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Magic Numbers

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Lou sauntered lazily about the beach house in a robe that Debbie Ocean was definitely wearing the night before. She leaned against the kitchen counter, snapping spearmint gum and sipping coffee untainted by the bulk box of Splenda in the pantry. The mug literally had her name on it—Daphne’s idea, and since it was Daphne’s house they were invading, no one protested the labeled coffee cups. (Secretly, she liked the gaudy purple lettering. She liked the idea that certain things are hers and hers alone.)




She looked up to find Constance standing in the doorway, toothbrush lodged between her teeth, beanie askew. The kid eyed her expectantly.


“What?” Lou raised an eyebrow.


“Nothin.’ Thought I heard someone awake.”




“It’s just early, that’s all,” Constance shrugged.


Lou’s skepticism multiplied. Constance was a notoriously heavy sleeper, and she’d never seen her awake before noon. Her watches read five AM and six AM respectively, but since Daylight Savings, the six AM watch was correct. “What’re you doing up?”


Constance grinned. “Surfing.”


Holding her coffee to her chest, Lou looked her up and down—oversized t-shirt, hat, sneakers. No surfboard in sight. “You sure about that?” she challenged.


Constance lifted her hands and backs away. “Chill, alright,” she said, palms to Lou. “I gotta change first. I didn’t say I was leaving right this second, Mom.


Lou rolled her eyes and downed the rest of her coffee.


“Besides, what are you doing awake?”


Lou smirked. “Can you keep a secret?” That got Constance’s attention. Lou watched her eyes widen as she slid across the kitchen floor and leaned into the older woman’s personal space.


“Yes,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows.


Lou narrowed her eyes. “No you can’t. No dice, kid.”


Constance groaned. “Fine. There is no secret, is there?”


“God no.” Of course there wasn’t—Lou didn’t have secrets. Secrets dangled over people’s heads and lent her private life unnecessary drama. If she didn’t want people to know something, she simply didn’t tell him, and she never made them ask.


Constance huffed and made to leave, but before she could slip out the kitchen door, something caught her eye. She looked down at Lou’s wrists, then up at her impassive expression, then back down again. “What’re those numbers?”


Lou glanced down at her forearm. Those numbers, spiraling down her forearm in an easily overlooked tattoo.


“15, 6, 23, 11,” Constance read aloud. “That from a fortune cookie or something?”


“They’re dates,” Lou said, because the truth was definitely better than the absurd notion that she’d etched her lucky numbers into her skin for eternity.


“Okay. Well there were only three last time I saw it.”


“I added that last one after the Met heist.”


Constance eyed the ink for a moment before meeting her eyes. She folded her arms over her chest, pint-sized and defiant, staring Lou down. “You wanna talk about it?”


Lou sighed and checked her watches again. “Why the hell not?”


“Sweet.” Constant clapped her hands and hopped onto the counter, dangling her legs over the corner. “I like stories.”


“The first one is the day I left home. November 15th, 1990. I’d finally saved up the money for a one-way ticket to Melbourne, worked there for a couple years, and then got another ticket to New York.”


“Why’d you leave?”


Lou ignored her. There was only so much she’d say to Constance. The rest only Debbie knew, and some things weren’t even for her ears. “The second one is the date of my first real hustle. August 6th, 2002. I rigged high stakes blackjack in Atlantic City. Fifty thousand dollar payout.”


Constance whistled.


“Doesn’t compare to a hundred and fifty million, though,” Lou reminded her nonchalantly. “The third one is the day Debbie got out of prison. March 23, 2018. I drove her back to the ballroom loft, and we danced for hours to all the music she’d missed.”


“What’s the newest one?”


“July 11, 2018. I was sitting in a diner in some rest-stop town between Los Angeles and the Valley of Fire. I ordered a Godawful omelet, and I was about to dive into it when a jet black Maserati pulled up. Debbie got out the driver’s seat. I hadn’t heard from her in a month, and I don’t know how she found me, but she sat down across from me in the booth and said, 'I love you to the moon and back, and I'm sorry it took me so damn long.'”


“Awwwww,” Constance crooned. “Damn, I love happy endings.” She hopped off the counter and waved as she marched out the kitchen door. “Cool tattoo. I’m gonna go surfing.”


Lou rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t wipe the friendly little smile from her lips. Constance was a lot some days, but she meant well. She lifted her watch to check the time and—


“Shit.” Only the five AM watch remained.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


“Two years,” Tammy sighed in disbelief, shaking her head and sipping from a flute of champagne.


“You can’t do that until we toast,” protested Daphne. “To the second anniversary of me puking my guts out at the fucking Met Gala for thirty eight million and some friends.”


Tammy rolled her eyes spectacularly. “Well we can’t have a proper toast without Amita and Debbie, and I want my champagne.” She turned to Lou (of course she did.) “Where is Debbie; I thought she’d be here by this morning?”


How would she know? Debbie’s ‘on time’ had always been an hour late. Just because they were an item, people seemed to think she’d know where Debbie was at all times. Hah. As if Debbie would let anyone decide where she was going.


“Beats me.” Lou sprawled in a sleek adirondeck chair on Daphne’s ocean-view balcony. The party seemed to have gathered around her, everyone present and smelling of sea-salt. Everyone except Debbie, who’d sent a mass text promising she was just picking up hors d’oeuvre and desserts on her way. At the promise of food, no one had complained.


Lou fiddled with her watches. Constance had disappeared yesterday after their conversation in the kitchen, and she’d waited until this morning to demand the return of her second wristwatch.


“Well,” declared Rose, “I would like to be inebriated by the end of the evening, so I’m drinking my champagne.”


“Seconded,” Nine Ball said, and gulped down her flute. “Debbie and Amita will live.”


Lou held the fizzling glass in her hand. She supposed she would wait for Debbie, not out of moral obligation but because she and Debbie were responsible for the heist that set them all for life, and it seemed fitting to them to drink together. They always drank together, whether they were celebrating, drowning sorrows or making heady love on their sofa while Law & Order reruns droned in the background. It was a tradition, one of the many little things that kept her grounded.


“Gee, thanks for waiting. Knew we could count on you guys.” Debbie’s voice rang through the beach house. Her heels clicked across the floor—apparently, she’d decided tonight was a special occasion worth stilettos and a slick black dress that made Lou do a double take. Both of them laden with grocery bags, Debbie and Amita stepped onto the patio and took in the sight of them all, and their obnoxious excess of wine and Dom Perignon.


“Snoozers are losers,” said Constance, holding up her empty glass.


Debbie fixed Constance with her best (and not particularly intimidating) glare. “I can’t believe you want to be drunk for this.”


Daphne held up her hands in mock surrender. “I withheld for my manners,” but Debbie ignored her.


“Why wouldn’t we want to be drunk?” Nine Ball was half-way through pouring herself a glass of white wine. “Second anniversary of the greatest heist ever executed.”


“Drop the bags and have a drink.” Lou handed Debbie her glass. “You seem tense, darling; did you have a run-in with FoodMart security?”


With a resounding clunk, the bags of food fell beside Debbie’s feet. “Baby, I’m insulted. I bought this food.” She grinned. “Why steal cupcakes when you can steal diamonds?”


Constance let out a whoop of approval and snatched the cupcake bag.


“All right,” said Lou with a Cheshire-cat smile. “I suppose it’s time to toast your brilliance once again.”


Debbie eyed her teasingly. “Oh, that’s what you thought you were toasting to?”


“What the hell else is there? Did you steal another dynasty’s worth of diamonds on the way here?” Honestly, she wouldn’t put it past Debbie Ocean to mark the anniversary of a heist with a plan for a better one.


Debbie grabbed a cupcake and shoved half of it into her mouth. “No,” she mumbled through hot pink frosting, “but we did borrow one of the diamonds we already have.”


A high-pitched gasp came from behind her, and Lou turned to see Daphne cup her hands to her mouth and her eyes grow rounder than quarters. “I thought we sold all the diamonds from the Toussaint,” Lou said suspiciously.


Debbie fished around her sweater pocket. “No—” she grunted, finally shedding the sweater and shoving two hands into the oversized pocket. “I kept one of my share.”


More little gasps of realization, and from Constance and Amita, the sneakiest looks she’d ever seen. “What the hell is—”


She turned back to find Debbie on one knee, with a glamorous, expertly stolen Toussaint diamond in her palm, fitted into the silver band of a ring. Oh. She flashed back to yesterday in the kitchen, Constance grabbing her wrist and pulling the tattoo towards her, keeping her focused on the story, wrapping her thumb around Lou’s ring finger. She must have had a string in her hand, or something to take the size. She remembered Debbie texting them, saying she’d pick up Amita at the airport in LA, stay overnight there, and then drive to the beach house. Shit. She was losing her touch if she hadn’t seen this coming, but it didn’t matter. Not now, when there was Debbie fucking Ocean, proposing to her on the deck of their ex- mark ’s beachside mansion.




“Jesus. Yes Debs, God yes. I’ll marry you in an instant.”


Debbie’s grin could put the sun out of business. She got to her feet and slid the massive crystal onto Lou’s hand. “I’m overjoyed, but you have to let me finish. You have been my literal partner in crime for fifteen years now. And yes, I spent five of those years in the slammer, and it took me until I got out to realize I was gone on you, hopelessly, pathetically in love with you, but through everything, you’ve been my one constant. The thought of you kept me sane in prison, and you’re the reason I’m not back there right now. You are alive; you’re alive like nobody I’ve ever seen before. You’re vibrant and breathtaking, and ever since you roared into my life on that motorbike I’m never letting you go.”


She was absolutely, positively not going to cry. Lou did not cry. She trembled a little; her eyes glistened, and finally she pulled Debbie forward and kissed her with everything she had. And then she cried, but just barely. (Debbie would be the death of her, and she didn’t mind one bit.)


Debbie sniffled, and Lou couldn’t help but feel like she was holding a bird in her embrace, slight and willowy but immensely powerful.


“Plus,” Debbie added smugly, wrapping her arms around Lou’s shoulders and clinging to her, “the sex is amazing.”


Amita made a face. “Keep it to yourself. But congratulations, I’ve been ready to burst trying to keep this secret, even if it was only for a couple days.”


“Who else knew about this?” Constance asked as she downed another round of champagne. She raised her hand, and Lou let her gaze flick about the crowd. Amita’s hand went up, and then—surprise—Nine Ball.


“Nine Ball?” Debbie seemed surprised as well.


“Your search history. A girl doesn’t Google wedding band styles because she’s bored.”


“I knew something fishy was going on when you told us you’d be late, but I thought you were planning another job,” Tammy admitted. “Does this mean we can have a proper toast now?”


“Yes!” Daphne snapped her fingers impatiently and reached for the cooler full of wine. She filled any empty glasses and then raised hers to the sky. “To Lou and Ocean finally getting married. Instead of just acting like it.”


Nine Ball cackled. “Amen.”


“Cheers!” Rose called, clinking a full bottle to everyone’s glasses. A collective silence filled the patio while they paused to drink, excepting the raucous screams of gulls and the crash of waves on the beach.


Watching their team celebrate, Lou tucked a strand of Debbie’s espresso-dark hair behind her ear. “I love you to the moon and back,” she whispered in her ear.


Debbie unsuccessfully suppressed an ear-to-ear smile and slipped her hand into Lou’s. Her thumb brushed the diamond, and Debbie bit her lip as her cheeks flushed warmly. “You’re going soft on me,” she whispered back. A pause. “I love you too.”


The next day, Lou added another number to her tattoo. 15, 6, 23, 11, 9. The 9th of May, 2020, when Debbie Ocean got down on one knee and asked her to be her wife in crime.