But that was the old Kiona.

The new Kiona had millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account, a credit card with a fifteen thousand dollar daily limit, and got herself married to a billionaire.

Adlebaum’s was only open for two and a half hours in the mornings, starting at 11 AM. By the time that I walked through the door, that put me less than an hour from closing time, but I was in no rush. After all, I could afford to enjoy myself, both in time and in money.


The hostess, a spry little thing with long, curly hair, seated me at a small two-top table aside the wall. The server, a tired-looking but radiant little Italian girl, appeared almost instantly. I surveyed the menu she took my drink order – just water for now – and I looked over everything.

The lunch selection was to die for, so I eagerly signed up for a cup of signature, creamy potato soup, followed by a grilled chicken Caesar salad with a significant twist – their specialty was still tossed in the signature dressing, but swapped the romaine lettuce for mixed greens with a zest of lemon spritz, added sliced egg and a couple of red onion choppings, and tossed a light, seasoned tossing of toasted bacon bits into the mix. Upon request, my entrée was delivered with a delicious, bubbly mimosa to get my day started just right.

The salad was somewhat simple, but a burst of surprisingly complementing flavors. I completed my meal with a slice of New York style cheesecake with a drizzled, homemade, dark chocolate topping over a few slices of strawberry.

Full of good food and a delicious drink, when the check came I called back onto my two years of struggling as a waitress, and I was in such a better mood with Cole’s card burning a hole in my purse that I left her a tip double the cost of my entire check.

Once I’d stroked Adlebaum’s off my mental bucket list, I moved on to the rest of my day. Unfortunately, it only occurred to me that a clothes shopping spree after a filling meal was perhaps not the best strategy, but I decided to grin and bear it and just suck it up.

It also occurred to me that I had spent so much time focusing on living paycheck to paycheck that I hadn’t really bothered to focus on me. Glancing down at my dress, I thought to myself, Well…that’s just not going to do, now, is it? But I was at somewhat of a loss as to where to go.

A few minutes tapping away on the smartphone later, and I had a few places to start in mind. There were some luxury stores in the area, a few swanky clothing shops here and there – the fancy stuff that was so prohibitively expensive that I could never even dream of walking in the door.

And I knew just where to start.

Empire 208 was a premier retailer in the area that prided itself on exquisite culture and premium service. I’d heard of the place in passing – everybody had at least done that – but I had expected something that was trendy in that hallow, sterile kind of way that you seen in the obnoxiously self-absorbed shops.

This definitely wasn’t that. Empire 208 was wall-to-wall class, built upon foundational interplay between glass and color. The lights shone in various levels of the spectrum, somehow bathing the place in ample light that showed off exactly how the clothes looked while reminding me of a modern art museum. Interestingly, there were also several different pieces of long-form, looped ambiance that overlapped in complementary ways – as if separate sections of the same song, easily combining or shifting apart depending on how one traversed the store. In the exact center, all five pieces crossed over into a phenomenal arrangement that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard.

The attendants, too, were dressed to work well against the otherworldly nature of the store. In crisp, white shoulderless dresses with simple belts and boots, the staff strolled across the store and assisted the customers as if they were royalty, with exaggerated gestures, restraint, and grace.

“Velcome to Empiyuh Two-oh-at,” a charmingly young European girl with extraordinarily pale skin and a short, blond pixie cut greeted me. Her sharp eyes summed me up from head to toe, and she looked back up with veiled amusement – although her strong, strange accent almost pulled the same reaction from me. “How cane I halp?”

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