I felt bad for Larry. People kept coming in and out of the shop in droves, trying to get an interview with me. He was looking harassed as he told them that, unless they're buying coffee or food, they needed to leave. The only one who looked happy was Carla. She was more than willing to pose and give a word or two to the press when Larry wasn't around.
I wanted to strangle her when I heard the conversation she had with one of the last press members.
"Her name is Deidre Scout," she whispered behind her hand. My hands were shaking as I wiped down the counter. I reminded myself not to do anything in front of the press. "She started dating him, like, two weeks ago."
"Are they really engaged like you said they are?"
I dropped the rag and rounded on Carla.
She didn't notice me as she said, "Oh, I never said that," with an exaggerated wink.
"Your name is Carla, right?"
She nodded eagerly. "Carla Yates. That's Y-A-T-E-S. Make sure you get it right on the check or... my bank... won't... accept it...."
She had finally noticed me. The press member hurried out.
"Lock the store, Larry," I said through gritted teeth. "You stay where you are!" I yelled at Carla as she tried to edge out.
Larry hurried to do as I said, closing the curtains and turning off the open sign. It was only 7:30 but I didn't care. I walked up and slapped her as hard as I could.
"Who do you think you are!?" I yelled.
Carla glared and slapped me back.
"Stop!" Larry yelled, rushing to us.
"It's about time I get some recognition for all I do here!" Carla shouted back.
"Turning my life into a mass of harassing reporters is your idea of getting recognition!?"
"I'm tired of being in your shadow!" Carla said, pushing me.
I stumbled but pushed her back. "You're not in my shadow because someone put you there! You're there because you put yourself there!"
"You're a bitch!" she screeched and threw the nearest thing at me: the dirty rag.
I slapped my face then fell to the floor. That was the last straw and I leaped on her. She looked shocked at first then seemed to relish in finally getting to hit me as much as she wanted to. Larry was yelling and trying to get over but he slipped on the dirty rag. Carla pulled my hair and I screamed as a few strands parted from my scalp.
I punched her, momentarily forgetting all of the defense classes. After all, that was against men with bad intentions, not jealous women. She sent an uppercut to my jaw and I flew on my back. I grunted as she straddled me and started punching my face. I was seeing stars as I scrambled for one of her wrists. I pulled it back and she cried out in pain.
Artemis was suddenly behind me, dragging me to my feet, while Larry pulled Carla off of me. I was seething, my chest heaving as I struggled against Artemis.
"Stop it or I'll have to fire both of you!" Larry snapped and I stopped, wiping blood from the corner of my lip. "Now what happened?"
I pointed my finger angrily at Carla. "This bitch has been the one leaking lies to the media for money!"
Larry stared at her in disbelief. "Is this true?"
She pushed herself out of his hands and tossed her hair over her shoulder. She was still a little dazed from my punches, though, and stumbled into a table.
"It's about time someone knocked her off her high horse!"
"What high horse?" I demanded.
"You walk in here every day, acting all high and mighty all because you're a homeless bum!" She smirked at my horrified expression. "That's right! I know all about your real life and you can bet your ass I've told the media! They're printing it as we speak!" She glared at Larry and threw her apron on the floor. "You don't have to fire me. I quit."
She stormed to the door and tried to open it but it was still locked and she ran right into it. She fell on her ass. We watched as she cleared her throat and stood back up. She unlocked the door, flipped us off, and left.
"Are you all right?" Artemis asked, turning me to look at him. He winced. "Perhaps we should get you home to clean you up."
"I'm sorry, Dee," Larry muttered and I frowned at him. "I think this is all my fault."
"What are you talking about?" I whispered, shaking a little.
"About a month ago, Carla was on her way to work. She had to take a detour by the kitchens. She saw you in line and asked me at work. I didn't answer but that just seemed to confirm it for her."
I shut my eyes. "I want to go home," I breathed.
"Are you quitting?" Larry asked.
"No. But I want to go home."
"I'll help you to the car," Artemis said.
"I really am sorry," Larry called after us.
Artemis had parked in the back and come in through the back door. He opened the car door and waited until I was in before closing it. I felt numb. What was going to happen? Artemis drove slowly through the roads. They were clogged with the press.
"Drop me off a block from your house," I mumbled.
"Are you sure? You're pretty banged up, Deidre."
I shut my eyes. "Just do it, Artemis."
He pulled to the side and I got out. The press hurried over but I jumped a fence where they couldn't follow. It was an abandoned home's backyard; it was how I met up with Artemis this morning. It was for sale but no one had bought it in the five years it's been on the market. I curled up by the porch and cried.
I walked through the back door at the house about thirty minutes later. Artemis, Evelyn, and my mother were waiting in the kitchen, looking scared.
"Gonna go clean up," I mumbled.
I went into the bathroom and cringed. Artemis was right. My hair was a rat's nest. I had a bruise on the bottom of my chin where Carla had uppercut me and my nose had been bleeding. My shirt was torn in several places. My lip had bled so much the blood ran down to my chin. Shaking my head, I started the shower and stripped down. I looked at my back and groaned. I had a large dark bruise forming from when she pushed me on my back.
When the water was hot enough, I got in and hissed as it hit my bruise. It loosened the muscles in my back, though, and I leaned against the wall for a while. About half an hour later, my mom was knocking on the door.
"I don't want to talk," I said, coming out in my towel.
I walked right by her and Artemis.
"Deidre," he began but I closed the door in his face.