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September 2017 Bedlam City Culver's As Esperanza dug into her Mint Brownie ice cream cone, Anna Cline lined up her pills and took them, one after the other. Maybe biologically she was a good thirty years younger than her age on the calendar - but thirty years off 82 wasn't so young in the grand scheme of things. That was why she'd taken the tomato soup with her ButterBurger, and why she was drinking the unsweetened tea. (She and Espy were splitting an order of cheese curds. She wasn't ready to give up on flavor yet.) When she'd finished with her medicine, Anna smiled at her erstwhile protege. "It ain't much of a congratulatory dinner, but it's what you deserve. I didn't get my GED till I was-" "fifty-six years old and in stir," Esperanza finished with a smirk around green-stained lips. "You've told me that story a thousand times, Anna." It was good to see the kid smiling, Anna reflected, even if it was at her expense. From what she remembered of raising a teenager, a full lifetime ago, that was usually how it went. It was late outside, and out the front window Anna could see cars moving by on the Interstate, heading down the peninsula. The fast food restaurant had the anonymity that came with the tourist crowd of the Labor Day weekend coupled with highway traffic. A dangerous place for their mutual enemy to start trouble. "It's a good story, honey," said Anna with a smirk of her own. "You know," she commented quietly. "I've been thinkin'. I've got some money comin' my way, and if I spend it right, I could get us a place here in town." That news was startling enough that Esperanza stared at her from over her cone, the ice cream in her mouth stopping any immediate response. "If that's still what you want." Smart thinking would have had them get the hell out of this crappy little town and find help for their mutual problem - but that would have meant abandoning Esperanza's family, the city where Anna'd been born, and probably ticked off the lady who lived in the hat Esperanza was keeping in her backpack. While Esperanza was thinking about that, another small group came through the restaurant's doors, Anna's eyes briefly flickering to them.