Rhia stood frozen in the kitchen, staring at Aly and Dan together in front of the stove. Aly noticed Rhia as Dan was moving in closer. She gave Rhia a wicked grin and an evil twinkle flashed in her eyes as she closed the gap between herself and Dan. Cora’s eyes widened when she bumped into Rhia and then saw what was happening. She and Rhia needed to make a quick exit. Cora dashed to the bedroom to grab a change of clothes for herself and Rhia. Rhia was still in the same spot when Cora came back to the kitchen. She grabbed Rhia’s hand and pulled her towards the front door. Dan eased away from Aly and turned with a satisfied smile on his face. It immediately disappeared when he saw Rhia standing by the door. His expression looked pained and guilty briefly before becoming totally expressionless. Aly turned her attention back to the dinner she and Dan had on the stove. Dan took a step toward Rhia, “Rhia…”he began apologetically.
“Don’t,” she whispered.
Rhia then spun on her heel and fled through the open front door past Cora. Cora turned back to see Dan closing the gap between himself and the front door. She shook her head and slammed the door behind her. Cora ran down the stairs towards her car. Rhia was already sitting in the passenger seat staring dead ahead. Cora got in without a word and drove straight to the Bullfighter Buffet.
The Triple T was waiting in the lobby when they arrived. Cora handed Rhia the bag of clothes and told her to go change in the bathroom. Tyler stood up and looked at Cora.
“I thought you girls were going to change at home.”
“We were. When we got back to our apartment, Rhia caught Dan and Aly, um, together in the kitchen. I’m assuming that’s why Dan was ‘busy with work’ and Aly was ‘sick’. We are changing here instead. Rhia is still slightly shocked,” Cora finished empathetically.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be easy on her,” said Tix, “but it looks like you get to handle the rest of our teasing.”
“Fine by me. Why don’t you guys go pay for dinner? Rhia and I will find you in a few minutes.”
“We’ll do that, but don’t take too long. We would like to help cheer Rhia up if we can,” supplied Toroak.
“Thanks guys,” said Cora as she headed towards the bathroom.
“I’ll see what I can do,” offered Tix
“Leave it to my cousin to ruin a perfectly fun evening,” muttered Tyler.
A few minutes later, Rhia and Cora found their table. Cora glanced around, “So, how does this work? Do we order or do we pile heaps of food on plates?”
“You’ve really never been to a buffet before, Cora?”
“Um, no. We don’t have many restaurants where I come from. The population is only 260.”
“Well, come with me and I will show you the wonders of a buffet restaurant,” Tyler said with an extravagant waive of his hand. He and Cora walked off to get plates. Tix and Toroak watched them walk off and then they looked at Rhia.
“Would you like us to get a plate of food for you? And a glass of water?”
Rhia nodded and softly said, “Yes please.”
Tix and Toroak got up to go get their plates and hers. Cora passed them as she came back to the table. She slid into the boot next to Rhia.
“Are you doing okay? Are you going to eat anything?”
“I’m doing okay. Tix and Toroak are grabbing me a plate of grub. What happened to Tyler?”
“He went back into the kitchen to talk to Holder.”
“Oh. I’m sorry about my mood at the moment. I’ll try not to be sullen until we are back at our apartment.”
“Don’t worry about it. I think that the guys understand. Actually, anyone would really. I mean, you have been dating Dan for nearly two years. He basically just betrayed you.”
“I know. I think that is the hardest blow. I feel like I’ve wasted two years of my life dating a person I thought I knew. It looks like I never knew him at all”
“Well, if you want my opinion…”
“Too bad. Aly and Dan seem better suited to each other once you think about it.”
Rhia though a moment. “That’s true. You know, Cora, the more I talk to you about the situation, the worse I feel. Maybe we can talk about it some more later. On another note, how are things looking at my house?”
“Things are going beautifully! Thank you for giving me the job.”
“No problem. Hopefully we will be able to move in soon. I need to get out of our apartment as soon as possible. Where are those boys with my food? I’m starving!”
“Right behind you chatter boxes.”
Rhia turned around, glad her mood had improved slightly, to see the speaker of this new voice. “You must be Holder.”
“Indeed I am. Please call me Skiff. Any friends of Tyler are welcome to.”
“Thank you, Skiff.”
Tix and Toroak slid into the booth on the other side of the girls and Tyler pulled up a chair at the end of the table. “Skiff, these are my friends, Tix, Toroak, Cora and Rhia.”
“It’s nice to meet you all. Please enjoy your dinners and I will be back shortly with a surprise for you.”
“Thanks Skiff," came the united reply.
He waved acknowledgement as he walked back to the kitchen. Tyler looked at Rhia, “You’ll like this surprise best I think.” He winked at Cora.
Puzzled, Rhia asked, “Why’s that?”
“You’ll find out when Skiff comes back.”
“Whatever you say,” Rhia sighed.
They continued with their dinner getting second and third helpings. Despite Rhia’s situation she laughed and giggled at every joke and teasing gesture the guys threw at her. When Skiff came back from the kitchen, many of the group was stuffed from all of the delicious buffet dishes he made.
“Hopefully you are all overly stuffed and satisfied, except for Rhia. Rhia, I have a special treat for you here. I am told that it is a favorite of yours and I hope you enjoy it.”
Rhia blinked. She hadn’t even noticed that Skiff had his hands behind his back. One hand held a small bowl of fresh strawberries and the other held a small container of Nutella. There was only one way that he could have known that strawberries and Nutella were her favorite treat. Rhia looked at Tyler who turned to Cora and winked. Rhia turned to Cora with tears starting to well up in her eyes. “Thank you,” Rhia whispered as she gave Cora a hug. She blinked rapidly and looked over at the guys, “Thank you so much.”