She bought a couple croissants, a chocolate du pain and asked for a few slices of salami and parma ham as well as some hard cheese to go with it. The baker nodded and smiled and thanked her as she paid for her food and walked out to her bicycle. A strange looking hooded boy walked by staring at her with his mouth ajar. He smelled of hangover and cigarettes. Lifting up his sunglasses from his nose and he gave her a wink before continuing to walk towards downtown while happily whistling a tune. She watched him go until he was out of sight. He walked with a slight jig and never stopped whistling. Strange boy. She sat down on her bike after placing the grocery bag into the front basket and placed an earphone into each ear and began to ride to her apartment a couple blocks along. She’d been in Terrance for a good two weeks now and had her new neighbourhood down - baker on the corner, supermarket on the other and the bus to university just below the block of red flats and the crazy drunk hobo in the alleyway adjacent to her apartment building. He was to be avoided as much as possible. A cat lay across the top of a small brick wall. It opened one of its eyes and followed her as she walked by then stretched and purred again before finding a new position to sleep in. Her apartment was opposite to the block of red flats and three floors up.
The previous night she had watched Mike and Chris just before they left their apartment. She couldn’t help it. She had never seen two human beings make such a mess of themselves. As Mike and Chris headed into town they had left all their lights on, sprayed pizza and beer everywhere as well as left the television on what could only be described as a pornographic dating channel. If they didn’t act like complete slobbish men they’d surely be mistaken for boyfriends by the numerous times they hugged and kissed one another on the cheek. They had come back in the early hours of the morning singing. The taller one had thrown his buddy onto the couch and kicked a bucket in his direction. It swayed and then fell and rolled underneath the coffee table. He had gestured violently towards the bucket and then towards his friend on the couch and then stomped back into his bedroom. At this point she was a bit worried for the couch dweller until his friend came back with a blanket and gently draped it over his shoulder. She was incredibly confused and wondered if she herself had a little too much to drink, until the taller one came back, cleaned up the pizza and beer cans and turned off the television before throwing up on his friend.
She slowed her bicycle to a stop, grabbed her shopping and headed up the few stairs to the building’s front door where she pressed the buzzer to her apartment.
‘Its me, Sara.’
‘I see, what do you want?’
‘Just let me up.’
The voice crackled a sarcastic woo and the gate clinked open. Sara climbed the stairs slowly, trying incredibly hard to not think about the night before. She rattled her keys against her stomach until she picked the right one and pushed it into the lock and turned and then rammed the door open with her shoulder.
‘Careful, will you? Its an old door.’
‘Sorry, Tess. I had this really terrible front door in my old place. Can’t stop doing that.’
‘Eh, well, I was meant to get it replaced way before you moved in but I kinda grew attached to the damn thing.’
She placed her bag on top of the counter and started the coffee machine. It groaned and whined and spurted black liquid into a cup. They both watched the stream drizzle slowly. Sara broke free of its grip and looked up at Tess, ‘Shouldn’t you be headed into town? Meet some guy?’
‘Yeah I suppose, he’s a bit of an arse though.’ Tess said, still staring at the coffee stream.
‘Seems like he doesn’t give a shit bout anything.’
‘I mean not in a boring, depressing way.’
‘In like, a holy shit I’d rather be insane than remember that shit doesn’t matter. Your coffee’s done.’
‘Oh.’ Sara picked the cup up and placed it on a small saucer. ‘So. Crazy?’
‘What’s he do?’
‘Graphic design. I think. Never seen him do shit for it though. Never seen his work anyway. Hell, never seen him work. But he’s fun to hang with. ‘specially on a Sunday. He loves Sundays.’
‘Man, but fuckin’ school’s tomorrow.’
‘For you youngins’ sure.’
‘We’re the same age.’
‘Yeah but I’m not the one still in school.’ She glanced at her watch. ‘I better get on.’
‘Better get on?’
‘Nuthin. Ah better get on too, darlin’. That there cow field ain’t milkin’ themselves, ya hear.’
Tess stared, ‘What?’ Sara lifted the cup to her lips and took a sip then bit deep into a now buttered croissant.
‘Nevermind.’ She said with her mouth full. ‘Just go.’
The door closed and she stood gripping her coffee with both hands, savouring the warmth. She wandered to the window and stared at the apartment, noticing Chris stood outside on the balcony having a cigarette. He seemed like a pretty normal person – nothing really stood out about him yet she continued to watch him. He sat down at the balcony table and opened up a little laptop notebook and gathered his notes tidily adjacent. She thought he probably thought the night before was between him and his friend, not knowing someone else shared in their experience albeit from a great and safer distance. Every now and again she noticed he would raise his head from his work and stare outwards into the city. Wasted work drone she thought. To raise ones head from work to try and find a glimpse of another life. She took a sip from her coffee having described what she was doing herself. She closed her eyes and tasted the bitterness and warmth and then smiled. When she opened them, Chris had gone, leaving his things on the table to blow away.
She turned from the window and sat at her kitchen counter, flipping through the Sunday newspaper - reports of broken worlds in bigger worlds and small people trying to fix them. It was easier to distance herself from the bigger picture. She was one person in a city drowned in people and brimming at the sides. Yet she read the paper everyday choosing to never meet a blissful ignorance. The phone rang and she answered. She was needed at work tonight. Short notice as usual. She sighed and looked at the clock. Ten thirty. A trip round the city might be worth it she thought to herself but as she packed her things she had noticed Chris sat at the table again and she watched him for a time unknown to her. She blinked slowly and yawned deep.
It was in the late afternoon when Sara awoke to someone at the door. She pushed the newspaper off of her lap and onto the floor and peered through the peephole. The man's face was half hidden by the rim of his hat. Smoke rose from his mouth and spiraled gently upwards. Sara kept the chain of the door tight and opened the door slowly, speaking through the gap in the door.
'Hello there, ma'am. Are you Sara Reyes?'
'Yes, I am.'
The man took his cigarette between two slender fingers before noticing Sara's stare. He apologised for the smoke and asked to enter.
'May I know who you are and why you're here?'
'Apologies again. I'm not used to such conversation. I am Henry Reyes, a distant cousin of yours and I'm afraid I have some bad news about the family.' The man took off his hat and held it in his hands, turning it ever so slightly by the rim. He was balding along the top whilst wisps of hair still dangled behind his ears. The man looked older than he sounded Sara thought.
'Never heard of a Henry in our family.'
'As I said. Distant.' Sara stared at the man and he stared back with grey eyes. A chill went up her spine.
'I'm sorry but I cannot let strangers into my house just like that. Maybe where you're from its a common courtesy, but nuh-uh, not here.' The man simply nodded and placed his hat gently on his head and fiddled with the rim.
'I understand. I will leave a letter here tomorrow explaining. Apologies again.' He turned and walked slowly to the stairs, his shoes making hard clumps against the floorboards. The man paused and turned slightly and spoke for the last time that day, 'It was a pleasure seeing you again, Sara.'
Sara watched him go in silence and then uttered a what the fuck under her breath.