The Freedom That Paper Gives

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Clock watching

CW: mentions of illness, hospitals, anxiety, allusions to PTSD. Please read with caution.

The day came when Percy would finish the book. Percy made sure to leave enough so he would finish on a Friday and he could perhaps spend either the Saturday or Sunday together to discuss it with Marie. He had taken both days of to be sure it fitted in with her schedule. Percy took the afternoon shift and promised to lock up so he could spend the entire afternoon and evening with Marie and it would be quieter so he could spend even more time with her. He found he was counting down the time until her last class ended and she would come in the cafe. He was more sore than usual today as his physio therapist had encouraged him to push himself, Percy probably shouldn’t have pushed himself so hard but he couldn’t resist a challenge. But Percy knew as soon as he saw Marie the pain would go.

As time continued to pass Percy found himself constantly checking the clock, she would be here in fifteen minutes, ten minutes, five minutes. But as the time came closer he started to wonder to himself something he hadn’t dared think about until that moment. Was he more excited to read her book or to see her? The answer was clear, to see her. He had known it for a long time, but this was the first time he had admitted it to himself. The two had grown closer recently and Percy considered her a friend and he hoped she considered him one too. Percy looked at the clock again and was shocked, she should have been here five minutes ago.

Nothing to worry about he thought, she is probably talking to her professor or her friends. Maybe her class overran. Maybe she is coming here by bus and its running late. It had rained earlier today, maybe she got wet and needed to change. Maybe she got caught up with one of her friends and is going to spend the afternoon with them. Maybe she has an exam coming up and would rather study for that. Maybe her father called and she is talking to him. Maybe her father called and he is in trouble, he had overheard on they’re phone calls that Marie’s father had trouble with his health. Maybe he’s in hospital and she has no way to get there. Maybe she was mugged on her way here and is in an alleyway injured. Maybe she was crossing a road and got hit by a car. Maybe she got kidnapped.

“One medium latte to take away please.”

Percy was drawn out of his spiral by an elderly lady. For some reason he hoped it was Marie who had suddenly changed her order. But he remembered her mentioning she couldn’t have coffee because of the caffeine content.

“I’ll get that for you right away. That will be £2 please.” Percy parroted out, trying not to sound too disappointed.

The old lady handed him the money and he got to work making her order. While he was making it he decided to speak to Joy.

“Hey did Marie come in this morning? She’s usually here by now.” Percy asked, this time trying to sound casual.

“No, Marie hasn’t been in today. She didn’t come in yesterday either, and I don’t think Ian saw her on Wednesday.” Joy replied, clearly busy.

Percy finished making the woman her drink and gave it to her. It’s not like Marie to miss three days in a row, he thought to himself. Everyone who worked there knew that Marie stuck to her routine religiously, and on the rare occasion she was ill she would send on of her housemates to get her drink for her. Percy turned to Joy again.

“I don’t suppose anyone came in with her order?” Percy asked, giving up the casual tone.

“I’m not to sure. Why don’t you message her, you have her number right?” Joy answered, still clearly busy.

I’ll do that he thought as he went into the back, one of the non-negotiables in the cafe was you can’t use your phone while working, another of the old fashioned rules. He took his phone out of his coat pocket and opened it to his last conversation with Marie. He noticed that she hadn’t replied to his last two messaged but he had assumed that she was busy or fell asleep. Percy sent another message to her regardless; ‘Hi, are you alright? No ones seen you in a while. I just wanted to make sure you are ok’. He debated sending an emoji as well but that seemed desperate. Why was he struggling to much over one simple text? They had sent essays to each other before. Percy took a deep breath and sent the message. No reply, no problem he thought, she’s probably busy. I’ll check again in a while.

Percy did check again, repeatedly. Every ten minutes he would go to the back to check becoming increasingly worried each time because Marie hadn’t replied or even seen his message. She was supposed to be there an hour ago and Percy was becoming genuinely worried. He decided he was going to call her, perhaps she would answer then, or someone else would, or she would see the missed call and answer him.

No answer.

So he tried again, no answer.

And again, no answer. This time he decided to leave a message.

“Hey Marie, I’m starting to get pretty worried. Can you just reply and tell me your alright. Or tell me to go away.”

Just as he put his phone away Joy came into the back.

“My shift just ended so your on your own for the rest of the night. Boss said that if its still dead in an hour close up. Oh and there’s someone outside to see you.”

Percy’s face lit up and he began to hope if was who he thought it was.

“Marie?”

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