Home > Royally Screwed (Royally #1)(8)

Royally Screwed (Royally #1)(8)
Author: Emma Chase


But there’s nothing relaxing about it now. With every move there’s the screechy worry—like a police car siren screaming in my brain—that these pies won’t even sell, and the terminal water heater downstairs will finally throw in the towel and we’ll be out on the streets.

I think I can actually feel the wrinkles burrowing through my face like evil, microscopic moles. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but being able to purchase some peace-of-mind real estate would be pretty great right now.

 

 

When the thick, buttery juice bubbles like caramel through the flower-shaped cut in the center of the pies, I take them out and set them on the counter.

That’s when my sister bounces down the stairs into the kitchen. Everything about Ellie is bouncy—her long blond ponytail, her energetic personality…the dangling silver and pearl earrings she’s wearing.

“Are those my earrings?” I ask, like only a sister can.

She plucks a blueberry from the bowl on the counter, throws it in the air, and catches it in her mouth.

“Mi casa en su casa. Technically they’re our earrings.”

“That were in my jewelry box in my room!” They’re the only ones I have that don’t turn my lobes green.

“Pfft. You don’t even wear them. You don’t go anywhere to wear them, Livvy.”

She’s not trying to be a jerk—she’s just seventeen, so it’s inevitable.

“And pearls like to be worn; it’s a fact. If they sit in a dark box for too long they lose their luster.”

She’s always spouting off weird little facts that no one except a Jeopardy! contestant would know. Ellie’s the “smart one”—advanced placement classes, National Honor Society, early acceptance to NYU. But book smarts and common sense are two different things. Outside of being able to run a washing machine, I don’t think my sister has any idea how the real world works.

She slips her arms into a worn winter coat and pulls a knitted beanie down over her head. “Gotta go—I have a calc test first period.”

Ellie skips out the back door just as Marty, our waiter/dishwasher/bouncer and consummate repairman, walks through it.

“Who the fuck forgot to tell winter it was over?” He shakes off an inch of white slush from his curly black hair, like a dog after a bath. It’s really coming down now—a wall of white dots.

Marty hangs his coat on the hook while I fill the first filter of the day with freshly ground coffee. “Liv, you know I love you like the baby sister I wish I had—”

“You have a baby sister.”

He has three, actually—triplets—Bibbidy, Bobbidy, and Boo. Marty’s mom was still flying high when she filled out the birth certificates, a little mix-up with the meds during delivery. And Marty’s dad, a rabbi from Queens, was smart enough not to quibble with a woman who’d just had the equivalent of three watermelons pulled out of her.

“You don’t piss me off like they do. And because I love you, I feel entitled to say you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed—you look like you just rolled out of a garbage can.”

What every girl wants to hear.

“It was a rough morning. I woke up late.”

“You need a vacation. Or at least a day off. You should’ve come out for drinks last night. I went to that new place in Chelsea and met the most fantastic man. Matt Bomer eyes with a Shemar Moore smile.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “We’re supposed to get together tonight.”

I pass him the coffee filter when the delivery truck pulls into the back alley. Then I spend the next twenty minutes arguing with a thick-necked meathead about why I’m not accepting or paying for the moldy fucking Danish he’s trying to dump on me.

And the day just keeps getting better.

I turn on the front lights and flip the CLOSED sign to OPEN at six thirty sharp. I turn the bolt on the door out of habit—it’s been broken for months; I just haven’t had the chance to buy a replacement.

At first, it doesn’t look like the snow will be a total disaster—we get our coffee-craving, on-the-way-to-work local crew. Along with little Mrs. McGillacutty, the ninety-year-old woman from two blocks down who walks here every day for her “morning workout.”

But by nine o’clock, I flick on the television at the end of the counter for background noise as Marty and I stare out the picture window, watching the snowstorm become the blizzard of the century. There’s not even a faint pulse of customers—it’s dead—so I call it.

“Feel like deep-cleaning the fridge and the pantry and scrubbing behind the oven with me?”

Might as well get some housekeeping done.

Marty lifts his coffee mug. “Lead the way, girlfriend.”

 

 

I send Marty home at noon. A state of emergency is declared at one—only official vehicles are allowed on the road. Ellie bursts through the shop like a whirlwind at two, elated that school closed early, then twirls immediately back out to spend the storm at her friend’s apartment. A few random customers stop in during the afternoon, stocking up for their pie fix while hibernating during the storm.

At six, I work on the bills—which means spreading papers, ledgers, and bank notices out at one of the tables in front and staring at them. The cost of sugar is up—shitheads. Coffee is up—bastards. I refuse to scrimp on fruit. I send Marty on regular weekly runs upstate to Maxwell Farms—they grow the best produce in the state.

By nine thirty, my eyes start doing that closing-without-realizing-it thing and I decide to call it a night.

I’m in the back, in the kitchen, sliding a plastic-wrapped pie into the fridge, when I hear the bell above the door jingle and voices—two distinct voices—come in, arguing in that ball-busting way men do.

“My fingertips are frozen, you know. Can’t have frostbite—my fingers are Franny’s third-favorite part of me.”

“Your bank account is Franny’s first-, second-, and third-favorite part of you. And you sound like an old woman. We weren’t even walking that long.”

It’s the second guy’s voice that catches my attention. They both have an accent—but his voice is deeper, smoother. The sound of it feels like slipping into a warm bath after a long day, soothing and blissful.

I step through the swinging kitchen door. And I think my tongue falls out of my mouth.

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