Before going to bed, Meaghan finished cleaning the kitchen, and thought. Leaf's birthday was Friday, but she was unable to find the coconut ice cream for the chocolate fudge cake, even after checking several markets after work. She still had three days, and vowed she would complete the list in her head to give her sister a proper 16th birthday meal.
She heard soft feet padding towards the kitchen, and turned to see her sister. Tina's towel-dried hair was sticking out at all angles. Her face was freshly scrubbed. She ran a hand through her hair, her nails sporting sparkly purple polish this time. In her pink Hello Kitty pyjammas she looked painfully young. Meaghan closed the distance and gave her a hug.
"Shouldn't you be getting ready for bed, Leaf?"
Tina yawned. "Yeah, I know, but I wanted to talk to you before I do. This Friday, can I invite more people?" Meaghan had arranged a slumber party for six. She nodded.
"How many more?"
"Just one," Tina said. "It's a new friend of mine."
With a nod, Meaghan agreed. "That shouldn't be a problem, then. Anything else?" The younger girl shook her head, almost dislodging the damp towel from around her neck, but then looked at her sister.
"Meg, have you ever thought about falling in love? Or having a guy to call your own?" At this question, Meaghan searched the hazel eyes in front of her. Where had that come from? She thought of an answer, ignoring the sudden flash of Rickie's smiling face in her mind.
"When it happens, it'll happen. Do you have a boyfriend?" Meaghan asked Tina in an attempt to deflect the younger girl's attention.
"Not yet, but I hope soon." And with that parting shot, she headed back to her bedroom, leaving a bemused Meaghan standing in the kitchen.
After hanging up the drying cloths, she went to the desk in her bedroom and turned on her laptop, fishing the thumb drive out of her bag.
Plugging it into the computer, she pulled up the mysterious file from Ivoire. It appeared to be the bookkeeping records from a French firm that was investing in markets in China and the southeast region of the world. Meaghan sat back and began to scan the data, looking for whatever had spooked Ivoire.
An hour later, she pushed back from the screen and rubbed her eyes. The data appeared to be legitimate transactions between her company and the investment firm, but there had to be something in the records. Perhaps stepping back from it for a time would help; she decided to let it go for the evening and try to decipher the records later.
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Snuggling under the covers, she wondered if the strange situation with Ivoire had anything to do with her new assignment.