Russel’s interest in the usually comfortable bar atmosphere didn’t last as long as his lemonade. He was curious why, but too tired to really look. Besides, it feels like someone is staring at me. A ridiculous notion. I only get attention when I’m actively dating someone. At any rate he paid his tab and got up without a second look, despite the itch between his shoulders.
It’s likely he wouldn’t have noticed his observer had he checked anyway. Even as she relaxed Amara made a point of keeping her face deep in the shadow of her hood. With her stage makeup scrubbed off it wouldn’t be instant recognition if anyone saw, but her hair would have been a dead giveaway. And her booth really was some distance from the bar.
At any rate, once he got outside the sense of being watched faded and Russel shrugged it off. Pulling up the earbuds dangling behind his tie he replaced them in his ears. Taking his phone from a pants pocket, Russel queued up what he called his travel music as he made his way into the subway station around the corner to go home.
Catching his train took more effort than he liked, as the entire station was packed with people. They look like they’re at a rave. Why would they be here? Wait, was that concert Abby’s been raving about all month tonight?
:One month prior:
“Ayame is about to start her new world tour!”
Russel leaned back from the force of his friend’s excitement.
“Oh-kay Abs. Hardly the first. Why are you-“
“Dumb Russ! She hasn’t performed live in 3 years! But that isn’t the best part!”
Russel didn’t roll his eyes. Abby would bite his head off if she caught him at it.
“The first concert is here!”
Russ knew he was supposed to be excited at this revelation. It wasn’t exactly a surprise; hype had started popping up around the internet for a week. Still, Abby was hoping for enthusiasm. Russel wondered why. It’s not like I dislike Ayame’s music. I just don’t get it. A concert downtown just meant he’d have to compete with a bunch of teens and college kids packing the streets and the stations to get home. Abby would be less than pleased to hear him say it though.
“All right, all right. Yay.”
“Why do I even tell you these things? I was gonna ask if you wanted to come with me and Daisia, but now I don’t care!”
“I’m sorry Abs. I’m just not quite as into Ms. Sunrise as- wait, you’re actually getting tickets to this thing?”
“Already got ‘em.”
“Abby, even if I wanted to go half as much as you, I wouldn’t have the scratch to pay that unless I wanted to stop eating for a month.”
“You exaggerate. Anyway, we’re going and it will be amazing. Sorry you have to miss out.”
With that, Abby whirled away, back to her end of the office. Once she was out of earshot, Russel let out the sigh he’d been holding. Jen had been really into Ayame Sunrise too. Almost got me to like her stuff, before she went and ripped my heart apart. It was an unfair thought and he felt immediately guilty. Bleh. Last thing I need is to sit here dwelling on what cannot be.
When Russel finally made it to his apartment, he let himself collapse on the floor, nudging the door shut with a foot. His cat, Katana, batted his hand with a plaintive whine. Hush, daddy’s trying to sleep. The sudden addition of weight as Katana pounced on his shoulder was unexpected. Worse, she started actively attacking it. Don’t tell me I’ve got a loose string already. This shirt’s barely a day old!
Claws went through the shirt to prick his shoulder and Russel decided enough was enough. Firmly planting hands he pushed up onto his knees. The cat leapt clear as hoped only to resume whining.
“What’s that all about, huh? Hardly the first night I’ve dragged in late.”
Katana switched to that throat sound she would make when staring at birds out the window. Concluding that perhaps his lemonade was not as fresh as it tasted, Russel determined it best to call it a day.
“Well, good night anyway.”
Russ didn’t pay attention as Katana followed him to his bedroom. When he peeled off the shirt and dropped it, he couldn’t miss her immediately go after the shoulder again.
“Geez, K! Stop! What? I’ll wash it, will that help you calm down?”
Russ carefully reclaimed the shirt, relieved to find a lack of apparent holes. Katana followed the shirt’s progress into the laundry hamper.
“Yeah, stop cat. This shirt was not cheap.”
Russel wanted nothing more than to sleep. Instead he had to spend an hour finding a way to cover the hamper to keep katana away from the shirt. Only then did it occur to him he put the shirt on that morning, and Katana was fine. What could have happened today to make a cat go after my shirt like a seeker missile? He had no answers. Nothing spilled on it, no co-workers bringing unusual foods to work or anything. Not like it could be some lady’s perfume. Katana was definitely a jealous type, but still never reacted like that before. Hopefully she’ll be over it by morning.
With a mental shrug, Russel rolled over on his bed and fell asleep.
Meanwhile, in a high end hotel downtown, Amara was carefully searching the ‘net on a borrowed phone. She talked quietly to herself as she studied.
“Russel Torres, huh? Cute cat.”