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She's Short, But It's Cute

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Aunt Antiope!”

Sitting at a wobbly Starbucks table near the back by the bathrooms, Antiope nearly jumps out of her skin. Like an owl jolted awake, she blinks several times at her niece. “Yes?”

“Stop staring at the hot barista and make her stop,” Diana pleads. She gestures to Hippolyta, also sitting with them at the tiny table.

“You have toothpaste?” Hippolyta asks. “Let us know if you need anything. Anything.”

“Mother,” Diana says. She tries to sound confident and comforting. Pacifying, even. It comes off as incandescently annoyed. “I’ll be fine.”

Hippolyta chews at her lower lip.  She drums her elegant fingers on the lid of her empty coffee cup. Around them, the Starbucks is quiet. Outside, night has fallen and it’s quite dark. Parents and exasperated teenagers wander about the street. She stops tapping her coffee cup and takes Diana’s hands in hers. “Please stay away from boys. And girls. And alcohol. And parties. And-”

“And life?” Antiope suggests distantly. She’s gone back to staring at the barista. Antiope thinks she must be an athlete. She has the build for it, tall, muscular, beautiful. She’s handling customers with a breathtaking grace. Even the obviously drunk frat boy who keeps insisting she write her number on his cup instead of his name.

“Diana,” Hippolyta says. “I love you. I love you so much. And I’m so excited for you to go to college. But we’ll miss you. And I worry.”

“I know, mother,” Diana replies. “I love you too.” She pauses and glances at her aunt. “Antiope, stop ogling the barista,” she hisses. “She smiled at you when she gave you that coffee because that’s her job.”

Antiope shoves her chair back and stands.

[] [] []

“That’s very nice,” Menalippe insists. “But, as you can see, I have already written your name on this cup. That you have paid for. Take it. Please.”

Smelling thickly of booze, the customer (who is always right, Menalippe reminds herself) leans towards her over the counter. She leans away. “But would it be so hard to write your number too?” he slurs.

How old is he? He looks like a student. Is he old enough to legally consume alcohol?

Menalippe turns the cup so that his name faces him. “Yes,” she says. She forces herself to smile. She would rather be almost anywhere else, but being adjunct faculty doesn’t pay. Sometimes literally.

“Ah, look, you’re smiling,” he says. “So you want to give me your number.”

Menalippe keeps smiling. Her mouth hurts. “I don’t think so,” she says.

“You don’t think, but you want to,” the drunk pushes.

“Excuse me ma’am, is this man giving you trouble?”

Oh no. It’s another customer about to hit on her.

Still smiling painfully, Menalippe turns to the-

Oh no. The customer about to hit on her is a really hot slightly older woman. Wearing a tailored blue button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, it’s clear she works out. She’s got her long blond hair in a tight braid and has clear blue eyes. She’s short, but it’s cute.

Menalippe blinks.

No. Wait. She remembers this customer. She came in with her wife and daughter – yet another couple dropping off their eighteen year old for school. So she’s not about to hit on Menalippe.

Well shit, that’s too bad.

“Sir, you’re holding up the line,” the really hot slightly older woman who is married says. Her tone is firm.

The drunk customer turns to her. “What line?” he says. “There’s no one here.”

“Me,” the really hot woman replies. Her voice suggests a growl. She crosses her arms over her chest. Across the counter, Menalippe is intimidated. In a good way. “I’m the line. Take your coffee and go.”

The drunk customer sighs loudly. He makes a great production of running a hand through his short hair. “I’ll just come back later,” he mumbles. He takes his coffee and shuffles towards the door.

“Thank you,” Menalippe says once the customer has departed. “I could have handled that though,” she adds, firmly. It is a matter of good policy to always remind overly helpful customers that their assistance was not required. It stops them from getting ideas.

Not that Menalippe particularly expects a married lesbian with a college-age daughter to get ideas in front of her family.

“Of course,” the really hot slightly older woman says. “But you shouldn’t have to.”

Menalippe sighs. The really hot woman is not wrong. “I don’t know where my manager went,” Menalippe says.

That’s a lie. She knows exactly where her manager is. Her manager is outside. Giving himself lung cancer. As always.

The really hot woman smiles at Menalippe. It’s not a big smile, more a suggestion of a smile. It’s the slightest curl of the lips and it makes Menalippe’s knees weak. “I’m Antiope,” the really hot woman says. She slips a business card across the counter to Menalippe. “If you ever need help with rowdy customers, or anything else, let me know.”

Bewildered, Menalippe watches Antiope walk back to her wife and daughter. Not wife? Not daughter?

Menalippe sighs and shakes her head. It’ll be time to lock up soon, and then she can go home and go to sleep. She tucks the business card Antiope gave her in the back pocket of her jeans.

[] [] []

When Antiope sits back down at the table with her family, she’s grinning ear to ear.

Diana rolls her eyes. “You should have just let her manager handle it,” Diana says. “Or her. She was probably fine without you.”

Antiope tilts her head towards the window. The guy who took their orders at the register is smoking and staring up at the stars. “You mean him?” she asks. “Also, she was fine with me too.”

“There’s an app now,” Diana says. “It’s called Tinder. It lets you find people who also want to hook up instead of bothering Starbucks baristas.”

Hippolyta looks scandalized.

Antiope looks sheepish.

Diana clears her throat. “You were dropping me off for college,” she says, trying to direct the conversation back onto less treacherous ground.

Hippolyta drags a hand through her perfectly arranged mane of blond hair. She sighs, clearly torn between demanding to know how it is that her daughter knows anything about ‘hooking up’ and taking the bait. She takes the bait. “You could still go to Yale,” Hippolyta says. “Or Harvard. There’s a library named after our family at Harvard.” Her voice is downright plaintive.

Antiope shoots Diana a thankful look. Then, she rolls her eyes. “Harvard has seventy-three libraries and they’re all named after someone. They only build those things to give donors things to name. Same for bathrooms.”

Diana gives her aunt a quizzical look. “I don’t think that’s the reason people build bathrooms.”

Antiope replies with a smirk. “I’m working on getting a water closet named after me right now.”

Hippolyta sighs. “Diana, you don’t have to…”

“Go to a small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere?” Diana finishes.

Slightly annoyed at being cut off, Hippolyta replies, “Yes, that.”

“Mother, this was my decision,” Diana says. “I don’t want to go to Harvard or to Yale. I want to learn.”

Hippolyta replies, “Antiope and I both went to Harvard and-”

Here, Antiope chuckles. “I learned how to-”

“Do not finish that sentence,” Hippolyta says, frost in her voice.

Antiope grins. “I think that the things I learned in college have served myself and others very well throughout my life,” she says. “And I had a deep seated need to live up to my older sister’s reputation.

Hippolyta’s face goes bright red. She says nothing.

Diana looks her mother in the eyes. “Do you want me to turn out like Antiope?”

Hippolyta clears her throat. It sounds painful. “You know that I support you,” she says tightly. “And I am very happy that you are growing into a mature adult. And I love you.”

“That’s a ‘no,’” Antiope interjects.

“I love you too, mother,” Diana says.

Antiope pouts.

“And you,” Diana adds.

[] [] []

Menalippe gets home well after eleven. She drops her bag in her room and then goes to sit at the dining room table of her small apartment. Her roommate is taking a shower in their one shared bathroom.

She scoots her chair back slightly so that she can set her chin on the table. She is very tired and, despite having to lock up tonight, she’s opening next morning.

She hates clopens. Everyone hates clopens.

Idly, she pulls out the business card the woman at work gave her. It’s made out of very heavy cardstock and it has survived quite well in her pocket.

Antiope Termados, Esq.

Menalippe frowns. The name sounds familiar but she can’t place it. The card doesn’t say what this Antiope Termados does exactly; it only has her name, a phone number, and an email on it. It is a very strange card.

Down the hall, the bathroom door bangs open. Alexa emerges, wrapped in a blue towel. She waves at Menalippe. “All yours,” she calls.

Menalippe gets up and heads towards the welcome promise of a hot shower.

She leaves the business card on the table.