TWENTY

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| dedication: Akankshasharma3 - for the epic banner |

TWENTY

It was two whole days before I saw him again.

I mostly kept to myself, what with hiding something massive under my arm from the others. I hadn't made it aware yet, that I was officially one of the inked. Although the thought of sharing my new tattoo seemed scary. It was something I created and had drawn on me. It was something that held meaning, a meaning I wasn't ready to explain yet.

Versa was way too occupied with Ryan so she hasn't pressed to go out yet.

I was heading to Palmer's, deciding to stop by for a greeting and possibly a cake. When I walked through the door I expected the usual but was surprised to see someone else standing behind the counter.

"Hey, how can I help you?" The middle aged woman asked me, a strain to her smile. She looked dead-tired, like the night had left her sleepless. Her dark hair was pulled away from her face with a small scarf tied around her head. The effort to look as presentable as possible was clear to see.

"Is Palmer here?" I asked slowly, uneased by the new presence.

Palmer was always here and if she had someone working for her, she'd still be present. There wasn't a day where she wasn't in her shop. This was her second home and it nerved me that she wasn't here today. I felt there was something wrong instantly and a dreadful feeling sank in the pits of my stomach.

The woman at the counter shook her head. "Not today."

I closed the door behind me and slowly approached the counter, unsure who this woman was. She was guarded but still looked very tired. Up close, there were dark circles under her eyes and her mouth draped down in fatigue. "Are you okay?" I asked her, slightly concerned for the woman. I glanced down at her hands and saw that she was shaking. She quickly moved her hands and hid it behind her back.

"I'm doing alright. Just very tired." She said quickly.

I furrowed my eyebrows at her. She looked far from alright. "I'm always here for Palmers so I know my way around her shop. Do you want me to look after it while you rest?" I offered her.

She looked like she was took the offer and run with it but she fought the inter battle of hers, and let the stubborn side of her win. "I'll be okay. My son is coming to pick me up and then I'm closing Palmer's."

I gaped at her. Now this was beyond unusual. It was unheard of Palmer's closing early.

"Where is Palmer?" I asked, this time pressing for more information. The woman behind the counter seemed uncomfortable to answer me so I leaned over and asked her again, this time with more persistence. "Palmer is my friend and I have the right to know where she is."

The ends of the woman's mouth curled up slightly at my worlds. "I don't think you have the right but I admire your resilience." She commented.

I stared at her without saying a word. I wanted her to know that I was serious. A moment later, she exhaled deeply on a sigh and slowly filled me in. "I'm her younger sister. She told me to open the shop and here I am, listening to my elders and opening her shop."

Stunned at seeing Palmer's sister who looked nothing like her, and nearly overthrown by this new information I managed to uphold a straight face. She was much taller, and much leaner. "Why couldn't she open herself?" I asked slowly. Palmer should still be here. It would make sense if Palmer was here to introduce her little sister to the whole world. It was something expected from Palmer herself.

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