Living with her parents was too much to handle. It had been almost 2 months since they came to her apartment and unceremoniously threw her things out, shoved them into a U-Haul truck, and dragged her back to their home where she was under constant supervision.
“It’s for your own good” they said, “You’ll thank us later” they said; Strange how she wasn’t feeling an inch of gratitude.
With two bulky men following her around at school, she had become something like a social pariah. They chased away anyone that came too close to her, and she was almost expelled because one had the audacity to pummel a young man for saying something inappropriate to her.
He deserved the beating, but hospitalizing him was too extreme. However, thanks to her father’s influence—being a member of the Town Council along with her mother—she was excused. Her brother Dominic, also known as the Police Commissioner, provided the giant men that wouldn’t let her breathe in peace.
Her, and her sister Melanie—who was still missing—were the only ones that held normal jobs. Marissa was a waitress at a restaurant called The Purple Hermit and Mel taught several physical education courses at the university. With her missing, they had to hire a replacement.
Marissa was the only person taking her sister’s disappearance seriously. Her parents didn’t even bat an eyelash. She knew they didn’t get along, but she didn’t know it was to the extent of them not caring about her well-being. Whenever she brought the topic up, their answer remained the same “She’ll turn up eventually.”
“When exactly is eventually?” She questioned, sitting across her father’s desk in his private chambers. He was pointedly trying to change the topic but she wasn’t having it.
“Eventually, is eventually. Your sister is a grown woman. I’m sure she’s fine.”
“Grown or not, don’t you think it’s the least bit weird that she just vanished without saying anything? She could have been kidnapped!” Funny how Mel was “grown” but when she disappeared for a night she was reprimanded.
Her father huffed, “No one in their right mind would do such a thing.” The man had the nerve to find humor in this!
“Dad, are you kidding me?”
“Will you leave your father alone? You’re going to be late to work.” Her mother barked upon waltzing in. She had two cups of tea in her hand.
Their daughter was missing and they were having tea time, well isn’t that grand.
“We already told you that she will show up when she’s ready. Now go, Claire and Butch are waiting for you.”
Her eyes practically detached from the sockets with how heavy she rolled her eyes. Without another word, she left. She wanted to slam the door, but that would just be childish and wouldn’t help at all.
Did she have the option to ride to work in her own car?
Of course not.
As if they would be that lenient.
Her vehicle today and until her parents croaked–or the car crashed–would be the large, black, tinted SUV, driven by the MIB look-a-likes. Oh, and if you didn’t know, Claire was indeed a man. He and Butch were twins. Both were 6’7 completely bald, built like heavy weight fighters with dark-chocolate like skin and even darker eyes. Or at least she assumed. She had never seen them without shades.
“You’re late for work.” Claire said as he opened the door for her.
“I’ll make it there on time if we drive fast enough.”
“If you’re on time then you’re late and to be late is unacceptable.”
You can always count on Claire for some half-assed advice. Butch was already in the driver’s seat, quiet as per usual. He wasn’t too big on conversation.
Her head was rested against the window as they drove. To anyone it looked as though she was admiring the scenery. In truth, she was lost in her thoughts. Too many things didn’t add up and left her constantly pondering them.
Not only had her sister disappeared, but Abdul did as well. Shortly after dropping her home the day after she was attacked, she had never heard from him again. He had been acting weird when they arrived to her home. As usual, he didn’t step foot inside her house, but oddly, he didn’t even drive through the gates this time. Rather, he put her out there and left. To add to the strangeness, her parents—who despised him—were overly curious of his whereabouts.
Even Jamoy had been acting out of the norm. He dropped the class he had with her, and made it his business to avoid her, much like she had in the beginning. She knew Abdul told him to stay away but she never thought he would take it seriously.
She approached him once to thank him for taking care of her, but the male merely pretended she didn’t exist and kept going. She never tried again. They were like complete strangers now. He didn’t look at her, and he didn’t speak to her and she tried not to do the same, but she found herself always going out of her way to see him.
That is, until Butch and Claire started picking out the routes she took to her classes. Now she would be lucky if she even got a glimpse of him.
Lastly, there was the matter of Shawn. She had no clue what happened to him or the feline that appeared that night. It made her skin crawl just to think about him. She had no idea why he knew who she was, or why he came after her. She had never been the same since, always thinking someone was watching her and always looking over her shoulder to make sure no one was.
When she arrived at work, she felt her mood lift. The men bid her goodbye, but she didn’t say a word. They always told her goodbye and wished her a good day at work but she never answered them. They weren’t paid for that.
“Katherine you’re late!”
And cue her boss, Mr. McCormic, with the obvious observation. He always used her middle name at work.
She ignored him and after changing into her uniform went straight to work.
The restaurant was uncharacteristically busy, but the bodies inside were the same types. There were men and women dressed to perfection in their suits and ties at every table. Rarely were there any casually dressed occupants.
Everyone was on their toes, making sure to get every order correct and her face was starting to hurt from the fake smile she wore. You couldn’t frown at the customers. “If you’re frowning, the customer is frowning, and your pay check will frown too,” would you believe that was their boss’ motto?
Midway through the evening her legs and back were killing her. Even with her break, it was just too much to recover from.
Another couple waltz into the restaurant and warning bells went off. She was about to plot her escape into the kitchen when she noticed majority of her comrades had already disappeared and Mr.McCormic was staring at her as though daring her to not go to their table.
Damn them all.
With her note pad in hand she strolled over with the falsest smile known to man.
“Goodnight, welcome to the Purple Hermit, My name is Katherine, and I’ll be looking after your table tonight.”
She always hated that long introduction but her boss believed it helped them connect with the patrons. Truthfully, she believed it was an identifier when customers had a complaint filed.
“Can I offer you anything to drink while you make your decision?”
The man looked up to her with amusement twinkling in his emerald eyes. “Water will do,” He responded, earning a chuckle from the brown haired beauty he arrived with.
“Don’t be so dull,” She waved her hand cutely at him. Marissa was starting to feel sick watching her. “We’ll have a bottle of your strongest wine.”
“Will that be all?” She asked.
The woman reached over and took the man’s hands in hers, while he shook his head at Marissa’s offer.
She couldn’t have walked away faster if she tried.
“You look awful Kat.” Kaleb, one of the line cooks, said as she left him with several orders.
“I saw something gross at one of the tables.” She sneered and made a gagging gesture for emphasis.
“Switch places with the busboys and you’ll see gross.”
Ugh, that wasn’t pleasant to think about. She couldn’t imagine having to clean up mess other than her own.
She ran back and forth between other tables before finally delivering the Wine along with the complimentary bread.
“Have you decided on your meal?”
“Ah yes!” God damn this woman was cheerful. “I’ll have the Sriracha Spiced Tuna, salmon and avocado pressed sushi, and a Baby Romaine Caesar Salad, With Parmesan-Black Pepper Tuile, Spanish White Anchovies, And Marinated Parmesan.” So she wanted raw fish and grass? That explained her thin body.
“And for you?”
He was still choosing, looking over the menu carefully.
“Would you like a suggestion?”
“No, that won’t be necessary,” Marissa raised a brow, well wasn’t he proper? “I’ll have the 22 oz. ‘Cowboy’ Ribeye steak…three of those…with the Applewood Smoked Bacon Mac & Cheese and, Turkey Leg Broth, Roasted Root Vegetables, and Black Barley,” he paused for a moment then added, “and A Cornbread Muffin with Honey-Sage Butter.” After another pause, he then practically ran through most of the menu.
“Would you like the rest of the kitchen as well, I think you missed some items.” She muttered as she jotted down everything.
“What was that?”
“I asked ‘how do you want your steak done?’”
“Medium Rare, and throw in a small Caesar salad.”
She eyed him carefully, wondering if he would even eat everything he ordered.
“Oh, may I have a few of these crab rolls as well?” The bubbly woman asked.
“Certainly, is that all?”
They nodded, and after reciting their order, making sure everything was correct, she delivered it and finished dealing with the rest of the tables.
To her surprise, they actually ate all of the food. Well he did, the woman barely touched hers. She half expected him to clean her plate as well. For someone so built he ate like a fat person. Did it all get shoveled into his muscles? Several times she was caught staring at him, but she wasn’t the only one. The other waitresses were all “Ovary acting” to his presence. He didn’t seem to mind at all. His date on the other hand was seething with jealously. The “He’s mine, bitches” went unsaid with her gestures.
He left her a gracious tip and it almost made her day until she read the note that was hidden under the wad of cash.
“It’s good to see you. Hope you’re doing well.”
She tore it until it couldn’t possibly tear any more. He ignored her all throughout school, then shows up looking like a millionaire, dangling his bimbo in front of her then has the audacity to write her a pissy little note? Ha! She was doing damned well. He was better off remaining the stranger he made himself.
What am I mad about? We weren’t dating.
The night seemed to drag on forever after that. When the closing time arrived she was too tired to be ecstatic. She just wanted to go home and pass out on her bed, but for now, she settled for sitting at one of the cleaned and empty tables.
Claire and Butch wouldn’t arrive for another twenty minutes. Usually they stayed outside at the door, but today they had an errand to run so she was on her own. For that, she was grateful.
Most of the wait staff had already gone home. Only the bus folk, her boss, and the dishwashers were left. They were usually the last the leave as they had to make sure the place was spotless. She helped out now and then so long as it wasn’t overly disgusting.
When she first started working at The Purple Hermit, it had been a joke to annoy her parents. The pay was terrible, the hours sucked, the customers were annoying but she stuck around even after her fit of defiance was over. The job was unsatisfying, but the people inside were great. Mr.McCormic was a nut job, but he meant well. If anything, she considered him the father she always wanted. Not that cold, demeaning, incorrigible brute she had waiting for her at home.
She groaned inwardly at the thought of returning there. The only way to escape them was to leave town and she wasn’t prepared to do that just yet. Would you believe she tried to move back into her apartment and was denied? It had to be her parent’s doing.
“Plan on sleeping over tonight?”
“Haha, Funny Kale. I’m waiting on my ride.”
“Well, if you’re tired of waiting I can—”
She quickly cut him off and denied him. Kaleb wasn’t a bad guy, but she didn’t want to take her chances with anyone. She was being more cautious lately. Besides, if those two found out she left with someone else they would probably track down the car, run them off the road, beat him to a pulp, then take her home. They were ridiculous like that.
“You’ve been testy lately. You and that guy you were hanging with are over?”
“I fail to see how this is any of your business, and you’ve only know me for two years.”
He pulled a chair beside her, and made himself comfortable. “Incorrect. I’ve known you since freshman year but we’ve worked together for two years.” He stated and she merely sucked her teeth at him. “I’m going to assume the attitude is just because you’re tired.”
“The attitude is because you’re prying into things that don’t concern you.” What was with men and not being able to take a hint? Could he not sense the “go away” vibe? Kaleb wasn’t ugly, he was pretty cute with his light brown locs and blue eyes. Okay, the man was fine, and you’d have to be stupid to not find yourself staring at the bulging muscles that fought to stay hidden under his shirts. He was tall too, probably about 6’2. He had well defined features and flawless, sunkissed, brown skin. Minus tonight, he was the eye candy of the restaurant. But she wasn’t interested in his flirting tonight. She just wanted to go home.
“I’ll stop prying if you just let me say what I have to say.”
“Fine, What is it?”
“Go out with me.” He stated bluntly.
Marissa didn’t know what came over her, but she suddenly couldn’t stop laughing.
He frowned deeply. “I’m serious.”
He couldn’t be. He had to be joking because the laughter came from a good happy place. “Never.”
“No, I mean, you’re not serious.” She wiped away a stray tear from her eye. There were at least a dozen leggy, super models working at the restaurant; beauties that garnered the attention of many men but he decides he wanted to ask out her out? She wasn’t saying she was ugly, but she wasn’t blind to the other options.
“I’m dead serious.”
His features were solid, showing that he was in fact telling the truth. Her laughter ceased immediately.
“No. Hell no. I’m not looking for a boyfriend.”
“Let me take you out just once, I’m sure you’ll change your mind.”
She stood up from her seat and grabbed her bag off the floor. There would be no more humoring this conversation.
“No.” She told him. “Listen Kaleb, I’m not interested in love okay? I don’t have time to fall head over heels for someone, only to be used and abused and end up residing on Pity Me Parkway because things didn’t work out.”
Even when she was walking out the door he followed her and kept trying to persuade her. What men didn’t understand about the word “No,” was beyond her. Her first boyfriend didn’t work out, her thing with Jamoy didn’t work out, she wasn’t about to try strike number three. No, she was going to nip this thing with men in the bud right now.
“Will you stop it? I said I don’t want to!”
“Marissa?” Another voice chimed in as they got outside.
Oh for the love of Christ!
“No! Nonononononono, you do not get to show up now.” She said while pointing at him.
Why the hell was Jamoy still here? Where was his brunette girlfriend? Where the hell was Claire and Butch?!
“Is he bothering you?”
Oh no. She looked at Jamoy.
“How about you mind your business.”
Oh please no. Her worrisome eyes fell on Kaleb.
“She is my business.” Jamoy growled. Well wasn’t this wonderful. She was caught between a very strong block of testosterone.
“Woah pause, I’m your what? You haven’t spoken to me in months!”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Seems she doesn’t want to talk to you about anything,” Kaleb mused, taking Marissa by the arm and pulling her to his side.
She was about to push herself away from him when Jamoy opened his mouth.
“If you value your arm you’ll let her go. She is MINE.”
She had to look behind herself checking if someone else was there, but there was no one, so he had to be talking about her.
“I belong to nobody!”
Suddenly, being next to Kaleb didn’t seem like such a bad thing. She pulled her arm out of his grip but leaned her body against his.
“You know what? I think I will take you up on your offer.”
Kaleb’s lips turned up into a victorious smile while Jamoy’s sunk.
“What are you doing?” Jamoy asked.
“You should probably leave, I’m sure your girlfriend is dying for your attention.”
“You heard her. Leave.” Kaleb’s enjoyment was at the highest levels.
Jamoy’s eyes darkened as he stalked towards Kaleb menacingly, “I’m not going to tell you to back off again.”
Kaleb, unfazed by his threat met him halfway. “Funny, I feel the same way.”
Kaleb threw the first punch, catching Jamoy off guard and striking him in his jaw, but he didn’t stay shocked too long and quickly tackled Kaleb to the ground. She saw Kaleb take a punch to his temple and flinched.
“Oh come on! Cut it out you guys!”
Her words fell on deaf ears as the men continued to pummel each other.
The remaining workers from inside caught wind of the commotion and came to watch on, and to her surprise they had the nerve to be cheering for Kaleb.
They were at it for almost ten minutes until her boss showed up and tried to pry them away from each other. Thankfully, her ride appeared at that time as well. They barely put the car in park before they hopped out and grabbed her like she was in some immediate danger. Butch threw her over his shoulder and took her back to the car, while Claire tried to help with the situation.
Marissa was at a loss for words. How had it escalated so quickly? She should be feeling full of herself; it wasn’t every day gorgeous men fought over her, but instead she was severely pissed and highly annoyed.
How childish of them, fighting like animals over absolutely nothing! She looked out the window to see Jamoy storming off, and Kaleb was being held back by her boss. They both looked like shit. She couldn’t tell who won; not that it mattered.
“Is this a usual for you?” Butch asked.
She leaned her head against the window. The cool surface did wonders for her headache. “No. It really isn’t.”
Butch actually laughed. The sound was so foreign to her it sounded strange in her ears. “You must be quite the girl then.”
Jamoy was a minor fling, Kaleb was her coworker, and both of them were past classmates. She had nothing close to a relationship with either, yet they were beating each other senseless over her. Yeah, maybe she was something else, or maybe they were just idiots. Somehow she was sure it was the latter.
Claire finally came in the car, and slammed the door. He turned to face her, huffed, and then looked ahead of him.
“If you came on time, that wouldn’t have happened.”
Again the man huffed but said nothing to her.
Her eyes were still focused outside the window, staring at the crowd in front of the restaurant. They were still trying to subdue Kaleb, but Jamoy was long gone.
A subtle movement behind everyone caught her attention. At first, she thought it was her imagination but when her boss shifted slightly to the left was when she saw it.
Lurking behind everyone in the shadows of the restaurant were the same pair of golden eyes that haunted her sleep.
Wait, no, they were the same color, but something about them was…different.
But they were looking directly at her, she knew they were. She could feel its steady gaze and it sent chills down her spine.
She gasped and jumped back away from the window, earning curious looks from both men. When she peered out the window again it was gone, leaving her dumbfounded and petrified.
“You okay?” Claire asked.
“Y-yeah I’m fine. There was a bug on the glass.”
He snorted and muttered something about women and their irrational fear of insects.
As they drove home, she remained seated in the middle of the backseat. She didn’t want to be near any of the windows. The less she could see of outside, the better. She couldn’t see the eyes anymore but she couldn’t shake the feeling of being followed.
They had just pulled into the gates of her home when there was a thud on the roof of the car.
“It was probably a tree branch.”
Marissa’s heart went into overdrive.
“Guys,” she began in a shaky voice, far too well aware of the barren area around her home.
“There are no trees here.”