The crystals hanging from the shop door jingled and Alexandra looked up from counting inventory to find a confused girl looking around.
Of all the curio shops, why did she have to come to mine? Alexandra wanted to crawl behind the shelves and duck away into the back room. Too bad those beaded curtains would give me away.
“Hi Gianna, how can I help you?” Alexandra put on her best customer service smile she could muster.
“There’s sunshine in chairs!” Gianna’s face was contorted in frustration.
“There’s sunshine in chairs and the tub can’t sing!” Tears were forming around the girl’s infamous pretty brown eyes.
Alexandra exhaled a soft laugh. “Who did you piss off?”
“A giraffe and a desk. Will there be pillows?” Gianna’s puppy dog eyes turned hopeful.
“I can’t understand a word you’re saying, Gianna. Try writing it down.” Alexandra flipped the page on her inventory tally and handed the clipboard to her.
If you even know how, Alexandra thought. Gianna was famous for convincing other’s to do her homework.
Alexandra watched her frustrated face as she wrote out her story. She finished with a flourished exclamation point and handed it back to Alex.
I don’t know what happened. We were just going to the mall. Mandy wanted to go into some glass figurine place and this crazy woman got all mad because a shelf broke!
“A shelf broke?” Alexandra knew Gianna and her rowdy friends and doubted that the shelf simply broke.
Gianna looked hurt and took the clipboard back.
It’s not our fault that she had shoddy workmanship.
“And I have a feeling you tried to explain that to her?” Gianna nodded emphatically and spread out her hands helplessly.
“And she wasn’t buying it. And let me guess—you tried to walk out without paying for the damages.”
“Fish and ketchup rain!”
“Uh huh. Fish and ketchup rain.” Alexandra rolled her eyes. “This is your fault, Gianna. And if you want me to help you, you’re going to have to accept responsibility. Otherwise you might as well just walk out of here now, and enjoy speaking gibberish the rest of your life.”
Gianna folded her arms and pouted.
“That probably works better on the boys, Gianna.”
Gianna took back pen and paper.
Fine. We broke the shelf. It was our fault. I’ll get daddy to pay for the damages.
“I have a feeling she’ll want more than just you paying for the damages.”
What does that mean?
“It means that she’ll probably want you to work it off.”
Work it off?
“Only one way to find out.”
“Alexandra Underwood. I hardly expected to see you here.” Her eyes fell on Gianna and darkened before shifting back to Alex. “Oh.”
“Hello Ms. Andres, Gianna came to me for help.”
“Did she now? Funny since I’m the one who cursed her.”
“I imagine she might have been intimidated, Ms. Andres.”
“Intimidated?” She asked as she stood up to her full height of 6’2. “I can’t imagine why she would be.” Ms. Andres set a hard look on Gianna.
“Sunshine on roof blanket with chair knob ties, triangle sunshine? Gianna’s brows were pinched in worry.
“I wonder if that’s the first time she’s ever shown genuine emotion,” Bridget Andres pondered.
Alex chuckled softly.
“Well, it’s true.” Alex cleared her throat and let her smile drop. “Anyway, as amusing as it is to hear about ketchup fish, what would it take to put her back?”
Gianna nodded vigorously and reached for her wallet.
“Daddy’s money won’t save you now, little girl,” Ms. Andres menaced as she shook her head.
“Surely we can come to an arrangement, though?”
“An arrangement?” Ms. Andres raised her brows.
“Yes. Perhaps she can work for you until she graduates. Doing manual labour?”
Ms. Andres rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “She would try to foist her responsibilities off on someone else.”
“You’re a telepath. You can read her mind and make sure she’s staying honest.”
“Hmm, now I have a hankering for lemon meringue pie.” Ms. Andres leaned her substantial form against the counter as she thought. “I suppose that would allow me to make sure she wasn’t using her looks and charms in any other aspect of life.”
“Sock planters grow!”
“Wouldn’t that be a sight now? But it is indeed fair, Gianna. Not only is it fair, I’m doing you a favour.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“Only if she says thank you.”
Alexandra looked at Gianna. “Well there you are. Say thank you, and you’ll be cured. Unless you start slipping into your old ways again, anyway.”
Gianna looked back and forth between them nervously. “Thank you?” She spoke tentatively. “Oh my God, I can talk! Thank you.”
“Now, Gianna. If you want to keep talking you’ll show up every day after school for work. And if I catch a single thought about you asking someone else to do anything for you, you’ll be talking about fish ketchup again. Understood?”
“Got it.” There was a small pout on Gianna’s face.
“Alright, get gone with you. See you tomorrow. Wear something that you don’t mind getting destroyed!” Ms. Andres called after her.
“Gotta give her credit for not trying to wiggle her way out of it as soon as she got her voice back.” Alex mused as she watched Gianna scamper away.
“So, tell me, Alexandra.” Ms. Andres pulled herself away from the counter and looked down at Alex. “Why didn’t you remove the curse? The Guardians say you have telepathy.”
A slow smile crept across Alex’s face. “What lesson would she have learned if I had?”
Ms. Andres through her head back and let out a loud belt of laughter. “Only you would go to such lengths to prove a point.”
Alex laughed. “I don’t have any idea what you mean.”
“Only you.” Ms. Andres turned back to her shop laughing. “Be on your way, Mischief!”