Her stomach tied itself in a knot. Her throat was tight and she couldn’t seem to get any air in her lungs, but she had to answer. She couldn’t let him see how badly he was bothering her. “Shouldn’t that be the other girls?” her words came out as a croak.

“Like I said. Problems. Lilly has a crisis at home. She needs to get off as soon as she can.”


“Jane’s going to walk her to the station. It’s dangerous late at night for a woman, you know? You wouldn’t want her going alone would you?”

Was it dangerous? She’d never known. She didn’t go out late much, and when she did she’d always been in her baggy clothes. Anyone would have taken her for a bag lady or a skate kid.

Closing time was still hours away. She’d think of something.

If only he hadn’t made her think about walking home alone. In her locker she had a pair of light-grey capri-pants that fit like a second skin, a tye-dyed pink chemise-dress with flounces and a pair of matching pastel pink platforms with five-inch heels. Not exactly inconspicuous and she’d have to wait the best part of an hour for the night bus.

A chill ran down her spine. She imagined a girl dressed like that, alone, late at night, mincing along in those treacherous shoes. A shadowy figure is following her. Her footsteps speed up. She crosses the road. The stranger follows too, drawing closer. She tries to run, impossible in the shoes. The streetlights are far apart, it’s almost dark between them. Hands grab her from behind, drag her into the park. There’s a scream, then silence.

She shivered, despite the greasy heat and pressed her thighs tight together to suppress the urge to pee that had come from nowhere.

Maybe she’d skip changing and go home in her uniform tonight. It wasn’t like Ellen would see.

After Hours

The strange lull in customers transformed into a non-stop rush and for a while the queue stretched to the door. She was so busy there was no time to think. It was a relief to be able to run on adrenalin but her focus was off. It was busy, but something was distracting her. She felt slow and awkward.

The next thing she knew, Barney was locking the front door. She checked in the back but Lilly and Jane were already gone. Too late now to ask Lilly what was going on.

Barney was mopping the front of the store at a tremendous pace, his jaw clenched with determination. She set about cleaning the kitchen. It wasn’t long before he came in and started helping. He might have wandering hands but he worked fast.

If she stuck to jobs on the opposite side of the room she could keep a distance between them.

The problem was that Barney worked so quickly. He soon had her cornered. There was no way out. He must have waited until she was in the alcove with nothing but the meat freezer behind her. It couldn’t just be chance, could it?

She definitely wasn’t being paranoid, not after the things he’d said.

“So, have you given any thought to why you shouldn’t carry the cost of the seven orders you messed up?”

“What? Seven? There was only one and that wasn’t even my fault.”

“I had to give seven refunds. They were all your fault. You’re so bad you didn’t even notice you messed up.”

“I don’t believe you.” Seven? He hadn’t said how much but chances were she would make practically nothing from her last shift, nothing in return for four hours of monotony but her aching legs.

“You don’t? Sure you don’t. Why would you? I can’t stand people like you. Cruising through life half-asleep. Working half-as-hard as everyone else because you were born with looks. Have you ever had to put in any effort your whole life?”

“Don’t say such unnecessary things.” She looked behind her but the meat freezer door was still there behind her, still locked. “You don’t know anything about me.”

His skin had the coarse grain and pock-marks of serious acne scars. He didn’t have any acne now. If he got rid of that stupid asymmetrical haircut he’d be handsome enough.

“Why don’t you make it up to me the way you do for Andy?”


“Everyone knows you’re...” He made a back-and-forth gesture with his curled hand in front of his mouth. “What did you do to get landed with the suck shift? Bite him by accident?”

Her body felt numb. She should deny it but her mouth was too dry, her throat too tight. The heat in her face was the only sensation she could feel. The world seemed darker, a narrow tunnel with nothing at the end of it but Barney’s gritted teeth.

“You don’t deny it then?”

She had to run, but there was nowhere to run to. If she curled up into a ball of fear now, or did nothing, he would rape her for sure. His eyes were narrow, his body a knot of tension. Any second now he’d lunge at her.

He took a slow step forwards.

She glanced down, then back towards Barney, staring him right in the eye. Her hand reached out for the box-cutter resting on the edge of the machine next to her.

Barney’s gaze moved to the knife in her hand and he took two steps back. It was used to open the boxes of burgers and probably wasn’t very sharp. Would he risk fighting her for it? He could probably overpower her easily.

“I guess you don’t mind paying for those meals after all.”

“I do mind.”

“Your word against mine, and who will they believe? You’ve only been here a couple of weeks and the girls all hate you. None of them speak to you do they?”

She couldn’t win. She could never win. It always went wrong. No matter what she did, or how hard she tried, she ended up a failure. She lacked some essential thing that would allow her to cope with other human beings. They hated her? Of course they did. The only difference from before was that instead of being ‘the Flake’ now she was ‘the Slut’. Negative progress. She’d turned into somebody she wasn’t and only made things worse.

She caught herself sucking on her lower lip. Stopped.

He shrugged. His posture relaxing.

“Don’t take it so serious.” He gave a hollow laugh. “I was just kidding. I guess you’re just a kid.” He shook his head. “It’s late. You need a lift home? To the station?”

Just a kid? He wasn’t any older than her, was he? “I’m not getting in any car with you.” Her words came out wrong, all sharp and jagged. She shouldn’t have said it, not like that, but it was too late now.

“Screw you then, you stuck-up bitch.” He grabbed the jug of yucky water from the unfinished shake-machine rinse and threw it over her.

She shrieked at the shock.

The water was freezing cold, pinkish, sticky and greasy. She looked down at herself, dripping, her uniform shirt stuck to her skin. At least the black-shirt didn’t turn transparent. The shock had put his words into perspective. Her bruised ego had mattered a few seconds ago, and then it was nothing compared to a little physical discomfort. How ridiculous she was. She’d squealed like some soap opera bimbo. It was more humiliating than being covered in dirty water.

“Get your shit and go.” His voice was as icy as the rinse water.

She considered changing back into her street clothes. No way. She couldn’t change with him around. She would be a target if she put on the clothes in her locker anyway. She’d be better off walking home like this than wearing those. And what might he come up with if she left him time to think of some new abuse? Better not to push her luck.

She grabbed her bag and hurried out the back.

She looked down at her sopping-wet shirt. The spatter went all over her pants too. It looked like she’d peed herself. She was still holding the box-cutter, her knuckles white.

It wasn’t a good look.

All she needed to finish off the perfect night was a zombie apocalypse.

You Have New Contacts

Erica overslept. She’d skipped the bus and walked the whole way home. She’d been planning to catch Andrew before he left for Burger Bar. Maybe he wasn’t heading in until late?

She peeked into the one-time LAN-party room. It was almost a living room again. It wasn’t girl territory. They’d kept the rent split from before. The guys got an extra room in return for paying the utilities and extras … apart from the internet, which was shared.

Why hadn’t she thought of it earlier? If they hadn’t paid the internet, they probably hadn’t paid the electricity, the gas or the water. She wasn’t sure if they owed anything for the local services. She didn’t even know who had the rental agreement, but somewhere there was an enormous debt waiting to pounce on her, a huge unpaid bill, and it was tracking her down, relentless, like the Terminator, but less Austrian.

Could they all be turfed out of the house at any moment? What other debts might be waiting to ambush her? Why had she even got out of bed? Life just wouldn’t cooperate. Last night Barney might have raped her. At least that hadn’t happened. Things had seemed rough before but now everything was getting so complicated. She might even lose her crappy job.

At least Bea was behaving herself for now, wasn’t she? How long could that last? She wouldn’t be satisfied with spankings for long. She wanted more, something intimate. Erica didn’t know how to give it to her, and even if she did, would she want to?

A sly little voice in the back of her mind was whispering yes, why not? She determined to ignore it.

The living room had gained some bean-bags and massive concave television, at least seventy inches across. The TV was currently showing some weird kid’s program. Mitch was slumped back in a beanbag, smoking a hand-made cigarette. Was it pot? She had no idea what it was supposed to smell like.

“Sorry. Is Andy around?” she said.

“Hey. Hey. Rica. How you doing?” Mitch said. He sounded a bit odd, but nothing like the ‘stoned’ voice she knew from movies.

“Sorry, don’t mind me.”

“Andy doing the breakfast shift… I think… Why don’t you call him?”

“I don’t have his number.”

He laughed. It went on for too long. She chewed her lip. At least she hadn’t done her makeup yet. She had to be thankful for small mercies.

“I can get you that. Surprised you don’t have it. Yeah. You got your phone? I’ll put it in.”

She unlocked her phone and handed it to him.

A few seconds later he handed it back. There were two new contacts, ‘Andy Doofus’ and ‘Mitchell Coolguy’.

“Ha ha.” Her voice was deadpan flat.

“Didn’t he tell you his surname was Doofus?”

“Yeah, whatever. Mitchell Coolguy. You know Henry Winkler is like … seventy?”


“Never mind.” She closed the door behind her. Whatever he was smoking, she didn’t like the smell of it much.

She looked at the contacts in her phone. No, she should get herself cleaned up. The slobby old Erica was dead. This was her way forward, she couldn’t quit. She went upstairs and turned herself into the character that the girls at burger bar apparently called ‘The Slut’.

She should stop being so negative. What was the point? Bad things happened whether she worried about them or not.

She dressed in blue, the dress had an A-line skirt and a sweetheart neckline. Apparently Bea had gone through a Katy Perry period. Very fifties, especially with the broad white belt. White tights and matching patent-blue pumps finished it off. Her feet were still in training to endure the nightmare shoes. These were three-inches. More than enough.

She tottered down to the kitchen and swallowed her pills. They were probably just placebos but she might as well stick with the program. Bea had some horrible bran cereal. She stole some of it anyway.

She still hadn’t tried Andrew’s number. Why was she putting it off?

She stared at her phone for a while. The clock ticked off a minute, then another.

She hit the call button.

Ringing. Ringing. He probably wouldn’t answer. He was probably too busy to talk anyway. She went to hang up.

“Hello. Andrew Vale speaking.” Alright, his telephone manner was a bit old school.

“Sorry, it’s Rica.”

“Hello Rica.”

“Mitch gave me your number. Look–”

“Barney must have been happy with you last night. He gave you five stars.”


“Oh, maybe you didn’t know? The supervisor rates you on every shift. Nobody takes much notice of it unless you always get one star.”

“That’s plain creepy. But he can’t have given me five stars.”

“No need for modesty. Probably he’s used to real losers on the night shift. So what are you calling about? Asking me out for a date tonight?”

“Andrew listen. Please. This is serious.”

There was a pause. “I’m listening.” His voice was different. “Did something happen?”

“Yes, something happened. Barney. From the start he had his hands all over me. Then he sent Lilly and Jane off early and cornered me in the kitchen. I think something would have happened if I hadn’t grabbed the box-cutter we keep by the freezer.”

“Oh. I see. This is serious. There’s a process… Do you want me to talk to Ellen now?”

“There’s more. He said everyone thinks I’m giving you… You know… Sexual favours in return for easy shifts or something.”

“He said that?”

“He said the girls hate me for it.”

“Ok. You don’t mince your words, do you?”

“You don’t give me easy shifts do you?”

“Hell no. Look… If this is going to come up, I shouldn’t take this to Ellen. Talk to her directly. Process works better that way.”

“Why did he give me that good review?”

“I don’t know what’s in that guy’s head. I never liked him.”

“Oh.” Was this about her at all? Was she just a piece in a game between Barney and Andy?

There was a long pause before Andrew spoke. “I have to go. Let’s talk about this when you come in, ok?”



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