A Gathering of Friends and Lovers, pt. 3

The bar in the next room was long and polished, kept immaculate by an older-looking starched-shirt. Unlike the people hustling the food back and forth, this man never smiled. He didn’t exactly frown, either. His expression, to outsiders, hovered somewhere just before the zone of judgment, that stage of professional curiosity as he assessed with beady, reserved eyes whether the newcomers would be bad for business or worthy of as much courtesy as he cared to dispense. In this sense he resembled certain military veterans, people trained to look out for trouble, in order to respond to it quickly; failing to find it, business-as-usual was good enough.

He did not find trouble in Lovely Mari, who struck him as a typically effusive cosplay girl. All he had to do for her was dust off the cheapie recipe book usually reserved for bachelorette parties or book clubs. If he nodded at her chipmunk-register jokes and could hustle her to the bathroom in time, she wasn’t likely to give him grief.

Nor did he register any potential trouble in Ceci, who would do nothing to dispel that rare magical environment known as the open bar. He knew that she knew the only appropriate response was gratitude, and in return there was always a ready, perfectly made drink waiting at her elbow. In return for that, he received the dark and moist glance of one soul who was truly grateful for his existence on this planet. That, and the $20 tip she introduced herself with, would get her anything and everything she wanted for the night, up to and including a cab.

“A Stinger,” Ceci said, watching his reaction.

“You don’t want a Stinger,” he said quietly.

“How about you show me what I want.”

She was surprised to see he needed so few bottles for her drink, but when she tasted a perfect Negroni, she nearly wept. “They don’t pay you enough,” she said gravely. He only nodded at her, which she knew was the equivalent of washing her feet from anyone else.

“Who do you know here?” she asked Mari, a much younger woman bouncing in her seat as she stared at three wide-screen TVs behind the bar.

“Nobody,” Mari chirped, “ ’cept the guy I brought, Drummond. Thought I’d make friends here, since I’m so fucking sexy.” She thrust her beach-ball boobs at the bartender, who just happened to turn away to wipe down the beer taps.

Ceci grinned at his broad back. “How’s that working out for you?”

“Everyone here’s fucking lame. No one likes to party! Ain’t this a holiday party or somethin’?”

“And what do you think a holiday party looks like?”

“Everyone should be dancing on the tables! They should be kickin’ shit over, settin’ shit on fire!”

“That will not happen.” The bartender spoke in a gravelly tone, not turning.

“Aw, poop. No one here knows how to have a good time.” Lovely Mari looked back up at the TVs, and Ceci noticed that their channels were flipping rapidly through WWII movies, Japanese cooking shows, cartoons, and music videos. The bartender glanced up at them once, looked back at Mari, shrugged, and returned to washing and stacking pint glasses.

“So tell me about your little guy. Drummond.” Ceci leaned on one elbow and swiveled in her stool to face the young witchy. She couldn’t help noticing the contrast between the constrictive corset and the pronounced, copious buttocks that subsumed her stool entirely.

Mari spun to face her, eyes wide—eyes, Ceci imagined, whose pupils were shaped like hearts. “He’s the best! Oh, he’s so great! Drummond’s a serious little man. He’ll punch the shit outta anyone who doesn’t listen to me. One time? He broke his leg, and he kept on fighting! That’s ’cos he loves me so much!”

Ceci reared slightly. “You broke his leg?”

“He broke his own leg!” Mari bit her lip and gripped her boobs from beneath, heaving them up for display. “He lo-o-o-oves me! Ooh, he’s gotta have it!”

“And what’s ‘it’?”

The blonde witchy threw back her head and howled with laughter. “The fucking, ya prude! He needs me to fuck him so hard all the goddamn time! Day and night, first thing when I wake up and last thing when I go to sleep!” She pantomimed stuffing a cylinder with both hands between her thighs, up her short skirt, while making explosive slurping noises. “You ever fuck a li’l guy like that?”

“Yes and no,” Ceci said. The bartender chortled briefly. “I’ve had a couple tiny… Anthropole boyfriends. I’ve dated them. But you know, they’re so intent on bonding and extending their lives, and sometimes I just want to get laid, you know? Nothing more than that, just feeling some little man struggling for life up deep inside me. And then he takes calls a Knapa or an Apart and goes the fuck home. He gets what he wants, sorta, and I get what I want, and that’s the end of the transaction.”

Mari pushed her face toward Ceci, and pushed her lips out farther. “That don’t sound right. It sounds like you really want somethin’ more than a couple handfuls o’ fun.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Ceci noticed a Daiquiri in front of her, only just beginning to build condensation, but she left it and instead started tearing a bar napkin into long, thin strips.

“Yeah-huh! Your mouth’s all, ‘oh, dough-dough-dough!’ but your thighs are all, ‘om-nom-nom-nom!’” Mari grinned impossibly wide and shimmied her shoulders at her company. “You cain’t lie about that shit to me! Maybe all your prim-n-proper friends fall for it, but I—” she tapped her temple sagely, “—I know a kindred spirit when I see one.”

Ceci turned to the bar. “You’re fucking drunk.”

“Nothin’ ta be ashamed of! Those li’l guys are fuckin’ tasty! You want one? Just fuckin’… get in there and grab one! That’s what they’re for, ain’t they? Hey, Eisenhower!” Mari hove her weighty breasts to collapse all over the bar and shouted at the bartender’s shoulders. “You get a lot of li’l-guy fuckers in here?”

“We get all types,” he said, not turning.

“But you know what I mean, though? Is tonight the first time you seen li’l guys and the women who love ’em?”

Slowly the bartender turned and leaned back, folding his arms. “I’ve seen ’em, yeah. I’ve served all types. Big, small, men, women, other. Long as they don’t make a fuss under my roof, it’s all good with me.”

“Look at her, though.” She nodded her cartoonish witch’s hat at the artsy/professional woman. “She says she’s in control, dudn’t need much. You believe that?”

“That’s her business, far as I’m concerned.” Ceci was increasingly grateful for his generation’s stoicism.

“Aw, c’mon, you’re no fun! Ain’t she lyin’ to herself? She needs something, an’ she needs it bad! Long as she lies to herself about it, she ain’t never gonna get any peace! Aincha seen somethin’ like that before?”

The bartender looked at Ceci for a couple moments, opened his mouth, closed it.

With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Ceci said, “Permission to speak freely, soldier.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “Marines, miss. Don’t much like to put my two cents in—”

“Give us a nickel!” Mari barked. “A fuckin’ dime!”

“I’m not suggesting some ripe fruit is withering on the vine,” he said, “but something’s ticking down, and if she doesn’t take what’s hers, she’ll never get it. Apologies, miss.” He lowered his gaze and stalked off to the far end of the bar.

Mari crowed raucously. “Y’see! Even Stone-Face McGee over there knows it! You got a fierce appetite, lady, an’ it don’t wanna be denied! I get the sense what you want, what you need’s within reach, an’ yer the only thing standin’ in yer way! You gonna fuckin’ go for it and claim what’s yours, or…” She raised her fists and flared her fingers open with a POOF plosion from her bee-stung lips.

Ceci trembled on her barstool. She felt very cold and alone, despite knowing a quarter of the revelers next door. She looked down at her hands on the bar, still pretty but starting to show lines around the tendons and knuckles; she looked at her skirt, short and fetching but comparatively small against her full thighs. Her collar was full of fluff and ruffles, and her fun-rings glinted garishly in the barroom’s decorative light display. “Who the fuck invited you, anyway,” she growled, sliding off her stool. She paused only to slam the perfect Daiquiri, then staggered off toward the heavy velvet curtains to the next room.

Lovely Mari watched her go. Her long, black nails dug savagely into her own plump, firm, powerful thighs, almost entirely uncovered by her own frilly skirt, unprotected by wide fishnets. “Who the fuck invited me, anyway,” she repeated, a slow, cruel smile spreading across her flawless face.

*   *   *

At the buffet tables, amid the milling company and rotating conversations, a woman slowly picked up a serving plate, set it down, and took it up again. She glanced around the room, her long, honey-blonde ponytail swinging perkily with every gesture, draping over her heather-gray sports bra. Slowly she crept along the row of food tables, peeking into every serving tray, assessing, calculating. Her heavy haunches ground against each other as she croodled along, packed taut in knee-length running tights. In no sense was she dressed for the festivities, but she was here and the food was free and she wasn’t passing it up. She took up a Mongolian chicken drummie but did not set it on her plate: instead, after glancing around herself, she slipped it down the front of her sports bra. The bone jerked from her fingertips as something seized the meat and pulled it down within.

Without paying attention, she bumped into someone immediately, someone a head shorter than her, well below her scouting glance. Staring up at her was a squat woman with thick, shiny black hair pulled back into a braid. Just as inappropriate for the occasion, she wore a set of pink pajamas that hung loosely everywhere except around her inflated thighs and substantial, ponderous ass. The athletic woman noticed a celery stalk coated in blue cheese dressing sticking out of the waistband of her fleece bottoms; in fact, it wobbled slightly as it sank into the perilous crack of her ass.

The athletic woman slowly nodded at her. The woman in pajamas gave her a thumbs-up.

*   *   *

“Who the fuck am I!” shrieked a young woman’s voice, piercing through the hum of voices talking over holiday electronica. “Just some cheap floozie who shows up where she’s not wanted!”

Heads turned toward the noise. Three starched-shirts, two women and one man, were gently but irrevocably ushering an enraged sexy witchy toward the exit. This was startling because until now, it hadn’t occurred to anyone where to actually find an exit, though many wondered how to leave once in a while.

“Drummond! Hold on, let  me get my goddamn li’l guy!” Mari’s fist seemingly punched through the jaw of a bright, smiling service staff member. The woman’s head swiveled sharply away, and to bystanders it was unclear whether Mari’s fist had rotated her skull or she’d deftly turned to avoid the blow.

“Miss, we need you to step outside,” the male service staff said.

“We’ll retrieve your little man for you, if you’ll just step outside,” one of the women said, smiling.

Lovely Mari swore and punched and kicked, and her boobs rumbled this way and her ass thundered that way, but the staff were not to be deterred. They had nearly picked her off the ground when she screamed, “ENOUGH!” They released her and backed up one step, ready for anything.

“Fine, I’ll get outta here. Who needs a crazy dump like this, anyway? I’ll go make my own fuckin’ party, and it’ll be ten times more expensive and a hunnerd times funner!” Petulantly she swatted her obscenely short skirt into position and adjusted her floofy sleeves around her bodice. “Y’all a buncha buttoned-up stiffs with sticks up yer asses, anyway! Fuckin’ holidays are for squares.” Mari turned her nose up, spun on one chunky-soled heel, and marched proudly out the door, the broad black velvet bow on her ass swaying triumphantly.

Near the door, a comparatively dowdy middle-aged woman watched the dramatic exit, turning slightly to point her own butt at the spectacle. “What do you think of that one, Stan?” she said.

A tiny, rangy man clung to the back pocket of her jeans, practically lying upon the generous curve of her own fat-packed bottom. “Well, it’s pretty nice, to give a little lady credit, but you know it doesn’t hold a candle to yours, Gracie.”

She reached back and patted him tenderly.

*   *   *

“That was alarming,” said Janine. She retrieved her free-ranging boyfriend and stood him on her thigh, hands cupped protectively but not possessively around him. Karmen similarly held Euen on her lap, as did Sharon her Julian. They’d had enough to drink and eat and were content to push the table away and open their booth up to conversation.

Karmen watched Ceci approach and scooted over to make room. “Friend of yours?” she asked her.

Ceci screwed up her face and set down an empty Daiquiri glass among a crowd of bottles and tumblers. “Bitch can’t hold her booze, I guess. Started shootin’ off all sorts of ideas.”

Janine smiled and leaned in. “What kind of ideas?”

“Shit she don’t know nothin’ ’bout, honestly.” Ceci glanced at Euen but snapped her head back to stretch her neck when he looked up at her. “Glad to see staff’s finally taking out the trash.”

“Oh dear, that’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?” Sharon’s eyebrows arched. Julian patted her thumb and studied the distraught, intoxicated woman. Her festive outfit no longer sparkled but seemed to be wilting in places.

Ceci was about to retort when a chorus of car alarms went off outside. Groups of people perked up and looked outside the wall of bay windows to check for their vehicles. Seemingly every car’s headlights were flashing, horns brayed over each other in staggered patterns, and then one car’s windows exploded and rained against the restaurant. Someone nearer the windows screamed and clambered out of her booth, as the chunky sole of a gargantuan black leather buckle boot rotated into view.

“Who needs a li’l party like this speck o’ trash right here?” boomed Lovely Mari’s voice, louder and deeper than anything imaginable. “Just a crumpled-up paper cup of a dive bar! You ain’t nothin’. I been to palaces, kingdoms, all that sort of shit! On other planets! You don’t know who yer messin’ with, when you kick Lovely Mari out on her tasty, tasty ass!”

“This is bad,” said Euen. Shaun and Julian nodded at him, but this time organization and response seemed to be well beyond their capacity. The bigs, unfortunately, stared entranced out the windows as the immense boot lifted out of view, then came crashing down upon another car. The alarm wailed once, pathetically, before the entire thing flattened like so much aluminum foil.

Sitting by herself, a woman in tight jeans and a red polka-dot shirt slowly rose to her feet, staring out the window. “Ain’t happenin’, sweetheart,” she murmured to no one in particular, brushing the crumbs off her voluptuous thighs as she strode purposely toward the exit.

As she passed, Grace also oriented her minuscule partner toward the retreating derriere. “It’s tasty and all,” Stan hollered up to her, “but I think it’s mostly for show. You’re the woman of real substance around here, honey-pie.” Grace blushed and plucked him off her pocket, to insert him deep inside the back of her panties.

On his own, however, with his arms pinned uncomfortably to his sides, Stan moderated his constricted breath and meditated upon what a weekend might look like where he dangled from a string while the witch in blonde curls and the rockabilly chick in platinum blonde fought for possession of him with their sizable, generous asses. Someone should really write that one out, he thought.

*   *   *

“I know when I’m not wanted!” bellows Mari, dozens of feet above the restaurant and growing taller each minute. “It’s unbelievable that anyone would think they don’t want me around, the charmingest, most powerful and sexy witchy in seven universes! But looka there: there’s some itty-bitty pile o’ roadside trash that tried to boot me out on my ass.” Up her boot went, and down it came on an SUV, flattening it beyond recognition. “Well, guess what? None o’ y’all’s worthy o’ touchin’ my sweet ass! It’s too perfect and beautiful fer any o’ you! You wish I would stuff you up in the stinky hole! But you don’t even deserve that much!”

Her boot swung back, then swung forward again and T-boned another vehicle, sending it flying speedily off into the imperceptible distance.

On the buffet table, Drummond paced and waved his arms. “Hey! Down here, one of you!” He threw a fish fork and even managed to drag a heating element over the edge, clattering upon the floor, but now the starched-shirts were paying no attention to him or anyone else in the room.

In the back of the booth, Shaun peered around Euen. “Shit, that’s Drummond.”

“Who?” everyone at the table wanted to know.

“Drummond, the SWAT officer. He came with the gigantic witch outside. We were going to rescue everyone off the buffet tables when the swarm of horndogs erupted.”

“Of course you were,” said Janine, hugging him between her palms.

“No, seriously, someone… Ceci, can you grab him?”

Ceci half-rose and glanced at him. “And I’m doing this because why?”

His nose whistled as he sucked in sharply. “Because he’s the man with the plan, and he came with the singlemost dangerous person at this party. So at the least, we protect him, and at best, he knows how to get us out of this.”

“Sorry.” Ceci rose from the booth and slipped between gawking attendees to approach the table. She shoved the crab rangoon away from the Mongol drummies and reached for the diminutive figure in black BDUs. He, of course, sensed her and spun around, hand-cannon at the ready.

“Whoa, you little shit,” she said, backing off only slightly. “I’m here to rescue you.”

“Don’t need rescuing, lady,” he retorted, immovable, tense.

She pursed her lips and inhaled slowly. “But we do. Shaun back there seems to think you know a way out of this.”

At Shaun’s name he holstered his pistol and lifted his arms in the universal gesture to be picked up.

*   *   *

Ginny burst through the front doors, into the eerie blackness of an unknown universe. The crumpled cars lay to her left, and she stood between a pair of colossal buckle boots. She looked up the long, slender legs that ran into an obscenely short skirt and continued into a tower of sexy anime vengeance. “Hey there, hon,” she shouted up to the sky. “How’s your night?”

“Fucking sucks!” Mari belted back, reflexively. “Didn’t even wanna be here! I coulda been, like… you know… doing anything else! ’Stead, I’m here catching shit from a buncha no-account nobodies!” The gigantic witch swayed and turned ponderously in the darkness. Her immense body, already a nightmare to contend with, was accented nightmarishly with underlighting from the restaurant.

“I hear that, girlfriend,” said Ginny.

Gigantic Lovely Mari froze momentarily. “The fuck you know about it?” Massive fists parked upon massive hips, and she glared down at the rockabilly chick challengingly.

“You’re just trying to mind your own business, maybe have a good time, and then all these assholes just pop outta the woodwork, telling you who you are and what you’re worth.” Slowly Ginny stepped into the parking lot, away from the shelter of the restaurant. “That sound about right? Am I close?”

Laughter rumbled through the lower atmosphere. “Maybe you do know what yer talkin’ ’bout.”

“Reckon I do, lady. I can’t go to a bar in the tri-state area without some jackass pitching his line at me, offering cheap-ass wares and acting like he deserves my finest gifts in return for them.” Ginny walked around the first crushed car, admiring the thorough destruction. Gasoline ran abundantly from underneath the shiny, crumpled wreckage, draining into the curb of the restaurant. There were no sirens, no roar from the highway: she couldn’t even see anything more than several yards away, as though nothing existed beyond that. “They don’t care who you are or what you want, do they?”

Far, far overhead, Mari grunted.

“They see you, and they get the sense they deserve you. Like you owe them something, just because they noticed you.” Ginny contemplated walking over to one boot and petting it sympathetically, but something in her gut warned her against this gesture, and her gut had never steered her wrong. “All you want is to listen to the music and feel the vibe of the room and enjoy a couple nice drinks, and they gotta stomp all over that.”

More laughter. “Nice choice of words, chicky.”

Ginny looked up the towering leg and into the ruffled skirt, as far as the lights would reach. “So what’s your game plan, cherry-pop? What comes next? You gonna tell these pieces of shit to fuck off?”

“Pieces of shit,” Mari repeated darkly. “Don’t know nothin’ from nothin’.”

“That’s right, they ain’t worth your time, hon. I bet you throw a hell of an after-party.”

“Try to kick me out, like I don’t belong here.”

“Who needs ’em? Let’s go back to—”

“Well, if I don’t belong here? If I wasn’t invited?” Far, far overhead, up past the flattened belly in her corset, somewhere over the blimped bosom, Mari’s smile shone wickedly in the darkness. “I guess that makes me a party crasher!” All her considerable mass heaved upon one boot, and the pavement in the parking lot buckled and sank under her sole. Her other boot lifted high, higher, and higher, hovering in space over the restaurant. “Time to crash this stupid party once an’ fer all!”

“Oh, no you don’t!” snapped Ginny. Her hand, resting on her back pocket, now snatched a disc of reflective metal. For a second she angled it to catch the light above the entrance; finding it, she bounced it into her eyes, and then the ground fell away and the restaurant reduced to a shoebox as she likewise shot up into the heavens.

Lovely Mari, wide-eyed, absently lowered her boot to an empty portion of the parking lot. “How’d you do that?” she said dreamily.

Ginny only drew back her fist.

*   *   *

The table with Renata and Zona and others cried out in a chorus of mingled horror and admiration, as they stared up through the broad windows beside their booth. One enormous white Chuck Taylor low-top twisted slowly on the ball of its sole, brushing against the inside of the towering buckle boot. The sneaker only turned a crumpled automotive wreck in place, no new damage, as the sky ripped with the crack of a massive collision, and the boot dragged away.

“Who the hell is that?!” cried Zona.

“Who are they, you mean,” said Kattie, licking her lips as she watched the towering legs swing and turn through the night air.

“Should we really be here?” asked Renata, inching toward the edge of the booth’s seat. “Shouldn’t we be looking for shelter?”

“Not if we want the best view in the house,” said Nora, who turned fully toward the windows and ground her considerable boobs around her shrunken boyfriend.

Renata’s jaw hung in shock until Lynn, who’d crawled under the table, popped up to stand beside her. “You’re the only one with the right idea,” she said, wrapping her fist in the shoulder of Zona’s hoodie and hauling the two women out of the booth to sprint into the service area of the restaurant, looking for another exit.

*   *   *

On the other side of the entirely forgotten buffet tables, Ceci hugged the hard-bodied SWAT officer against her belly. His inflexibility stirred all sorts of tingliness in her bloodstream, and she watched the other women slipping in back with a little envy. “Any idea, uh, what to do next?” she asked him.

Drummond only wanted to know who that other woman was, but nobody at the table had seen her before. He wanted to know how she grew like that, and again, no one had any idea. “Without knowing these things, I don’t have any plan. We have to see how this plays out.”

Janine’s two-handed embrace around Shaun had become smothering, and he struggled to push her thumbs down so he could talk. “You don’t think we should get out of here or seek shelter or something?”

Drummond shrugged into Ceci’s cashmere sweater. “Here’s as good as anywhere else. Mari’s an all-powerful witch. We don’t know the physical parameters or laws of the realm, or pocket-dimension, whatever, where this restaurant exists.”

“You don’t think it’s on Earth, then,” said Euen.

“Clearly not. Given those factors, all we can do is wait for the other giant woman to handle this… or not, and then we respond to that situation.”

Euen looked over at Shaun, who shrugged and said, “Go, rockabilly, go.”

*   *   *

Ginny threw a haymaker at Mari, fully expecting the blonde witchy to dodge it. When Mari ducked, Ginny drove her knee up into the witchy’s jaw.

Mari swore and shook her head, but she looked at Ginny with a huge smile. “It’s almost like you know how to fight,” she said. “No one’s stood up to me in centuries.” She threw up her hands like claws, reaching for Ginny’s hair. When Ginny brought up her forearms to deflect, Mari instead feinted and shot a fist between them to chop Ginny in the throat.

The gigantic rockabilly queen staggered back, careful to step over the entire restaurant. It was so small and frail between her Chuck Taylors, not even as tall as the cuffs of her jeans. No one in there had bothered to give her the time of day, much less invite them to their table and get to know her. Wasn’t that what an end-of-year celebration was for, to take stock of what’s important and reinforce your community? She didn’t know who they were, either, but they were all there together, under one roof, supposedly celebrating having survived another year and wishing luck for the next.

Now they were a dull brown box, over which one errant shoelace had draped itself. She could kick it aside. She could step back and let Mari pound it into dust, and who would even care? Why was she fighting to protect a crowd of strangers, in a thoroughly unreal world?

She looked up at Mari. The lights could barely reach up to the darling witchy’s face. And she was beautiful, or would have been if her visage weren’t contorted in an incomprehensible, insane glee. Mari seemed to know what she was talking about, too. It was a gamble, but Mari connected. “What if we settle back down and I buy you a drink, honey-pie?” she said. “Looks like we could both use a friend right about now.”

“Friend?!” Lovely Mari shrieked, her tits bounding with rage. “Have you even been paying attention for the last hour? Gaah! I don’t need to explain this to you or anyone!” In one swoop, Mari thrust her arms up, clawed fingers reaching for Ginny’s eyes, as she raised her knee and hefted one vast, destructive boot over the restaurant.

Rather than dodging, Ginny brought the disc between them, angling for the dimmest lights shining up from the pathetically small restaurant.

*   *   *

“I’m so sorry,” said Adeline, cradling Agustin against her chest. “I thought it would be fun. I thought it might bring you some comfort.” She watched the immense boot lift up out of view, knowing where it was headed. “I just can’t get anything right, I guess.”

In response, she felt a hot little kiss against her wrist.

*   *   *

“I’m so pissed,” said Temple. “I can’t do anything.”

“Your gun! Your gun!” screamed Luke from the neckline of her bodysuit. “Pull out your gun and shrink her down!”

She swatted him like a nattering mosquito. “I didn’t bring it, fool. This was supposed to be a party.”

*   *   *

“This stupid country,” said Petia, mashing her little boyfriend against her cheek. “This stupid, insane country. Why are they in charge of anything? Why does anyone look up to them for guidance?”

Milan struggled to push himself away from her cheekbone. “Yes, sweetie, I agree, but can we please look for a goddamned exit?”

*   *   *

Shavonne, the hippie-chick, likewise cradled little Dagny in her arms. “I’m so sorry, you poor fucker,” she whispered. “I protected you from the little girls, I tried to take care of you, but now… this.” She looked out the window at the massive white sneaker as its heel slowly rose and the toe twisted in place. “I couldn’t do it. Fucking C____, why would she leave you to me?”

“You did as well as you could,” Dagny said, hugging her thumb. “You did great. I’ve never felt safer. You stepped up when she failed. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“You’re sweet, Dagny,” she said. Tears ran down her cheekbones and fell upon his shirt. “I wish… Goddess damn it, I just wish we could’ve had…”

“What, Shavonne? Talk to me!” Dagny kissed the pad of her thumb.

“Oh, don’t do that. You’re giving me such ideas. Naughty ideas, I shouldn’t think about that!”

“There’s nothing holding me back, Shavonne! I don’t owe anyone anything!”

“You mean—”

“Please! If not now, then when?”

“But… what about C____?”

Tana, grinning hysterically, leaned too close into Shavonne’s embrace. “Well, if you’re not gonna do anything with him, you mind if I borrow him for about forty seconds? I’m wet as a kiddie pool, I’ll be quick!”

*   *   *

“This way,” shouted Lloyd’s synthesized voice. “Help her up!” Keila wrapped Sharon’s arm around her shoulders, and they followed Ceci and Drummond toward the service hallway, where they could only assume an exit had to be. People kept filtering back there and not returning, so it seemed likely.

“Or else they’re getting sucked into a parallel dimension,” said Shaun, eyeing the mass exodus warily.

“What other choice do we have?” yelled Karmen, one hand around Euen, one arm around Janine.

Euen craned his head back to shout at her. “We could run through the parking lot. If we don’t get hit by an inadvertent shoe, we could dodge most movements and reach our car.”

“I don’t like our odds!” Karmen guided a sobbing Janine toward Lloyd in the BigSuit. He told her words she needed to hear, stiffening her legs and straightening her back, and he escorted her to the back of the building.

“Why isn’t anyone else coming?” said Euen. “That table of college women, they’re just watching.”

“I think they’re into it,” said Karmen.

“Everyone’s got their thing.” Ceci looked down at Euen, up at Karmen, and out the window.

“Why’d you come back?”

Ceci shrugged. “Drummond’s right. Here’s as good as anywhere. And if this is a dream, then it doesn’t matter what happens to any of us.”

Karmen raised her eyebrows. “You think this is a dream?”

Ceci sucked on her teeth. “You know, I don’t think I even care either way.”

“Heads-up! Drummond, what just happened?” Lloyd pointed out the window as an incredible silence flooded the area. Everyone looked outside, where only one pair of enormous white sneakers stood imperiously in the parking lot.

A huge, pale hand of tapering fingers slowly reached down from the skies, toward a flicker of movement behind a car. For half a second, everyone in the restaurant saw a very dazed Lovely Mari staggering, trying to remain upright, then flinching and screaming as the long fingers wrapped around her and whisked her back up into the sky. After a moment, the gigantic sneakers slowly reduced, long and powerful legs shrank back down to normal proportions, and everyone watched Ginny saunter back into the restaurant, casual as could be.

“What the hell was that?”

“Are we safe? Is she gone?”

“How the hell did you do that?”

Ginny smirked and ignored all the frantic questions. She rounded the buffet table and walked straight toward Ceci, Karmen, Lloyd, and Keila. “Someone here named Drummond?” she asked. “I’m s’posed to find you.”

Unable to speak, Ceci simply held the tiny military officer aloft, presenting him to Ginny’s view.

“I’m s’posed to tell you, you need to find your own ride home,” Ginny said.

Drummond stared back at her coquettish grin. “What’s that mean? Did you kill Mari? What happened out there?”

Ginny shook her head slowly, her platinum blonde hair rotating like a seductive planet all its own. “She’s okay, li’l guy. It turns out she’s got some… pressing matters to attend to.” She simpered at the women, lifted Drummond clear of Ceci’s grasp, then turned and walked away, rubbing one palm suggestively over the dramatic denim curve of her rear.

Shaun exhaled like the bark of a dog. “Only slightly more subtle than ‘she’s tied up at the moment,’ I guess.”

The starched-shirts were able to impose calm once more, assuring everyone that the jeopardy had passed. The crowd seemed unconvinced until they witnessed the reconstruction of the demolished vehicles, as well as the replenishment of the serving trays and ensuing rounds of drinks. “Hey, everyone, it’s almost midnight,” said a not-readily identifiable voice in the crowd. Friends bunched together, arms were slung around shoulders, and the restaurant speakers played a tinny, big band rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.”

“Five!” cried Renata, Zona, Kattie, Lynn, and Nora.

“Four!” yelled Sharon, Julian, and Adeline; Agustin held up four fingers.

“Three!” shrieked Tana, Shavonne, and Dagny.

“Two!” yelled Karmen to Janine, and Shaun to Euen.

“One,” whispered Ceci, into a perfect French 75 at the bar.

Dramatis Personae

Janine and Shaun, Karmen and Euen, Ceci, Keila and Lloyd – She and He; Bottom of the Funnel (Fairview)

Dorris and Marco – Her Coercive Tone (Greenville)

Lynn and Derek – I Will Break You (Greenville)

Lovely Mari and Drummond – The Chronicles of Lovely Mari (Greenville)

69HermosaFlor69 (pink fleece pajamas) and Lesley (injured man in her ass) – Screaming Video (Riverside)

Julian and Sharon Alexander, Adeline and Agustin – Fairview series

Tana and Archie – Lunch Buddies (Fairview)

Temple Forrester and Luke Evans – Appetite for Vengeance (Riverside)

Petia and Milan – Petia the Witch (Fairview)

Ginny – As for Ginny… (Riverside)

Shavonne and Dagny – Living Without a Giantess (Fairview)

Zona and Albinus – The Quaint and Curious Victorian Village (Greenville)

Nora and Alvin – Office Couple (Franklin)

Renata Benjamin – The Fandom that Transcends (Greenville)

Kattie and Josh – Someone Else’s Problem (Franklin)

Grace and Stan – Assception (Greenville)

Athletic woman and tiny man in bra – Morning Exercise (Greenville)

Header image by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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