Cat Of A Different Color

Chapter 5

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Becky looked up at him. “She can? What about the person who’s currently living there?”

“I thought she could move in with me. You don’t mind, do you?” Simon grinned down at his mate, and Adrian had to hide a smile. The rest of the people in the room didn’t even bother. A few went so far as to chuckle as Becky grunted in response.

“I like my apartment.”

“It would be easier on Sheri and you’d be doing a very nice thing for a new friend.”

Becky sighed. “That was a low blow, Simon.”

“Plus my feet get cold at night.”

“Oh, well, we can’t have your feet getting cold, can we, Garfield?”

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Simon grinned as the room exploded into laughter.

That little bit of laughter helped ease the tensions in the room. People settled in comfortably to discuss how best to help Sheri while getting to know the newest Pride member. Adrian was never very far from her side, and surprisingly neither was Belinda. The two women seemed to hit it off. He sat back and watched as they laughed together over something, then made plans to go to lunch the following day after Sheri got off work. He felt some of his own tension ease; his mate would be safe with Belinda. He’d hit Max up for the full story tomorrow.

Chapter Three

“Go ahead. Ask.” Sheri tried not to grin as Belinda put her sandwich down and leaned in on both elbows, looking both curious and guilty.

“What’s it like being an albino?” Belinda asked quietly.

She sighed as she put her sandwich down. She wasn’t offended. She’d gotten used to correcting people, but it still bothered her that people asked. “I really hate that word.”

“Why?”

She’d been waiting for someone to ask her that question since yesterday at the Pride meeting, but Belinda was the first one to work up the courage. The two women were sitting in Kelly’s Diner eating hamburgers and fries and totally blowing their diets. It was one of the nicest afternoons she’d had in a long time. It was nice to have a friend again. She hoped they weren’t about to ruin that.

“I’m a person with albinism. Saying I’m an albino is like saying I have a communicable disease, like calling someone a leper. It’s a condition I live with, not who I am.”

“But it’s no worse than calling me a blonde or blondie.”

“I doubt that.” She laughed. “Think about the stereotype of the ‘albino’. We’re always the evil one who’s out to do some nasty stuff to some poor innocent who doesn’t know that the albino is evil. And nobody stares at you just because you’re blonde.”

There was a moment of silence. “Okay,” Belinda finally drawled. “Tell me a blonde joke.”

Sheri paused with the burger halfway to her mouth, her head tilted as she tried to catch the other woman’s expression.

“How about this one? A redhead walks into the doctor’s office and says, ‘Doc, it hurts wherever I touch myself.’ The doc has her touch everywhere on her body, and sure enough, she screams every time she does. The doc asks if she’s a natural blonde; stop me if you know the punch line?”

She blushed; she had heard this one before, and had laughed as loudly as her friends had.

“The doc says, ‘I thought so; your finger is broken.’”

Sheri could hear Belinda take a sip of her soda. “A blonde was playing Trivial Pursuit one night with some friends. When it was her turn, she rolled the dice and landed on Science and Nature. Her question was, ‘If you’re in a vacuum and someone calls your name, can you hear it?’ The blonde thought for a moment and asked, ‘Is it on or off?’”

Sheri bit her lip to keep from laughing, but she had the feeling the other woman saw it.

“Or my personal favorite, what do you call three blondes in a Volkswagen? Farfromthinken.”

Sheri lost the battle against laughing, and was relieved when Belinda chuckled too.

“I have a Bachelor’s degree in Management with a minor in Finance, but because I look like a Kewpie doll people who have known me all my life treat me like I’m an idiot.”

Sheri could just make out the other woman’s shrug. “Sometimes that’s what life does to you, and sometimes it’s what you do to yourself. So I know some blonde jokes, and I laugh at blonde jokes, and I try to make the best of things by not letting other people’s opinions matter to me. It doesn’t always work, but I try.”

“Wow. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t let the label bother you. If you do, you just wind up expending energy on something that doesn’t really matter in the long run. If I got mad at every blonde joke I heard I’d be mad an awful lot of the time.” Belinda leaned in close so Sheri could see her grin and whispered, “Or I’d be a redhead, worshiping at the shrine of Ms. Clairol.”

They were quiet as each of them ate a little. “Do you own your own business?”

“No,” Belinda answered with a sigh. “I worked at Noah’s as the hostess, and I planned on applying for the manager’s position…but that didn’t pan out. I’m pretty sure I can afford to open my own place, but I wanted to be able to put down experience in a management position on my loan papers. I don’t think I can qualify without it.”

Sheri could hear the pain in the other woman’s voice. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. The market sucks right now for opening the kind of business I want to run anyway.”

“What kind of business would that be?”

“Livia and I…we used to joke that we’d open up our own place. I wanted to open a bar and grill, and call it Blondie’s or something; she wanted a day spa.” Belinda shrugged. “It was one of the reasons I loved working at Noah’s. I love the restaurant business.”

“What happened with your job there?”

“I got fired.”

“Why?”

“Because people thought I was in league with Livia. She attacked Becky, injuring her pretty badly, during this year’s masquerade. Livia used the threat to Becky to try and get Emma to give her the Curana’s ring.”

“What?” Sheri couldn’t believe her ears. “Someone tried to use Becky to get to Emma?”

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