This is part of my novel, "What Losing You Did to Me". To start at the beginning, click here.
Day three greats me crusty eyed and splotchy in the bathroom mirror. Not to mention still squeezing fluid out of my uterus.
I shower and dress, making sure my glimmerspell is in place. Last night I'd been so upset I literally couldn't remember under whose face I'd walked home with. Oh well, it had been dark. If I'd dropped my guise no one would have noticed. Probably.
I start to salivate as I imagine another doughnut for breakfast. If I hurried I'd have time to run by the mall before heading to campus. After throwing on some clothes, I carefully check my glimmer spell again before heading out the door. My nervousness starts creeping in as soon as the elevator hit the ground floor. I try to shove it aside with thoughts of surgery donuts. No such luck.
Anxiety is like a vice sitting on your chest. It makes your vision go black and your heart pound. Briefly in the lobby I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing. If I could just get this under control then I could function as a human being who isn't scared of exiting her room. Bleh.
While I walk I try to further squish the fluttering butterflies in my belly. But, today was the day where I am supposed to find Aainn. I figured I'd stalk out a bench outside his office building and pretend to read a book. If he had a class he'd have office hours.
Wow, was it really going to be this hard every day to walk around? I stopped under a tree, gripping the thin trunk with one hand. Seriously, if I couldn't stop hyperventilating over thoughts of what might happen, I was going to draw undue attention to myself. Not good. I stood there and squeezed my eyes shut again. Ok, Merienge. Whats the problem. Oh, your scared. Well stop it. You don't have time for this and You. Are. An. Adult. So calm down and go get a doughnut because it shouldn't be this hard.
Wow, I really suck at pep talks.
I picked up the pace, trying to push everything inward. I could have a breakdown later, when I was back in my room. Not right now.
The boy behind the register smiled at me as he handed me my cream filled chocolate glazed treat. I practically flung my money at him and fled to eat. Not wanting to attempt to maneuver all the sweetness into my mouth while walking, I sat at a little table outside.
The doughnut helped. Having something other then my problems and their various unknown implications to focus on was soothing in a way I'd never imagined.
Hello, doughnut. Yes, you are my shrink today. We should go for a walk in the park later.
Ooh, there was still some icing on the paper. So good. While removing said bits I wondered why I wasn't freaking out over my apparently normal conversation with my food. Or the fact that I'd asked it on a date. Meh. Weirder things had happened. The important thing now was that I didn't feel the need to curl up under my bed and pull all my hair out.
Progress. It was a good feeling.
As I begin to lick more flecks off my eyes wandered across the mall. Right across from the doughnut shop was a tattoo parlor. Strange placement, I thought.
And then I saw Mai walk by.
I froze, my tongue glued to a dollop of icing and my eyes wide. It wasn't that she was looking my way. It was what she was wearing. It was definitely her, no doubt, or at least someone spelled in her guise. And the whole time she walked her eyes never left the floor.
My heart flipped. A trap? No, there is no way anyone could know I was here yet. It had been three days. But what? Hastily I rose and dumped my trash, joining the throng of people window shopping while keeping my eyes on Mai.
As I got closer I could see that my first guess had been correct. Mai was pregnant. Very pregnant. Real? Pretend? I didn't know.
What happened? I'd presumed she would still be at college. Last time I had talked she had said something about escaping and never returning. What was going on?
I saw her feet veer left and she suddenly disappeared into a hookah lounge. Mai, in a hookah bar? While pregnant? I followed her in to watch her weave her way into the back. Before I could go a step further a clerk stopped me.
"Can I help you?" He asked, his big black shirt effectively cutting off my view of Mai.
"No thank you." I clipped, and tried to dodge around him. He grabbed my arm.
"Let me show you some of our new scents, perhaps?" He asked. His grip on my arm was tight. I shrugged him off, staring.
"Oh, sorry." He said. "Guess your not interested." He turned and walked back towards the counter while I stood and blinked at him. My arm throbbed from where he had squeezed. What?
I arrived at the back of the store just in time to see Mai drop a little white package into her purse. She was leaning against a wall and some hookah lounge employee was currently pressed against her. Their lips made a loud smacking sound as I rounded the corner. As I wove into another isle I heard them pull apart.
"Are you sure this will work?" She asked.
"Yeah, I'm sure." A low male voice responded. I could only assume it belonged to her tonsil swapping partner. "Remember, don't take it all at once."
I glanced back over my shoulder but couldn't see anything, blocked by a whole row of brightly colored hookahs. Mai mumbled something and I catch the word "side effects." I try to edge closer.
"Shh, there is someone else in the store." I hear the male hiss.
And then Mai walked right into me.
"Oh, sorry." She said, as I picked myself up off the floor. I'd been standing right on the edge of the isle pretending to examine some hookah nozzles.
"Oh, I'm fine." I said. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." She muttered, her eyes already flitting past me, towards the door. "Uh, sorry."
She fled. But she was smiling.
As I watched her head north out of the corner of my eye, I pick up two hookah scents-- one called "bloody mary" and another labeled "sin" realizing that I'd have to buy something or I really would look crazy.
"So you were looking." The clerk in the black shirt said, grinning at me.
"Not really." I said, then changed my mind. "I mean, I'm new here. If my parents found out..."
"Mums the word, dear." He said as I handed him my money. "Smoke away."
As I turned to leave he called out over my shoulder, "If your new, and interested, a bunch of us party every Friday after work. We meet here at 9."
I didn't turn around to answer but wondered if Mai went to these parties. Friday was a few days away but his offer was tempting if it meant I might be able to talk to her.
Once out the door I look at my watch (that I'd actually remembered to wear today). I'd lost a little over an hour. If Aainn had a morning class I would miss him entering his office even if I ran to college. If I hurried I might be able to make it to see him leave, through.
For sake of appearances I head off the opposite direction from Mai. It's clear to me that Mr. Black Shirt Hookah Worker was trying to detain me from accidentally viewing some type of more-than-likely illegal transaction between him and Mai. And since I'd rushed into the store literally seconds after her it was not a far cry to logically assume I had been following her.
I need to be more careful.
With that in mind, I head towards the mall exit.
Click here for the next part.