The tinkle bell of the last customer - save Dmitriy – leaving was the signal for Noel to collaspe into the chair opposite him. Ekaterina even looked rightfully worn out next to her. Despite the strange beginning even she had learned that side-comments and attempts at tripping were somewhat pointless in such a busy environment as theirs.
“Shall we head home?” Dmitriy suggested and Noel bite back the inappropriate remark to ask him to give her a piggy-back. Because, damn, her feet hurt from being on them all day.
“Sure,” She said, getting up and heading to the staff room to grab her coat and bag. Ekaterina followed, tossing her what she dared to think was a genuine smile as she did.
“Are Fridays always that busy?” she asked.
“Pretty much, but you get used to it,” Noel replied with a small laugh. They headed outside and Noel locked up, shivering against the evening air. It wouldn't be too long before winter hit them. Then she'd have to start taking the bus. Because taking the forty minute walk home in the late evening frost was hard and bitter. Once again as they were heading towards the edge of town where her pathetic one-room flat sat, she wondered where they lived. They always kept on walking after her place but never seemed keen to offer an invite inside. They had to live pretty close, unless they lived in a hut in the woods. Or on the abandoned parts of town further on. The idea that they might be struggling for money and living on the streets made her worry. Winter would hit soon and she couldn't help but want to double-check. She waved as they reached her flat building and she let herself in. Dumping her bag and pulling on a second jumper. She glanced out her slightly mould stained window and saw the two walking fast. She wondered temporarily if they found her pace annoying when they could move that quickly.
She bit her teeth against the onslaught of cold wind as she left, key and phone in her pocket. At first she tried to follow them at a distance but that soon became an irrelvant worry as she rushed to keep up with them. Her breath coming in raspy gasps and fogging up the air before her. She glanced at the terrain around her and saw the crumbled houses and estates. This town had been built with expansion in mind, but for some weird reason their high crime rate meant a lot of it just went to waste, never needed. To be honest it was part of what influenced her story. A town with unknown residents of a darker nature. Strange disappearances and unexplainable deaths. Sometimes she wished that was the real explanation. But she knew it was just humankind being fucked up at the end of the day.
She slowed down as they headed towards the almost-ancient looking crumbling mass of the old mall. The sign said Sky Valley, with the K and second L hanging at worrying angles. The A had vanished altogether.
“No, no way in hell,” Noel muttered. Or at least she swore it had been quiet. But Dmitriy and Ekaterina paused and turned round, scanning behind them. Noel saw no reason to hide and approached them, ignoring the uneasy feeling fluttering in her stomach as the proximity between her and building grew smaller.
“What are you doing here?!” Dmitriy blurted straight away, his gaze darting between her and the building
“You guys live her? Jesus, if you need a place to stay I have a perfectly good sofa and floor,” Noel almost shouted, arms crossed. Ekaterina seemed to be doing something similar to Dmitriy, though a lot more concealed.
“We didn't ask for your charity. Now go,” she said, her body language and eyes as ice hard as they'd been when Noel had first seen her.
“I just want to help,” Noel said, her expression softening.
“We don't need it. Leave,” Ekaterina replied curtly, before turning to walk towards the abandoned mall. Noel turned hopeful eyes on Dmitriy who shifted uncomfortably.
“Maybe this was a bad idea,” He murmured, refusing to meet her eyes.
“What do you mean?” she asked, wishing she wasn’t so good at reading between the lines.
“I mean...nevermind. You should go,” He said, half turning to leave before hesitating. He looked at her again, seriousness etching his features.
“Don't come near here again,” He warned, then he left. Noel stared after him before tightening her lip. She left and swore to herself she wouldn't cry until she got home. Somehow she was able to keep that promise. Her mind was left swimming as she thought over the warning. What was dangerous about that place? Violent homeless people? Drugs? She didn't know and she didn't like that they were near it. Noel knew before she entered the shop that morning that both of them would be absent.