"Can I help you?" she drawled from behind the counter, still bent over her notebook.
"I got it," came the reply as the girl cased the room, not bothering to remove the shades despite the setting sun behind her. She finally headed for the cooler in the back, picking up a pack of Red Vines on the way.
As she passed by, Mia frowned. Something was stuffed in the back of girl's waistband, but she couldn't tell if it was really a gun. She chewed her lip, debating whether to get Dom. He was doing the books for the cafe, and he hated doing books for the cafe. Mia didn't much feel like getting that heat tonight.
"Hey girl, how you livin'?"
Mia smiled before turning her gaze back to the entrance. "Hey, Letty."
Letty jerked her head up in acknowledgement and plunked herself onto a stool. "Toss me a dog, will ya? I'm starving over here."
"You got it." As Mia started up the hot dog maker, she couldn't help but check out their latest customer, still deliberating in front of the cooler. She stared at the bulge in the girl's waistline, willing herself to recognize the shape with more certainty.
Almost as though she knew she were being watched, the girl suddenly turned away from the display case and reached her hand back toward her hip. Mia's heart stopped for a moment before the girl withdrew a cell phone from her jacket pocket and flipped it open. Mia rolled her eyes.
"Letty," she whispered, leaning over the counter.
"What?" replied Letty, raising an eyebrow and leaning away slightly. "What's with you?"
"Shh!" Mia glanced over her shoulder cautiously. The girl was turned away from them now, murmuring into the phone. "See that girl?"
Letty frowned but lowered her voice. "The only customer here? Yeah, I think I can make her out."
"Look at her waistband, under the jacket."
Letty lowered her sunglasses and squinted. "Is that a gun?"
"That's what I've been wondering. Kinda weird, isn't it?" Mia chanced another look.
"I dunno," Letty shrugged. "You think a chick can't carry, just 'cause she's a chick?"
Mia gave her a withering look. "Letty, you're the most badass chick I know. Do you pack a gun for a trip to a convenience store?"
The girl finally finished her conversation with a fond, "Take care, G-man," and shoved the phone back into her pocket. Grabbing a Coke from the cooler, she headed for the register. "Hey," she said casually, laying her items on the counter.
"Hey," replied Mia politely. "That'll be $2.66."
"Cool," said the girl, handing over some bills. "I'm Faith," she offered, pushing her sunglasses up into her hair.
Mia couldn't help a nervous glance at Letty before answering. "Mia."
"Hi, Mia. You live around here?"
"Know some good clubs?"
She handed over the change. "I guess."
"Wanna hit one with me?" Faith raised an eyebrow suggestively.
"What?" was all Mia could sputter.
"You, me, music, dancing, kissing, whatever."
Mia's eyes widened. "Ah…" She looked at Letty helplessly.
"Hey." Letty tilted her head, trying to get in Faith's line of sight. "Hey!"
The girl turned her head coolly. "Yeah?"
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Mia winced at the hostility in Letty's voice. This could be bad. She looked over her shoulder again at Dom in his office, the one tiny fan ineffectually blowing the hot air around.
And now Letty was getting off the stool. Not good.
Faith wasn't backing off. She looked the other girl up and down. "You got a problem with me?"
"Yeah, I got a problem. You always walk into places and hit on strange women?"
Faith smirked. "Only ones who've been staring at my ass since I walked in the door."
Mia blushed scarlet. Oh, God.
Unfazed, Letty took a step closer to the girl, her wallet chain clanging as it brushed against the counter. "My girl here isn't going anywhere with you."
Faith paused, taking in Letty's protective stance in front of the counter and Mia's nervous eyes flitting between the two of them. Then, with surprising ease, she shrugged and backed up a step. "My bad," she said simply. "Didn't realize she was yours."
"I'm not!" blurted Mia before she could think better of it. Letty turned to look at her incredulously. "I mean, we are – but we're not – I'm just …" She trailed off pathetically, looking away.
After a moment of awkward silence, Faith finally reached for her licorice and soda. Mia swallowed miserably, unable meet Letty's gaze and sorry when she did. The other girl's eyes were burning with a variety of emotions, but none so much as hurt. Mia could see the muscle working in her jaw, hands still clenched at her sides. "Letty," she began quietly.
But Letty had already snapped her gaze away. "You like hip-hop?" she said suddenly.
Faith opened her mouth and closed it. "Me?" she finally said, sliding a glance behind the counter.
"Yeah. I know a place," replied Letty, turned to face Mia head on as she spoke to Faith. "Music, dancing … whatever."
Faith looked back at Mia, clearly waiting for her to speak. All Mia could do was stare mutely at Letty. There was no stopping her when she was pissed, and Letty was plenty pissed. Faith shook her head. "Hip-hop works for me."
"Awesome. Let's blow." With one last cutting look at Mia, Letty turned and headed for the street. "I'm driving," she called over her shoulder. Faith raised an eyebrow at that declaration but followed her out.
Mia stared after them, a lump rising in her throat. Behind her, the hot dog maker dinged, ready for Letty.