Chapter Eighteen

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"What's wrong, pretty lady?" asked Jean-Pierre, one of our chefs.

I pointed at the schedule. Jean-Pierre made a face. "That queen B."

I had to work an entire double shift with Margot, the painter, who hated me. As if things weren't already bad enough.

"Who's a queen bee?" Margot walked into the kitchen, twining her long brown hair into a low side chignon. "Ugh," she added, looking at me, "what have I told you about your jewelry?"

"For the last time, Margot, you are not my boss." I stalked out of the kitchen.

Behind me, Margot called out: "It's a dress code violation! I'm going to tell Bill!"

"What's she going to tell me now?" Bill appeared at my side in the dining room, smiling gently in that way of his, like a hippie Benjamin Franklin.

"My jewelry is a dress code violation."

"Is it?" He looked nonplussed. "Listen, Miranda," he added, while I angrily filled salt shakers, "don't mind Margot. She... I don't know... tends to be jealous."

"Jealous of what?" I snapped.

Emily, the hostess, tapped me on the shoulder. "Table for you."

"Thanks, Em." I was both annoyed and relieved to be interrupted. I excused myself from Bill and went over to my table wearing my biggest waitress smile. "Hi, I'm Miranda, I'll be your server to—"

"You're the new girl, aren't you?" A woman with a blonde blow-out smiled at me over the top of her menu. "My friend Ellie Gautier mentioned you the other day."

The last thing I wanted was to think about that day in the graveyard. "We only met once, but she seemed lovely," I told the customer, trying to keep my voice normal.

"She said you're a true talent," the first woman continued. "She said you painted a portrait of our dear Suzanna, and it was just wonderful."

The second woman at the table glanced from me to her friend over her multicolored reading glasses. "But isn't this the girl who—"

"Why don't I grab you guys some water?" I interrupted, with determined cheer. I swept off towards the bar before they could say anything else. I didn't want to know what anyone was saying about me. I didn't want to talk about Owen—or Suzanna.

I hadn't been able to stop thinking about him since Claire's visit four days ago. It was just so tempting to imagine that you and I could be together.

At the bar, Margot glared at me. "'A natural talent?'" she hissed. "What did you do, knock on the door of the Graveside Gallery and give Mrs. Gautier your portfolio?"

"Leave me alone, Margot."

"I can't believe you would bother Ellie Gautier with your work!"

"I did not bother her. She approached me." I picked up some drink napkins and walked back towards the table, hoping my table hadn't noticed my whispered argument with Margot. But the two women at my table were having a whispered argument of their own.

"I'm telling you, it's rude," hissed the woman who was friends with Mrs. Gautier.

"I don't care! If it's true, she has it coming," the second woman snapped. I set the water glasses down their table, watching them with increasing discomfort.

The second woman frowned up at me, her dark eyebrows accusatory. "You are her, aren't you? You've been at Claire's café with him, and he came to see you here. You can't hide it, you know. You've been hanging around with Owen Larsen."

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