It didn’t take long for word to get around that Molly was back in Michigan, and soon she was fending off dinner invites from long-lost high school friends. Who knew that so many people would remember her? And who knew that she’d actually find herself wishing that many of them had stayed lost? Of course, she was her mother’s daughter, so she usually went anyway, and made polite conversation with the adult versions of teenagers that she no longer had anything in common with, if indeed she’d ever had any common ground with them. She called herself five different kinds of snob, but she couldn’t bring herself to just enjoy the social interaction.
The exception to the rule proved to be her new friends, which made perfect sense; they knew more about her life as it was, not as it had been when she was a hormone-addled teenager. When she got the invitation to an impromptu, early birthday party for Liz at Dori and Nikki’s apartment, accepting it was easy. She had met them at Lexi’s “misfit Christmas” gathering held for all of her friends who weren’t attending family gatherings for one reason or another. For them to call her as readily as they did Lexi seemed perfectly natural, even only after a couple of months.
Even though she’d fallen in with the group at Lexi’s Christmas, Molly was still surprised at how quickly everyone relaxed in one another’s presence, even standoffish Nikki. And the food was…interesting. “Dori,” Molly asked, cornering her in the kitchen, “what in the name of God is your chili recipe?” The stuff was positively eyewatering with spices, but curiously tasty as well. Liz and Nikki had already declared that they couldn’t eat it, even after adding generous dollops of sour cream.
“Um, it wasn’t really a recipe,” Dori said, blushing.
“Okay, but you’re all into food and you’re going to be pissed off.”
“No, I’m not. I’ve had two glasses of wine, so I’m not capable of being pissed off.”
Dori grinned. “Well, I decided to make chili, but there was no tomato sauce, so I used all the packets of ketchup that Nikki always saves from McDonald’s and stuff. I think there might have been some taco sauce in there too. We had a Tupperware thing with like five hundred packets in there, I’m not even joking. So, um, anyway, it was that, and some of the red pepper seasoning packets from work, and–well, actually I guess it was a lot of red pepper packets–and some butter, and the ground beef and beans and stuff.”
Molly was both appalled and impressed. “This is an incredibly happy accident. I’ll bet the salt and pepper came from packets too, didn’t it?”
“The pepper did,” Dori admitted.
“Well, your hobo chili is fantastic,” she replied. Molly returned to the relative chaos of the living room, where the televison was muted, having lost the battle to be heard over the four conversations going on at once. Nikki gave her a nod, and Molly found a seat near her.
“Better than she has been in a long time, I think,” Molly said. “I hope.”
“Good. She called and was asking about shipping things from Ile du Soleil here. Do you think Dobie gave her a car?”
“Possibly. She might have found buried treasure, too.” She quickly explained the mysterious present.
Nikki nodded. “That explains why she sounded so happy.”
“Can you do that? Arrange shipping?”
“I can do a great many things,” Nikki said in her enigmatic way. “It’s already in the works. She said that things might need to happen in a hurry.”
“They often do, with her.”
The subject was changed with a nod. “How’s your new place?”
“Decadent,” Molly said. “The Catholic schoolgirl in me is convinced that she doesn’t deserve it, but the rest of me isn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Things were going terribly for a while, and now they’re much, much better. It’s a happy accident. Like dinner,” she added, indicating a half-empty chili bowl on the table.
Nikki rolled her eyes. “I didn’t know she was going to do that.”
“It came out good! I’m almost ashamed to admit that I liked it, but I did.”
“You can take the rest of it home, if you want.”
“I think I’ll have to fight with Smile and Andrew for it. The boys like the burn.”
Nikki nodded with a little smile. “Fucking idiots. They’ll have holes in their stomachs after eating so much of that shit.”
“Boys,” Molly agreed. “Did you get to eat, then?”
“Liz went to get us a pizza.”
“Oh, good. I can’t be happy unless I know everyone’s eaten.” That made Nikki smile again.