Chapter 8: An Awkward First "Date"
"Do you want to eat anything?" Caleb asks a traumatized Brooke as he guides her to the wooden booths.
He gently pushed Brooke in the stiff chair, then sits in front of the girl. The restaurant almost looks like a bar.
Metal ceiling fans decrease the scorching temperature flourishing inside the unusual diner. Lights burn in Brooke's eyes. She glues her on the dark brown table, silent.
Bar waitresses waltz across the black checkerboard floor, carrying silver trays of cooked meals they wore tight tank tops, boot cut jeans, and dark combat boots.
She didn't know what this place is, but it sure wasn't Hooters.
"God," Brooke mutters. "Is New York becoming a breeding ground for serial killers?"
"Nah," said Caleb in a nonchalant way.
"I am pretty sure Florida has a lot of serial killer conventions. The three things New York is ashamed of are its losing war on drugs, crime, and gangs."
His carefree words didn't ease Brooke's mind.
"It's not funny." she hissed. "And stop looking at me like that."
Caleb blushed. "Why?"
"Because you always make that weird face."
"I don't know," Brooke sputters. "Like you're trying to understand me."
That's when Caleb grips Brooke's left hand. "Because I want to understand you. Is that wrong?"
Brooke yanks his hand away. "Yes."
"No. Maybe. Ugh, I don't know."
The bar waitress wanders towards the kids, brandishing a small notebook and pen. Her red hair draped the chalk-like cigarette hiding behind her left ear.
"What would you two like to eat?"
Embarrassed, Brooke scans her eyes across the menu when Caleb requests two cups of hot chocolate milk and plates of cookies with chocolate chips and white marshmallow chunks.
Bored, the bar waitress chomps on her pink gum, scribbled on the notepad, then walked away. After she left, Brooke flashes Caleb a curious look.
"What is this place?" she whispers in a trembling voice.
Caleb analyzes the two men singing "A Seek and Destroy" in the background.
The small television — on the right-hand corner of the bar — reported Sermon Sal's death, alarming the patrons.
Brooke shrinks in her seat, while Caleb gawks at the news without blinking. He seemed glad that Sermon Sal is dead.
Though his lack of emotions terrified a few customers, the girl didn't condemn Caleb.
Besides, Sermon Sal was her least favorite customer.
He often came to the record shop to check out CDS, delivered flyers about his new church, and sometimes stared at Brooke's ass whenever she walked by. Although she is a little shaken up, Brooke is relieved that the preacher is dead, and it's all thanks to Caleb who blew his brains out.
As soon as the waitress served them their food, Brooke ate the soft chocolate chip cookies and drank the hot, brown liquid from the blue coffee mug.
Caleb observes her with amusement; he is surprised that the girl hadn't eaten a warm snack.
"Have you eaten anything before that creep assaulted you?" he asked.
Brooke nodded. "Yeah, I had pizza."
"Dominos or Pizza Hut?"
Caleb pretends to gag. "I hate Dominos. They always put too much garlic on the crust."
Intrigued, Brooke picks up a hardened marshmallow off of her plate and ate it.
"Dominos isn't so bad." she shrugs. "I like their veggie toppings."
"Because I don't eat meat."
"Ah, so you're a vegan." Caleb picks up his cookie then dunks it in his mug. Brooke leans against the red cushion. Her brown eyes examine the soft drizzle on the cold glass.
A dark purple bruise circled her left eye. It made her ashamed that she covered the ugly abrasion with her hair.
"Are you okay?"
Brooke didn't respond. Her long fingers grasp her coke bottle as she swallowed a few sips of her carbonated beverage.
"Where's your boyfriend and his pals?" he asks.
Yesterday night, Brooke had a vision of Vinny and his gang of losers sitting in a flamboyant nightclub kissing random girls.
She thought about telling Caleb, but she didn't trust anyone in this crime-infested town — except her sweet grandmother.
"Well, they're having a Boy's Night Out," Brooke responded.
"And they left you to fend off a rapist all by yourself?"
Brooke sets her jaw. "I can take care of myself."
"Is that why you're antagonizing him?"
"I told him to piss off, but he wouldn't," she argued. "Besides, I was going to shoot him in the balls until you stepped in. Thanks a lot."
Caleb's left eyebrow rose. "You brought a gun with you?"
"Yeah." she nods. "I want to show you, but I don't want to get arrested."
"So, you wanted me to just leave you with some horny preacher?"
Brooke scrunches her face in confusion.
"Are you that worried about me?" she asks him.
"I always worry about Vincent's girlfriends," a forlorn Caleb declares sadly. "I tried to convince them to leave him, but they never listen."
Brooke squints her eyes. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"What?" Caleb snickered, swallowing his sip of hot chocolate. "I am not a murdering masochist. Unlike that fucking Vincent Maroni."
"Oh." Brooke nodded, picking up her mug. "I heard that you don't kill any women or kids."
"I sure don't." Caleb cringed. "I have a soft spot for little kids and women. Also, my old parole officer taught me to do the right thing."
She nods. Brooke understood what he is implying; when she was a little girl, her school instructed her that she can hurt people as long as they did something wrong.
"Okay," she says eventually. "But what does any of this have to do with Vincent?"
Caleb finishes his white mug, sets it on the greasy brown table, then identify his short hangnail. "Vincent has a bad temper. One time, he bashed his third girlfriend's head through a wall."
"A year before you came here."
Brooke bites the inside of her frozen cheeks, compressing her unbridled scream.
So, Mia wasn't his first kill? she guessed angrily.
There were several things Brooke hates about her powers: her visions would always show her the future, but they were often difficult to decipher.
Truth be told, her visions hardly came to her, and when they did, Brooke has to draw it quickly before her memory fades. If her powers were stronger than her mother's, then she would have stopped these murders before anyone got hurt.
"Jesus Christ," Brooke scratched the pimple on her forehead. "I am such a fucking idiot."
"It's not your fault."
"Yes, it is," Brooke argues. "If you hadn't told me that, I wouldn't have realized how dangerous he was."
While Caleb ordered a second round of hot chocolate, Brooke requested a bottle of Coke chugged it as if it was liquor.
Damn. he thought. Caleb had never seen someone who can drink a Coke in under three seconds.
Brooke wipes the blood off her bruised lip and curses under her breath. She felt disgusted.
Inquisitive, Caleb examines the contusion around Brooke's left eye and offers to take her to the hospital but she kindly refused.
"So, why are you hanging around with an assclown like Vinny?"
"If I tell you, then you'll probably think I am a crazy bitch," Brooke answers vaguely.
After draining his Coke glass bottle, Caleb calmly set it on the wooden countertop then scoots towards the girl. "Enlighten me, then."
Brooke opens her mouth to speak when a scary thought came to her: What if he tells Vinny and the others?
"I am not a snitch," Caleb reassures the girl, hearing her thoughts. "I can keep a secret."
"Are you sure?"
"Swear it, or I will poison you in your sleep."
Caleb sketched a sloppy X on his chest with his finger. "Cross my heart. Stick a needle in my eye. If you want, we can talk about it over burgers and fries."
Brooke's cheeks burn brighter than the sun. "Are you asking me out?" she asks quietly.
"Technically, this is our first date," Caleb smirks.
That made Brooke almost laugh.
"Is that a joke?" she snorts. "I can't go on a date with you."
"I am worried about Vinny," Brooke tells him. "He'll find out sooner or later."
Caleb smirked, "Then we'll keep it a secret."
"I don't know." she quickly stares up at the starless night sky, making Caleb intrigued.
He is curious as to what Brooke is staring at.
"Apart from your grandmother," he began, awkwardly. "Do you have any parents?"
"What do they do?"
"They travel around the world, help out poor communities, and translate omens."
A stunned Caleb caught up to her. "Wait, so your family can predict the future?"
Brooke laughed, "gee, how could you tell?"
"I don't know," Caleb shrugs. "Psychics have this special look in their eyes."
Her eyes broaden as they halted near a closed pet store.
"Special look?" she repeats in an odd tone.
"Are you calling my family crazy?"
Caleb tries to explain, but her soft brown eyes made it impossible for him to speak.
"Uh, you know—"
Brooke walks up to him, inspecting his timid face. "Do I know, what?"
He couldn't help but smile. Her breath smelled like mint — a delicious scent. It gave Caleb enough confidence to speak up when the two teenagers sensed someone watching them in a filthy alleyway.
Silent, Caleb and Brooke unveiled their Berettas and point them in the direction where quick footsteps ran across the murky puddles.
At first, the kids were ready to meet their maker. But when Caleb's firearm was jammed, Brooke whips out her Beretta then shoots the large figure charging towards them.
Blood splattered the windows. The black hoodie is stabbed with pieces of metal. A curious Caleb stoops down, throwing the filthy old hoodie off the guy's head and inspecting his plump face.
In his left hand was a loaded Desert Eagle.
"Damn," he whistled. "You're a good shot."
Brooke smiled shyly. "I told you I can take care of myself. Did you know that guy?"
Caleb examines the man's gruesome face once more, then shakes his head.
"Nope," he sighs.
"Why was he trying to shoot us?" Brooke thought. "Was he hired by someone?"
The boy calmly grabs her by the arm and pulls her away from the rest body. "He was nothing but an arrogant gangbanger. Come on, let's go before the pigs find us."
After Caleb walks Brooke over to the old woman's apartment, he asks the girl if he wants to go out again sometime.
"Again, I don't think it's a good idea," she tells him. "If we hang out, then Vinny will think—"
"Who gives a damn what people think?" an annoyed Caleb sigh. "Jesus, is Vinny always this controlling? You have a fucking life, you know that, right?"
"I know, but if Vinny is —"
"Why are you working for Vinny?" he asks unexpectedly, cutting Brooke off.
"Why are you working for Vinny?"
"It's hard to explain," Brooke counters bitterly, searching for her keys inside her coat pockets.
As soon as the cold metal touched her fingers, Brooke procured the silver keys, fit one inside the lock, and begins to turn counterclockwise. But before she opens the door, Caleb asks her a question that made Brooke stop her tracks.
"Are you in trouble?"
Caleb takes a step forward.
"Okay," he sighed. "But if you are, here's a piece of advice: stay away from Vinny. He is not worth it."