Stricken (Untitled Ch. 3)
I grin at Phil’s comment about the hobo that lives in the bushes down the side ally we’d just passed, and do a single small skip as I walk. We’d been wandering through the city for a good few hours and I was feeling unnatural happy. For me that is. The misty air just has something special about it today- it breathed revival into my lungs, intoxicating my neocortex with some kind of foreign ecstasy. The only thing that dampened my spirits was the thought that my thoroughly dampened hair would begin to frizz soon, as it does so flatteringly when it dries. I roll my head back to look over at Phil, who’s smiling cheekily back, looking spiffy in that black “trench jacket” of his. By the looks of him, I could tell the fog wouldn’t dare put a hair out of line.
“What do you think?” I ask him, slowing to walk next to him.
He gives me a quizzical look, and I smile.
“Do you think this English fog will ever be at peace with my hair?” I speculate, reaching up to twirl a long strand around my index finger. “Or will it just keep attacking it like the foreign invader it is?” I laugh as he protests that I am most definitely not a foreign invader.
“Foreign yes, but we can change that you know.” He laughs, and I raise my eyebrows. “Oh, yeah, you’re already well on your way. As soon as that accent develops fully, this fog won’t be able to tell you apart from us natives.” Phil assures me, completely serious in tone, but the smile in his eyes gives away the joke.
“Hmm…” I chuckle. “I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that… I mean, look at it this way- as if England were one giant organism!” I exclaim, totally into my theory. “What if the fog decides I’m just like a foreign cell, and decides to attack me, eventually purging little ol’ alien cell me from the organism!” I feign hyperventilation, my hands thrown out into the air, "I'm melting!" I bust out laughing when he does.
“Okay, smartarse, if you say so.” Phil tugs a wet strand of my light brown hair.
I give an indignant protest. “Hey! That’s no consolation!” He just laughs, and trots up the steps to a quaint little Starbucks. I hadn’t known “quaint” and “Starbucks” could go into the same sentence; and it wasn’t until that moment that I remembered- he’d been filming the whole thing. “Phiilll!”
I trot up the dark concrete steps, running my pinkie over the railing, then flicking the obtained clear water off my finger, before letting myself in behind Phil. I take a deep breath, enamored by the lovely scent of rich coffee. It had been a few hours, and we were both in need of satisfying our addiction. I run my long fingers through my hair, and slide into a booth in the far corner, while Phil orders us something. I smile at the brown-haired beauty sitting across from me, and he greets me joyously, much more awake than he’d been a couple of hours ago. His camera is in his hand, and he turns it on me.
“Oh good, you managed to put your shirt on the right way today.” I say, ignoring both the greeting, and the camera in a rather teasing manner.
He spit up a little coffee back into his cup. “That happened once! Once!” He protests, jabbing a finger at me, and I snicker, grabbing it.
“Pssh, since I’ve been here that is.” I tease, while examining his finger. Pretty, I decide. That’s no light compliment either. He grumbles something into his cup, and complies while I pat his hand, still holding onto it. “Rrrr…” I bare my teeth and open my mouth, bringing his finger closer.
“Hey no!” He yelps, yanking his hand away- but not too hard. “Cannibal!” He crows, as Phil slips in next to me, sliding a steamy cup of coffee in front of me. “We’ve let a mother fucking cannibal live in our flat Phil!” He cradles his finger; hair all messed up by his outburst. Naturally, Phil plays along and rushes out of my seat at the booth, and into Dan’s where they cower together. Somehow during all of this I’ve managed to keep a straight- it not, terrifying- face. After a moment, they fall completely silent, along with me. This lasts approximately five seconds, before I mutter "RrrrARR!". Simultaneously they burst into hysterical laughter. I’m aware of the irritated glances we’re receiving, and cover my mouth, in an attempt to muffle the sound of my own snickering, but all it does is cause me to let out a small unbecoming snort. Dan and Phil react to this in a rather boisterous manner, and I shake my head at them, while they slowly calm down. As I casually sip my coffee, I slip my eyes over the room, relieved that everyone has more or less forgotten about us. Turning back to the boys, I notice a familiar shape directly across the room. A chill runs through me as my breath catches, and I freeze for a second, face coated in silent terror.
My eyeballs snap away from the figure, and lock on Dan, hardly aware of my frozen face. “S-sorry…” I mutter, and glance down, quickly, beating back the wave of doom that had risen around me. There’s a stretching silence, and it’s not long before I can’t help but glance up. I need to know what he’s thinking. A small “eep” escapes my lips when I catch him staring seriously down at me. A weird knot has formed in my throat from his stare, and I fight to get rid of it as I suppress the heating of my cheeks. “Really- it was nothing.” I nod convincingly, and smile in a most charming manner, amused by his quiet concern. Phil just raises his eyebrows and shrugs when Dan shifts his eyes on him, and I take that opportunity, to excuse myself to use the restroom.
Pushing the door to the bathroom shut, I walk to the sinks and lean forward, hands on the counter. The reflection in the mirror is wide eyed, flushed, and a little pale. All I can do is stare at the girl there for a few moments, hoping to gather myself, and put together what I’d just seen. What I thought I saw. I chide myself. Still feeling panicky, I turn on the faucet, and cup my hands. Once my hands are filled, I promptly, and unhesitatingly, splash my face with freezing icy water. Gasping, I stare at the mirror again, and the reflection is way more flushed and wide eyed than she had been before. There’s no way of confirming if it was really her. I let out a pent up breath, and reach up one hand to move my hair off my face, suddenly realizing there would be no way to avoid interrogation later on, when we all got back to the flat. I let out a soft groan, and make myself stand up straight, wiping off my face with a paper towel. Calmly I take another deep breath and prepare myself to face the world again. I reach out and grip the chilly metal handle of the door, and ease it open, peeking out into the café to see… no one. Well, Dan and Phil and a lot of other customers are still here, but… she’s gone. My imagination then. I sigh, and walk out, casually returning to my seat across from the boys, to smile into two cameras that had been waiting for my return.