“I think we could win this,” Nate says as he re-counts the money.
I had to agree. Francesca’s popularity seemed to have skyrocketed over the past two hours. But now we had a long line of people to get through before the booths had to close. And that time was fast approaching.
“I need to cleanse tarot cards.” Francesca frowns at the student waiting at the front of the line who came dressed as the tooth fairy.
“Will that take long?” I ask. “It’s just that there are all those people waiting to see you and we don’t have much time.”
“You want good service or not?”
“It’s okay, Francesca,” Nate says. “Do what you need to do.”
“Yes, yes. Now you two, go out. I need peace and quiet.” She starts ruffling in her huge, crocheted bag, pulling out a box of incense sticks and setting them on the table. “Don’t worry. I don’t steal your money.”
“We’ll stand just outside the booth,” Nate whispers, his warm breath tickling my ear. “That way she can have her privacy and we can still watch the money.”
I’m too distracted by how close he is to do anything but nod. If I turn my face toward him, he might think that I want to kiss him. And he’d be right. But I don’t want to be so obvious. I must act cool. I must act cool. I must–
“Really, Nathanial,” Naledi says, rolling her eyes. “I suppose you’re keeping Jasmine warm with your body heat.”
Nate steps away from me and smirks. “Maybe I am, Wonder Woman. You must be, what? The 20th Wonder Woman I’ve seen today.”
“Whatever, Lazarus. It’s not like you two win any points for originality, either.”
“Is there any particular reason why you’re here, Naledi?” I ask, hating how good she looks in her costume.
“Obviously. I’m looking for your friend. It’s been a while and she hasn’t returned from the ‘toilets’. What’s the point of having a phone if you’re not going to answer the thing?” Naledi shakes her head.
“So, who’s watching over your booth?” Nate asks.
“My parents. And they’ve apparently got much better things to do than watch over a booth.” For a brief second, Naledi’s eyes flash with sadness but it’s just as quickly replaced with annoyance.
“Parents,” Nate says shaking his head in understanding. “Mine were supposed to drop by two hours ago.”
And mine were working.
“I’m sure Cheryl will be back soon. Maybe she just went to get something to eat,” I say, in what I hope is a breezy tone.
“I’ve asked around and nobody has seen her. She’s pretty hard to miss in that slutty dress of hers,” Naledi says.
“You’re one to talk.” I pointedly drop my gaze to her mini skirt.
“If I were you, Jasmine, I’d be more concerned about your friend’s delinquent behaviour. Wouldn’t want her getting knocked up and dropping out of school now, would we?” Naledi stalks off before I can think of a reply.
I mentally cuss at her as I dial Cheryl. After endless ringing, it goes to voicemail. I try three more times, my heartbeat hammering against my ribcage.
“Nate, I need to find Cheryl. I don’t know … something just feels off.”
“Go find her. I’ll wrap things up here.”
Tell us: Where do you think Cheryl is?