Part 5: Coffee

Shit.

It suddenly all made sense.  This is what math class was for.  Grace needed to find the center point of a circle in which Alice stood and continually face at a clockwise approaching tangent.  That way, the bruised eye was always facing away from Alice, and there could be a chance that Alice wouldn’t notice before Grace had to leave.

28 minutes until class.

Someone give me a sine.

Grace continued to pump coffee.  Alice leaned languidly against the counter on Graces right side.  Grace suddenly become fascinated with looking at something to her left.

“I’ve never seen you here.  What brings you here at this ungodly hour?”  Grace said trying to hide the surprise in her voice.

“It’s ten a.m.  I thought I’d surprise you with some breakfast.  Your coffee diet isn’t the best.”  Alice replied.  Her voice was melodic.

Grace had been stunned the first time she saw Alice.  She had blonde hair which she frequently dyed to a lighter shade.  She had eyes the color of a misty morning and pale, unblemished skin.  Alice had full lips that were quick to smirk, and a cute, slightly upturned nose.  Today she was wearing a white summer dress that faded to a deep blue near her knees.

Grace desperately wanted to take her in, but she could only ogle her sidelong while she desperately kept looking for things to add and stir into her coffee.  First cream, then sugar, then some strawberry jam from a packet.  She took a good hard look at the butter pads.  The she felt a hand on her arm.

“Look at me.”  Alice murmured.

26 minutes until class.  Damn.

Grace sighed deeply and sipped her coffee.  She managed to find the willpower to not grimace.  She pivoted on the spot and settled her hip against the counter.  Alices mouth fell open slightly in a silent gasp.  Grace smiled sardonically and then sipped her coffee again.  Grace was no quitter.

“What happened to you?” Alice said, her eyes inspecting her face.  “What- what happened?”

“I had to work out something with some guys.” Grace said.  “I said they had to give me some money, they said I had to give them money.  We solved it like grown-ups.”

“Grace-” there was a momentarily, almost unnoticeable pause, “No one- no one came to help you?”

“I ain’t never needed help before.” she began walking up to the counter.  Alice fell in step next to her.  The man with the magazine didn’t look up, but still managed to tap a few buttons on screen.  He tapped the counter with a single finger.

“You’d think someone would want to help you!  You need to stop going there.  Come work at the creative commons with me.” Alice insisted.  Something was clearly bubbling under the surface, but Grace had always thought that Alice worried too much.

Grace fished through her bag to find a couple dollars.  After a few moments Alice leaned in and slid her card into the chip reader.  They stood there quietly while Alice paid.  Grace finally found a dollar and slipped it into the back of Alice’s dress.  She glared at Grace who responded by loudly slurping her coffee abomination.  Alice fished the dollar out of her dress before nodding towards the door.

“Don’t you need to get to class?” Alice said.  Grace nodded and they made their way out.  She sipped her coffee again before deciding against it and throwing the whole cup in the garbage.  Alice smirked at her.

They walked up the street towards the art building.  Alice didn’t say much but after a handful of heartbeats she daintily reached over and grasped Graces hand.  Grace laced her finger with hers.

This part of downtown was further north than the heart of it.  It was all gentrified buildings.  All of them had been recently built in an effort to renew these neighborhoods.  Everything was bright woods, dark concretes, and reflective glass.  The stores through here were all owned by young entrepreneurs attempting to start what they thought were innovative, fresh ideas.  Cafes with what looked like alchemy equipment behind the counter.  Clothing stores that were mostly empty but for two racks hung from the ceiling.  Restaurants that were somehow only open from two to eight p.m.

Grace was looking in at a store selling mineral soaps made of whatever rock they thought sounded medicinal.  Her eyes lost focus and she refocused on the reflection of Alice walking next to her.

“Can you come over later?” Grace inquired, her thoughts shifting.

“I think I’m busy-”

“I only need you there for like twenty minutes.” Grace whispered into Alice’s ear, perhaps a little too desperately.

Alice smiled to herself and blushed ever so slightly.  “Maybe.”

They stood in front of the art building.  A huge, monolithic tribute to brutalist style architecture.  The front lobby seemed more suitable for a hotel than a school, but hey- if you’ve got the money.

Grace leaned in and kissed her, playfully biting her lip gently in the end.  She planted one on her nose.

Grace giggled.  “Go to class.  I need to call someone.”

Wonton finished making a sad scramble.  Some old lunch meat, a half soggy tomato, and a couple eggs.  Derick was reading a book.  He kept sighing for some reason, like a relaxation cliche in commercials.

“What do you do in your free time nowadays?” Wonton asked while glancing back at him.  He was only partially curious.  Mostly he was unused to someone else being here, and the normally comforting silence was now stretching.

“Free time?” Derick chuckled, bookmarking his spot and shutting the book.  “You indoor shifters are the only ones with time.  Grace is constantly bouncing around town.  I have no time, and any time I do I usually spend sleeping.  As a bird mind you.  Speaking of which I need you to help me come up with another form.  Graced caught on to me following her around and bitched me out.”

“I will trade you if you want.  You can be a rat.”

“There is no fucking way I’m doing that.” Derick replied quickly.  “I don’t think I could handle listening to Alice have sex.”

“Yeah-” Wonton added, his mind involuntarily shunting somewhere he didn’t want to be. “Yeah thanks for that.  It was a blessing that she was busy this weekend.”

“Where is Alice?” Derick asked, walking over to inspect his free meal.

“That’s an excellent question.  I don’t know.  She has her own duties that I’m not privy to.”

Derick’s phone started ringing in his bag.  Wonton and Derick’s eyes locked together momentarily.  A moment of silence passed before Derick smiled, “Apparently she’s with Grace.”

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