Chapter Two

Four days had passed since Veronica’s incident with Liam Fitzpatrick. She’d taken his cousin’s advice and stayed away from the place and even went so far as to stay away from Molly at school. The last thing she needed was for Liam to find out that she was talking to her behind his back. She didn’t think her neck could take any more damage.

She was pretty sure she owed her continued existence to Faith. Who knew how far Liam would have gone had she not intervened? Veronica noticeably shivered at the thought, wondering exactly how her father would react to finding out that his daughter was in the hospital or worse.

Realizing that someone had entered the café and was waiting to be seated, she grabbed a few menus and turned around to see Faith standing there, hands buried deep in the pockets of her blue jeans and a big grin on her face.

“You’re quite the daydreamer, V. Been standing here for like three minutes.”

Veronica smiled and placed all but one of the menus back onto the pile.

“I’ll have you know that I wasn’t daydreaming, I was musing. There’s a fine but noticeable difference.”

“Care to educate me?”

Veronica began to walk into the café and indicated for Faith to follow her with a quick nod of her head.

“A daydream is when you get caught up thinking about something good, possibly about something you’re hoping for the future. I like to daydream about the shiny new Lamborghini I know my father will never buy me. Musing, as I was doing, is thinking about things that already happened and reflecting on them.”

Faith sat down at the two-person table Veronica had led her to and shrugged, looking up at the girl. For reasons Veronica couldn’t explain, she felt ease with her which was something new; her first instinct was usually to doubt and keep at arm’s length.

“Kinda seems like fancy words for the same thing,” Faith said, relaxing back in the chair. She glanced down at the menu and suddenly looked puzzled. “What the hell is a scone?”

Veronica couldn’t help but laugh loudly, forgetting for a moment that her throat was still pretty sore. She brought one of her hands up to her neck and winced a little which Faith immediately took notice of.

“It’s kind of this bread-ish pastry-ish, uhh, dessert type thing. But not exactly. You know what? I don’t know. But we sell them and people tend to eat and enjoy them. Generally with tea or coffee.”

“Ahh, coffee. I know what that one is. I’ll take a large double-double and, uhh . . . yeah, scone me.”

“Scone you?” Veronica asked, her eyebrows raised. “That would seem like an inappropriate request if we weren’t in the middle of a café.”

She stopped one of the waitresses that was walking by and gave her Faith’s order, then glanced back at the door to make sure no one else was waiting to be seated. Finding the coast clear, she turned back to Faith and looked at her suspiciously, trying to hide her smile.

“So what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this? You stalking me, lady?”

“How do you know I don’t usually hang out in places like this?” At Veronica’s laugh, Faith smiled guiltily. “Alright, fine. I don’t. I asked Molly to find out where you work so I could come and check up on ya.”

“Ahh, right. Because coffee shops are generally dangerous places. Hardened criminals have given up on cheap booze and loose women for overpriced coffee and open mic night,” Veronica said sarcastically, quickly eyeing the door again for anyone waiting to be seated.

“Nah, it was more cos Liam nearly popped your head off like a dandelion the other night and I wanted to make sure ya weren’t walking around like some kinda bobblehead,” Faith said, her smile faltering just a little bit when Veronica’s look became more serious. “Listen, it’s not like I wanted to come in here and rain on your little parade if you’re living in denial over it, but I don’t wanna see a decent person like you all kindsa handicapped cos of my cousin’s history of brainfarts.”

“I know,” Veronica said with a nod, looking down at her hands before looking into Faith’s eyes again. “And I’m not living in denial. I’m just . . . frustrated. I can’t talk to Molly, Weevil has a one-track mind, and if I can’t get him to back off, the PCHers and your cousins are going to have a clash of epic proportions. I’m talking a cage match, no holds barred, and probably with a handy supply of lethal weapons to boot.”

Veronica was visibly frustrated now, her smile long gone and replaced with a deep frown. For some odd reason she really did feel like it was up to her to stop this mess from getting even messier. Her dad couldn’t know and getting the police involved would only bring a world of pain her way in the form of Liam and his flunkies.

The waitress walked over then with Faith’s coffee and scone and set them on the table, taking notice of what appeared to be an intense conversation going on between Veronica and her friend.

“You can take your break, Veronica. Now’s a good time, we’re pretty slow.”

“Thanks Marissa,” Veronica said, putting on a fake smile. When she turned her attention back to Faith, the girl was looking at the seat across from her expectantly. Taking the hint, Veronica pulled the wooden chair out and sat down in it, wondering why exactly Faith had come there.

As good as the café’s coffee was, Veronica knew that Faith hadn’t stopped by for a tasty cup of joe and light conversation.

“Listen, I understand what you’re sayin’. I ain’t got no clue what your buddy Weevil is up to but I know my cousins are ready to crack skulls; they know he’s digging around and they’re ready to put a stop to it. I’ve been able to hold ‘em back a bit but I can’t keep ‘em from actin’ stupid forever. The bruise on your neck is proof of that.”

“I already told you I’m fine,” Veronica said, fighting the way her hand was trying to rub her still sore neck.

“Yeah, you’re five by five,” Faith said sarcastically. “Fact is, it’s about to get ugly around here, V, and you’re like a magnet for trouble. If you can’t keep your head low, you need to get outta dodge for a while.”

“Leave town?” Veronica asked incredulously.

“I was thinkin’ it’s the best option,” Faith said with a shrug. “I’ve got some friends in LA. Pretty sure they’d be happy to have ya if ya need a place to crash ‘til this all blows over.”

Veronica laughed then, one of those laughs that was no doubt about to lead to a sarcasm festival. She watched as Faith seemed to brace herself for the tirade that was surely to follow.

“Oh sure, that sounds like a great idea. It’s not like I need to graduate this year anyhow. I’m sure my father will be totally cool with it too. He’s not overprotective; he doesn’t make me drive around with a pitbull in my car. He didn’t give me a taser for my eleventh birthday.”

“So what you’re sayin’ is it’s a bad idea?” Faith asked, obviously trying to hide her grin. At Veronica’s scoff she continued, “For what it’s worth, didn’t really think you’d go along with it anyway. Guess that leaves me with only one other option.”

“You’re gonna turn your criminal family over to the cops, give them lots of inside info, fix all of our problems at once?”

Faith laughed but then paused, mulling it over for a moment. “You really think that’d work?”

Could it possibly work? Liam and his flunkies could be taken down to the station and questioned for numerous reasons, Veronica was sure of that much. There would be no reason to hold them though, not without some kind of concrete evidence of naughty shenanigans, and then Faith would be in trouble when they got out. As much as having the Fighting Fitzpatrick’s off the streets for even twenty-four hours sounded good, it wasn’t worth risking Faith’s well-being.

“No,” Veronica finally said, deflated.

“Right. Well, guess that makes me your personal escort then.”

Veronica raised her eyebrow at that, not sure of she’d heard correctly. “My . . .?”

“Personal escort,” Faith finished for her. “And not the kind you pay $500 to take you out for dinner and dirty dancin’ either.”

“And here I was already planning what shoes to wear with my Gucci dress.”

“Don’t let me stop you from wearin any kind of cute dress, blondie,” Faith said with a smirk. When Veronica narrowed her eyes at her, she continued. “Listen, I’m gonna try really hard not to cramp your style, ok? Fact remains that Weevil and my cousins are both out there lookin’ for each other and probably for you too if we’re bein’ honest. ‘Til all this blows over, consider me your shadow.”

Veronica eyed her suspiciously. “I’m feeling very Whitney Houston circa The Bodyguard.”

“Good, let’s go with that,” Faith said easily. “Where you go, I go.” At Veronica’s raised eyebrow, she corrected, “Not gonna follow you into the bathroom or anything kinky, V. Not even gonna hang around and make you wiggy. When you go from home to school or work to home though? I’m there with ya.”

Veronica just watched Faith for a few moments, waiting for the girl to give up this hilarious game or for a hidden camera crew to pop out from behind her. None of that ever happened though. Faith waited for her response for a while before getting distracted by the scone that the waitress had set before her during their conversation. She was currently busy chewing away, making satisfied little grunting noises as she chased it down with a few sips of hot coffee.

“You’re right, this thing is pretty good,” Faith mumbled with her mouth almost full.

“So this is really happening then?” Veronica finally asked, both of her eyebrows raised. “You decide to follow me around and then you just eat your scone like that’s something normal people are generally okay with?”

Faith nodded her head like it was indeed no big deal and finished her mouthful before taking one more sip of coffee and continuing.

“Hey, I gave you another option but you had to go and get all responsible on me. I saw what Liam did to you and I’ve heard stories about Weevil’s tendency to be a douchenozzle; you actually think I’m gonna let either one of them get the jump on ya? You should know me better than that.”

“Actually, it’s funny you should say that. I don’t know you at all, Faith! If you’re really Liam’s cousin you’re probably the last person I should be trusting right now.”

“Maybe ya shouldn’t, but I haven’t given you a reason to think I’m lyin’ yet, have I?” Faith asked. At Veronica’s headshake, she continued, “And, hey V? Pretty sure we’re not normal people to begin with. I mean, I know I’m not for sure. Weird shit like this should all be old hat for you by now.”

“That’s for sure,” Veronica said after a moment’s pause, watching as a group of her classmates walked by them, not even taking notice of her existence.

“So what time does your shift end?”

Faith took the last of her scone and popped it into her mouth, chewing it enthusiastically. It was obvious that she didn’t plan on sticking around long, which was a good thing because Veronica’s break would be over soon and the last thing Veronica wanted to worry about was keeping Faith entertained while waiting for nine o’clock to arrive.

If she was being honest with herself, Veronica had no idea how this girl was going to get her out of this mess. Still, she didn’t think she’d be able to weasel her way out of Faith’s grasp now that the girl seemed intent on keeping her safe.

That didn’t stop her from making one last-ditch effort to try to keep Faith from getting even more involved though.

“So you can come back for more tasty coffee? We’re open between 7am and 11pm so feel free to pop in whenever you like regardless of if I’m your helpful hostess or not,” Veronica said easily as she began to stand from her chair.

“Bonus points for avoiding the question,” Faith said, grinning. “And thanks for the info but it’s not what I’m lookin for. Not that I didn’t enjoy the coffee and sconey goodness but I’m more of a jelly donut and glass of milk kinda gal.”

And again Veronica found herself looking at Faith, waiting for some kind of sign that she was joking. Faith looked back at her and raised an eyebrow as she waited for her answer.

“You’re really serious about this whole bodyguard thing?”

“Dead serious. Pretty sure you should just take me up on it too. I’m not the kinda girl you want lurkin’ around in the shadows.”

And while Veronica wanted to question that, she didn’t want to get any further into it while surrounded by random patrons and co-workers. She was already the weird girl; she didn’t need any more disadvantages in the social interaction department.

“Fine. I’m off at nine and then I’m supposed to run an errand for my Dad. Really though, I was serious about the taser. I’ll be fine on my own . . .” her words got quieter and eventually stopped as she noticed Faith standing up and tossing a few bills onto the table with a grin on her face, obviously ignoring her protests.

“See ya at nine, Veronica.”

Before Veronica could say anything else, Faith was halfway to the door and not bothering to look back. She was pretty sure that had Faith looked back she could have swayed her with the good ol’ Mars Puppy-Dog Eyes routine, but Faith was obviously on to her game.

No, this was going to have to play out the way that Faith wanted it to. Truth be told, Veronica was a bit happy to have an extra person on her side and looking out for her. Of course her dad was on her side but he didn’t know about any of this and he’d probably send her off to LA himself if he found out.

That was the last thing Veronica wanted to happen though. Neptune was falling further and further down a downward spiral into gang wars and violence and she felt it was her personal mission to stop it before the entire town hit rock bottom. This was her town with her memories and her future. And besides, what would the 09-ers do if someone shattered their perfect little existence?

Veronica sighed and rolled her eyes as she heard a raucous group of said 09-ers laughing from their corner table across the room.

So this was what her life had come to: personal escorts and protecting people who didn’t need nor want her protection. Shaking her head, she walked back over to her stand and plastered on a fake smile to the group of people waiting to be seated.

Life just didn’t get much more interesting than this.

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