“Haven’t seen you for awhile, Avril.” Lonny came around the office area and leaned against the counter. She was wearing a very cute pant suit and her red hair was styled in a fashionable chignon that let a few sexy strays escape to softly frame her face. This disarray was deliberate, Avril was sure, and effective. However, Lonny had transitioned late in life and all the hormones and surgical procedures in the world couldn’t disguise her masculine beginnings.

I needed another name for Avril’s friend–something unique enough to cause Avril to suspect Lily knows her friend when she names the baby that, but not something that might be confused with any other characters in the books.

Avril used one hand to bounce the curly tips of her ice blue synthetic hair. “Well, you know, a working girl only has so many hours in the day. Even us girls who work the night shift. I’m here about Zara,” she added abruptly.

“Zara? Zara Rose? I haven’t seen her for months. I thought you two were friends. Why come here looking for her?”

“What other Zara you think I’d be talking about, woman?” Avril dropped all attempts to be polite. “No one’s seen her for months. And if you cared at all about the people working here, you would know that, now wouldn’t you?”

Lonny straightened both her pose and the line of her mouth. “She asked for leave last September, I think it was. I don’t pry into personal business so I didn’t ask why. I’ll admit I was surprised when she didn’t come back a few days later—”

“So you did notice,” Avril cut in.

“—but she was only a volunteer, after all. She’s not required to give notice if she decides she doesn’t have time to—”

Zara is a common nickname for Zahara which is deeply rooted in the Arabic zahra that means “flower” or “blossom.” Zara has Algerian heritage on one side of her family which accounts for her beautiful creamy complexion and the name choice when she transitioned to female.

This time Avril was not going to allow her interruption to be interrupted. “Zara worked here for four years. Four years. Every day she came to be with the kids. This like her home. You know that, I know you do. You really think she’d just walk away one day and not let you know? Not let the kids who’d come to count on her know? What’s wrong with you? Did you skip the operation that’s supposed to give you a heart?”

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