She couldn’t believe how behind she was running because of the inky mess. Even though she had gotten up earlier, it took so much scrubbing to get the ink off her body, that it left her skin red and raw, as well as late.
She picked up her bags and was running around, trying to make sure she got out to catch her train on time. This left Hali flustered; she hurried down the stairs and burst into the cafe. She saw one of the daytime staff members at the cash and waved to them. “Hey, need to see Conan? He’s just in the kitchen.”
“Thanks Erin,” she passed the register and walked into the back to see Conan decorating the fresh shortbread cookies he made daily. Hali poked her head in the kitchen and looked on the floor where she had left the garbage the night before, but it was missing. Her eyes rose and met Conan’s glance.
“The garbage?” Hali asked.
“I took it out,” he replied. “It was unsanitary to leave it there, so I took it out first thing.”
Hali frowned, “I’m sorry.”
He shook his head, “Don’t worry about it.”
Hali nodded, though she still felt guilty by this turn of events. It wasn’t her day at all today. “Well, I better go then. I don’t want to be late.”
He stopped what he was doing and grabbed a wrapped bag, the ones used in the cafe for take out, and handed it to her. “Amy said you were running late today and skipped breakfast. Eat something.”
“Oh, Conan, you didn’t need to,” Hali stated, opening the bag to glance inside. A buttered croissant with eggs and bacon wrapped up, just for her. The smell hit her, and she could feel its warmth through the bag.
He shrugged again. “Can’t study without food in your system. Just hurry before you miss your train.”
“R-right,” she stammered. She threw her arm up as a brief thank you and exited the kitchen. Heading towards the entrance, she waved goodbye to Erin before stepping out onto the sidewalk. The cool, crisp, fall air hit her while the sun beamed down, lending some warmth in compensation. Hali took a moment and inhaled deeply then headed toward the closest station.
Hali caught her train with just seconds to spare and took a seat. She sighed and tried her best to relax, but the irregular happenings of this morning and last night were still fresh on her mind. Hali couldn’t figure out what had happened. Did she sleep walk? Did she just get up and not remember? Neither were like her at all, but it was the only answer she could think of. Her phone buzzed, interrupting her thoughts. She took it out from the top pouch of her bag and looked to see who it was. It was a text from her younger thirteen year old sister, Penelope.
Penelope: I had some really weird dreams about you last night. Haven’t heard from you. You’re safe, right?
That was quite the coincidence. Hali grabbed her phone and tried her best to think about what she could say to her sister.
Hali: I’m safe. On the transit line to class. That being said, it’s nearly 6:30 in the morning back home? Why are you up so early?
Penelope: The dreams bothered me a lot, so I couldn’t sleep.
Hali worried about her little sister and tried to reassure her.
Hali: They are just dreams. I had a lot of wild dreams when I started puberty. That being said, text or call anytime. If I’m not working or in class, I will reply right away.
Penelope: Thanks, sis. I miss you.
Hali: I miss you too, Pene. TTYL
Arriving at her stop, Hali jumped up and exited the train, heading out to the streets above. She didn’t have far to go from the train to where her school was. Hali hurried inside and into her classroom, making it just in time. She flopped down in her seat and with great relief, took her heavy-as-ever bag off her shoulders.
Patrick had his paints spread out and was setting up for their life painting class. He smiled when he noticed her looking over at him, “You seem out of breath. Rushing again this morning?”
She was now able to unwrap her sandwich from Conan and took a bite, while nodding. “Oh? But that looks like a sandwich from the cafe. Were you late from ordering a sandwich?”
She shook her head as she swallowed, “No, a lot weirder than that.”
Hali had piqued his interest. “Hmmm, interesting dreamsssss?”
“I slept walked last night,” she said, “I got ink all over myself, my bedding, and my desk and stuff. Took forever for me to scrub off.”
“And then you ordered a sandwich?” he asked, chuckling at her.
“No, that’s another thing. I couldn’t take the garbage out last night. There was a huge fricken’ dog in the alleyway behind the cafe and I had to leave the garbage inside. When I came down to take it out in the morning, my boss had already taken it out and made me a sandwich when he realized I'd be late and skipping breakfast.”
Patrick nodded, “Which one is he again? The flirty one?”
“No, that’s Anthony. This guy is the one who dresses sharp, but in an old fashioned kinda way, and acts old.”
“Ah, the old man in a young man’s body,” Patrick grinned, “He’s cute.”
Hali chuckled, “You think everyone is cute.”
Lyris burst through the door trying to catch her breath, and rushed to her seat. “I was running late,” she sighed.
“That’s alright,” Hali said reassuringly, “You have a few minutes to spare.”
Lyris dropped her bag and her phone, and sent a quick text message before she continued to unpack her stuff. Patrick leaned over from his work area and smiled devilishly, “Hali’s getting sandwiches from her cute old man boss.”
“Huh?” Lyris asked.
“Its not like that!” Hali cried “I had a run in with a dog last night, there was concern and when I was running late this morning, he made me breakfast. He helps all of our roommates like that.”
“A dog?” Lyris questioned “I don’t understand.”
“There are stray dogs in my neighbourhood,” Hali explained “One was hungry and wouldn’t let me take the garbage out after my shift last night. That’s all.”
Still looking confused, Lyris reached for her phone and texted someone again. Patrick shook his head. “Who would have guessed, she’s gotta text her boyfriend again.”
Lyris sent him a glare, but finished her text and then finished unpacking. While doing so, she asked if Hali had a shift that night; she didn’t.
“Fantastic, can we have our movie night?”
“Yeah, come on over after class,” Hali agreed. Lyris beamed with excitement.
The day carried on as usual, and when it was over and done with it, Hali and Lyris packed up and headed out together. On the train ride, the girls had a lot more fun, talking about the movies they were going to stream. The walk from the station to Hali’s apartment was very much the same until they came upon the alleyway.
Lyris had already turned to use the shortcut, but Hali stopped dead in her tracks —her eyes widening. Once again, pain shot through her entire body, bringing her to her knees. She could feel the contents of her stomach threatening to come up and she covered her mouth as if it would hold it all in. Lyris ran to Hali’s side.
“A-are you alright?” Hali shook her head, she knew something was wrong. “C-come on... We can get to your apartment and I can get you into bed, get water or anything else you need.”
Lyris tried to wrap Hali’s arm over her shoulders to help her down the alleyway, but Hali shook her head and pushed Lyris off. She backed up to the building beside the alley, her mouth still covered. Danger. There was some kind of danger nearby. The dog maybe? Or something else… She just didn’t know.
“Come on, don’t be silly. We need to get you home,” Lyris scolded. She reached for Hali, but Hali stepped away again. The pain intensified. She looked up to meet Lyris’ gaze.
“I’m not going down there,” Hali stated, trembling.
Hali climbed to her feet, brushed past Lyris, and continued down the street; determined to get away from that dangerous place. Hali wouldn’t stop until she got home. She prayed that she would make it.