had never done well on tests.
Krishna Dahvid had taught Allegra that once a fear was spoken, it was free to depart. Allegra imagined a giant letter L flapping its wings like a bat. “Go back to the dark and awful cave you came from,” she said. “There’s no room for you in my life.” She’d cancel the follow-up appointment with the hematologist. It was a waste of time. Filling out insurance forms was pointless. The self-employed policy the restaurant paid through the nose for covered the absolute minimum. Every claim submitted was rejected on the first go-round. If you submitted the claim a second time, they’d reconsider, but the heartless freaks wouldn’t part with a dime if they could get away with it. Besides, if her blood count was so dangerously out of whack, didn’t it make sense to hang on to every drop? She skewered her bun with chopsticks, and looked out the window.
It was rainy again today. Overnight the brisk fall weather had vamoosed. Delivery trucks rumbled by in the fog. If a person had to live in a city, Pacific Grove was a good choice. Even in winter the beach had charm. After a storm, the tide delivered shells and beach glass by the handful. Allegra never grew tired of wading in the surf.
Gammy pounded on the bathroom door, startling Allegra, who dropped her hand cream into the sink. “Get a move on, Toots!”
“Give me a heart attack, why don’t you?” she said to her mother, who was trying to make believe yesterday could be erased by prayer. Allegra had heard her last night, asking St. Jude to intervene on her daughter’s behalf. That was Gammy’s way. The doctor had wanted to give Allegra a transfusion. There are plenty of other ways to boost my red blood cells, she insisted. Give me an iron shot, or pills. I’ll even eat liver, she’d said, though the thought made her shudder. She daubed her elbows with the cream, and rubbed in the scent of roses.
“Alice, I’m telling you, if you don’t get your buns out here and start cooking, I’ll have the heart attack. What in heck are you doing in there, anyway? Waxing your legs?”
Allegra capped the lotion and straightened her dress, a floor-length purple T-shirt. She tied her Guatemalan belt and smiled in the mirror at the healthy person smiling back. “Bring ’em on,” she called down to Gammy. “I’m ready to feed the entire town.” Then she let out her yip-yip-yip war cry, something she did on special occasions.
“God, grant me strength,” Gammy said. “And while you’re at it, can you please make her stop that awful racket?”
By nine, the place was packed with people wanting in out of the rain. Mostly the usuals, but a few new faces, like the man at the counter Allegra had been giving the eye. So what if he was fifteen years younger than she? Between that sexy five o’clock shadow, the broad hands, and the way he ate his breakfast, he looked like a man of large appetites. Allegra knew just what dish she’d like to fix him.
Mariah came in, her eyes red and swollen.
“Did you tell Lindsay you lost your job?” Allegra hollered over the din. “Is that why you’ve been crying?”
Mariah made the scowly face Allegra hated. “Mother, please! Do you have to announce my personal business to the entire town?”
“Well, pardon me! All I did was ask. I have to yell to be heard in here. It’s noisy as hell, or didn’t you notice?”
Mariah ramped down to bristling. “Yes, I told Lindsay and she’s fine. Now will you please hand me my order pad so Gammy can take a break?”
“Here you go, princess.” Allegra leaned in close to the cute guy at the counter. “That’s my daughter,” she said. “The branch of our family tree she fell off is as straight as a ruler.”
The man looked up from his tea and scones. “She’s lovely. You’re both so lovely that I had you figured as sisters, actually.”
Allegra boomed out her trademark laugh. “Any compliment you want to throw my way I gladly accept. So, what