Niagara Falls at Cafe Nix

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Niagara Falls at Cafe Nix

Sandra Antonelli

Sunburn never felt so good.

Niagara Falls at Cafe Nix is a prequel featuring Ella and Craig, the nervous Southern Belle bride and patient groom from Driving in Neutral, published in September 2014 by Escape Publishing.

Cranky Ella stared out at the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the cafe’s shaded deck. Craig knew exactly why she was annoyed. He was frustrated too and only had himself to blame. They’d come here to escape Chicago’s brutal winter and wound up experiencing Australia’s brutal sun. Well, he’d experienced it.

And then some.

Craig pulled the magazine closer and wished that he hadn’t moved. He looked down at the pictorial. He knew the story broke last November, just after Daniel Riccciardo won the Brazilian Grand Prix. The video had gone viral, and here it was again, only presented as a still life in glossy print spread right in the middle of a three-month-old magazine someone had left sitting open, right in the middle of a table, right in the middle of Sydney Harbour’s busy Cafe Nix.

Cafe Nix, according to the Magellan’s Postcards From Australia travel guidebook, was THE place to be seen in Sydney. Craig was certain the photos in the magazine laid out in front of him weren’t the kind of “be seen at Cafe Nix” the Magellan’s guide had in mind. The pictures were grainy in the way stills from home movies often were. Open-mouthed, Miss Grand Prix’s hands covered her tits, but her hairless mons was pixelated—this was a gossip rag, not a skin mag, after all. Despite the pixilation of Miss Grand Prix’s cootchie, it was clear what Karl and his tongue were doing to the sports model hovering above his face.

“Well, that leaves nothing to the imagination,” Craig muttered as he set his cappuccino beside his brownie, which Ella had taken a bite of the second after the blonde waitress had placed it on the table, alongside an order of cinnamon toast.

Ella watched him and frowned. His face was a livid, sun-roasted red, his eyes glued to the images of Karl and his playmate. Craig reached for his brownie, breaking off a piece to cram into his mouth. He chewed, slowly, as if the action made his tender skin hurt more, and turned the magazine upside down. “Poor Olivia. This stuff is everywhere except the States. I’m surprised. I didn’t think this crap would be big Down Under too.”

“Formula One racing is popular here and Miss Grand Prix is Australian.” Ella said. “I’d say she’s rooting well for the home team.”

“It looks here like she’s rooting for the Austrian team.” Craig chuckled and went on viewing the pictures. “By the way, root means fuck in Australia. I learned that back when I was an exchange student here in the mid ‘80s. Did you know that?”

“What, that you were an exchange student or that root means fuck in Australia?”

“The root bit.”

“Yes, and that’s exactly the catty way I meant it.”

“Tell me something, Craig. Don’t you think the video completely lacked creativity?” Ella shook a packet of raw sugar and ripped open the top. “I know I did.”

Craig’s head snapped up from the photo display. Wincing, he felt his brow arch and suspected his expression made him look like the sunburned, culture-shocked teenaged exchange student he’d once been. The overcooked skin on his forehead smarting, he said, “You watched the video?”

“Of course I did. I had to for Olivia. You know, we should introduce Olivia to Emerson. I don’t know why I never thought of that before. She’s gorgeous and he’s hot. They’d be good together.”

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