Tag Archives: local dining

Local Paragons XIII: West End Cafe

West End Café is a beautiful staple in the Winston Salem downtown community, located in the West End of downtown at 926 West 4th Street. The food is simply delightful—I personally recommend their salads. They have a wide variety. But, you really can’t go wrong with a sandwich ( a GREAT Rueben). It may be small, but I think that may be what is so great about it. There is nothing quite like a quiet meal with friends at West End—food, ambiance, and fun.

Food                                                   Local Color

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The sunshine reflected off the water in the koi pond in front of the West End Café. Light reflecting, dancing, almost in celebration—a well deserved celebration, Lucy thought as she stared at it thoughtfully. Her eyes shifted to her own reflection in the windows, just beneath the yellow bold faced lettering. There was sadness reflected there, but hope as well.

She knew she shouldn’t be sad.

Lucy reached up to touch the scarf that covered her head.

The surgery was successful. The tumor, benign.

And yet…

Which is why she was here, meeting Rebekah. She hadn’t seen the woman since that day at Krankies. Before her life had turned upside down—or rather inside out, as it now felt.

She reached up and touched the scarf again. Then sighed.

At least she was out of the hospital.

She turned to see Rebekah coming up the steps. Her floor length lacy white dress made her look almost bridal, though the sun hat added a distinctly southern touch. Lucy smiled, sadly.

She touched her scarf again.

“Lucy, you look darling,” Rebekah said, reaching down to pull her up by both her hands. “I can’t believe how well you’ve recovered. You’d never even guess!”

“Well, I think there are a few signs.”

“Oh tish-tosh,” Rebekah laughed. “I’m so glad you called. I have been praying for you, and now I know why you’ve been on my heart so much. I can’t even imagine going through all that—and yet here you are!” She pointed to Lucy with flourish, her hat now askew. Lucy colored, and looked away.

Rebekah smiled. “Come,” she said. “Let’s eat.”

Together they walked into the restaurant. The friendly staff seated them in the back where they, to Lucy’s relief, could eat and chat with some privacy.

Not that they needed privacy, but Lucy felt self-conscious in public. Always now.  Maybe forever.

And now she didn’t know what to say.

Not that she didn’t know what she wanted to say. She just didn’t know how to begin now that she had the opportunity.

They ordered their meal. Rebekah got the Veggie Burger Delight while Lucy stuck with the classic Shrimp Po-Boy, one of her favorites from the West End.

“You look great, but how are you, really?” Rebekah asked when the waiter had filled their waters and disappeared. “It can’t be easy, dealing with news—earth shatter good and bad all at once.”

“I don’t know,” Lucy sighed. “Everyone keeps asking me that and  I don’t know how I am. I’m happy I’m not dying,  I guess. Sad it happened at all, but most of all I think I’m angry.”

“Angry?” Rebekah lifted a brow. “Why?”

Lucy shrugged.

“May I?”

Lucy nodded. It was, after all, why she called this virtual stranger and not Katie or Susie.

“The whole human race has an anger problem and we all get angry for different reasons—but in your case I think you may be angry for one of two reasons: One, because your control was threatened or two because it happened to you and you don’t feel like you deserved it.”

Lucy visibly started. “Did I deserve it?”

“I didn’t say that.” Lucy opened her mouth, but Rebekah continued. “I said you were angry because you believe you didn’t deserve it. That’s a different statement altogether, but I think we’ve hit on why you’re angry. That seems to have hit a nerve.”

“Well, wouldn’t you be angry if someone just told you that—“

“Remember, I didn’t say you deserved it,” Rebekah smiled. “But we live in a broken world, and because of that brokenness, death and sickness is inevitable. It’s not that you deserve sickness, Lucy, exactly, but more like we all deserve death and ultimately destruction because of our separation from truth and life. It’s what happened to the world in the very beginning when we gave up ignorance and paradise for death and ‘the knowledge of good and evil’. We got knowledge, sure, but we also got evil. Death. Sickness. So, no it’s not that you deserve it, but the world does and we have to accept that we’re a part of that sickness—even the good people of the world.”

“That’s depressing,” Lucy picked at the napkin on her table. “And doesn’t help my anger issues.”

“Well, that’s just one part. The hope part comes with the healing or the medicine. What God did for us even though we screwed everything up, he made a way for us to be healed, to have life again. He sent Christ to us. He sent Jesus to die for us and take away the sickness and the death and the evil that overwhelmed the world. That’s not a healing we deserve, but it’s a healing we were granted. It’s a healing we’re offered—and it’s the only healing that’s permeant. These bodies that we’re in—they’re decaying. In one way or another they’re dying, but they’re not hopeless.”

“But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever get sick again.”

“No,” Rebekah shook her head sadly.

“Then what’s the point?” Lucy tossed the silverware she’d been fidgeting with on the table.

“Hope,” Rebekah reached over and covered Lucy’s hand with her own. Lucy felt tears prick at her eyes as the warmth transferred from one hand to another. “Do you mind if I pray for you?”

Lucy nodded her head; she didn’t trust her voice.

“Father, you know Lucy’s heart right now. You know how scared she is, and how brave she is. Please show her that she’s not alone. That You love her, that You are there for her and that no matter what happens in the future that You will always offer hope. Open her heart to You. Amen.”

“Thank you,” Lucy murmured. It was all she could manage through the muddle of her emotions. She didn’t know if she believed everything Rebekah told her—but she was willing to listen to more. She would even talk to Saul about it—and that was a step in the right direction.

And for now, that was enough. *

*This is where Lucy’s story ends, for now. If you have suggestions or comments about Lucy I’d love to hear them! Look for a new Installment of Local Paragons: Camden! Coming soon!

Ashley Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow a Christian Romance which can be purchased at www.secondwind.com or Amazon. Follow Ashley on twitter @amcarmichael13 and Facebook.

Local Paragons XII: Nothing Bundt Cakes

Nothing Bundt Cake is a small locally-run company located off Jonestown Road in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Offering a wide variety of different types, sizes, and flavors of specialty Bundt cakes, you won’t be sorry if you visit this delicatessen. My personal favorite is the strawberries and cream (limited time only! Gone by the end of June), but you really can’t go wrong with any of the other flavors (white chocolate raspberry? Yum!) either.

Food:                                                  Local Color:

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“I brought you something.”

Lucy looked up from her book and smiled at Chris who held up the familiar brown bag for her to see and appreciate.

“You should have!” Lucy declared, smiling even as she reached for the bag. “But I’m glad you did. Thanks.”

“So you find out your results yet?”

Lucy looked down at the Bundlet, perfectly baked and packaged. Nothing Bundt Cake had been one of her favorite dessert places since it opened a few years ago. Today, when her stomach was tied up in knots and her head swimming with an unknown future, it was not the perfect pick-me-up exactly, but it was an incredibly sweet gesture.

“Yeah.” Lucy watched her fork sink into the soft sides of the miniature Bundt cake. The perfectly moist inside sunk in as she pushed and then pulled away her first bite. “Mmm strawberries and cream.”

“A summer special,” Chris grinned, pleased with himself. “Katie said she is on her way, or she’d be here later, something like that.”

“On her way,” Lucy murmured around the bite. She took a sip of water and let a satisfied smile settled on her lips where one tiny pink crumb clung. Chris reached out and wiped it away with his thumb. Lucy’s bottom lip dropped open slightly.

“Lucy, I—“

“Luce!” Katie’s enthusiastic tenor interrupted the moment and he stepped back, almost blending into the corners of the room, whatever he’d been about to say forgotten—by Lucy at least.  “How are you feeling?”

“Ridiculous,” she cleared her throat and avoided eye contact, preferring instead to poke at the cake with her fork. “I don’t feel sick, so I don’t know why I’m still here.”

“You had two seizures,” Katie said. “So you need to rest up, and listen to the doctors, and mister hops a lot here.” She deposited the ridiculous kangaroo she was holding on the bedside table, the card he held going crooked as she did so.

“’Get hopping well soon.’ Where did you get that ridiculous thing?” Lucy asked as she read the card aloud.

“He was made just for you, Luce, so don’t mock him.”

Lucy shook her head.

“Bundlet! Excellent! Taste?” Katie asked, sitting on the end of the bed and grabbing a fork from the tray.

“Of course,” Lucy pushed the cake toward her friend. “Dig in.”

“Where’s Susie?” Katie asked between bites.

“Probably wrestling the kids into submission—she said she wanted to be here—“

“And she will!” Susie floated into the room, though her hair was somewhat disheveled and remnants of what Lucy guessed to be oatmeal were stuck to her t-shirt, she still looked as if she had energy to spare. Lucy wondered hwo she did it.

“When will the doctor be in?” Susie asked.

“Soon,” Lucy sighed. “But not soon enough.”

“Isn’t that the truth?” Katie said, shaking her head.

“Saul!” Lucy looked past her friend’s sympathetic shakes to the man who had just entered. Her face relaxed—Saul had been there for her over in ways she didn’t even know she needed someone. “I thought you had to work.”

“I’m on break,” he assured her, his dimpled grin warming her insides as he squeezed her hand. “The doctor was right behind me.”

Lucy nodded, but found that her mouth had gone dry.

A few moments, which felt like an eternity  even with her friends and family trying to distract her, finally passed and the doctor strode confidently into the room. Lucy couldn’t read his stoic express, but swallowed hard as she reminded herself to breathe deeply—in through the mouth and out through the nose.

“Ms. St. James,” he started as he placed the clipboard on the end of the bed. “I’ll be direct with you. We’ve found on the MRI what we believe to be a tumor.”

Lucy sucked in a breath, feeling as though all the air had been sucked out of the room. She wasn’t sure if the humming noise was a contrivance of her imagination or was an actual noise, but it made her head spin all the same.

“I believe it is what has caused the seizures,” the doctor continued. “And, of course, the other symptoms we discussed. However, just looking at the scan we cannot definitively determine if the tumor is malignant or benign. Because of its size, we believe a biopsy would be our next best course of action. If it is benign the location would allow complete removal and your life would essentially return to normal. If malignant, well, my suggestion is for you to take it one step at a time before you let it control your life—you start getting control of it.”

Lucy could feel herself nodding, but had no words. Her mouth was dry. Her head was spinning. Susie was firing off questions at the man left and right, but all Lucy could do was poke a hole in the top of her cake with the fork and wonder if the salt from her tears would make it more bitter or moist—and if that even mattered at all anymore.

Local Paragons Part III: Ardmore Coffee

Ardmore Coffee is located at 1316 S. Hawthorne Rd. in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Nestled in the Ardmore neighborhood, it is a local treasure of the community. Small, but homey they offer wifi for their customers and a communal atmosphere for locals to meet or work. There are a few small tables that line the narrow strip by the bar and a small couch/sitting area in the back of the coffee shop more suitable for meeting. There is outside seating for the more pleasant spring/fall/summer months. The best part is the affordable GREAT coffee (not chain quality, but real espresso).

Food/Beverage: <3 <3 <3 <3                    Local Color: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3


The chair scraped against the hard, gray floor of Ardmore Coffee. Lucy looked up from her laptop and pulled her earbuds out—faded sounds of Josh Vietti’s violin cover of “Best of Both Worlds” still emanating but not drowning out the world around her.

“Hey Chris,” Lucy smiled as Katie’s twin brother plopped down in front of her. She’d known Chris as long as she’d known Katie—he might as well be her own brother.

“So, did you call him?” Chris grabbed her latte and took a sip. Lucy frowned. She would kill Katie for this later.

“No,” she pulled the sea salt and caramel latte back to her side of the table. “And get your own coffee.”

“I will,” he smacked his lips together and made a face. “That’s sweet. Really sweet.”

“It’s a latte,” she rolled her eyes. “It’s bound to be sweet. And it’s to die for.”

“Is it better than the Crème Brule you told me about last week?”

“Less sweet.”

“Hmmm.” Chris stood again and backed toward the door. “Maybe I’ll get something classic like the Americano.”


“You just can’t handle this kind of awesome,” she said, finally turning the music off on her phone. She watched as he grabbed a mug from the shelves on the wall. She loved that about Ardmore—the mugs by the door added a homey touch to the place making it less corporate than the chain coffee places. Being about to pick your own mug made her feel a personal connection to the beverage—and the people and place. The coffee shop was nestled into her own neighborhood and she could easily walk there—so she did, often. Chris worked at Forsyth hospital just up the road and popped by the coffee shop between shifts, finding her hard at work more often than not. Ever since Katie had moved to Raleigh, Lucy had felt lonely but Chris had filled that void and she was grateful—most of the time.

“Okay, so why didn’t you call him?” Chris asked sitting back down in the chair he’d left pulled out while at the counter.

“It’s too weird,” Lucy shook her head and traced to top of her mug with her index finger. “I don’t even know what I’d say.”

“How about… Hi?”

“Oh come on, you know what I mean,” Lucy insisted.

Chris studied her a minute. “You want to call him.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she shrugged and put her phone on the table, disconnecting her earbuds and winding them up to put in her shoulder bag. Chris reached out and took her phone. Privacy did not exist between close friends.

“Then why do you have his number stored in your phone?” he turned the device around to her, the florescent screen highlighting the contours of her face.

“Chris!” she screeched, reaching for the phone. But he was too fast. He snatched it away and kept scrolling, and she was too self-conscious to make any kind of public scene.

“Stored in your phone already, my my my.” He shook his head for dramatic effect.

“What’s stored in her phone?” Neither had noticed TJ come in, but he pulled another chair up to the tiny table, half blocking the walkway as he sat in it backward staring over his younger brother’s shoulder. “Who’s Saul?”

“Oh dear heaven?” Lucy buried her now blazing face in her hands. This was not how she pictured her morning going.

“The guy who hit on Lucy and asked her to call him twice now,” Chris said.2015/01/img_1970.jpg

“Why doesn’t he call her?” TJ asked.

“Black coffee?” the barista sat the mug on the bar just above TJ’s head. He reached up for it.

“Thanks doll,” he winked at her and, as most women did, she giggled at his flirtatious and irresistible smile. Lucy knew it was the dimple—she’d fallen prey to that eat your heart out smile herself more than once.

“She didn’t give him her number,” Chris waved the phone around bringing TJ’s attention back to the matter at hand. “But she wants to.”

TJ’s aristocratic brow rose as he took a sip of the steaming hot coffee—years ago he’d joked that drinking coffee since he was twelve had deadened the pain nerves in his mouth. Since he didn’t even flinch and Lucy could still see the stem rising out of the cup, she was inclined to agree.

“So, call him now,” TJ took the phone from Chris and handed it back to Lucy. She looked up from her laptop.

“I can’t do that,” she put the phone down on the table.

“Sure you can. ‘Open the gates and seize the day,’” TJ said.

“You can’t Newsies reference me into thinking this is a good idea,” Lucy said.

“Well how about,” TJ picked up the phone again and pressed a button. “If I just hit send. It’s ringing!”

“What?” Lucy, mortified looked at the now black screen which had only one option: End. She sat frozen staring at the screen listening to the distant ring.

TJ waved her on, motioning for her to put the phone up to her ear.

All sense had left Lucy as she listened to the end of the ringback tone growing louder and mixing with her heartbeat in her ear.

“Voicemail,” she whispered. “What do I do?”

“Leave a message,” TJ laughed and took a sip of coffee. He looked over at Chris, who frowned. TJ shrugged.

“Um, Saul,” Lucy started her message, her voice shaking. “It’s uh, Lucy from well, from dinner and the coffee house. Well, anyway, I don’t know what—I just—if you want to call. I mean you can—I’d like it if you did. Okay, um, bye.”

Lucy hung up and dropped the phone on the table. It clattered, shatter the tense silence between them.

“Lucy?” TJ couldn’t hide the laughter.

“Shut up.” Lucy could feel the heat radiating from her face—she wondered if melting into the seat was possible and how she could activate that power if it were.

“Lucy, it wasn’t so bad,” Chris said, the laughter in his own voice ill disguised as well, but at least his face looked a little more sympathetic.

“You shut up too,” she pushed her hair out of her face. She could feel the heat on her hand, her face was so hot. “I can’t believe you just did that to me.”

“Sure you can,” TJ laughed. “We’ve done far worse to you over the years.”

“I can’t think of a single thing worse than this,” Lucy moaned. “I’d even relive the frogs and spiders in the tent at camp in third grade! I feel so humiliated.” She shut the top of her laptop.

“Don’t be mad, Luce,” TJ reached over and covered her hand with his own.

Lucy looked down at her hand and felt her heart speed up. She opened her mouth to speak, but TJ beat her to it.

“We were just trying to help. You’re like a sister to us, like Katie,” he said. Lucy’s stomach dropped to her feet and she pulled herself free from his grasp. She shook her head.

“Tell Kaylee what you did,” she said, speaking of TJ’s latest girlfriend. “Better yet, tell Katie, then tell me if you still think it was the right thing to do.” Lucy slung her laptop bag over her shoulder and marched toward the door.

“Lucy,” Chris called after her. She paused, but didn’t turn around. “Don’t stay mad too long. You never know; this might be a good thing.”

Lucy sighed and turned. “I’m not mad,” she said, avoiding TJ’s gaze. “I just have to go. I have a meeting in twenty.”

She left the homey little coffee shop, feeling its eyes on her all the way home.


Local Paragons Part I: Hutch and Harris

Hutch and Harris is a restaurant located at 424 West Fourth Street in Winston Salem, North Carolina. The menu and restaurant are excellent and the pictures provided were taken from an actual recent dining experience. The story itself is fictional (I like to take some experiences at these local paragons and weave them into this new fabricated story about Lucy).

Food: <3 <3 <3 <3                                                          Local color: <3 <3 <3 <3


Downtown Winston Salem still slept, recovering from ushering in the New Year. Lucy St. James climbed out of her twelve year old silver Ford Focus, the echo of the door reverberating down Fourth Street. Glancing down at her watch, the daisies ticked toward seven—she was a few minutes early.

“You’re supposed to kiss him!” the photographer’s flash illuminated the night air. She steadied it on her shoulder as she called out to the couple in the middle of the crosswalk. Lucy laughed, and the photographer exchanged glances with her. “I guess they didn’t get the memo.”

“Guess not. Cute shot though,” Lucy said. The couple hurried to the other side of the street as the light turned and traffic started moving again.

“Yes, as long as they don’t get hit,” the photographer laughed and waved as Lucy crossed the street. The couple was coming back to the middle of the other crosswalk when Lucy passed them. The girl’s foot popped up behind her as she kissed her fiancé, diamond ring sparkling in the white twinkle lights still strung over Hutch and Harris’ awning.

The patio, deserted in January, spread open and welcome as Lucy sidestepped the metal anchors and entered the downtown restaurant.

“Welcome to Hutch and Harris.” The host stood behind the podium, showing his straightened teeth.

“Good evening,” Lucy smiled and tossed one of her black braids over her shoulder. “I have a reservation for seven—under St. James.”

“Ah, yes. We have you all set up, Ms. St. James, right this way.”

“Thank you.” Lucy followed the host back to the booth on the left side of the restaurant. Normally Hutch and Harris was a buzz of activity—but it was still early.

“The specials for this evening,” he handed her a printed page. “Your server will be right with you.”

Lucy smiled, glancing down at the dancing daisies again. Katie, Phoebe and Tia would be here soon. Her favorite part of the holidays was getting together with her friends—they didn’t get to see each other often enough now that they lived in different cities and—

“Lucy!” Tia tumbled into the other side of the booth. “I can’t believe how great you look. What a great restaurant, great choice.”

“Hey, Tia,” Lucy barely got the greeting out before Katie’s infectious laugh filled the restaurant. Lucy could feel the smile spreading from one side of her face to the other. “Well, that makes three of four. Where’s Phoebe?”


She’s not going to make it,” Katie tossed her phone on the table and shrugged out of her coat. “Stephen isn’t feeling well. She said to make sure to order the crabcake sandwich in honor of her.”

“Oh crabcakes,” Tia grabbed the menu and began reading out loud. “That sounds divine. With mac and cheese. Y-to the um.”

“I’ll pass,” Lucy took the menu from Tia and perused it herself. She didn’t particularly care for seafood. “But El Kentucky looks pretty good—fried chicken, pico de gallo—can’t really go wrong with that.”

“And I bet they come with pickles.”

“I love pickles.”

Katie laughed. “I know.”

“Good evening, ladies. My name is Saul and I’ll be your cruise director this evening—to start off our slate of activities can I get you some wine? It’s Thirsty Thursday—1/2 price on our bottles.”

“Oh that sounds great—“ Katie grabbed the wine menu. “What about the Gugenheim?”

“Great choice.” He winked, then said, “Waters all around.”

The girls nodded and he bounded off.

“He’s pretty nice looking,” Katie said. She lifted an aristocratic brow and elbowed Lucy.

“Katie!” Lucy rolled her eyes. Tapping her fingers on the table, she couldn’t help but compare her left hand to that of her friends—a noticeably bare hand. “I’m not looking for a date here.”

“I’m just saying,” she shrugged her shoulders. “How’s work?”

“Nice segue,” Tia laughed, taking the wine now proffered to her.

“Work’s—work,” Lucy shrugged. “And this wine is phenomenal.”

“Has a nice peppery taste,” Katie smacked her lips together before sitting her wine glass back on the table. Tia swirled her wine around in the glass.

“Have we decided what we want ladies?” Saul asked. He came to the table—no pad, but with a professional smile that told the ladies he knew what he was doing.


Tia ordered the crabcake, mac and cheese combo, Lucy had El Kentucky with sweet potato fries while Katie went with the special—a duck with a spicy glaze and wasabi sauce.

“Your mouth is going to be on fire,” Lucy shook her head as Saul walked away.

“I like it hot, what can I say,” Katie shrugged.

“Oh, what would Jaime say to that?” Tia arched a brow.

“I imagine he knows all about it,” Lucy commented.

“Luce!” Katie looked at her appalled.

“What? My filter starts shutting down after four,” Lucy laughed. “Besides, I’m turning thirty this year. I have some kind of right to unfliter now, right?”

“We’re all turning thirty,” Tia commented. “We should do something.”

“Nothing we can do,” Katie shrugged.


“What, I’m not interested in a murder murder suicide thing, so we have to kind of accept it.”

“I meant,” Tia threw her napkin across the table at Katie. “That we should celebrate. Take a trip. Be somewhere tropical with little umbrellas in our drinks or something.”

Lucy sat up straighter, her almond eyes widening a little. “I’m down.”

“What do you think, Katie?” Tia asked. “Could you get away from Jaime and—“

“Baby Boo?” Katie’s laugh rang through the restaurant. “Yeah, I can probably swing it. Jamie can watch Billy.”

“Awesome, we should totally start planning this.”

The food arrived, displayed on white ceramic plates and begging in all its beautiful glory to be eaten.

Lucy’s phone rang.

“Ugh!” Katie groaned swatting at Lucy as she reached for the offending object. “Don’t answer it. We’re eating.”

Lucy looked down at the number. “It’s my sister,” her brow wrinkled. “She doesn’t usually call me.”

“I guess we’ll let it slide this time,” Tia waved her fork, laden with mac and cheese at her. Lucy answered the phone.

“Hello?” Lucy moved the fries around with her fork. Suddenly she stopped playing with the fries. “What? Oh my. Yeah. I can be there in like half an hour.”

“What’s going on?” Katie and Tia looked at Lucy, who was already starting to gather her coat.

“My sister’s water just broke,” Lucy laughed.

“How is everything?” Saul returned to the table, a white cloth napkin now over his shoulder. “That bad? You’re running out on it?”

“Oh no,” Lucy laughed as she pulled on her gloves, “But I do need my check—my sister’s on the way to the hospital and I have to get to her house—the neighbors are watching her son until I get there.”

“Ah,” Saul nodded. “I certainly know the joys of nieces and nephews. I’ll be right back.”

“I thought your sister wasn’t due until February.”

“She wasn’t,” Lucy laughed again and tossed her purse strap over her head. “Guess baby girl was ready to meet the world now.”

“And here is your box,” Saul passed the Styrofoam box to her. “With a little added artistic flair, because otherwise, it’s just a to-go box. And congratulations to your sister.”

“Thanks,” Lucy took the box as Saul walked away. “Katie, can you?” she passed the box over to her, while she pulled out her cash.

“Ummm, Luce?”

“What?” Lucy put her cash in with the check and started to scoot out, but Katie wouldn’t move. “Katie, what is up with you?”

“Looks like you got more than a cartoon on your to-go box,” she opened up the inside further for Lucy to see. Inside was Saul’s name, and his digits.

Katie couldn’t smile any wider.

Lucy slammed the lid to the to-go box down, her face flaming.

“What are you going to do?” Tia asked, kicking Lucy under the table.

“Right now? I’m going to my sister’s,” She pushed Katie out of the booth and headed for the front door, “Call me when you figure out where we’re going.” She said over her shoulder, leaving the restaurant with a flourish—to-go box firmly under her arm.