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The King of Bones

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My footsteps gently cracked the fresh snow as I rubbed my hands together, trying to create enough friction to warm them up. I longed for the warmth of the sun, but night had fallen long ago. The double shift I got called in for had caught me off guard as I had been unprepared for it, and left me exhausted as I had to work through my usual sleeping time. The other waitress had called in sick last minute, and that’s why I’m walking back home in the dead of a snowy windy night.

There wasn’t even a car driving down the street, nor a stray cat scuffling. One could say the entire town was frozen in time perpetuated by the loneliness of the snowy night. I kept moving forward, looking for a small corner to hide from the wind so I could warm up just enough to keep going. Up ahead, I saw a familiar corner I would sometimes hide in to warm up. It was the locked doorway to the television store that kept his televisions on all day and night for potential customers.

I briefly stopped in front of the display window with several different televisions showing the latest in a series of brutal murders. I’d seen the news channels talk about this before and it seemed to be the only story they had been reporting on for the last several weeks. There was a special about the injuries and disfigurations, but nothing about the person or persons responsible being caught. I continued to watch the news with a brief amount of interest, hoping with a frown that something else would be reported on.

My frown became a scowl when I saw the message scroll down from the screens ‘Be careful, don’t go out alone at night!’ “Ah! Like I have another option?” I muttered with teeth chattering from the cold. I turned away from the display and made my way home. With nothing else to distract me from the cold, I started to think about my latest shift at work.

A familiar customer caught my attention at the start of my shift. It was a man who had been absent for several weeks who prior to his disappearance had come in every day like clockwork, ordering the same thing every day at the tables I attended. He was very polite and always gave a big tip for the small tabs. It was weird… very weird. But not the kind of weird that sets off danger bells in your head, the sad kind of weird. He always came alone and always ordered the same thing, like he was trying to recapture memories from long ago that always seemed just beyond his grasp. I’ve always wanted to ask him why he seemed so sad, but never can seem to get the chance too. Every time I think I have a chance to make small talk, the serving bell would ring, alerting me to the fact that another customer’s dishes were ready to be taken out or a table needed cleaning for the next guests ready to sit down.

I finally made it to my apartment, but fumbled with the keys several times. It was a struggle for my numb fingers to pick them up after dropping them because the metal would try to stick to my fingers. Grumbling, I rubbed my hands to warm them up enough so I could unlock the door. My snow-laden boots masked most of the noise I made coming into the refreshingly warm apartment. As soon as I shut the door, I could feel the warmth embracing my body like a badly needed warm hug. I felt bad that the noise I made struggling to unlock the door probably woke up half the complex, but that concern redoubled in my mind as I tried to be quiet inside the apartment so as not to disturb my sleeping roommate. Luna, my fuzzy terror cat, meowed several times demanding my attention and made sure to stay a step in front of me while I moved to get to my room.

I gave Luna several quick pets to shut her up when I heard Jessica turn and roll in her bed. She worked the same job as me, but different hours. She had the day time shifts, unlike me, who was stuck working the evening and now the night shifts. I worked to quickly undress myself out of the many layers of frozen water starting to melt. First the coat, then the boots, followed by everything else until only my work clothes remained. But even those did not last long as I quickly moved to undress and threw them into the hamper to be washed too. I stood before the mirror, naked for a moment and realized how tired I looked. My green eyes barely seemed half open, in the dim light, one might mistake them for hazel instead of the almost turquoise color they really are. My brown hair, which I had spent a good ten minutes getting perfectly into place before work, was disheveled and looked dismal to say the least. My body seemed pale in the poor lighting, whereas my cheeks and nose seem to be the only red I had on my body.

With a frustrated groan I turned away from the mirror and took my robe off of the back of my door, putting it on as I walked into the kitchen not caring that I was exposed to the windows briefly while tying the belt in place. As soon as I got to the fridge, I pulled out a little yoghurt cup and peeled the top off while getting a clean spoon from the drawer next to the fridge. I stuck the spoon in it, then poured myself a glass of juice, and looked at Jessica’s door while eating and drinking just enough to make sure I didn’t wake up starving later. I glanced at the path leading to the shower, but the fatigue of the day left me too drained to find such a thought enjoyable. Besides, the noise would piss the neighbors off and I didn’t need them banging on the door disturbing Jessica at this hour. I was hoping Jessica would come out of her room to say hi, but she didn’t. I cleaned up my small dinner and put the glass and spoon in the sink and filled it with water to clean later.

Returning to my room, I removed the robe and put on my Pajamas and narrowly avoided kicking Luna as she jumped up on the corner of the bed at the same time as I was crawling on top of it. I pulled the fold of sheet and blanket on top of me and sighed in relief as the cool sheets and pillows slowly began to warm up and my aches of the day began to melt away as sleep embraced me moments after closing my eyes.

The morning sun’s warmth filtered through my bedroom window and made my bed uncomfortably warm, which told me it was roughly about 10 am in the morning. I opened my eyes to be greeted by the butt of my fuzzy terror and with a grunt realized she’d been using me to keep herself warm. As soon as I began to move, she quickly turned around and meowed at me in an annoyed manner. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I forget to feed you last night?” I said as I scratched her behind her ears and she began purring. “Don’t worry I’ll take care of you soon.” And proceeded to wake up and prepare for the day.

I decided to make Luna happy, filling her food and water dishes, before tending to my own personal needs. The first thing I did for myself was taking an extra hot shower to work out any kinks the sleep did not take care of. After that, I cooked myself a hot breakfast, which I enjoyed in my bathrobe waiting for my hair to dry, before going to put on some warm comfortable winter clothing to go outside and enjoy the day in.

While putting on my boots, I glanced at the stack of photos that were decorating my desk, and wrinkled my nose at them. They weren’t inspiring me as they had been for my school project. I picked up my camera from my night stand, threw a couple of treats on the bed for Luna to find while I made my trek to the door to lock her inside. Once I knew the cat was secure, I did not need to worry about her getting outside again. I walked to the park with a slight spring in my step, the sun was out, the people were all around. It didn’t look nearly as drab as it had been only a few hours before. I made my way to my favorite spot to take pictures from.

My favorite spot is an old tree with a thick branch that I can sit comfortably on and take pictures of anything around me without too much trouble. There is a good portion of the trunk and other branches that I can never see around, but having nearly 300 degrees of angles to take pictures from is nothing to complain about when looking down and around. I have a park on one side, a portion of a street and the city on the other side, and further away there is a mountain and a forest. Most of my ‘inspirational’ pictures come from the city. Like the punk teenager currently dressed as a giant hot dog using his middle finger to pull down the skin under his eye while flipping me off with his tongue sticking out. I couldn’t help but laugh as I took several pictures of that moment.

I take pictures of other people, animals like squirrels and birds, pets, strays and so on. I never know what the day is going to let me capture, sometimes a day can be a dud.. but considering my hot dog punk teen gave me a laugh at the start of my session, my mood was bubbly. I continued to look around, and noticed the uncommon but recognizable snow-white hair of a refined gentleman moving his red scarf from his neck to his lower face while he seemed to be waiting for someone in the park. As my camera zoomed in on him, I noticed his ears were also red with cold. He was looking in the opposite direction from me until I took the first photo of him, at which point he seemed to turn around, as though suddenly aware of my presence. The thought gave me a funny chill as I scolded myself for being paranoid, even though he seemed to be looking right at me.

It was then that the usually dull color of his eyes caught my attention. The sunlight and the camera zoom allowed me to see their true natural color. The purple hue akin to amethyst was something I had never seen before, and definitely caught my attention. Normally, he kept his eyes down in the restaurant and I always thought they were a dull unimpressive color, but then I saw the surprise register in his eyes as he recognized me, and then smiled, waving at me as the surprise turned to understanding when he realized I was taking his picture. It almost struck me that he had taken a pose of some sort, like models do when they know a camera is flashing in their direction.

I took several pictures in a row before he turned again, surprised by something. He leaned over to dodge a snowball that crashed further into the park, I barely caught the tail end of it in the last picture I took of him. I leaned over to try and see his ‘attacker’, but the branches obscured the area too much for me to see who it was. The white-haired man quickly retaliated by making his own snowball to return to his ambusher, laughing in a ‘you dare to challenge me?’ kind of way.

Finally, I managed to see who initiated the snowball fight as they changed locations to get closer to the white-haired man. Dressed in black from head to toe, with jet-black hair and bright leaf green eyes… I briefly sat in stunned silence before I wrinkled my nose and narrowed my eyes watching and capturing photos of the two men exchanging snowballs like hardened war veterans of snowball fights. The superior ‘snow-ball warrior’ seemed to be the man in black. After I felt satisfied I had captured enough moments of the event, I got down from the tree, and walked over to the man dressed in black. I lifted my boot, gently connected it to his butt, and pushed with all my might and struggled not to smirk when he landed face first in a pile of snow.

The black-haired man pulled his head from the snow, spit out some of it while shaking the snow out of his hair and brushing it off of his coat at the same time, a look of anger on his face as he turned around sputtering. I crossed my arms and looked at him with pursed lips to hide the fact that I wanted to smile for ‘kicking his ass’ by making him eat a bank full of snow. “Hey! What the he-” He stopped himself as he suddenly recognized me. “Cam?! CAM!” The two of us embraced in a hug moments later, though the strength of his hug left my feet dangling in the air for a moment.

“Ah! It’s been what… two years since I last saw you? You know that our Christmases have become painfully boring without you, right sis’?!” My brother asked as my boots found the ground once more.

“Am I the only one who will never end up drunk or tipsy while making Christmas fun? We got off to a bad start if that’s the case…” I replied with a smirk.

He laughed loudly at my retort, briefly hugged me again, bouncing on one foot then the other. Then with a sudden seriousness that left me somewhat surprised, he firmly gripped my shoulders and twisted me to face the white haired man while turning himself in the same direction. “Caim, I present you with my little sister Camellia! Camellia, this is Caim! An… old friend.”

“You hesitated…” I said, turning my head to him to give him a stern look that usually made him nervous. It still did.

“What? No!” He tried to wave off the accusation.

“Yes… you totally hesitated.” I said calmly as I pushed his hands from my shoulders and started my older brother down.

“It’s… complicated…” He said meekly, clearly not wanting to elaborate.

“I thought you were already engaged…” I said, hoping to get him to slip up on some details.

“I AM engaged! With Mathilde!” He grumbled at me. I playfully nudged him to let him know I was joking and not to get so carried away.

A car honking made all three of us turn to the source, a moment later, someone yelled Caim’s name through an open window. “Ah, it looks like I have to go. Glad to have seen you again Noah … and glad to have officially met you Camellia.” Caim nodded slightly and turned on his heel to leave, exiting the park, and entering the dark car, which started moving moments after he entered, and quickly disappeared around the corner.

Looking up at my brother with a frown, he returned my gaze with an expression of incomprehension. “Officially met? What does he mean by that?” he asked.

“Oh! That…” I hesitated briefly “That’s because he’s been coming for a drink in the evening at the restaurant where I work for the last several weeks, though he was gone for a spell but I just saw him again last night. He always manages to get one of my tables, even if they’re not available he will just wait for one.” I explained quickly while feeling awkward as I did so.

I saw my brother frown and purse his lips together as he turned his head to look at the street the car had disappeared on moments ago and then he sighed as he looked back at me. “Don’t worry, he has his little habits, that’s all. He likes to have an organized routine. He must appreciate your professionalism… Besides, I’m willing to bet that if he takes a tea, it’s mint tea, and if he takes a drink, it contains mint.”

I paused and thought about what my brother said, my eyes staring at our boots as I did. Thinking back, he always did ask for mint in one form or another… A mojito with ginger, orange and mint… his tea always had mint in it, he always requested the chocolate mints with his tab too. I looked at my brother, nodding, not really sure what to respond with so I remained silent.

Noah smiled warmly at me with a nod. “He likes his habits, it gives him a sense of comfort and a feeling that he’s in control, I think. Something he can hold onto in these troubled times…” He then looked down at the camera in my hands, and made a grab for it.

He knew I enjoyed taking pictures and he’s one of the few people I trusted not to break my camera so I let him look. “By the way, does he wear contact lenses? I know I can be a little crazy but…” I didn’t want to finish my thought out loud.

“Contact lenses? No, Why?” he responded casually while glancing up at me, then went back to going through my most recent pictures taken.

“Well…” I briefly paused but then with a roll of my eyes, I decided to just say it. “I might be a little tired but I could have sworn he had purple eyes.”

Noah stopped fiddling with my camera and turned to look at me with an expression of disbelief, as though I’d suddenly grown a third arm. He shook his head, and we both looked at the digital screen of my camera together. “You must have imagined it.. look see, his eyes are as blue as they have ever been. The sunlight must have put a glare on your screen or something.” He explained to me as I looked at the pictures and saw he had a pair of greyish blue eyes. We both examined every picture I took of him, and no purple to be seen. Could it have been a trick in the light, like my brother suggested?

I wasn’t so sure, and yet, my proof was taken with my own camera “You’re right… Maybe it was only the sun.” I said in a defeated kind of way. I had been so sure of what I had seen, and I knew my lens didn’t have a glare on it when I took the picture, so why did I see purple when I should have seen blue?

Noah’s hand was suddenly messing with my hair as he smiled at me. I wrinkled my nose and took a moment to put the camera in its case, before throwing a punch at my brother’s arm. I smiled when it connected, his attention had been elsewhere, and he knew I hated it when anyone messed with my hair. “What the hell?” He exclaimed, rubbing his arm.

“Still a wimp, letting a girl kick your ass into the snow then acting like a punch in the arm hurts.” I said with a smirk and picked up my gear, making sure nothing was missing.

While I was checking my gear my brother responded with “This coming from the woman who enjoyed breaking things with her head in high school.. then again, you were a carpenter’s dream back then.”

“A carpenter’s dream?” I asked, not bothering to look up.

“You know.. flat as a board.. easy to nail.” It took me three seconds to register that insult, and two more for me to get a swift kick which my brother narrowly dodged only because he’d been expecting me to kick him. “Haha sis… you’re getting old and slow!”

“I was NOT flat as a board!” I said, making a half assed snowball to throw at him, which he dodged, running and laughing as he went wherever he was going. I threw the strap to my camera gear over my shoulder with a glare at my brother. I was going to get him back for that, but I had to admit.. he got me pretty good with that one. Not that I’ll ever admit that to him.

Once I got back to the apartment, I looked at the photos with my laptop, his eyes were still blue… I had them printed with my photo printer and even those came out blue.Not even a shadow of purple in them. I frowned, as the eyes looked touched up in the printed photo of them. You do this kind of thing long enough you eventually have a good sense to spot when something’s been photoshopped or edited… and I had that sense now looking at the photos.

Luna climbed into my lap and looked at the photos before meowing and extending her paw out to pull them all to the ground. “What, you don’t like him?” I asked in amusement as Luna meowed again and sat down on the photo with both Caim and Noah in it. Luna always recognized my brother, and had a love-hate relationship with him. It was very strange, like two old acquaintances that could barely get together. I leaned down to pick up the photos from under my cat’s butt to retrieve them and was rewarded with an annoyed meow from Luna as her tail flickered about in a dangerous manner to indicate her annoyance.

Looking through the photos, I decided they were more interesting for my project than the previous pictures I had taken before. Those had taken me a while to get the right light and composition, but these seemed like they would be more of a challenge, which is why I decided to keep them, as I knew I’d find a place for them in my project eventually. Luna jumped up on my desk and licked her front paw, which amused me because it almost seemed smug for my cat. I rewarded her with a scritch behind her ears as it made me laugh. However, my efforts to concentrate on my project ended up with me staring at the pictures of Caim and Noah, hanging on the cork board. No matter how I looked at those pictures, something always seemed off to me.

After a while, I forced my attention elsewhere. I had two good pictures of Mr. Hotdog, one with a completely jaded air as his soul was slowly wasting away, while the other we could see his anger and bitterness at being immortalized in the form of a giant hot dog. Both had their own appeal, and thus, I would keep both for different reasons. The people in this town could be colorful at times, the thought made me smirk to myself. I knew I’d eventually find a place for them in my project, however I was coming to realize that as my project was becoming more people focused, that I should have been less picky about the photos I had been taking. As I sat back in my chair and thought about what I needed, I found myself groaning in frustration. Thinking that I might need some help to finish this on time, and wondered if maybe my brother had other friends who might be interested in helping me. A glance at the clock made me groan again, louder this time, as I realized it was soon time to go work another hellish shift that I agreed to take on. I wondered why I kept saying yes instead of no to take other coworker’s shifts. Maybe if I get to a point where I’m not desperate for money, I can enjoy sleeping more and working less.

I finally got up and went to get ready, putting on my work clothes and fixing my hair. I glanced at my camera, hesitated, then put it in my bag to take with me. I gave Luna a quick loving pet and scratch before ensuring she had food and water. Jessica, who was my roommate, friend, classmate and co-worker could probably help me with my project, and if not, I could always take pictures on my breaks or after work during the night.

As I walked into the restaurant and hurried to the back to dress down from the cold to work, Jess hissed at me from behind. “Camellia, you’re almost late!”

“I know!” I whispered back while putting things in the locker. “There’s no need to ‘yell’ at me right away, save it for when I’m really late.”

A quick glance told me she was glaring at me. “Tch!” She retorted, not having anything else to add since she knew I was right.

“Go deliver table 4, her order is ready!” the head chef then barked at me, as Jess turned on her heels to go back to tending her own tables. It was a struggle not to stick my tongue out at the head chef as I pursed my lips. Not only is he the boss, he’s also the owner, so I forced my ‘waitress smile’ out as I picked up table four’s order and carried it over. After briefly introducing myself, and taking orders, I quickly made rounds to check up on the rest of my tables and their customers, ensuring everyone was happy and drinks were topped off. However, it was the evening hours, so I found myself at the back in the bar area mixing drinks with the bartender, who was swamped himself. Initially, I was supposed to be bartending with him during the busier nights, but they needed more waitresses, and I couldn’t say no, which is something I really need to work on. I shouldn’t have accepted the waitress job, but at least I could still go behind the counter and mix cocktails now and again.

The restaurant bartender was named Ryan, a high energy, quick paced man who was fit with muscles that just didn’t quit. His personality was flamboyantly bubbly, and he loved to chat, and always seemed to make time for every customer, even the ones he didn’t like. There were rumors he might be gay or had a secret lover, cause none of the female staff ever saw signs of a girlfriend or him leaving with any of the customers during closing time or quitting time. And any attempts to ask him about such things he expertly changed the subject without you noticing until you forgot what you were intending to ask him about in the first place. He is the resident man of mystery that every woman loves to gossip about in the ladies room.

“Oh Caaam!??” The sing-song voice of Ryan from nearby when I was behind the bar yet again.

“Yes?” I asked, concentrating on the drinks at the moment, but I quickly glanced at him in a worried way, concerned a customer might be upset about something.

“Your regular is back. And it looks like he brought a hottie with him, goody for you no?” He said smugly, and walked away briskly to the back to get the good stuff for one of his regulars.

I scanned the restaurant quickly to see which “regular” he was referring to, as I had several. I spotted the familiar snow white hair of Caim, and with him was my brother, and another slightly shorter man with ice blue hair. As Ryan returned from the back with an unopened bottle of something, I glared at him, and hissed “Did you just call my brother a hottie?”

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