Andrew happily munched on his burger and fries before taking a slurp of his milkshake. He suggested a local burger joint that was about two blocks away from the cafe; apparently, he was craving a ‘good ol’ burger and shake’. I didn’t mind, as a matter of fact, I was happy to have a bacon cheeseburger and fries; it’s been awhile since I’ve had one. I should treat myself since I did do well with saving money and managed to find a place to stay for a lot less than what I was expecting. I couldn’t help the soft smile that graced my lips before continuing to munch on my burger. It wasn’t until we were halfway done with our meal did we began to talk.
“I hope you like ya meal?” The way he said it made it seem like a question rather than a statement. I nodded,
“It’s delicious..uh you chose well.” I attempted to give him a small smile, but I was more focus on my food than making him feel comfortable. I didn’t have to look up to see that my response had him grinning with pride.
“So, where are you from, pumpkin?” I was beginning to wonder why he called me pumpkin so often. Did he forget my name?
“Out of town...” I mumbled, not keen on answering his question. I didn’t want anyone to know anything about my past. If I’m being honest with myself, a part of me felt like talking about my past will make it become my reality once again. I rather not include beatings and rape as a part of my daily routine again. I shivered as I thought about the feeling of those grimy hands on me.
“Oh, well how are you liking Lowesville so far? We have a lot of great things ’round here!” My lack of response to his last question didn’t seem to bother him too much as he began to switch topics. I relaxed a bit once we began talking about the town and what it had to offer.
“Hm, well you have to head on up the mountains! It’s truly a sight to see at night. Oh and the farms; it may stank but the animals are lovely.” He nodded to himself in agreement. It’s a habit I noticed he has; it’s kind of odd yet adorable at the same time. I shook my head as the thoughts started trickling in. He may be cute but that doesn’t mean you can fall head over heels for this guy. You don’t know what he may have up his sleeves.
“I didn’t know there were farms around here,” I responded softly. I wasn’t sure how he was able to hear me throughout our conversation when most of the time it seemed like I was whispering.
“Oh yes! Of course, this is the town part we are in but the countryside is further West of here.” He jerked his head behind him “It’s a nice scene to go by when your driving. You should head out there sometime.” I frowned a little. It would be great to get out of the town and live more so on the country-side. But I don’t even have a car to take me there to visit the scenery, let alone drive myself back and forth. Actually, I don’t even have a license. “Unless you don’t like the country...” he trailed off, clearly interpreting my facial expression wrong.
“Uh, no that’s not it; the countryside sounds very nice. I would live there if I could, but I don’t have a car so I have to stay close to work.” I’m not sure why I felt the need to explain myself but I did. I continued to eat the rest of my fries, not sure of what to say next.
“Oh, I see, well maybe one day I can take you up there myself.” I tensed at this. “You can even bring your friends along and we can make it a group trip.” This relaxed me a bit. Calm down, Ally. He said one day, not tomorrow, not to mention if he’s offering you to bring other people along then you can Chelsea and Meghan so you’re not alone with him. I frowned at the thought of Meghan; I still need to talk to her.
“That’d sound like fun...” Once again I could feel him smiling at me but this time I made the mistake of looking up. It felt like he knocked the wind out of me, similar to how my dad used to punch me in the stomach except his smile didn’t hurt. It was simply breathtaking. A bold blush quickly snuck up from my neck and overtook my cheeks.
“I hope you two enjoyed your meal! Will these be separate or together?” Our waiter came back to the table. He was intimidating because of his tall height, although his body was lanky and lacked any muscle beyond necessary. I forced myself to relax as much as I could as I looked out the window. There I saw a homeless woman begging for change as pedestrians walked by.
“May I get a large fry to go please?” I asked the waiter as I turned back to him.
“Sure thing, ma’am.”
“It’ll be one check” I frowned at Andrew as the waiter quickly made his way to the back to put in the order and grab our check. Apparently, my face is easy to read since Andrew responded before I could say anything. ” I don’t mind, pumpkin. It’s always a pleasure to help you in any way that I can.” My frown deepened at this. I don’t want to rely on him- for anything.
The waiter came back within 15 minutes handing me a box containing the fries before taking Andrew’s card and leaving to the cashier.
“How much was the stuff I ordered?” I asked taking out the money I bought with me, preparing to hand it over to him.
“I’m not accepting any money from you, pumpkin. I honestly don’t mind paying.”
“No buts.” His tone made me flinch. It kind of reminded me of my father. “Ally, I enjoy helping others when I can alright? You can repay me by letting me help you, with whatever you need.” Are we still talking about food or is he trying to ‘help me’ with something else? “That’s the only thing I’m willing to accept for payment.” I frowned at him once again. I had to bite my tongue. I wanted to argue and slam the money on the table telling him he was going to take it even if I had to shove it up his butt but I didn’t know what he would do if I did. Andrew doesn’t seem like someone to take crap from anyone.
After he got his card back and signed the receipt, we left Burger and Shakes. Andrew began heading back towards the cafe but I quickly crossed the street towards the homeless woman. I gave a smile as I handed her the container holding the fries.
“It’s not much, but-”
“Oh thank you, sweetie! May God bless you!” Taking the container, muttering another thank you in between bites, she greedily ate the fries. If I would’ve known someone else was paying, I would’ve gotten her a meal. I nodded my head to her before heading back towards Andrew who was already staring at me. It was a heated gaze that never seemed to waver as I made my way across the street. It was a miracle I didn’t get hit because I honestly wouldn’t have noticed any cars coming.
“Ally, you continue to intrigue me.” I’m not sure if he meant to say that out loud or not but I chose not to respond. Instead, I made my way towards the cafe since my break ended in about 10 minutes. The walk back was silent to my delight. Once we arrived back at the cafe, I quickly said a goodbye before rushing into the cafe. Apart of me was worried that Meghan would choose that moment to show up like before, and start making assumptions again. I frowned as I realized she once again didn’t show up for her shift. It couldn’t be because of me, could it? I shook my head. There’s no way I’m that much of a concern in someone else’s life.
Work went by smoothly and quickly and before I knew it, it was time to close. Chelsea and I began walking back towards her apartment, as she started to ramble about random things. I enjoyed listening to her talk, although she did so a lot. Nonetheless, the more she talked the less I had to speak. She paused for a moment as I felt her gaze on the side of my face.
“So how was your lunch with Andrew?” While she tried to keep her tone nonchalant, it was evident that she was extremely curious about what happened and where we went.
“It was fine, nothing special.” It honestly wasn’t.
“Oh, well where did you guys go?”
“Burgers and Shakes...” my mouth began to water as I thought about the burger and fries from earlier.
“Sounds nice...” I nodded in response. We fell into a comforting silence afterward. I could tell she wanted to ask more questions, but I appreciated her holding her tongue. I made sure to give Chelsea a copy of the pay stub and my state ID before saying goodbye and walking away from her apartment.
I saw the 7 eleven I tend to go to from time to time and decided to grab a few snacks. I gave a small smile to the cashier before heading to the aisle with granola bars. I decided to grab 6 since they were $0.69 each before making my way back up to the register. There was a heated sensation on the back of my neck as I waited for the cashier to come back to the front. I shifted my weight between my feet as I casually looked around for the source. I frowned when I didn’t see anyone.
“All done?” I jumped since I didn’t realize the worker had made his behind the counter in front of me.
“U-uh yes, that’ll be all”
“I didn’t mean to scare you, ma’am.” He gave me a small smile that was meant to be comforting but didn’t do anything to settle my nerves. I could swear someone was staring at me. “It’ll be $4.59.”
I quickly handed him the money before grabbing my items and slightly jogging out of the door. I shivered as the cool breeze swept around me. Clutching my bag closer to my body, I began walking to my usual sleeping spot. I still couldn’t shake the feeling of a pair of eyes on me as I continued to walk down the street. Bowing my head, I quickly made my way down three more blocks before I took a right turn down an alley. It’s funny how my name is Ally and I sleep in an alley. I sighed at my dumb joke in my head.
My area consisted of a large wooden board laid against a large dumpster. There was another large board, that often gave me splinters, but I used it nonetheless. I always pulled that piece in front of me so it could block me from anyone’s view while I changed from my work clothes into my regular clothes and while I was sleeping. I think someone had attempted to build something, perhaps a playhouse or something, and decided to discard it or throw away a few extra pieces.
I managed to strip out of my uniform without getting it too dirty, before slipping on a large sweater and some slightly baggy jeans. I took off my good pair of shoes and socks that I wore for work and pulled on the pair of tennis shoes that I still had from my old home. Neatly folding my uniform, I placed it in my bag, on top of the tennis shoes. It felt comforting to be in my little space, I felt like whoever was staring at me couldn’t get to me here, although that wasn’t true. At least the boards acted as a shield between me and their heated gaze.
I ended up staying up most of the night since I was afraid to fall asleep in case the someone was out there waiting for me to fall asleep before attacking. When I felt my eyes drifting close, I said a quick prayer asking God if He could protect my little hut for the night from my apparent stalker from earlier.