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Circle of Quiet

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Jojo watched her in her usual spot, trying to gauge her feelings. Amanda was one of his regulars, had even taken shifts at the cafe for a short time when she needed work. She’d become a regular a couple of years ago, bringing in her sketchbook nearly every other day. He personally thought her sketches we gorgeous but one of her main complaints was that her art never sold.

But this melancholy started a couple of days ago. It wasn’t like Jojo didn’t know what happened, but he didn’t know. As far as he knew a couple of cops came in looking for the lady she had left with in the morning, then she had come in for maybe thirty minutes, and then brought her very much ex-boyfriend in for a date. She rarely visited that much in one day, but Charlie dancing quite like that was even more unusual. He had a very heavy suspicion that the ‘man-eating’ alien might have gone home with her and took Charlie. Which to be frank wasn’t a loss and the ladies of the area likely would have rejoiced if they knew.

Now obviously it hadn’t gotten her, and honestly the last time she moped quite like this was the first time Charlie dumped her. Which obviously had him worried. He did a quick survey of the Cafe Retro, finding only Bob really left other than another regular tucked into their corner. Both knew to get him if they needed anything, so he took the moment to make a couple of coffees and head over.

The coffee was set gently in front of her with a familiar Jojo smile. Amanda at least felt well enough to give her own smile back. “Thanks.” She tugged it towards herself as he settled in the seat across from her, holding his own cup. She gave him a curious look for it.

He took a polite sip and raised an eyebrow. “Spill.”

She huffed a long-suffering sigh, but a small smile was tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Yeah, alright.” Wrapping her hands around her coffee cup, she started her explanation. “You know the news story about the alien, right?” He nodded. “We fell in love.”

Jojo slowly blinked at her. It explained her a lot, actually. He gestured for her to continue.

“He had to go back home.” She sighed softly again, staring into her cup. “At least he’ll tell his race we’re sentient and not fit for consumption.” There was no sane way of answering that, so Jojo just waited. In typical Amanda fashion, once she started she couldn’t stop telling her story, even if it was disjointed. “Anyway, he had started at that Connie lady who was in the back corner,” she pointed at the seat in question, “and I noticed him immediately.” She rolled her eyes in fondness. “So awkward, knew nothing about how humans worked. Surprised you didn’t notice.”

Jojo simply shrugged. “Not my job.” He gestured to the cafe as a whole. “Plus I thought she was just a new eccentric artist or someone just as…unique.”

Amanda nodded. “Yeah okay, I can see that.” She took a sip of the drink. “Well you saw her go home with me. When I came here for that half hour she and Charlie, um.” Her eyes skidded off to the middle distance, refusing to meet his. It was more embarrassment than guilt on her face. “Well, he became Charlie.”

Nodding, Jojo took his own sip. “Which explains the odd speaking and the dancing.” He looked curiously at her. “What was with the paprika?”

Her blush nearly managed to match her hair color. “Ah. D-Don’t worry about it.” The blush lessened but she looked fondly into the top of her cup. He had given her cinnamon as always, and in retrospect reminded him that’s what he had put on his drink before the dancing. Must be an alien thing. “We came by because he wanted to see more about humans. He crashed at my place, then we were visited by the Feds in the morning.”

Jojo politely tipped his head in apology. “I’m sorry about that. They broke Bob’s guitar.”

She waved the apology off. “I understand. This place was full when we left and if they were threatening everyone…” She offered a small smile. “You’re good like that.”

“I was also worried about you.” He raised another pointed eyebrow as he took another sip. “As far as I knew he had you in his control.”

That made her laugh. “No no. I willingly helped him. He was pretty nice besides the people eating.” Her smile started to fade again. “I’ll probably never see him again.”

He watched her sink into that miasma that had been hovering over her all day. “Oh honey.” He stood up to perch on the arm of her chair and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You know better than to pine over the one who got away.”

That broke the dam, and Amanda started to sniffle. “I know, I know. But he was just so wonderful you know?” She tried to dab at her eyes unsuccessfully.

Jojo pulled her into a tight hug before heading to the bar to snag a couple of napkins. She got her tears mostly under control by the time he returned, but still took the napkins gratefully. He rested a hand on her shoulder. “You know if you need anything, I’ll try to help, right?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Amanda matched his smile with one of her own, and he settled back down across from her. “I’m just not sure what to do anymore.”

He pointed at the sketchbook that she likely hauled with her out of habit. “Draw. It always seems to get your mind off of things.” He teasingly bounces his eyebrows. “And you know I love your art.”

She couldn’t help but laugh a little. “If only I had more fans like you.” Flipping open her sketchbook, she sighed. “I suppose it’s better than moping.”

Jojo sat for a moment longer with her, taking the time to enjoy his own coffee for once. Thankfully she was okay, though he’d have wished less heartbreak. Of all the people to fall for an alien though, it would be Amanda. He watched her while she sketched, a sunny expression breaking out on her face. He looked at her curiously.

“He did give me something!” She spun the sketchbook around, and he found himself looking at an abstract piece that bore a strong resemblance to a landscape. “He showed me his planet!” She grinned and started adding more lines to what she was drawing, still prattling at him. “When he left he passed something into my brain, I just couldn’t find it.” Amanda grinned up at him. “Thank you.”

Jojo smiled back. “You’re welcome.” Even if he didn’t fully understand, her enthusiasm was infectious. He did hope she’d stay safe, but it was Amanda after all. He watched her a moment more, finishing his coffee. She was fairly well absorbed into her art now, and he stood to head back to his counter.

“Wait a moment.” He paused, looking back to Amanda who had her hand out. She did a couple of more lines to her sketch, then grinned, neatly tearing it out of her spiral. “Here.”

Jojo smiled brightly, accepting her work. He looked at the impressionistic landscape, finding contours of mountains and buildings, even if they seemed structured for a much smaller frame. It was a normal sketchbook size, so it wouldn’t be too much trouble to find a frame. He’d put it right over her seat too. “Thank you! It looks amazing.”

She bounced up out of her seat to give him an enthusiastic hug. “No, seriously, thank you! I need to get home, I have so much art to do!” She gave one last squeeze and grabbed her things, hurrying out the door. He rolled his eyes and picked up her cup as she went. All the energy and destructive tendencies of a tornado, but he liked her anyway.