Hood

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2

“I’d like plain bread with mayonnaise, banana peppers,” they paused and pointed to something through the plastic divider. “Add some tomatoes and jalapeños, and especially a lot of lettuce. Wait, I forgot the best part.” The guy sighed. “I would also like some cheese, please. Preferably, American.”

I sat at the table farthest from the deli counter, arms crossed and hood on. I watched each customer order the craziest subways but this man topped them all. He didn’t order any meat. He was a complete nutcase.

The employee himself made the sandwich and mumbled under his breath. I watched and scoffed as the customer paid for his food and left with not even a thank you. It was so rude.

I finally stood up and walked over, standing in line. I eyed all the meats that were in behind the plastic window that separated me from the food.

“-you, ma’am?” This was directed at me.

I looked up at the employee and lifted my eyes, silently asking him to repeat the question.

“What can I get for you?”

“Honey Oat bread. I’ll take mayonnaise and bacon. In fact, add all the meat to it. Melt some cheese on top. I’ll take a meatball sub as well. Can you add extra bacon and Philly cheesesteak?” I tapped my chin, deciding on more ingredients. “Add some lettuce. I guess I need my vegetables, too. I should let you know that I’m allergic to peanuts so you may have to watch out for that stuff.”

The man nodded and did as I ordered. I studied his facial features and continued to watch him craft my food. He was the same man who had helped me pick up my groceries the other day. I never properly thanked him.

“Thank you.”

He smiled. “You’re welcome. Not many customers still say thank you.”

“Well, I’m also thanking you for helping me pick up my groceries.” I glanced up at him.

“It was not a problem. I had nothing better to do.” He passed my sandwich on to the cashier who then rung up my order. I paid for my sandwich and walked back to my table and sat down, unwrapping my sandwich. The first bite was absolutely perfect.

The flavors worked so well and they exploded in my mouth. The meats were perfection and I practically died and went to heaven as I continued to eat this beautiful sub.

I sucked the flavor off my fingers as I finished. I wiped them on napkins and sat back, crossing my arms once again. I sat in the shop all day, watching customers come and go. Someone sat in the chair across from me that was seated at my table.

I looked up at him and loosened my arms. “What brings you to my table?”

His cheeks burned red and he stood up from his chair. I put my hand out on the table, slapping it. “Hey, sit. It’s just a question. I am not telling you to leave.”

As much as I hated other people, it was nice to see someone trying to talk to me. Nobody else attempted to do that on their own.

He planted himself back into the chair and swallowed, fixing his glasses. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. I...” He couldn’t seem to finds his words.

I leaned back in my chair and observed his posture. He was scared. The word must have gotten around that I killed that man. He was afraid of me. Of course, that’s what all this was about.

“I didn’t kill him.”

The boy looked at me and shook his head. “I didn’t say you did.”

“No, but you’re thinking it. Everyone is. I was the last to see him. I’m the weird girl who lives in the woods and talks to nobody. His blood is on my hood. I get it. I’m just saying I didn’t kill him.” I shrugged.

He kept his mouth shut and looked at the table.

“I was minding my own business. I was walking and he punched me. I spit up blood. So, like any human, I defended myself. I karate chopped his arm and left him. He was still alive, just with a bruised arm. Someone else killed him to make it look like I did it.” I sat up straight, resting my arms on the table between us both.

He nodded, not sure of what to say.

“Go on, say what’s on your mind.” I smirked. “I don’t bite.”

His eyes seemed to go a little wide, fear being instilled in him. He thought I would actually bite him. When he realized that I noticed this, he cleared his throat and rubbed his neck. “Uh...right. What’s on my mind... That should be easy enough.”

I waited for him to continue.

“I don’t believe the rumors. The town just blames you because you’re the easy target and they assume the first person you suspect is the culprit. That’s not true. If anyone knows anything about criminals, they won’t be that obvious unless they are asking to be caught. Killers are usually people we know and trust. You don’t know what they’re doing until they’re caught,” he finished.

I had not expected that answer from him. This boy was interesting. I couldn’t read his mind and he surprised me.

His eyebrows began to curve in a direction that expressed worry. “Did I say something wrong?”

I shook my head. “No, no. I’m just surprised someone would be that intelligent here. It’s clear the town here isn’t intelligent.” I sat back in my chair and laid my arms straight out on the table, keeping them parallel to each other.

He laughed a bit and nodded, watching the table. “That’s true, for the most part. I’ve been wondering, where do you work?”

“That’s a...solid question, I guess.” I nodded a bit and slouched my shoulders, now folding my arms on the table. “I’m a waitress at that small diner a couple of miles out of town. It gets me by and that’s usually where tourists and travelers go so most of the people don’t know me. They don’t judge me and it gives me a real chance to impress them so I can make more money in tips. Bills are expensive.”

“I see. I’ve never left town. I’ve always lived here. It’s pretty boring.”

“I only live here because I have to. I go where my brother goes.” I coughed and reached up, taking my hood off my head. I glanced at the guy and smiled. “Let me guess, you’re going to ask me why I wear a red hood?”

“It may have been on my mind.”

“I like the color. Red can be dark or bright. It can pop out or it can be dark and beautiful. It’s the color of blood and everyone bleeds red. It’s one thing we all share...yet we judge each other because we feel a need to fit in and make fun of those who are different than us. I guess it’s my way of subtly advocating for the fact that we are all humans who deserve to be loved because we look the same underneath our skin.” I glanced down at the tan skin that coated my entire body.

“That’s a really good reason to like the color.”

“I like the hood because it lets me hide from the piercing eyes that are threatening my existence. I chose a cloak over a sweater because cloaks are a lot more interesting. They are not as commonly worn. I’m already an outcast so I may as well be myself and stand out even more.” I looked at him.

He nodded and smiled at me. I had never seen anyone smile at me. “I didn’t expect such a good answer.”

“I didn’t expect you to mess up my order but sometimes people surprise us.” I smiled.

His face burned red once again and he shook her head. “I am so, so sorry. I’ll make you another one for free.”

I laughed and shook my head in response. “No, it’s fine. You just forgot some meat is all.”

“Which meat?”

“My meatball sub.”

He looked back at the counter. The story was getting ready to close. “I’ll make you a new one for free.”

“It’s not free if I already paid for it.” I lifted my eyebrow.

He quickly got out of his chair and walked through the doors. He put his apron back on and put on some new plastic gloves, toasting some bread.

He seemed so eager to make me a new sandwich. It was odd.

He put the meatballs on with the sauce spread on top and bottom, then added cheese to give me something extra as an apology.

He wrapped it up and brought it out to me. His boss watched him hand me the sandwich and I watched his boss in return. The guy sat back down and smiled. “It’s fresh.”

I unwrapped my sandwich and stared at his boss who stood by the door to the back room. I carefully took a bite and he came strolling over. “Excuse me, but is this how we treat customers?”

He looked at his boss and scrunched his face in confusion. “Yes?”

“We give out free food?”

The boy swallowed, feeling the heat from giving me what I had paid for.

“Excuse me, but he didn’t give me my sandwich the first time and I rightfully paid for it. He was just being a generous employee and making sure I got treated like I was a valued customer. I only come in here every other day.” I took another bite of my sandwich.

His boss looked at me. “We could honestly do just fine without your money. We don’t like murderers.”

I choked on my meatball. “I am not a murderer. I have never killed anyone. I have only defended myself when someone attacked me first. I have never gone out of my way to kill a human being. If this is how you treat your customers...fine.” I stood up and put my sandwich down. “Have your damn food that I rightfully paid for.”

The employee stood and cleared his throat. “Sir, please. I’ll pay for the sandwich myself. Can we just drop this?”

His boss glared at me and left to the back room.

The guy looked at me and fixed his glasses again. “I’m sorry about that. I have to go close up.”

“It’s not your fault. I’m just somehow the butt of everyone jokes, except I’m the culprit of everyone’s suspicions. I’ll get going.”

He handed me my sandwich and nodded. “If I hadn’t forgotten your sandwich, this wouldn’t have happened. I’m sorry.” He left to the back room to begin his closing.

I didn’t understand that boy. Who raised him to be so smart? He had common sense and that was hard to find.

I left the shop and ate my meatball sub on the way back home. I wasn’t sure if I had made a friend. No, I was sure I hadn’t. He may have talked to me to pass time at work but he wouldn’t actively hang out with me during his own time. I was not that special around here.

I took a quick shower as I got back to my cabin. I got ready for bed after that. Staring at my ceiling, I noticed the way the light covered my room. The moonlight was creating a pattern on my ceiling as a reflection of the trees that stood by my window.

My room was a mix of black, blue and gray colors all in multiple shades. It was beautiful and it reminded me of camping in the woods. Although living in a cabin was much like camping in the woods, only the tent was bigger and made of wood.

The cabin was silent tonight. It was a peaceful silence, a silence that had allowed me to make sure my own thoughts were taken care of. With nothing else on my mind, I was taken into the black abyss where dreams didn’t exist.

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