The sun was especially cruel the next morning. It burned stripes into my back and made my mouth dry. I coughed and rubbed at my eyes. Getting up, I folded my blanket at the end of my bed. I padded barefoot to my dresser, which wasn't particularly full, and grabbed a basic tshirt, some jeans that were either too small or too big, and a sweatshirt. It was always cold the day after a storm.
I stretched my arms over my head. When I had finished changing in the bathroom I peeked my head into Harlan's room to find it empty of the street rat. Harlan lay stretched out, sleeping, and probably naked. I scrunched my nose in disgust before closing the door and turning back to exit through my own.
I made my way downstairs with a bucket full of water. The roof may have started leaking, and Harlan may have put the bucket underneath it, but it was an unspoken rule that it was my job to deal with the water. Even though the bottom floor was covered in water, I stepped outside, jumping planks, before dumping it over the side of the porch. I growled when the porch roof leaked on me. Walking into the kitchen I notice Caitlyn, bent over the counter, a mug of coffee in her hands.
"Was it cold last night?" she startles and looks back at me, before nodding and turning back to the window. "At least you had someone to keep you warm." I snarled at her and she smirked back at me through the reflection of the window. I climbed onto the counter, too short to reach the cabinets, and pull out various utensils. Three plates, two cups, a large bowl. From the silverware drawer I grab three forks, a large mixing spoon, and a spatula. I whack Caitlyn with the spatula, and she looks up, her eyes widening in shock. "Want some eggs and muffins? My special recipe..." she chuckles and nods. I stay quiet, choosing to get to work, instead of indulging in the pleasantries of the now awoken Harlan and his bedmate.
"What happened last night?" he yawned and Caitlyn let a sad look consume her face. "N-nothing, really, it was cold." he smiles and wraps his arms around my waist, I growl and snip at him, glaring into his eyes, and he backs off with a knowing smirk on his face, his hands held up in surrender.
Caitlyn still has that sad look on her face, but for some reason it never morphs into jealousy. Maybe she figured out the same thing I did? That it would never happen? That it would never work out, as he so liked to put it. Caitlyn sighs loudly, setting the coffee mug down, and I hand her a plastic bowl filled with food. "Oh- I, how did you know?" I winked. "You could say this is the way I kick you out of my house." she smiles and grabs her jacket off of the chair placed against the card table set up in the corner of the room. She hesitates at the door and I walk over to her, pointing to the pair of shoes on the top shelf. She says a breathless thank you, before grabbing her shoes, and placing them on the porch chair next to her. "And- you were already ready and on your second cup of coffee, so there was that." She hops across the porch and lands on the bottom stair, I toss her shoes at her and she bends over to put them on.
Harlan stands in the kitchen watching us both. "Hey, Harlan, clean up for me, will you? I gotta go to work." he waves goodbye at me and I grab my shoes from their place in the closet, slipping them on, and running after Caitlyn.
"Figured we could walk together." she nods at me and we continue on in silence.
The day drones on as usual when I leave Caitlyn at the corner of the street right before the coffee shop. She worked a block away from me, at the bookstore, and she lived a mile out in the other direction. It didn't really matter, though, because I knew she probably wasn't coming back after that.
Cup after cup of coffee is passed from my hands to theirs, and the chorus of "Thank you's" and "You're Welcome's" that follow are the bane of my existence. But I do all of it with a smile, no matter how forced, and I do it knowing that in however many hours are left, I'll be able to leave and get home, to go to sleep, and repeat the process.
Around two o' clock, a new figure steps through the door, accompanied by their own little 'ding', and walks towards the far corner and sits down at a booth. It was odd to see someone new, especially here, instead of the Starbucks that was just around the corner near the airport. And customers weren't as young as the man appeared to be. The diner was usually filled with the elderly, who preferred quiet and quaint, to quick and loud, which is probably our motto, but I wasn't really paying attention at the time. As far as I was concerned this job required only a few things of me. Thank You's, Your Welcome's, the movement of my arm to hand them the coffee, and the movement of my hand to deposit the change into their palms. It wasn't really much more than that.
The man didn't move for a while. His hair was messy, but a messy that most would call normal, if you were a boy. From where I stood, he looked to be taller than me, about the same height as Harlan. His hair was also the same color as Harlan's, but darker, and his arms failed to fill out his oddly yellow leather jacket. He set something onto the table as one of the waitresses looked down to him to take his order. She looked concerned for a moment, but the diner mentality soon took over, and she was just as quickly rushing behind me to give the order to the underpaid chef that was currently slaving over the stoves in the back kitchen.
She then stopped to me, handing me a smaller strip, ripped from the whole order, and rolled her eyes as if she was annoyed. She spoke in an angered tone and I only managed to catch the last bit, having been lost in the note itself. "-who does he think he is? He's probably scaring all of the customers. And we both know, that isn't a good idea." I snorted, "Yeah, I ain't cleaning up the body." she looks at me and then flicks her ponytail, using the back of her palm to cover her eyes as the next patron makes her way to a seat, before she waltzes up to her and asks for her order.
I look back over at the man, who now sits with his head on his hands, before shaking my head and looking down at the note in my hands. A large coffee, Black. Underneath the waitresses scribbled notes is a neatly written sentence. How do crazy people go through the forest? They take the psychopath. A smile sneaks its way onto my face and I facepalm. Making the coffee, I write a note on the foam cup, That was bad. I hand the cup to the waitress, Shauna, I think, and watch as it is transferred from her hands to his. His shoulders shake, but I can't tell if it's from laughter, or something else.
About ten minutes later, Shauna walks up to me with the receipt, her eyebrows suspiciously hidden underneath her blond bangs. On the receipt is a phone number, I almost throw it away, but I rip the paper off where the number starts, and shove it into the pocket of my jeans. "Someone has a phone number..." Shauna sings in a mocking voice as we sweep up the remains of family lunches and dinners. "I'm sure he just wants to know my recipe for Black Coffee. It's special y'know." She raises her eyebrows impossibly higher, and I shrug. "ts' not like it hasn't happened before." My voice raises a tiny bit at the end of that last sentence.
A car honks it's horn outside the store. "It's Harlan, you okay here?" she snorts loudly, "Hah! I was probably going to be stuck here all night again anyways. What with the murders and things." I look at her sharply, "Murders?" she looks just as surprised that I hadn't known. "Yeah, apparently people are disappearing all over the place, all ages, all races, everything. They don't know who could be next. My dad thinks that this means thieves, and no matter how hard I try to get it across to him, he doesn't seem to hear me. Ah, well, if I die, maybe he'll see." I push my lips out in a frown. "I'm sure you'll be fine." I push the doors open to the outside, the cold air biting at my cheeks, and I open the car door.
Warmth rushes at me and Harlan sits staring at the dashboard. "I don't want you to go to work for the next few days." I make a noise in the back of my throat. "Say's who?" he makes a similar, mocking noise. "Say's me. There's a murderer out there, and I don't trust anyone right now. I want you to stay home, and in my sight." he sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "If you have to go, I want to stay with you all day, and I want to drive you to and from work." I make a surprised noise, "Harlan-!" "No- I don't want to hear it (Name)!" I smack his hand hard and he looks at me, with tears in his eyes. "Don't pretend like you'll care after all of this is over. I am a grown woman, Harlan, and I don't need you to look after me! You said it yourself that this-" I gesture between us with my hand, "-isn't anything real, so grow a pair, and drive me home." he snaps him mouth shut, clenching his jaw, but puts the stick shift into reverse.
The drive home is quiet and stressed, the air drawn out thin between us, and when we walk into the, thankfully dry, hallway, we don't even look at each other as we go separate ways. I stomp up the stairs, making a point to slam my door behind me, before throwing myself onto my mattress.
I shiver at the sudden influx of cold air from the window. It hadn't been opened a moment before? Had it? "Harlan?" I hear him walk up to the door to the bathroom. "Did you open my window?" Harlan sighs loudly, and I hear the door to my room creak open. "Harlan- Harlan!" he stumbles into the room and looks at my startled face. He walks over to the door, yanking it open, closing it, and opening it several times before shutting it with a click. He walks over and closes my window, before turning to the door to the bathroom, which hung open in his haste. He left it open and I followed, wrapping my blanket around my shoulders, before hopping into his bed. I don't apologize, but I figure that, by now? Harlan already knows that I didn't mean it. His arms are wrapped around my shoulders now, replacing the blanket, and I snuggle into him.
"Do you think it was the killer?" he shakes his head, one hand rubbing circles into my lower back, and the other tangled in my hair, keeping me in place. "I can stay, right?" he nods and sighs, pushing his nose into my neck. I fall asleep to the sound of him snoring softly.