Photo: Deon Black
“Hey, any idea what’s cool to do around here?”
The woman I’d just spoken to held her book closer to her chest, sidestepping away like a crab. No reply, no smile. In fact, she scrunched her face as if I smelled like goat droppings.
I still cringe at the memory of me talking up to random girls in the shopping mall, just because I’d gotten a copy of The Game during my young adulthood, and I thought it that it would be the key to my relationship problems.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
Photo: Luan Cabral
“I think you’re in a cult,” I said.
“You’re just not used to it,” Sara replied.
“Not used to what, a man telling me that mercury is medicine?”
“Forget it,” she said, more to keep me quiet than to concede her point. The other volunteers still flitted around us, packing up the event space and patting each other’s backs for a job well done. Some of them glanced sideways as they overheard my skeptic thoughts.
Photo: Kelly Sikkema
“I think we should break up.”
“Right,” I said. I slipped the paper rose I’d been hiding back into my pocket.
“I just want to be honest,” Lana said. She pointed out the main entrance of the shopping mall, where her new boyfriend was waiting in his car. “It’s just that he has… you know… and you don’t… you know…”
Money, she meant money. To be fair, it was one of the most honest breakups I’d ever had to endure. You had to give her credit for that.
“I get it,” I said. “Okay then. Guess I gotta go back to work.”
“You’re not mad?”
Mad? She’d been hanging out with this guy all week, told me he was just a friend she hadn’t met in a while, was breaking up with me for him, and they were heading off on a date right after this, while I’d have to spend the remaining hours of my shift dealing with customers trying to haggle a couple bucks off our pirated Playstation 2 games.
Photo: Nadim Merrikh
“I don’t want a promotion, I just want to write. But I could still use the raise,” I said.
“Hm, not quite what I expected, but I’d be glad to do that,” said Margaret. She moved her hands from a steeple under her chin to put them palm-down on the table. “I guess that settles it. Thanks for coming in!”
“You know what?” I said. “Actually, I think I’d rather not work. But if you could just mail my cheque every month, that’ll be great.”
“Hm. Now that’s something I’ll have to look into.”
I leaned forward, my own hands gripping the edge of her desk. I tried to calm my pacing heart. Was this it? “Are you telling me you won’t do it?”
It was a cloudy day, and Caleb kept to the shadows as he crossed the street. He didn’t want to be seen, though he knew that avoiding contact was inevitable. It had been getting harder since—What was that? Was that shadow there earl—
A searing pain tore through Caleb’s back. He let his damn guard down again. Instinctively, he tightened his grip around his duffel bag as he started to move.
Caleb leapt aside, the hints of a second strike whooshing past his ear. He didn’t turn to face his attacker. He just sprinted as fast as his legs would take him.