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All I Wanted Was a Salad...

SR Brown

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Copyright © 2019 SR Brown

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My dad always said, “You can never tell an interesting story that involves ordering a salad.” And granted, I had no reason to disagree with this most of my life. That is until I do and end my day nearly engulfed in crimson hellfire. After that, I had to say it’s now almost never.

The day begins when I wake up and decide today is the perfect Saturday to sleep in late and do nothing but rest. Lay in bed in my pajamas and binge a couple seasons of shows I have to catch up on.

And I nearly get away with it if not for my meddling phone ringing. A season down when Florence begs for me to celebrate a cat’s birthday at a new wing place close to her house.

I try to continue the lazy day with, “Honey, you couldn’t ask me yesterday so I could prepare?”

“No, I was suggested it this morning.”

“I don’t know... This last episode ended on a cliffhanger.”

“Come on, just a couple hours of dumb fun. Don’t get wings and there’s no worry of a mess. Order a salad and water.”

“Fine, but only because Sugar would be disappointed if I didn’t.”

“See you soon!” hanging up as I enter my room.

There is a line outside the wing bar, but that’s because the place is a late-night joint, opening at noon. Not too many people are waiting, so it’s easy to spot my friend. Her raised hand a flag to let me slip in next to her. Walking inside to nab a table under one of the twenty TVs mounted on the walls.

Florence orders the largest basket of honey wings while I find a salad loaded with bacon bits. And fries, with melted cheese, sprinkled with chives. Hot out of the oven and with no lettuce. But the word salad comes after “sports” and they stab a fork right at the top like a stake.

I’m kidding though, I also get a spinach one because it was free with the fruit salad I would take home. It’s my lazy day, no way I will cook anything if I don’t have to. My stack of orders arranged and the healthy stuff in my bag, the fries begin their descent into my stomach.

Florence sets down a wing to look at me and lean in. “Is that all for you? Or is there someone you are going to tell me about...”

“I’ll inform you when I find where they’re hiding.” Another group of fries falling into the abyss.

“You aren’t searching too hard, huh?”

“Why would I if it’s the same vein of trouble as Luke? Probably wouldn’t, but helping you was enough relationship for a while. Makes me thank the universe it would only ever be a woman.”

“He wasn’t that bad...” a hurt look while she bites into a wing.

“Honey, I’ve told you this before. Just because he was better than Max or Francis doesn’t make him any good. Shit is still shit when smoothed into a shiny ball.”

She laughs and says, “I remember.”

“Have some standards, girl. Show them you’re a Fort Knox of a lady.”

“Yes, oh wise relationship guru who hasn’t dated in the last century.” I shrug as my hands raise in surrender and she continues with, “Well, I will think over your wisdom as I piss. Try not to break your streak while I’m gone.”

At first, I sit back to shovel in more fries and chuckle. Can’t let these babies go cold and lose their goodness forever. But when the tray is empty and fifteen minutes has passed with no sign of the woman returning, I begin to worry. She isn’t sick, is she? Wouldn’t just get up and leave, not when half of the wings she ordered remain. Maybe she got caught up with a random person she knew from some odd event? Would at least have the decency to send a text as I do now.

Another ten minutes and not a thing. Something is up. Hope she didn’t get taken...

No, no... Can’t let that thought creep in yet. Probably got forgetful in this noisy place. Need to look around and prove there’s nothing to fear.

Except, no matter how many bodies I push and times I think Florence is beyond the crowd, she’s nowhere to be seen. No matter the direction I turn does her face appear. The crowded building might as well have been empty for the luck I have.

Now it’s time for the thoughts to creep in, my bag on my back as I open my emergency contacts.

The parking lot is as far as I get while trying to find a quiet spot. For multiple reasons, only one being so the operator can hear me. I find the space between the wing bar and Tex-Mex restaurant the best I would take. About to call when a sight causes me to drop my phone.

Against the wall sits Florence, her hair a mess where a gag is knotted, wrists bound, legs tied from ankle to thighs. Eyes wide when she sees me, unable to escape the silver rope that binds her. And I can’t get her out, no knots anywhere to undo and the threads are too thick to cut with a pocket knife. Going back for my phone to call when a sound of heavy boots has me pause.

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