I’m shunned. That’s how it feels, and I can’t even explain why. I should be like them, I should fit in.
Maybe this was a mistake, maybe I shouldn’t have walked in the door, tried the shelter out. Still, I’m here now, aren’t I? Might as well make the most of it.
I grab an empty bowl, and take it to the counter. There’s Priscilla, the woman who convinced me to give this damn place a try. I nod at her mutely as she fill the bowl to the lip, then try to find a spot to sit. There are few options, so in the end I squeeze between two guys, opposite an old skinny guy who’s almost inhaling his meal.
I start to tuck in, and it’s not as bad as I expected. They even have sugar here, laid out in pots on the long tables. I grab a bottle and sprinkle a generous heap into my bowl, stirring vigorously.
Whilst I blow against my spoon, cooling off the inevitable mouthful, the guy opposite stares at me. Then he stares at the counter, where they’ve hung a sign declaring that they’re out of food for now. I eat, anyway. He can give me that damned hungry-eyed look all he wants –– I’m hungrier. I wolf down the hot, sweet porridge, trying to ignore the fact that the aged, worn wood of the table’s almost pushing splinters into my arms.
My bowl’s still half full when finally I relent, pushing the bowl towards the bastard who hasn’t stopped staring. I watch him gorge himself, and I don’t care much, since I’m not feeling particularly hungry anymore. I take a look around.
The room’s well lit, daylight streams in from slightly murky windows, and I slide the toe of my boot against the muddy, soiled surface of the floor. It stinks in here. I’ve only just noticed… maybe I felt too hungry to care before.
I stand up and make a hasty retreat, suddenly desperate for fresh air. I steal one glance backwards, and see the guy I just fed laughing at me as I leave. Not sure what his problem is, and not sure I care.
It’s getting cold. I’ve been warned about this. Seen it in the papers, heard it when I was living down in the south. Winters in the city are no laughing matter, and I barely have a jumper to my name.
Fuck that landlord. Fuck him to hell. God, I’m so bitter, but I can’t stop it. It’s like a mass of boils in my throat, and I can’t swallow them down. Sometimes it’s like they’re choking me, and I flitter between that god damn awful feeling, and another, far worse; one that thinks, maybe I can just end it. Maybe I don’t need to hurt any more.
“It… it got pretty bad then?” Asami stares at me, and I’m sure I can see moisture forming against her lashes. It seems she has got a heart, even after the cool act she’s put on for so long.
I nod, holding a hand to my chest, almost feeling a ghost of that same sensation from back then; that fucking lump in my throat that never went away… darkness, despair, almost choking the life out of me.
“Sorry if I sounded melodramatic,” I say, grinning, trying to ease the tension a little.
I wasn’t expecting Asami to reach her hand out, but that’s what she does. I take it, gladly. And suddenly, she’s the one supporting me, as I recall the turmoil I endured, just to get here, just to survive. I cough, shaking myself out of the far-too-familiar memories.
“Do you mind if we continue this tomorrow? I’m just feeling a bit… bummed out. Besides, we need to talk about you.”
I hope she isn’t offended. A promise is a promise, after all.
She has a neutral expression whilst releasing my hand, looks towards the window and the darkness out there with half lidded, tired eyes. And then I realise, I have no fucking idea what time it is, and this poor woman’s just fought off hypothermia, and ugh… I’m an idiot. I check my watch, and sure enough, it’s after midnight.
“Asami? I didn’t realise how late it was. You cool to bunk in the spare room?”
“Oh… sorry,” Asami says, and I can tell she’s half asleep, “mind if I just crash here? I’m too tired to move, I think.”
“No problem,” I smile, rushing to grab blankets and pillows from my spare room. I tuck her in, and she mumbles something about how I have to tell her the rest, or else. She falls asleep, almost instantly, and for some reason I have to physically restrain myself from stroking her hair. It’s just that… she looks so at peace.
I know she isn’t, though - this will be fucking weird for her, all of it. Hell, she might even bolt in the morning, whilst I’m snoring and oblivious. I grab a couple of post it notes, and scrawl a few words that I hope will convince her to stay if she does wake up before me.
I take one last look at her before heading to my room and crashing with a loud thud onto my bed. She’s intriguing, and she’s beautiful. Asami… I want to know more about her. But I guess I need to tell her more about me, first.