It was late in the evening, and Freda found herself wondering along the open streets around CIT, looking for a place to procure a late dinner. While it was rare for her to blunder on her schedule, life had the tendency of imposing a few challenges in which even the best of humanity would have no choice to overcome or succumb to.
In her case, this was the result of what a technically inclined person would call a Rube Goldberg Machine. As with the unnecessary complexity of such a contraption, it began with a professor asking her to his office to meet a new potential who was to join CIT the following year under one of CIT's many admission schemes.
Unfortunately, that person did not show up and she spent over an hour in discussion with the professor instead till she finally excused herself due to the topic change to that of family relations. Having been delayed, she rushed to catch up on her plans for the evening, that included finishing up an assignment and joining the sports club in one of their student organised yoga sessions.
Even these had not gone well, with her customised minipad malfunctioning which took up her assignment time to fix it and the yoga instructor arriving almost half an hour late due to some personal matters. By the time she got about with a majority of her plans, it was already way past dinner time and closing in her standard bedtime of ten.
Normally, she would have just gone with a quick fix by grabbing something from the fridge. However, all she found inside was typical junk food bought by other students who lived in the same assigned apartment. In place of the fresh groceries that she had bought two days before was a note from one of them, saying that they were in urgent need of them but couldn't contact her over mobile , promising to replace what they took and more the following day.
To end things off, when she headed over to the local Star Mart that normally opened late to grab a bite, she was stopped by two men in black suits who were standing at the entrance, on the pretext of investigating a very important case that required the place to be kept off limits to unauthorised personnel. As CIT did not outwardly encourage late night activities, especially on weekdays, there weren't many shops that opened late into the night.
Having looked around for a bit to no avail now, Freda was on the verge of giving up and considered having an earlier breakfast instead. Just as she pondered about the last time she went to sleep while starving, she noticed a neon sign, titled “JJ's 24/7/52 Today”, standing out two blocks away that made her wonder why she had not seen the sign before.
“Claire? Claire. Claire. What are you staring at outside anyway?”
Sarah turned around to look in the direction her bestie was gazing off to but saw nothing impressionable. Turning back, she found Claire maintaining her gaze into the distance without any form of reaction to her at all. To punish, or rather tease, Sarah leaned across the table, and blew gently at Claire's ear before whispering some words to her.
“So...which guy has managed to get you so worked up over him that you anticipate him with such eagerness to ignore both the books before you and even me for the first time?”
“Why does it have to be a guy?” Claire quickly questioned.
“Then it's a girl?”
“No! I mean neither. Not that girls can't be friends. Plain friends.”
Sarah leaned back against the cushioned seat, satisfied from knowing that there was someone other than her who managed to get through Claire's shell. Who, on the other hand, was something that she is now curious to find out more about. Before she had the chance to pose her carefully crafted question, a waiter showed up with the order they made.
“One Study Shot, one Rainbow Reverie, and one Fruity Cloud. Enjoy your meal, ladies.”
“Now, Jason. This isn't a meal. It's a midnight energizer.” corrected Sarah.
The waiter serving them is Jason, the student librarian on duty with Claire earlier that day. Living up to his reputation for working part time over attending lectures, it was hardly a surprise to see him working here. As to how he managed to get the job on its opening day, was another question altogether.
“Cary. What's her name?” Jason nonchalantly asked.
“Really now. Is this how you treat your customers?”
“I am speaking to Cary as a fellow librarian.”
“You are now serving us as a waiter.” retorted Sarah coldly.
“You have a point. I suppose your name is not important, though.”
Just as Sarah poised herself for a serious argument, Claire ended it by asking Jason about the other customers, to which he promptly took a short bow before walking off.
“What's up with that guy? And you got rid of him before I got a chance to get him good.”
“Jason is just like that. He is abnormally straightforward.”
“Really protective huh. Could this be devotion?!” Sarah eagerly asked.
“No.” Claire answered as firmly as she did sharply. Despite having done so, as Sarah leaned back once more while dragging out a long “Ohh”, Claire realised that Sarah wasn't planning on letting the subject on hand go easily and that if Jason had not served them when he did, she would have been in for a long interrogation. As it is, she needed to change the topic. Fast.
“Well...if we were to talk about abnormal, there's sure a lot of armoured vans this evening, isn't there? And also guys in suits, right?” Claire abruptly added.
“If you put it that way, sure. But more importantly...”
“Ah...your ice cream is starting to melt!” interrupted Claire and she grabbed a spoonful of Rainbow Reverie and popped it into Sarah's mouth.
Fortunately, Sarah is a sugar crazed teenager who almost literally personified the saying “having a stomach just for desserts”. With the ice cream in her mouth, her thoughts faded into cool sweet dreams and Claire was spared for the moment.
Letting out a gentle sigh, Claire resumed the sitting position she had earlier, tracing back her train of thoughts that had been disrupted earlier. Trying to figure out the motive of the person who had been persistently bugging her since his admission the year before, she found herself wondering about how he or rather, those like him perceived the world from their standpoint.
As she returned to the thinking state she was in, she subconsciously muttered out the question on her mind, failing to notice Sarah recovering from her sugary affliction. Giving her question some thought, Sarah displayed a mischievous grin, having realised what her dear childhood friend was so concerned about.
“Heh...what SCs think of this world. That's a really complex issue there.”
“...huh? Um...yes. I just cannot figure them out sometimes...”
“It's hard to determine if you are just entertainment or a target of affection, right?”
Within a moment, Claire's face went from that of blank thought to one of shock and surprise. Not knowing what to say, Claire looked around anxiously while trying to gather her thoughts, before noticing Sarah staring at her with exhilarated anticipation. Giving Sarah a pout to show her displeasure, she held up her notes between them in silent protest.
“Oh, Claire. There's nothing wrong with trying to see things their way. Look, there's one coming in right now. Why don't we ask her directly?”