“Hi there,” Ruby said with a dazzling smile. “Welcome to Stubb’s Coffee. What can I whip up for you today?”

“Hmph. Elizabeth Kilgore, is it?” McNabb said. “Didn’t I see you working at the QuickStop the other day?”

“Why yes.” Ruby’s smile lost a bit of its dazzle but none of its razzle. “I have several part-time jobs, Mr. McNabb, and thank you very much for asking. You’ll find that it takes all that–and more!–to support oneself, one’s family, and one’s student loans in Higbee. When one isn’t making vice-principal money, that is.”

“It’s Major McNabb; you ought to remember that from school if you remember anything at all.” McNabb slapped down five dollars. “Just a plain mud, and make it snappy.”

“Of course, sir, right away.” Ruby quickly made the change and called out the order–to no one, as it happened, since she was working the shift alone, but that was what the employee handbook demanded. “Though you’ll find that you’re not entitled to use that rank now that you’re just a civilian, I think. This isn’t a Regency romance, after all.”

“Hmph, that’s about what I’d expect from one of Kilgore‚Äôs bastards,” McNabb said. “No respect.”

The espresso machine whirred and complained as it was forced to spit out something so mundane as ‘plain mud.’ “It’s funny that someone complaining about a lack of respect would call someone ‘Kilgore’s bastard’ isn’t it?” she said.

“Match the enemy in their choice of weapons,” McNabb said. “You were disrespectful first.”

“Is that what you say to the teachers when you pressure them not to take their full leave?” Ruby said, sweetly. “Or when you make your pregnant teachers think they might be fired if they don’t come back when there’s still leave on the clock?”

McNabb stared daggers at her as the coffee apparatus continued to steam and moan.

“You see, Mr. McNabb, I make it my business to know what’s going on around town,” Ruby said. “If there’s information, it’s almost always interesting, hmm? And people gassing up or getting coffee do love to talk.”

“And what do they say about your wetback mother, huh?” McNabb said with a smirk. “About how close she’s come to getting hauled away by ICE all those times, for being a welfare queen and a stain on the good name of the Kilgores?”

The coffee finished, Ruby handed the steaming cup to McNabb with a sippy lid and a straw. “I wouldn’t know, Mr. McNabb,” she said, sweet and icy as a popsicle. “No one ever seems to bring it up. Except you, of course.”

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