I take a deep breath as soon as my feet hit the ground at the bus station. It’s an unusually cold spring day, even though the sun is still shining bright this afternoon. I grab the strap of my backpack before throwing it over my shoulder.
I’ve been on the road for two years now, and it never gets easier. I squint at the sign in the middle of the bus station that reads “Old Bern Station”, this will do, I guess. I quickly realize that I’m the only passenger getting off at this station. That suits me perfectly, as I prefer to avoid big cities. When I finally make my way out from the bus platform, I look around, this is perhaps an even smaller city than I had first thought. My priority is to find accommodation, a motel at first and then after a couple of days I can look for a more permanent living situation. It’s always nice to sleep in an apartment instead of a motel, even though I know I won’t be here long, I never stay. It’s important to always be on the move.
I start walking down the street towards what appears to be a small square. I am greeted by a large round cobblestoned opening with shops on either side of the square. It’s late so the shops aren’t open, and the square seems to be deserted. I only have one goal, and that is to find a bed for me to rest on tonight and pray to all the gods that the nightmares won’t haunt me in my dreams.
I keep on walking and the people who walk past me give me strange looks, but I’m used to it. A newcomer to such a small town always causes a disturbance at first, but the curiosity of a new person in town always subsides after a while.
I look out over the square as I walk straight through it, beautiful trees surround the otherwise bland surface.
In the distance, a young woman walks with a small child by her side. She looks at me with raised eyebrows when the child suddenly points at me. The boy says something that makes the woman pull the child towards her. She bends down and gives him what looks like a scolding.
I laugh and continue walking between some shops, through a dark alley until I come out on the other side. What the fuck, where is this city’s motel? Have I ended up in such a small town that they don’t even have housing for outsiders?
I sigh, grabbing the strap of my backpack before throwing it over my other shoulder. I try to massage the shoulder that carried the backpack, I’m stiff and I need a long hot shower. I sat on that bus for 6 hours and it’s impossible to say that I feel fresh after such a long journey.
I’m just about to turn around and walk back towards the square when I see a sign with the letters “Café and Bar” on it. Okay, a beer with a slice of cake, please? Weird combination of establishment, but hey, who am I to judge? I can check it outand warm up for a while, maybe ask the barista or bartender where the nearest motel is.
I walk towards the bar; the sun has already started to set and my stomach is rumbling loudly. Before I step inside, I slide my hand into my jeans pocket to pull out some cash. $50, that should be enough for some food, a beer, and a night or two in a shabby motel.
I grab the wooden door, open it and step into the warmth. My body relaxes somewhat when I am greeted by music, laughter, and clinking glasses. It’s not a big café/bar, but the feeling there is very homely. There are a few small tables to the left with chairs around them and a long wooden bar counter to the right. Behind the bar you can see bottles of various spirits, but also a large espresso machine. To the right of the bar is a glass display case full of pastries. Some of the guests are drinking beer and eating snacks, while others have a teacup on the table and a plate of biscuits. Two large men are sitting at one of the tables, deeply immersed in a conversation. In front of them are empty shot glasses and a plate of cheesecake. The craziest combination I’ve seen in a long time.
Suddenly, the door slams shut behind me and everyone turns to the doorway. I swallow hard when their eyes land on me. Oh my God, have they never seen a stranger before?
I straighten my back before confidently walking over to the bar. I let my backpack sink down in front of one of the bar stools before I sit down. I can feel the eyes burning in my back, but I do everything I can to ignore it when the young girl standing behind the bar walks up to me. She has fiery red hair, green eyes, a tight black t-shirt, and ripped jeans. Her beauty is from another world. I stare at her with wide eyes before I realize she’s said something.
“Uh... what?” My voice suddenly sounds hoarse and raspy, and I blush at what an idiot I must seem to be. I clear my throat and continue, “Sorry, what did you say?”
She giggles. “I was just asking what the young lady would like to order?”
“Ah, okay...” I look around behind her and then to the glass case. “A beer... and a blueberry cupcake?”
“Coming right up!” She turns around, picks up a beer bottle and opens it before placing it on the bar in front of me. Then she walks lightly towards the glass display case to fish out a muffin which she places on a small platter next to my beer.
“Thank you,” I say, giving her a small smile.
“You’re not from here,” she says, more as a statement than a question.
I take a sip of the beer, and I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but it feels like the people behind me are talking more quietly now that Redhead has asked me a question.
“No, I came into town today. By bus.” I meet her gaze as I take a bite of the muffin. It was divine, oh my God, who made this? “I’ve never seen a Café Bar before, a bit of an odd combination?”
She laughs before dragging her rag across the bar to my right. “Well, a little weird maybe, but my partner and I wanted to open something together. I’ve always loved being a bartender, but she loves to bake, so why not combine the two?” Her smile is contagious.
“Yeah, why not? Whatever floats your boat” I answer before taking another sip of my beer. I can feel the liquid thawing me from the inside out. “Hey, one question, where is the nearest motel?”
She gives me a surprised look before smiling at me again. “Um, motels... well, we don’t have that many of those here, but we do have a Bed and Breakfast. It’s further up this street and then on the left, you can’t miss it. It’s called Missys B&B.”
“Okay, Bed and Breakfast... Sounds expensive.”
“Don’t worry...” She clears her throat. “What’s your name?”
“Don’t worry, Maya, I know Missy so if you say hello from me, you can get a discount” she says before winking at me.
“Wow, thank you. And your name is?” I must remind myself not to get too attached to anyone, even if this girl is really friendly.
“Samantha, but you can call me Sami.”
“Sami! Can I have two more Tequila shots!” One of the cheesecake men appears at the bar next to me.
“Of course,” Sami replies with her usual smile. She immediately takes one of the bottles behind her before pouring the contents into two small shot glasses and sliding them towards him.
“Hey you” he says when he turns to me.
“No thanks,” I reply coldly, not even bothering to look at him. His frame is huge, it reminds me of the ones from home, but I hope I’m wrong. I grew up in a pack of werewolves, mainly because the Alpha of the pack felt sorry for me when he found me as a baby alone in the woods. He took me to the pack, but no one wanted to raise a human child, so I had to live and work in the packhouse instead, starting from a young age. It’s a good thing that the cook, June, felt sorry for me and taught me to both read and write. In the evenings, after I had finished all my work, I would sit with her until bedtime. After the Alpha died when I was twelve, everything changed. The new Alpha, Rick, was ruthless and he did everything to humiliate me, to show that I was inferior to him. June noticed all the bruises and was furious, she confronted Alpha Rick and he forced me to watch as he beat her bloody for questioning him. To this day, I remember the sound of his knuckles breaking her jawbone. I blink hard to shake off the horrible memory.
“Shit, you don’t have to be so rude,” the man says before bringing his shots back to his table.
“Don’t mind Jeremy, he’s always an idiot” Sami says and winks at me. I glance over at the two men; they are so big... For a while I wonder if I should hop on the next bus tomorrow, the risk that they are werewolves seems high, and I need to do everything to avoid that kind of people.
“Maya, how long will you stay here? My friend Frey is looking for someone to help him in his shop. If you’re looking for a job, that is?” Sami leans against the bar while holding me hostage with her gaze.
I could use some extra cash, and a few days here won’t hurt... or would it?
“Oh, please! We never get any newcomers here and Frey is the kindest man you could meet. He would really need the help, even if it is just for a couple of days” she pleads, and I can’t seem to hold my ground against her fierce green eyes.
“Yeah, okey, I’d be happy to help out, if he wants me” I reply, and Sami lights up.
“Fun! I’ll call him tomorrow and schedule an interview for you!” She skips off the bar and behind a door. She’s holding her phone in her hand when she returns. I give her my phone number, pay for my beer and cupcake before I leave the bar to head towards my accommodation.
The wind has picked up and chills me to the core. It doesn’t take long before I make my way to a small house with a glowing sign outside: “Missy’s B&B”.
Carefully, I knock on the door before opening it and entering. I hold on tightly to my backpack as I step up to the reception desk. The walls are covered in wallpaper in floral patterns, and it smells like it always does in the home of an elderly person.
“Hello?” I shout into the dark house, the only light that is shining is a small red table lamp that is standing on an old vanity behind the reception.
“Hey! Maya, right?” An elderly lady steps out from behind one of the doors to the right of the counter.
“How... How did you know?”
“Sami called me, of course!” says the elderly lady and laughs. “I’m Missy Fleur!” She holds out her hand and I hesitate a little before shaking it.
“Maya” I say shortly, giving her a stiff smile. She reminds me of June and feelings are bubbling up inside me that I’d rather repress.
“Maya...? No last name?”
“No, no last name,” I answer, shrugging my shoulders. “Do you have a room available? I can take the smallest room in the house; I don’t need much.”
Missy makes a grimace before bending down to flip through her booking book. “Hmm... Yes, you can take the green room,” she finally replies before turning to walk up the rickety stairs. I follow her, observing my surroundings and looking around. We walk through a short corridor with doors on each side until we stop outside the door that is furthest away.
“Here!” she says as she unlocks the door and lets me in. The room isn’t big, but it’s not the smallest room I’ve slept in either. Pink floral wallpaper adorns the walls, a window with glazing bars facing the street. To the right is a small steel-framed bed and opposite it a chest of drawers that looks to be a hundred years old.
“Here’s your toilet,” she says as she opens the only door in the room. I peek in, a small shower, a toilet, and a sink, that’s good enough for me.
“Thank you,” I reply when I take the key to the room.
“Breakfast starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 10 a.m., welcome, dearest,” Missy says as she gives me a smile. She closes the door carefully behind her and I sink down onto the bed. I’m exhausted, my body is screaming for rest. I quickly unpack my clothes and fold them into the drawers before taking a hot shower. I scrub my body clean before putting on a large t-shirt and a pair of cotton panties. The bed creaks loudly as I crawl under the covers. I take a deep breath that ends in a heavy sigh. My eyelids are heavy, and it doesn’t take long before the world of sleep whisk me away.