An ominous atmosphere spread through the area. Grant, head turned, stared in silence with his mouth agape. The shadowy figure trudged closer, hands full.
“Wh-who is th-that?” Grant’s mouth dried as he spoke.
The figure thrusted up their hand, carrying the silhouette of blades as they bounced light back from the street lights.
Grant’s body shook.
“I’ve brought bananas!” The voice echoed throughout the yard. “And I already wrapped the tin foil around them individually for the fire!”
Grant’s body instinctively shot backwards, almost throwing himself and the chair to the ground..
“Wait, bananas…?” Grant whispered to himself.
Rhett rocked back and forth laughing, balancing on the edge of his chair.
“Saraiya! Way to kill the new guy!” Rhett cackled.
“You liked that? I was reading a book last night, and they had a stupid scene like this. I wanted to try it out.” Saraiya sat down at an empty chair and looked at Grant, trying her best to hold back from laughing. “Oh, wait you were at Nha-Stop today, yeah?”
Grant, still catching his breath replied, “Yeah… That was me.”
Saraiya and Grant exchanged introductions. She apologized to Grant, but she didn’t seem completely genuine, her face rose to a smirk that she had to force down.
Rhett went to fetch Saraiya a drink, and Saraiya pulled out a small notebook from her pocket.
“Let’s see, you said your name was Grant, yeah?” She leaned into the fire’s light and scribbled down words. Through empty cracks of the flames reflecting off her glasses, green eyes focused on him. “That should be good.”
“What are you doing?” Grant leaned over towards her, trying to catch what she scribed down.
“I’m just taking notes. Don’t worry about it.” She smiled and leaned back. “I hope you are enjoying it here so far.”
Grant’s answer was one of uncertainty, yes he did enjoy his freedom here, but things were unsettling as well.
Rhett stumbled out of the door still laughing to himself while carrying drinks.
“Damn it, I’m sorry Grant, please don’t be offended. I’ve never seen anyone get terrified from bananas before.” Rhett handed Saraiya a drink, and wiped his eyes, chuckling.
“Who brings bananas to a fire anyway?” Grant asked, speaking fast..
“Saraiya’s been bringing them once a week now. I’m glad she does too, they’re pretty great melted as a desert. It adds an extra kick to your standard s’more.”
“I haven’t even had a normal s’more.”
Both of them stared at Grant.
“Whaaat, well, that’s going to change in a bit. Rhett, you got the other stuff for the s’mores?” Saraiya asked.
“That’s what I was going to bring out! But I ended up making myself another drink along with yours Saraiya,” Rhett groaned, and trudged back inside, drink in hand.
Feeling the effects of finishing his drink, Grant loosened up a bit. How strong did Rhett make it anyway? His confidence boosted slightly, and his chest grew warm, it felt as if he had three shots already.
“You’re fairly new here then too?” Grant asked Saraiya and placed his empty cup into the cup holder of the chair, stretching his arms above his head.
“Yep, I’m still getting used to the countryside, but I’d say I’m pretty much well adapted now.”
“Where did you come here from?”
“Montria, which, to be honest, isn’t a major move. But I wanted to come here for the experience.”
“It’s a dream of mine to be a writer for a magazine. Really any magazine will do, my main reason for coming here was to practice observing and writing about nature. There are other things that being out here help me with too though.”
“It’s a secret,” she teased and looked over her shoulder. Changing the subject she continued speaking, “Rhett always mixes the best drinks, even better than Ambri does, and she’s a bartend-
“Oh shut up, Saraiya,” A voice from behind shouted.
Saraiya grinned. “Oh, I didn’t see you there.”
A girl with shoulder length black hair and light skin approached from behind them. Judging by the conversation, she must have been the one Jack mentioned.
“Who do we have here?” Ambri staggered towards the heat and looked at the both of them. “Grant, I presume?”
He nodded his head, they introduced themselves, and she sat down.
“Oh, hey Ambri, didn’t think you’d be back so quick,” Rhett said as he stumbled out of the door with a bag of food in one hand and a drink in the other.
“Yeah, well, I got to go home early. The bar was pretty dead. Plus, I wanted to meet the new guy and figured you would have invited him over.” She turned to Grant once more. “Jack has told me so much about you.” Her voice chilled against the fire.
What was the point of saying it like that? The hairs on his arm rose.
““Sorry I took so long on gathering the s’more stuff, I got distracted from something I got in the mail. Anyway, everyone is here now, let’s get to making the snacks!” Rhett plopped back into his seat, as if he didn’t expect to get back up anytime soon.
“You aren’t going to offer Ambri a drink too?” Saraiya asked.
“You know as well as I do that she is already drunk. She doesn’t need anymore.”
Ambri’s eyebrows raised. “Oh really?” She stood up in an act to intimidate Rhett, but she wobbled.
“Yes.” Rhett said, “I’m surprised how you can manage to walk home every night if I am being honest.”
“Oh please, I don’t drink that much. Just because I work in a bar, you think I’m an alcoholic?” She leaned back, pushing her hair out from her eyes, and sighed. “It’s not my fault those creepy guys buy me drinks and I accept them.”
“Wish that would work for me…” Rhett laughed. “Grant, you drink often? We might be a bad influence on you.”
“No, I don’t drink too much. Occasionally, but that’s it.”
Saraiya smirked. “Oh, I hope we don’t mess you up. It seems drinking is the only thing that happens for fun in small towns, based on my experience.”
“I don’t think the alcohol here is what will mess him up,” Ambri said jokingly, with a slight menacing undertone.
Grant’s eyes slowly drifted towards Ambri’s dark purple eyes. Fire burning in the reflection.
“Oh come on, there’s nothing wrong here besides our slight drinking problems, and maybe some of the cats.” Saraiya said.
“There’s nothing wrong with the cats, like we’ve told you many times before, they will get used to you. It just takes time.” Ambri said.
“I’ve already been here for four months, and Rhett, two. You’d think they would at least approach me by now?”
“I promise. In at least one more month, they will.” Confidence overflowed out from Ambri’s voice.
“Yeah, yeah.” Saraiya said.
Plastic bags scrunched as Rhett took out ingredients needed to construct the perfect s’mores, and laid them in the grass in front of him.
“Okay, let’s get these started.” Rhett took a swig of his drink and set it down.
Both Rhett and Saraiya unwrapped the tin foil from the bananas and cut them down the middle, the slit didn’t pierce through to the other side.
Breaking off chocolate chunks, and bunching up marshmallows, they stuffed them into the crevice in the banana, evenly. After assembling the banana to their liking, they wrapped the tin foil back around it and placed it into the fire pit leaning against the ashen rocks.
“And now we wait.”
Everyone sat in silence, the fire crackled and crickets chirped. The night swayed everyone to a peaceful bliss. Or perhaps that was the alcohol.
“Kale should be coming by sometime soon.” Ambri broke the silence.
“Speaking of Kale, what does he do all day?” Rhett asked
“I’m not sure,” Ambri said, “He keeps his life a secret from even me.”
“He does seem to hide a lot of things. Sometimes he creeps me out, but on the other hand, he gives me inspiration for my writing.” Saraiya said.
“Oh come on, Saraiya, Kale isn’t that creepy. I was just telling Grant earlier, if you take into account all he’s been through it’s understandable.” Rhett said.
“I guess…” Saraiya leaned back and stared up at the starlit sky.
Ambri stayed silent in the chair.
Outlooking onto all the new faces, Grant had gained insight on what kind of
people they could be. Even for them meeting each other recently, they had a relationship that allowed for bickering and joking. One that Grant felt with Jack, although, he never considered him a friend; outside of work activities he never saw him.
Grant spoke without thinking, “Earlier he told me that he doesn’t think that you guys like him. He said he can see something in your eyes when you look at him. Judging him, or something.”
“No, no, I swear I don’t have a problem with him.” Rhett’s voice wavered.
Ambri still sat without adding to the exchange, although she seemed to follow it closely, like a cat watching a mouse, waiting for her time to pounce.
“Isn’t it only natural to be creeped out by him though? He follows our every move like a stalker. You don’t have to lie to yourself anymore Rhett, he isn’t even here. I can see how much stress he puts you under.” Saraiya said.
“I’d be careful with your words guys, you don’t know how much you would upset him if he heard that,” Ambri interrupted.
Breaking the conversation, a roar from beyond the outskirts of Lyros thundered through, as if nature itself felt irked about the conversation. Grant’s back grew stiff, and the hair on his arms rose. Rhett and Saraiya seemed equally spooked about it, however Ambri acted as if nothing happened.
“What was that?” Grant was the first to speak.
“I’ve heard it before…” Rhett said. “But never that loud.”
“You guys are scared of that? It’s just a lion. They won’t come into Lyros, don’t worry. We’ve never had a problem with them,” Ambri said. “And as I have already told most of you, if you don’t wander into the fields alone at night, you should be fine.”