A Kick to the Teeth Excerpt

“That itinerary sucked,” she groaned.

He laughed and took her bag from her, hitching it over his shoulder. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“I hate flying through Phoenix. If that airport had any sort of signage or employees who gave half a shit…”

“Come on, Lu. If we would have gotten stuck there, you wouldn’t be facing your summer of poverty yet.” She stopped and looked at him, aghast. He grinned. “Yeah, Sylvie has our cards. Paulie put your car in storage.”

“Laszlo, no, you didn’t!” She opened her purse and pulled out her wallet. Her titanium card was gone. Nothing was in its place. She pulled the billfold open. One hundred dollars and some smaller bills were there. “You-?!” She began to pout and anger started to grow in her face.

“You agreed to this. You said as soon as we got home from Springton, we would do it. Well, we’re home from Springton. Don’t renege now.”

She kept her temper in check just barely. She wasn’t going to make a scene at the airport, as much as she may like to. Her clenched fists rested against her thighs as she leaned against the wall, watching their luggage carousel.

“You’re not talking to me?” Laszlo said quietly, raising his eyebrows.

She folded her arms against her chest and looked ahead resolutely.

“Talulah Reese, I’m going to love you ’til the day I die.”

Her expression softened a little, then she went right back to looking ahead resolutely at the baggage carousel. He leaned in a little and kissed her sunburned shoulder lightly. She leaned into him a little, then said, “I’m going to love you forever, but for right now, I’m going to be unreasonably angry with you.”

He laughed, then said, “Eh, that just means we’ll have to make up later. I’m down.”

She grinned despite herself, elbowed him, then went back to her stony expression, but the edges were not as strong as they were. He saw her luggage, then picked it up, stacking their two bags on top. His luggage came through in the next bunch and he grabbed that one, too. “Paulie still coming for us?” she asked.

Laszlo nodded. “He should be pulling up any moment.”

She sighed and put her arm around him, then took her luggage, wheeling it behind her. They went out into the shimmering summer heat and stood on the curb, looking for Paulie’s little white Honda. “I’m sorry.”

He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “That layover would have been enough reason for some crankiness.” He put his hand under her chin and angled her face up, then kissed her. “But I forgive you.”

She smiled a little, then said, “I’ll make it up to you.”

“You will.”

Paulie pulled up, then got out and helped them put their luggage in the trunk. “Hey guys!” he said cheerfully. “Glad you’re back. The apartment has been too quiet without you.”

“Get used to it,” Talulah said. “After this summer of poverty, Laszlo has to go backpacking with me next me summer.”

“Psssh,” Paulie said. “You’re going to have to survive this summer first.”

“Whatever, Paulie,” she laughed. “I can do it.”

Laszlo sat in the back seat, stretching his legs to the opposite side of the car. “Let’s go home. We flew through Phoenix.”

“I swear to God, Laszlo. If you fly us through Phoenix again….” Talulah said threateningly.

“Maybe you won’t ask me to book our travel again then.”

“You’d like to think that,” she laughed. “You’re traveling with me.”

He smiled, reached his hand up to her shoulder and gave her a soft squeeze. “Oh, Lu, that burn is still warm.”

“I know. It’s going to be a miserable couple of days.”

He settled back into his seat and folded his arms. She looked back, then smiled.

“Where you going to work, Lu?” Paulie asked.

“Was thinking about Nagymama Konyhaja.”

“No way. Never work at your favorite restaurants. If it goes sideways, you can’t eat there anymore. And something about not shitting where you eat. And watching sausage being made. And what not.”

She scrunched her forehead a little. “Where do you think I should work then? Because I know I am going to have to.”

“You should try Das Nudl Haus. You could ride out with Laszlo. Or me, depending on your schedule. I think waiting tables is going to be easiest for you. Lots of flexibility. I’m sure we’re going to be doing lots of running this summer. You’re going to want something easy and flexible.”

She considered. “That’s a good idea, actually. I’ll go check it out.”

“It’s only two and a half months. Even if it’s not great, it will be something. And, with the three of us, it’s really not going to be that much to do or make.” He paused, “Although, I’m sure it will be a huge shock to you. I mean, I know you can do it, it’s just going to be weird for you.”

“They’re always hiring over there. It might be shitty, I mean, the owner seems a little overbearing, but it would be good for you to have a good micromanagey experience. I mean, I’m sure you’re going to hear all about delegation in grad school, but it would be good for you to have the first hand overbearing micromanager experience.”

She laughed. “Yeah, I know what you mean. But what about shitting where you eat? You and Laz get takeout from there all the time.”

“Well, yeah, but the convenience is going to be worth it. And we’ll just keep on getting take out from there anyway. You’re just going to have to suck it up.”

She shook her head. “You are liking this a little too much.”

Laszlo piped up from the back seat and said, “I think it’s a good idea, too, Lu.”

She looked back at him and shook her head again.

“Don’t ruin Das Nudl Haus for us!” he laughed. Then said, “Shit, Lu. You can do anything for two and a half months.”

She laughed. “Ok, I’ll go check it out. I’m taking tomorrow off, but then we’re going to be up and at ’em.”

“You’re going to have the house to yourself. I’m going back to the skate shop,” Laszlo said.

“Me, too,” Paulie said.

“You guys are going to make me feel like a slacker.”

Laszlo laughed. “We’re going to be scraping. I’m not going to lie. I’m going to miss my little black card.”

“Getting soft,” Paulie scoffed. He pulled up in front of the bike shop and they got out, pulling their luggage up the stairs. They flopped down on the couch and looked around the apartment.

“Smells good, Paulie,” Laszlo said.

“Made you guys some goulash in the slow cooker. Figured you’d be hungry and poor and couldn’t afford next door.”

Laszlo grinned. Talulah pouted. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “It will work out, Lu.”

She sighed a weighty sigh, then took the bowl Paulie handed her.

Because when's the last time you trembled from delight?

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