Sorrel smacked off the alarm after the first beep, clock reading four forty-five in the morning. The beeping hadn't bothered her in ages, but she always got the feeling that other people didn't share her sentiment on the matter. Especially not at five in the morning. Especially not with how easily she would hear all of the neighbor's comings and goings.
She sat straight up. It wouldn't do to fall back asleep. Then she would be late for work, and she was never late for work. Stretching a little, she withdrew her legs from under the covers, stood up, and smoothed the blankets out. It was much easier to make the bed in the morning when she didn't disturb it too much the night before.
Sunlight was just beginning to come through the glass of the sliding door. Sorrel frowned. She had forgotten to shut the curtain last night.
The conversation with Holden had distracted her more than she liked. Normally she was halfway decent at these things. He had just caught her so unaware… her frown deepened. But this wasn't the time to be contemplating that. She shut the curtain and left the room. It looked like another warm day. Plus, that's what the internet had told her the day before.
In the kitchen she set the water to boil and put the toast in the toaster. Her work uniform was already hanging in the bathroom, her bag waiting by the door. She had to be at the bank by six, even though it didn't open until eight. She and head teller counted the money every morning to make sure everything balanced out with the books. Everyone else arrived at seven for more general preparations.
She went back to her bedroom while she waited for breakfast. The pH and temperature of the fish tank were fine, and then poured some pellets into the water. She watched for a second as Byzantium came out; food was more interesting than hiding today.
Byzantium was a half-black angelfish, and the only fish in the three-hundred gallon tank. Sorrel thought about that as she pouring the boiling water over a bag of Irish tea. She always had Irish tea on weekday mornings. Maybe he could tolerate a snail. That might even make cleaning easier. Snails were supposed to eat the algae on the sides of tanks or something. Perhaps she would go to Aqua's Aquarium Supply too on Saturday.
She stood in front of the refrigerator for a moment. What day was it? A Tuesday. The answer came at practically the same time as the question. And with that, Sorrel pulled out the Strawberry jam. Strawberry jam for Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays. What did Holden eat? She shook her head. There was no reason for her to be thinking about him. He was probably asleep. Thirty feet away.
She ate quickly and then showered and was out the door, thoughts out of her mind. The subway was a five minute walk away, and then about a thirty-two minute ride to the station nearest the bank. Pemmeth was a neighborhood bank, and it still seemed to be getting good business so Sorrel didn't think too much about it.
The ride itself was unexciting. She fiddled a little with her bag, but then, as always, realized a subway train probably wasn't the best place to fiddle with things, and went to watching the people around her. The problem was that she was never as inconspicuous as she wanted to be, and people had the tendency to notice when she watched them. Which was weird because she wasn't staring or anything. Just quietly observing.
A boy sat down next to her as the train filled up. He looked anxious and kept checking his cell phone. It made Sorrel want to check on her own phone. But she didn't actually have a reason and had already made her daily resolution not to fidget on the train.
Finally he gave up on the texting conversation and called whoever it was that was bothering him. It was awfully early in the morning to be getting so agitated.
"Hey," he said quickly, not bothering to lower his voice. "Now?" He was speaking in jerks, facing getting paler. "Yeah."
And he hung up.
Sorrel didn't like listening in on other people's conversations, but she always seemed to find herself in that situation. She could hear the person on the other side of the line - a young girl it had sounded like - and what had been said. The two probably weren't much younger than Sorrel herself. And she wanted him to come get her. Something bad was happened at home. They seemed to be siblings or something. Or had once shared the same home. Sorrel couldn't really tell from just the snippet of conversation. People really needed to stop sitting so close to her.
A business man nearby regarded both of them warily. Sorrel didn't know why she was getting grouped in with Mr. Agitation, but also felt it would just draw his attention to try to scoot away at this point. Instead she resigned herself to her fate and leaned back against the window. The boy got off a stop later, the business man a stop after that.
Soon, Yuma would get on, Sorrel knew. Every morning, Yuma made it her mission to talk to Sorrel for the twenty minutes they shared on the train. Sorrel was pretty sure the girl even started getting up earlier to make sure she could harass Sorrel regularly. This theory was strengthened by the fact that Yuma was never on time anywhere, except for the train, and that it had only started when she had learned that they took the same train.
Thinking about it, Sorrel knew that she could switch cars or take an earlier or later train, but Yuma didn't actually bother her that much. They had met at the coffee shop Sorrel where worked four days a week. And Yuma wasn't altogether unpleasant. It had been a little off-putting at first, but now that it had become a regularity, it wasn't so bad.
Right on time, the small Japanese girl stepped onto the train, turned, and located Sorrel. With a small wave she walked over and sat down where the boy had been sitting before.
The train started off again, pushing Sorrel into her. It was also like Yuma to sit down so there was no space between them. But this wasn't so bad either, and Yuma smelled like jasmine that day, which was better than the weird-apple scent that was her second-favorite.
"So," Yuma started off.
"School starts tomorrow."
Sorrel didn't respond to this one. Instead she leaned back and closed her eyes. Why were so many people talking to her these days?
"School," Yuma repeated, then went on, "jeez. When did you graduate anyhow?"
This may or may not require a reply. Sorrel waited to see. That was the other part that added to Sorrel's theory that Yuma only rode the train to bother her. Her school didn't start until seven ten, and even during Summer and other breaks she was on the train.
"How old are you?" Probably needed to reply then. "Hey!" Maybe not. "It's almost you're birthday isn't it? So how old are you gonna be?" Maybe so. Damn it. "I'll be nineteen in December. I feel so old. Everyone's fucking seventeen in my grade. Losers. Damn starting late, non-transferable blah."
The train stopped and started again. Yuma was always complaining about spending her primary school years in Japan. Even if she was Japanese. Half-Japanese. Where was the national pride?
"So, c'mon. How old?"
"Guess." Why had she just said that? Now she was playing along. The girl really was getting familiar.
"I'm twenty-one now."
"Ha! Oh. I can't wait to be twenty-one."
"Why?" Sorrel asked, looking at the girl. Yuma just shrugged though.
"I'll buy you a present."
"You really don't have to."
"And then you can get my one in December, okay?"
Sorrel sighed but she wasn't really annoyed. And Yuma was smiling.
"I know you heard me. I'm holding you to it."
They were almost at Sorrel's stop then. She was thirty-one minutes into her ride, and the train seemed to be on time that day. "I have to go."
"You're working at Rae's today, right?"
Sorrel nodded. Rae's Coffee Shop. Her part-time job. Yuma would probably be better suited to get a job there than hang around spending all her money and complaining about the tight allowance her mother kept her on. Sorrel had her own suspicions about why Yuma hung around the coffee shop so much though.
"Okay. I'll see you later then. Let's make some b-day plans."
The light was blinding against the pavement as Sorrel emerged from the subway. The trains were fairly new and quiet, and most people that early in the morning didn't talk, so her subway ride was quiet other than Yuma. But above ground walking the last eight minutes to work the traffic was loud. Loud and smelly. The smog that disrupted the stars she sketched at night had to come from somewhere.
Sorrel rested for a moment as she waited for the traffic light to turn. Pemmeth wasn't even in the proper downtown, just in one of the more industrial suburbs. Then again maybe it was the industry that contributed most heavily to the lack of air quality. This also didn't seem to overly affect Pemmeth's business though.
The day was already warm, even though it was late August. Maybe there was something to this global-warming theory. Sorrel preferred to mind her own life though. And her minimalist tendencies tended to make her more green than most.
She looked at her watch at the next light. Ten-till-six. The road beside her was mostly full of trucks, starting their daily deliveries. She had to wonder if her relationship with Holden was going to become anything like her relationship with Yuma. It wasn't exactly an unpleasant though, but Sorrel was tired going to bed just after Holden came outside most nights.
She stretched her back as she rounded the corner and saw Pemmeth. Her back still kind of hurt. Nothing much to do about it though. Without much more thought, she arrived at the bank and went inside. The head teller was their before her, for once. He raised a hand at her in greeting and they went quietly about their task. Same as always.
"Sore, honey, we're coming into town tomorrow night! It's been too long. Let's have dinner together. A nice, family dinner. We're on our way up to Maine. You wouldn't believe it, your father landed a managerial position at a logging company there. You should see the town, honey. It's so green. Even the downtown is like a forest. I know things seemed like they were going well in Tennessee, but well, you know. And then Or got in trouble at school again and I really think this is for the best.
But enough about us. Sore, darling, it really has been too long. You should call more often. I know you talk to Or sometimes. Why don't you ever call your father and I? We got you finally got the letter you had sent to us when we were living in Arizona. Funny thing, that. You always sound so formal. Come on, honey! We're family.
Or's such a troublemaker. I just don't know what went wrong with that boy. He never does anything I tell him. He's got no ambition. I know he's got a brain but he just refuses to use it. Fails out of all his classes, then aces them during summer school. I am so tired of having to talk to his teachers. Maybe he'd be better at a boarding school. I can't even speak to him most days.
But anyway! Enough about all that. We can't wait to see you! Have you found a new man yet? You still working at that stuffy old bank? You did get those magazines I sent you didn't you? I know those boots I circled would suit you. Did you buy them yet? You need to look the part to hook a new man, honey. I can't catch them all for you.
Right then. Lots of love, Sore. We'll be at your place at six tomorrow. I've got the directions all printed off and everything. There was a gorgeous young concierge at the hotel last night helping me. Wish you could have been there, he looked just a few years older than you.
Pick out a nice restaurant for us! Your father likes Mexican. Still. Never understand that man, but maybe you know some place in the city where we could celebrate his new job?
I'm amazed your machine hasn't cut me of-"