Soldier Mine (Chapter Seven: Claudia, page 1 of 4)


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Ugh. I don't know how I managed to let that happen, but I slipped up. Petr caught it, too. I'm beginning to wonder if Eileen is onto something. But I can't fathom what might remotely interest someone like Petr. He knows nothing about me, and I definitely am not trying to encourage him in any way. The woman he met here the first day was more his type than I am.

Not that it matters. I'm kinda glad his coffee was cold. I hope that makes up for me almost admitting I was waiting for him today. I tell myself I didn't any more than I do any other regular.

But I did, and I know it.

The day passes quickly, and Todd shows up around three. To my reluctant delight, he's got a girl with him. I go to his booth, and he looks up. His face is glowing. The girl across from him is a pretty brunette with green eyes and dimples.

"This is my sister," he mumbles. "Claudia, this is Maya."

"Nice to meet you Maya," I say with a smile. "Can I get you guys anything?"

They order sodas and pie.

Young love renders them low maintenance, and I check on them every hour or so until my shift is over at seven. I'm not sure what to think exactly about Todd having a real girlfriend. It's not just the fact that he's growing up but that he's developing a tie to the locals. It's been a no-no for so long, I'm not quite ready to endorse something as innocent and temporary as first love.

We leave the diner and return home. My mind is caught between Todd growing up and Petr's daily visits to the café. I'm feeling overwhelmed by both.

Todd doesn't go anywhere without his phone, and he disappears into his room with the cat to text Maya. I deposit my tips, make him his evening bowl of stew and then sit down at the kitchen table.

Our budget is pretty straightforward. Usually, it takes me five minutes to run the numbers and ensure we have enough for the apartment, utilities, Todd's school lunches, and groceries. I have a miscellaneous fund for clothes and anything else we need around the house.

I stare at the numbers without registering them. Todd has his Christmas present early - the iPhone - and I've got the funds set aside to send my mom a little something, too.

Blinking away thoughts, my gaze slides to the phone beside the notebook where I do my budget. Something's been bothering me all day, and I have a feeling I know what.

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