One Hundred Ninety One
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While crab walking back into the restaurant, she left a blood slick.

Seulgi started forward, unsure if she was going to help her mother or pummel her attacker. She got exactly one step before being forcefully halted by iron hands on her shoulders. Bhuwakul stepped in front of her so she could not move forward. Yeji stepped behind her, pressing her back into Seulgi’s, watching the rear.  

The manager sent the cashier off to get wet towels and stepped around the counter to confront the situation that was unfolding.

There was a deep, heavy sigh.

“Sonja, I asked you not to do this. I did everything that I could to keep you two apart. If I had known that my wife was coming into town, I would have done everything that I could to have stopped her. Look at this mess.” A very direct frown that caused the subject to take an involuntary step back. “This is one of the outfits that I like the best on her too.”

“If you like, I will get my tailors to make an exact copy with better materials…” she started.

“Don’t you dare try to cheapen this.” The cold fury in his voice was so blatant that Bhuwakul turned exactly ninety degrees to face between the two antagonists, but making sure that they were all out of the reach of the others. Yeji, having cleared the rear, rolled into the front, shoulder to shoulder with her partner. Fortunately for Seulgi, Yeji was gifted with everything except height, so she could see what was going on.

The manager tried to go around this particular roadblock, but got stopped by as gentle of a backhand in his chest as he was likely to get in this situation. Bhuwakul quickly looked at him and gave a little head shake.

No one near the door noticed the dead silence behind them. Had any of them looked to the rear, they would have seen about fifty sets of very wide eyes staring back. The uninformed would be excused to think that it looked like a university professor was facing off against a yakuza. The truly ignorant might be even further excused by not knowing which was which.

However, everyone could agree that no one wanted to interfere.

The single thought that was out of the norm was Nayeon and Soo-Young sharing a single brain cell, thinking “…and me without my popcorn.”

The cashier came at this time with a couple of wet towels, so she and the manager went to Seulgi’s mother to apply pressure to the nosebleed and mop up what they could. The manager went down on one knee to support the still bleeding lady, tilting her head back to be supported on his upraised thigh. He held one of the cold compresses gently against her nose. He did notice that her nose was considerably more compressed than when she came in.

The cashier started to move forward to try to scrub some of the blood out of the carpet but got stopped when she felt the palpable hostility. All she knew was that she didn’t get paid enough for this and she went back to hide behind the manager. She started cleaning the moaning woman’s hands and trying to wipe where it was still appropriate.

“Alfred, honestly. It was reflex more than anything. She surprised me. You had hidden her so well from me that I did not expect her here. If you had not stopped us thirty-five years ago, we could have solved it then and we would not be having this conversation now.” Sonja’s butterscotch silk voice attempted to reason, deflect, and blame.

Alfred was a bit guilty. “You know she was jealous of you. And you know she was drunk when she said that. Your ‘feud’ is entirely one-sided. She even apologized. TWICE.”

Nayeon perked up at this.

Sonja sighed. “Well, Alfred, I told her that I would punch her in the face once, and only once. I have done so. You don’t have to worry about this ever happening again.” She sent a piercing glare at the sobbing woman on the floor. “That is, unless she ever says something about my dead husband again.”

Before the tension could rise again, she gathered herself together and walked past the husband and wife. She finally saw Seulgi and said, “Oh, Seulgi, dear! Lovely to see you. I hope to see you again someday.” She breezed past with a “That would be nice,” of questionable sincerity tailing behind her from Seulgi.

All of the patrons scattered like quail as Sonja sauntered by. Only the ungracious would notice that there was still blood dripping from her knuckles.  

Alfred could not talk his wife into going to the ER to be checked out. She just wanted to go home and get cleaned up. She wanted to go back home. Her home. All of the stress of what had happened for the last few days had finally broken her. She was sobbing into her husband’s thigh, begging to be taken home.

It was late enough that the trains would not be available. So, they would have to wait until the morning before they could go anywhere other than Seulgi’s place.

They finally got the weakened woman standing and mobile again. She was leaning heavily against her husband as they walked out.

There were sirens of ambulances and emergency vehicles that were getting closer. Everyone started walking faster to avoid that particular entanglement. No one wanted to involve the police in what happened just now.  In their worlds, they took care of these sorts of things themselves. Cops were an unnecessary over-complication.

As they were heading out the door to leave, the manager stopped them. Then he disappeared like a puff of smoke. In less time than it took to wonder what he was up to, he reappeared like a djin from the same puff of smoke.

He handed Bhuwakul a bundle of things and wished them all a pleasant evening. Looking at what was in his hand, it was a couple of large trash bags and some more towels. He immediately figured out that the plastic was to cover the car seats. The towels were to keep the blood from covering anything else. The gesture was of genuine concern and caring. This was just one more reason that he was a good manager.

Bhuwakul saw them to the car. He put the plastic and towels down while Alfred held her up. She was still crying a little from the pain, but it was quiet, gentle sobs. Alfred placed her into the car and fashioned her seatbelt.

Everyone else got in and Seulgi gave Bhuwakul a ‘Well, I might see you tomorrow. Or Monday’ sort of wave. He grinned and exaggeratedly winked back and she got annoyed with him. She had been practicing, but still couldn’t wink. It was unfair.

Seulgi got in the car, turned it on, put it in gear, and as she was backing up, her phone rang.

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