I sit alone in the darkness of my room. Struggling to focus on the many details of my ceiling. I am so fixated on the bumps and shadows that I jump at the sound of my alarm. Time to get up. I roll over and tap my alarm clock to cease the annoying beeping. My feet touch the cold tile of my floor but I don't feel it, for I have gotten used to it. I step into the bathroom, not bothering to turn on the lights since my eyes have had plenty of time to adjust. I take a hot shower, the room quickly steaming up. The water burns my back but I stand in it until my skin gets used to it. Water runs through my hair and into my eyes. I let it run over me for a good ten minutes before I finally start washing. By the time I get out my skin is red and irritated and sun rays are already half way across my room, trying desperately to reach the wall. I straighten up my already clean room while I wait for my skin to dry, then I continue my morning routine. I open the doors to my small closet and pull out a grey button up shirt. I notice some wrinkles and creases in it so I also take out the iron and ironing board. Halfway through ironing the shirt I burn my hand, out of carelessness. Gritting my teeth against the pain as I run my hand under cold water. God I'm stupid! I bandage my slightly burnt hand and finish getting ready.
I step out of the apartment building and onto a busy sidewalk, filled with people rushing to get to work on time. Having been through this many times I maneuver the crowded sidewalk with ease. As I approach a cross walk I feel a buzzing in my back pocket. I pull out my phone just as the pedestrian signal appears, allowing us to cross. I unlock my phone and follow the people in my peripheral vision as I tap the notification. I text from Etienne.
Wow I can’t believe I got here before you
I laugh to myself and begin to type a response.
I'm right around the corner
But before I can hit send I am interrupted. A driver not paying attention to the road slams on the breaks right before hitting a woman ahead of me. I look at him in disbelief.
“Hey man. I don't know what your problem is, but you almost killed that woman!”
He gives me an annoyed look and says something I can't hear to a person who is not there--then he takes an earpiece out.
“What's it to you? She's fine anyway.”
Unable to control my anger, I am just about ready to pull him out of his car and beat some sense into him when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around to see the woman.
“Don't. There's no need.” She says in a soft voice. Not wanting to start more drama I take a deep breath and nod my head.
She smiles and finishes crossing the street.
BEEP! BEEP BEEP!! The impatient driver honks his horn and motions for me to get out of the street. I sigh and try not to do anything that'll get me in trouble before I can see Etienne. I decide not to text him back, for I am only a couple of buildings away. I only realise my mistake when he runs into me as I walk into the coffee shop. Surprised, I am thrown off balance and fall into the sidewalk, cutting off oncoming foot traffic.
Etienne gasps and reaches for my hand. But grabs the bandaged one. He begins to pull me up but I yank it away and cry out as the back of me head connects with the concrete. Dammit.
“Sorry I'm late, Etienne.” I groan, sitting up. Only then do I notice the look of hurt on his face... “Oh! I didn't pull away for the reason you might think.. I burned my hand this morning.” As I begin to stand up. “I guess it's worse than I thought it was.”
His eyes widen in realisation. “Oh my God! I am so sorry! Are you okay?”
I laugh and dismiss it with a wave of my hand. “Yeah, im fine… So have you ordered yet?” His face red, he shakes his head no. “Great I’m starving. What do you want? I'll pay.”
He tries to tell me I don't have to, I'm pretty sure, but I shake my head. “No. I'll pay.” He closes his mouth and we order.
I order a burrito, bowl of fruit and coffee. Etienne orders a bowl of oatmeal.
“Well I wouldn't have ordered so much if I knew you were gonna order so little.” I say, embarrassed.
He laughs, a sound like honey.. If honey had a sound. “I had a little something earlier.”
I smile. “So what’d you call me here for?”
His expression goes serious. “ It's… my mother.”
My smile fades. “What now?”
“She’s… been acting… strange, you could say.”
“What do you mean?” I probe.
“She's been secretive lately. And this morning she was frantic. Told me that I have to leave… that it wasn't safe.” He looks me in the eyes. His own full of pain and concern. I didn't notice before but he looks tired. I want to hold his face in my hands and tell him it's alright, and my hand, with a mind of its own, begins to reach over but I hold myself back.
He stares at me, waiting for my response. “What do you” I clear my throat and look at my plate, searching for words. “What do you think it is?”
“I…” He struggles, “I don't know. She also said something about someone finding her.” He covers his face with his hands. “It's so confusing.”
“Hey” I take his hand in mine and force him to look into my eyes. His own teary. “We'll find out what it is. I'll help you… You're mother will be alright.”
He looks at me through his eyelashes, giving me all of his trust… and, I know it's not the time, but I can't help but feel my heart flutter.
“Thank you.” He whispers.
A smile spreads over my lips.
“So where should we start first?” He breathes.
“Well we should probably do some investigating at your place… Maybe she wrote something down.”
“You seem unsure.” He raises his eyebrows.
I sigh, “Moti played a big part in stuff like that but…. it doesn’t matter. Should we leave now?”
“You're the boss.”
Hopefully to be continued...