Willa vows she will never
go on a date again.

All the way back from the mall, she has practiced what she’ll say when the car finally comes to a stop outside the back of the shop. She has her keys in her hand, ready. Willa fumbles for the door handle, hungry for escape, and instead of what she practiced she blurts “Thanks-for-a-lovely-evenin'-JoEllen.”

JoEllen plants a hand on Willa’s thigh and leans in. Lips first. “Aren’t you gonna offer me a donut?” she asks with too much breath in her low voice. Her hand is demanding and her breath smells like garlic.

“Don’t have any donuts yet” Willa says, opening the car door. “Gotta make ’em first.”

“I don’t mean that kinda donut” pouts JoEllen. “And call me Jo, okay?”

“Right, Jo. G’night Jo.” Willa slides her leg away from JoEllen’s slithery hand, gets herself out of the car. She pretends an apology. “Sorry, it’s late. Gotta get t' work.” And thumps the car door shut on whatever else JoEllen is saying.

JoEllen doesn’t wait for Willa to unlock the shop door. Even though it’s pitch-dark and the closest floodlight has gone out and she says she thinks of herself as a gentleman. She burns a little rubber as she veers out of the parking lot and back onto the street. Willa nods approvingly because this means JoEllen won’t be eating donuts for breakfast. “At least not my donuts.”

JoEllen, who works at the little false eyelash factory down the street, had been a newbie at the shop when Willa smiled at her first flirty wink. After all, JoEllen’s cute in a jocky sort of way, and she knows right off how to be fun to talk to. And right off Willa imagined going to a movie with her or maybe to Nick’s Drive-In for a hamburger and fries, and Smart Willa didn’t object.

A day or two after that, while Willa was still only thinking about it, JoEllen asked “Wanna see a movie sometime?” Willa said “Sure”, then scurried off before the patch of heat on her chest had a chance to get above her collar.

“Can’t you take the night off?” JoEllen wanted to know when Willa told her they’d have to go to the early show.

Willa just shrugged and said “Gotta work” and tried to ignore the prickle of resentment because there was no one else to come in at ten or eleven at night and get the donuts made in time to open by five-thirty the next morning. One of those fancy robot donut machines would save a whole lot of time, but who can afford that?

So they went to the early show. JoEllen picked the movie and Willa didn’t like it much that JoEllen never asked which one. After the movie they went to the Chilly’s Restaurant in the mall and JoEllen drank beers. Six of them in thirty minutes. After that, all JoEllen could talk about was softball. And what size bra Willa wears. And dildos.

“You’re just not ready for dildos” consoles Smart Willa once Willa unlocks the door and steps into the shop’s kitchen.

With a sigh Willa flicks on the lights, shuts the door, and ties on an apron. “How do people do it?” she asks the empty kitchen. “How do they find somebody they can just, y’know, be with?”

Smart Willa doesn’t answer.

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