Amber Collins was a young woman at twenty-five. She had shoulder length blond hair and had a small figure. She was getting ready for another big night out when her friend, Marie, walked in. “I’m in the bathroom putting my make up on. Come on in. I’ll be ready in just a few minutes. Marie, who was not as outgoing as Amber, was the same age but had long red hair and was a little chubbier than Amber. She walked down the hall to the bathroom. She looked at Amber with a serious look. “Amber you can’t keep doing this. I don’t want to go. It doesn’t feel right.” Amber rolled her eyes and swatted her hand in the air at her friend. “Stop being a fun sucker. You know you get a rush off of it just as much as I do.” Marie walked further into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. “You don’t need me to go with you. You can go alone.” Amber put down her make up brush and turned to walk out. “Come on. Stop worrying. I do this all the time.” It didn’t take the girls long to get downtown to the new steakhouse in town. It hadn’t been open more than a few months and had a good reputation. Amber parked the car, looked at Marie, and smiled. “Come on. Let’s eat.” Amber quickly walked down the sidewalk and across the street to where there was a line of people waiting to get in. She walked up to the door and with the upmost confidence opened the door to the restaurant. Turning back at Marie, she said. “Come on. Pick up the pace.” She walked up to the hostess, held out her hand, and said “Hi I’m Honey from the Food Castle blog. I’m sure you have heard of me.” The hostess looked at her in shock not knowing what to say. “No, I haven’t but I’m new to town. How can I help you?” Amber smiled at her. “Well, welcome to our town. I hope you like it here as much as we do. I am a food critic and I go around to restaurants all over the United States and try the food and write a critic up for my blog. It has over a million views and thousands of followers. This restaurant was submitted to me for a critic. I haven’t had a chance to eat here yet so I thought it was perfect. I get to try it out and I get my work done too. Two birds one stone kind of thing.” Marie was off to the side rolling her eyes at her friend’s ridiculous act. The hostess still confused said. “That’s great I guess, but I’m not sure what you are wanting me to do. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be disrespectful. I haven’t worked here that long and I have never had a food critic come in before. So, what exactly are you wanting?” Amber smiled and nodded her head. “You are doing fine. All I need you to do is show me to a table, get me a menu so I can order a few things to try and ask the manager to come over for me to let him know that I’m here.” The hostess was flustered. “I’m sorry but the restaurant is booked solid. I don’t have an empty table at the moment. That’s why there is a line of people. Did you make a reservation?” She was turning pages of her scheduling book as fast as she could. Amber took her hand and patted the hostess’ hand. “It’s okay. Don’t worry. If my table wasn’t held for me, it’s not your fault. It’s not a big deal. I’ll write up my blog that I wasn’t able to eat here because of a mix up with the reservations. It’s fine.” The hostess was almost in tears now. She couldn’t let the restaurant get bad publicity from a famous blogger. She looked around scanning the restaurant and saw a small two-seater booth in the back that hadn’t been filled yet. She waved the waitress over and asked her to seat them. Amber followed the waitress to her seat with Marie not far behind. They sat down and took the menus that the waitress was handing them. The waitress set napkins and silverware down for the girls. She looked up at them. “I’m very sorry for the mix up with your table. Please don’t hold this against the restaurant. The owner is a very nice man who helps a lot of people. I will give you some time to look at the menu then I’ll be back to take your order. There will be no charge for your food tonight. We hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” She turned and walked away. When the waitress was out of hearing range Marie looked at Amber with a not very happy face. “Amber this is wrong. You can not keep conning restaurants. You are not a food critic. You do not have a blog and you for sure do not have a million followers on it.” Amber grinned. “I know. The blog has a million views but only thousands of followers.” She laughed. “Lighten up. It’s all in good fun. I’m not hurting anyone and you are eating too.” Marie was getting angrier by the minute. “Yes, you are. You are hurting this restaurant by stealing from them. You are costing them money which will make them have to raise the price. You are being rude to all of those people you just jumped in front of and I pay for my meal every time. I always get mine separate from yours. I do not cheat people and eat for free.” Amber held up her hand. “Stop. Just stop. You have gone with me to several restaurants and ate with me. You cut line right along with me. So don’t act all high and mighty. You may not be the one talking and telling the story but you have been getting the perks from it all.” Marie wiped a tear from her eye. “I know and I am ashamed of myself for it. I won’t do it again. I’m not getting anything to eat tonight and I’m going to send money to every restaurant I’ve ate at to tip their staff. I don’t want to be the person you are turning me into. You should stop this before you get caught.” Amber laughed. “I’m not going to stop. There is no way I can get caught. I’m not giving out a business card with information on it and the people don’t remember what I’ve said a few minutes after they seat me because they are flustered at the fact, they lost my reservation. I only come at night time when there isn’t an owner or supervising manager. There are only night managers that clock in and get an hourly wage. They aren’t qualified to know that it’s a con. Plus, I’m always disguised.” Marie stood up. “I’m leaving. I’m not doing this anymore. You are on your own.” Amber wasn’t happy. “Fine. Get out of here you big baby. I mean seriously Marie. You are not a child so stop acting like one. All you have to do is sit and eat a nice meal. It looks better for me to not be eating alone. It looks like I have a staff.” Marie was more upset and didn’t want to listen to another word. “Amber you are not a good friend or a good person. Karma will get you for this. I’m leaving this restaurant and I’m leaving your life. You are no longer my friend. I’m not letting you push me around anymore.” She turned and walked out. Amber was a little sad about losing her friend but she knew she would have a replacement for her by morning. She wasn’t going to dwell on it.The waitress brought her food. She started to set the plates down and looked around the table. “Is your friend in the restroom?”Amber shook her head. “No. She had an emergency and had to leave. A family member was taken to the hospital. You can give me some take home boxes if you want and I’ll take some food to her.The waitress agreed. “I’m so sorry to hear that. Yes of course I will get you the containers.” She continued to put Amber’s food on the table in front of her then walked away.Amber ate the sirloin steak well done with a side of mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad. When she was all finished, she thanked the staff and left. As she was walking to her car alone, she couldn’t help but start to feel bad about her argument with Marie. She had been friends with her for a few years. She would miss her but life goes on. She got in her car and went home.Amber walked into her house and on the counter, she saw her answering machine blinking. She walked over and hit play.“Amber. It’s Marie. I’m sorry about tonight. I don’t know what got over me. I have had a lot on my mind lately. I hope you will accept my apology. I know of this diner on the other side of town that is supposed to be really good. If you want to go tomorrow night, I would really like to go with you. Again, I’m very sorry for the way I acted. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”Amber grinned. “I knew she would come begging to come back.” She grabbed her cell phone and texted Marie. “Apology accepted. I knew you were not stupid enough to walk away from me and this con. Text me the address and I’ll meet you there tomorrow. No more paying for you either. It’s time to step up your game and be my co-blogger.”Amber put her phone in her pocket and walked down the hall to her bedroom. It had been a long day and she was tired.The next day Amber got through the day and was excited to check out the new diner Marie had mentioned. She thought about stepping up her costume a bit. Walking over to the bookshelf she picked up a clipboard and fake glasses. She picked out a nice business-like pants suit. She was all ready to play her part. It wasn’t so much about getting free food. It was the thrill it gave her to pretend to be this other person and the butterflies in her stomach as she told the staff her con and waited to see if it would work.She pulled into a parking spot close by the door and looked for Marie. When she saw her standing by the door Amber got out of the car and walked over to her. “Hi. I’m glad you called. I hate it when we are fighting.” Marie put on he best fake smile. “Me too. Let’s go in and find our seat. It should have a reserved sign on it so nobody takes it. I’ve heard really good things about the food and the people who run it.” They walked through the door and up to the hostess podium to wait to be seated. Amber looked over at Marie who appeared to be giving a nod to the staff in some sort of signal. “Do you know him?” Marie looked around the restaurant acting confused like she didn’t know what Amber was talking about. “Know who?” “The man you just nodded to.” Amber told her. Marie looked to where Amber was pointing. She was quick on her feet and remembered she had not taken her ear buds out before walking in. She laughed. “Oh no. Sorry.” She removed her earbud and put in her purse. “I was listening to my messages. A friend from work was telling a joke.” Amber smiled. “Oh okay. Let’s go find our seat and see what all they have to eat here.” They sat down in a booth at the back of the diner. This would give them plenty of privacy. They picked up a menu out of the holder on the table and waited for a waitress to come over. Amber was looking over the menu. “This looks really good. Nice downhome cooking. Chili Frito Pie, bowl of chili, chili cheese fries, pulled pork nachos, pulled pork sandwiches, a couple different salad options. This looks good and it’s really smart to offer different things with the main item. Like the chili. You can have it in a bowl or chili cheese fries, the chili Frito pie, oh and down here are chili dogs. This is super smart business. Make one dish and use it several ways. You can attract more people that way.” The waitress walked up just then. “Hi, my name is Mindy and I’ll be your waitress tonight. Let me just say that it’s really great that we have a food critic here. We are new and need to get our name out there. This will be perfect.” She held her hand out to shake and looked at Amber. “What is your name? I don’t think anyone told me or the name of your blog.” Amber reached out and shook her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mindy. My name is Candy and my blog is Candy’s Hidden Treasures.” Mindy smiled. “It’s very nice to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. I’ll give you a minute to look over the menu and I’ll be back to take your order. Can I start you off with a cold drink?” Amber nodded. “That would be great. I’ll have a sweet tea and Marie would like a cold root beer.” “I will get that right to you and the managers wanted me to let you know that everything is on the house. We hope you enjoy your evening with us.” Amber looked around the diner at all the customers looking like they liked everything. To keep up her con she grabbed her small notebook and pretended to take notes. Marie looked over at her and rolled her eyes. “Amber you are really taking your con too far. Do you know what you want to eat? I’m hungry.” Amber laughed. “Okay. Okay. Yes, I think I know. I’m torn between a couple of things but I think I’m going to have the Chili Frito Pie.” The waitress came and took their order and let them know it would be out in a few minutes. Amber was happy with herself. She was about to get away with yet another con. About then a group of ten men and women came walking over to the table. The man in middle was holding a tray with a boot on it. Amber was confused and nervous at the same time. She looked back and forth at all the people standing in front of the table. “What is all of this?” She asked. The man holding the tray with the boot walked forward and set it down on the table in front of her. “We are giving you and your con the boot.” Amber was very nervous now. She tried to hide her shaking hand under the table. “I don’t understand.” She said in her best innocent voice. “Let me explain this to you.” The man that had the tray said. He turned back to the line of people and waved his hand to show he was pointing at each of them. “Each one of the people standing in front of you own one the restaurants that you have stolen meals from and we are not happy.” Amber stumbled with her words for a second. “Let me explain.” “There is nothing to explain.” The lady at the end of the line said. “It’s pretty simple. You lied and said you are a food critic and need your food free in exchange for writing up a good article on your blog that doesn’t exist to help our business. When in reality all you did was take from us. Does that about sum it up?” Amber started crying. “I’m sorry.” She looked at Marie. “I’m sorry. Help me.” Marie got up and walked over to the line of people. “I warned you that you were going to get caught and that Karma was going to be back at you. You did get caught. I might have helped make that happen but I warned you. You have treated me like dirt our entire friendship. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being walked all over by you.” The man that seemed to be in charge of it all walked back in front. “Okay you have a couple of options here. One: we call the cops and have you arrested. We have you on video at each of our restaurants. Two: To pay each of us back for the cost of the food you ate or gave away you will work at our restaurants doing dishes, clearing tables, and taking out trash. You know all the jobs that you would hate.” He laughed. Amber thought this wasn’t too bad. “Okay so I pay it back. Can I write each of you a check right now and get this all taken care of?” The man smiled a somewhat evil smile. “You missed what I said. You can’t buy your way out. You have to do the work that I mentioned or jail. Your choice.” Amber couldn’t help but feel that Marie was correct about Karma. She was mean when she had to be. It took Amber a couple of months to get her bills all paid but she stuck with it and got it done. She never pulled another con again. Her lesson was learned the hard way.