at times in thoughtless dreams
we hope to prevail, exist
in this world with actions based on whim
our desire, a roaring and raging beast
The air outside was cold but in a refreshing, this-is-the-taste-of-winter sort of way. It was a nice change from the suffocating stink of antiseptic that still dominated the apartment.
It was a ten minute walk to the store and back if I walked briskly. I liked the fact that I didn’t need to stay out for too long. There was nowhere for me to go when I had free time—nowhere I knew was safe from stares anyway. Arleen’s house was streets away from where I was now—a thirty minute walk at leisure—but it was close to the library. I used that as an excuse to walk her home after classes; to prolong the contact I had with someone who actually cared for me.
I wished I could visit her whenever I wanted but her parents didn’t like me, they said I was a bad influence. I didn’t see how. I had never coerced her into doing anything or encouraged her to do something bad for her. I didn’t think I had any influence on Arleen at all, if anything she was the one who influenced me.
You made her wear pink though, a quiet voice reminded me
That was true. But what was wrong with pink? Influencing her was probably just an excuse. Maybe they just knew that deep down I wasn’t someone who deserved have a friend.
“That’s $175,” the cashier in front of me said with a smile, the kindness in their voice snapping me out of my daydream. I didn’t recognize him.
“You’re new,” I couldn’t help but say as I handed over exact change, the observation almost throwing me off kilter. No one new ever worked here. Ever. Where was stuffy old Mr McGrath and his equally aged tabby cat?
The store owner would never miss an opportunity to take a jab at how I looked. Hovering between genders, he always mumbled as he shoved my groceries into plastic bags with more force than necessary. He thought I was an ‘abomination’ and had no problem shoving his opinions in my face.
This new cashier looked my age and seemed more warm than judgemental. His smile grew as placed the bills in the till of the cash register. When he looked up to hand me the receipt, I felt my cheeks heat up for no reason whatsoever.
“I’m filling in for my uncle, he got the flu so here I am,” he leaned his elbows on the still conveyor belt. “I’ve been here since Sunday, I thought I knew everybody by now.”
“I only shop on weekends,” I explained as I hefted the bags off the counter.
“Need help with those?”
“I live nearby,” I waved off his concern, my mind still fixated on the way the the ring in his lower lip looked when he grinned. To be fair though what really stole my attention was his hair. It was as red and exotic as my mother’s but with lighter streaks running through his fringes. I wondered how soft it was.
“Well, see you next Saturday!” He took a lollipop from the the bowl full of them and dropped it into one of my bags.
“It’s on the house.” He winked.
“But they were free in the first place.”
“Does it matter?”
I guess it didn’t. I didn’t tell him that though. He was only here until McGrath got better, there was no point in me making conversation with him even if he was unbelievably kind. Who knew if he would still be here next Saturday? If I let myself get caught up in the relief I felt now, all I would have in the end was massive disappointment when I didn’t see him again.
He was new but temporary. He wasn’t like Kayden who I had seen every morning and evening for almost two years. He wasn’t constant.
I managed to smile, moving out of the way so that other customers could be attended to. “I have to go.”
He waved at me then shifted his attention to elderly woman that had been shooting me less-than-pleasant looks even though she had just arrived. I got out of the store as quickly as I could and the moment that I did it was as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I would have to do this in another seven days. Great.
As I made my way back home, my thoughts drifted to Kayden again. The diner he had taken me to and this store were in a straight line. If the building Mother and I lived in was in the center of that line, the dinner would be five minutes East and the store would be five minutes West.
There were multiple stores in either directions but I had chosen to go to McGrath’s because it was closer and I didn’t want to risk seeing Kayden on my way in case he was still waiting where I had left him. I couldn’t bear to face him after lying right to his face and abandoning him in the snow.
I only needed to be out for a minute more then I could just pretend today never happened and not feel like a terrible person. The moment the glass doors sealing the entrance of the apartment block were in sight, unreasonably joy flooded my system. Finally.
I had had enough of the cold already.
Just as I was about to reach them though, a hand landed on my shoulder. I jumped away from the person immediately and spun around to face them, more nervous than afraid.
“K-Kayden,” I stared the acoustic guitar strapped across his chest. “What are you doing here?”
“Waiting,” he answered, a smile slowly stretching his lips. “I’m glad you could make it.”