Author's note: I'd like to thank you, whoever you are for taking the time to read my story. If you do, please drop me a comment!

This story was based off a short story I wrote a while back called Superhero, which you can check out too, if you want.

Enjoy!


[1]

"So, Mr. Graydon. What would you do to make our world a better place?"

What the hell? I thought, staring the interviewer in the face from across the table. This is an interview for a goddamn paper company, not the freakin' police force.

I tried to give him a heroic smile as I struggled to string together a satisfactory answer. "Well, sir, I…believe everyone can make a difference in the world." That's good. Now roll with it. "Everyone is…uh…special…and can…contribute different, um, things to the, uh, world." The interviewer nodded slowly as I paused. "But me specifically? I could…" Oh god, I'm losing him. Just make something up. Anything! And stop sounding so stupid! "I…" I tried to think of a unique answer to his question. Work in soup kitchens? No, that's too cliché. Sounds too fake. Donate money to charities? Hell, I don't know.

Just then, mercifully, the phone on the table rang. The interviewer shook his head. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Graydon. That's an important call I've been expecting. I'm going to have to take it. I think we were just about done here anyway." He reached across the table to shake my hand. I took it, noticing the pitying smile the man was giving me. "We'll let you know."

As I left the room, closing the door behind me, I gritted my teeth angrily. There was no way in hell I was getting that job. My education wasn't anything impressive to begin with, and that "deep" question completely threw me off.

"What would you do to make our world a better place?" I muttered under my breath as I passed the secretary on the way out. She gave me a disapproving look but I didn't care. I shoved the door open and walked into the streets. "Give me a break."

It was chilly out; the hundreds of people endlessly moving on the sidewalks had steam coming from their mouths with each breath. Pulling my coat tighter, I joined them in their rush to get to wherever it was they were going.

As for myself, I was going home. I lived several blocks down from the paper company building, so it would have been so convenient if I could have nailed that interview. I shoved my hands in my pockets and hurried to get back to my apartment where at least it would be somewhat warmer than outside.

I reached the building and half jogged inside. The warmth hit me like a blanket on my face and I rubbed my hands to bring some feeling back into them. The security man looked up as he saw me come in. "'Evening. Cold out, eh? Too cold for the start of November, I think."

"Yeah, it is," I replied, walking quickly past the man so I wouldn't have to get caught up in one of his tiresome conversations again. The elevator was still out of order. The maintenance man was supposed to fix it, but he never did. I'd given up caring a while ago.

On the way up the concrete stairs, I passed Mrs. Finnegan. She smiled when she saw me and she was leaning a bit heavily on the banister. "Robert! How are you?"

I slowed down and gave her a little wave. "Good, thanks, Mrs. Finnegan. What about you?"

She was an old woman with those smiling wrinkles that grandmothers have. "Oh, you know. As good as I can be. They haven't fixed the elevator yet, have they? They should do it soon."

"Yeah, they should. Have a nice day!" I jogged up the two flights of stairs in an effort to warm up. It worked to some extent and at last I arrived at my apartment door.

Inside, I threw myself onto the sofa and stared around the room. It was really a small apartment and not that much to look at. I didn't have the money or the job to afford much else. The kitchen area was not much bigger than the closet, and the closet was just a little bit bigger than the bathroom. The tiles on the floor were uneven, as if the carpenter had given up trying to make sense. The living room was by far the biggest area, with a faded sofa, an undersized TV and a few bookshelves. It was where I found myself now, sprawled out on the couch and staring at the discolored ceiling blearily.

I saw the answering machine blinking red so I punched the playback button unenthusiastically and listened as the mechanical female voice spoke.

"Beep. Saturday 7:10 PM. Two unheard messages. Message one. 'Hey, Robbie. I was just calling to ask how your interview went. You're probably not back yet, but I want to know right away. Okay? Give me a call back when you get this message.' Beep. End of message one."I rolled my eyes. It was so typical of my mother.

"Message two. 'This is Sheila Cohan calling about your interview for Morton Williams...'" I leapt off the sofa and leaned in closer to the answering machine, as if that might affect the outcome of the message. I had completely forgotten about my interview at Morton Williams. It was about time they'd contacted me. "'We are pleased to inform you that'" I let out a sigh of ecstatic relief so loud I almost missed the rest of the message, "'we would like you to come work for us starting Monday, eight in the evening, if that's possible. Thank for your help and we hope to see you here soon.' Beep. End of message two. End of messages."

I leaned back into the sofa. Finally. I waited a few moments longer then realized I'd better call my mother. It was always best to call her back right away, before she had a conniption from worrying.

The phone rang once then I heard my mother's flinty voice on the other end. "Robbie? Is that you?" I could tell I'd waited a few moments too long because my mother had the same tone of anxiety she always got when she thought I hadn't called her back soon enough.

"Yes," I replied. "Mom, doesn't your cell phone have caller ID?"

There was a pause in which I could tell she was examining the screen of her phone. "It says 'call from Robert.'"

"Right," I said, trying to hide the exasperation in my voice. "That's your caller ID, mom."

She let out a small 'oh' then jumped right into what interested her. "Anyway, that doesn't matter. How did your interview go?"

"Which one?" I asked, walking over to the kitchen.

"The one with the big paper company! The one today! Tell me how it went!"

"Alright." I dug for a roll and some turkey cold cuts in the refrigerator.

"Tell me details, Robbie. Don't play games with me."

"They wanted to know what I would do to make our world a better place." I held the phone between my neck and shoulder as I arranged a sandwich for myself.

"So what did you say?"

"I said I'd solve global warming, save the baby seals, end world hunger, and find a cure for the common cold."

"Ha, ha. Sure. Well, just give me a straight answer for this: Do you think you got the job?"

"No," I said, continuing quickly before she could cut me off. "But I just got a call from Morton Williams. Remember that interview I did for them while ago? They just called up and said I could have the job."

"Really? That's wonderful!"

"Yup." I squirted some mustard onto the sandwich.

"You should celebrate! Go out with your friend, Alex. Is that his name? Alex? Or is it Adam?"

"It's Joseph."

"Right. Joseph."

"I've been friends with him since college. Why don't you ever remember his name?" I asked, rolling my eyes.

"You know I'm bad with names, Robbie."

"Whatever. Anyway, thanks for calling, mom." I bit into my sandwich.

"Let me know how your first day goes, okay? When is it?"

"Monday."

"Let me know, alright? Don't forget to call me!"

"I won't. G'bye, mom." I hung up, chewing the food in my mouth thoughtfully.

Monday came soon enough. Too soon, in fact. I decided to take a nap before eight o'clock rolled along. That was a mistake. I ended up oversleeping because I'd accidentally hit the snooze button on my alarm clock one too many times. And so I had to try and make myself look as professional as I could in ten minutes. Morton Williams was pretty far from where I lived so I had to take the bus there.

I grabbed my license, my cell phone, my keys, and everything else I would need and I ran out of my apartment, nearly forgetting to lock the door. I took the stairs two at a time, raced past the security guard and took off down the street, almost knocking several people over in the process. Not that this particular Morton Williams was a top notch establishment, but I wasn't going to be late on my first day of the first job I'd had since a long, long time ago.

I checked my watch as I ran. I had five minutes. My breath was visible in the air; it had been chilly out since Saturday. I rounded the corner of another block and saw the street sign marking where the bus stop was. There were people standing there, and I immediately eased up, relieved that I'd made it in time.

I had a few minutes to catch my breath before the blue and white bus pulled up to the curb. It came to a halt with a hiss and a shriek and the doors slid open. Wordlessly, we, the passengers, climbed up the steps, deposited our money and turned to find our seats. The driver was a fat, lethargic man who waited until we were all off the steps before he closed the door and the bus started moving. I moved down the aisles, searching for an empty seat, still a little disoriented from the mad dash to the bus stop.

That was when I saw him.

He was sitting in the window seat, with his face toward the glass. The first thing that caught my attention was that he was wearing a blue cape that was securely fastened about his neck. Then I saw the long black gloves he had on, clasped together and resting on his lap. His shirt was ordinary enough, a plain white T-shirt, and so were his pants, just black, but his belt was oversized and a startling yellow. I saw from his reflection in the window that he was wearing a black half mask, the kind that superheroes wear. And that's when I realized that was exactly what the guy was dressed up as. A superhero.

The bus bounced over a bump in the road, reminding me I had to take a seat. I noticed the oddly dressed guy was sitting in a three-seater, alone. The rows directly in front and behind him were the only other empty rows on the bus. I left them as they were and sat down next to a young girl listening to her iPod.

After living in the city for a while, you begin to ignore the kinds of people that stick out, and you yourself choose to blend into the crowd rather than be one of those people. So it was no surprise to me that no one on the bus chose to talk to each other, let alone the strange man sitting in the third row of the bus.

With nothing else to do, I watched him for a little while. His hair was a faded red color, like clothing that had been washed so many times most of the hue had just drained away. I guessed that he was in his mid-twenties, maybe just a little bit older than me.

Something that seemed peculiar to me was that he never broke his gaze from the window, even when people entered and exited the bus or when a businessman dropped his briefcase on the floor with a loud bang. He just kept staring out the window, like it was the most interesting thing he'd ever seen. I even looked outside myself to see what all the fuss was about, but all I saw were the nighttime streets of the city, its people milling about like shadows, and the neon lights casting colorful specters on the inside of the bus.

Eventually I lost interest in the caped guy and my mind wandered to thoughts of my new job and how I would have to cope. When the bus finally slid to a halt at my stop, I walked through the aisle and past the masked character without giving him much thought. I did look back though as the bus pulled away, and I saw him still staring out the window, lit by the interior lighting of the bus. It looked almost like he was looking through me and at me at the same time as I walked past his line of vision. A little unnerved, I made my way toward the store. I had more important things to worry about than a costumed stranger.

After walking a little while, the Morton Williams stood before me, looking unimpressive in appearance. I took a breath, tried to smooth a few wrinkles out of my jacket, then I entered the store via the automatic double glass doors that slid out of my way to let me pass.

I noticed the store had that refrigerated fruit smell, not surprising due to the rows of fresh produce that immediately came into sight. I felt a little awkward, just standing there while all the other shoppers bustled about busily, so I approached a cashier.

"Excuse me, do you know where I could find Sheila?"

The cashier looked up at me while she was bagging several packages of diapers for a customer. "Huh? Oh. You're the new guy." She was noisily chewing gum and her purple eye makeup contrasted with her bright yellow hair. She jerked a thumb over her shoulder while checking out items with her other hand. "She's in the room in the back." Then she dropped her gaze again and continued her work through heavily lidded eyes.

I moved to where I was instructed and knocked on the office door, noticing the typical grocery store music playing over the loudspeaker as I did so. After a short while, Sheila opened the door, smiling when she saw me. She was pretty tall, nearly as tall as I was. Maybe it was because of her height, but she had an air of authority about her. She held out her hand in welcome.

"Mr. Graydon, right? Is it okay if I call you Robert?"

"Yeah, sure, that's fine," I replied, shaking her hand. She had a good handshake, I noticed.

"You can call me Sheila," she grinned. Before I could respond, she went on. "Alright, down to business then. You'll be working the cash registers for now. First thing, you'll have to pick up your name tag. Have you ever worked a register before?"

"No."

She smiled and turned her head to point at one of the registers, nearly hitting me in the face with her long black ponytail. "It's pretty simple, really. Just slide the item across the scanner, bag it and then give the customer their receipt. Their change comes out in the little chute." After leading me to an empty cash register, she demonstrated this for me, a little too quickly, I thought. "Got it?"

"…I think so."

"Good. Now get to work."

I hesitated. "Right now?"

"Yes. Take this register. Register three. Ask Lisa for help if you have any questions." She patted my arm with mock consolation. "Don't worry. You're a big boy. I think you can handle it." She winked at me then moved back into her office.

Following directions, I took my place behind register three and waited for the customers to come to me. The bored looking girl I'd questioned before was working at the register next to mine. I gave her a wave, but she didn't notice. Clearing my throat, I spoke up. "You must be Lisa, right.?"

She didn't look up, instead blowing a bubble with her bright pink gum and responding, "Yeah."

Realizing I wouldn't be getting a conversation out of her, I turned my attention to the cash register and its intricate workings.

My first shift at the store was uneventful and went by smoothly enough. When I was finished, sometime around two thirty in the morning, I dropped by Sheila's office again. I felt just about ready to collapse from exhaustion. Sheila poked her head out of the door and smiled when she saw my obviously deadbeat expression. She was holding a cup of coffee in one hand. "Tired?" she asked.

"Oh no, I could go for a few more hours," I waved my hand exaggeratedly.

Sheila chuckled then held out the cup of coffee to me. "Want a sip?"

I gave her a look. "Weren't you drinking from that?"

She raised her eyebrows. "Don't worry, I'm not sick. Do you want it or not?" I was too weary to refuse so I accepted the paper cup and downed a mouthful.

"Thanks."

Sheila paused and watched me as I swayed a little bit on my feet, which were killing me. "Don't worry. You'll get used to the late hours."

"Ha, ha, sure I will." I turned to go and gave a halfhearted wave. "Alright, see you tomorrow."

She smiled and gave me a little salute before disappearing back in her office.

It was dark outside except for the store lights and there were far less people out on the streets than usual. When I got to my stop, I stood there, waiting, and became more aware of how much my feet were aching. Eventually, the bus rounded the corner and pulled up in front of me. Unenergetically, I climbed up the steps and dropped my money into the box. The bus driver was different than the one who'd dropped me off, but he was just as lethargic as the other one. The bus was empty except for one woman who'd fallen asleep in the back row. And the masked, caped guy from earlier was gone. Slowly, I sat down and fought the urge to fall asleep. Come my stop, I got off the bus and walked home where I threw myself on my squeaky bed and instantly fell asleep.

The following morning I had to call my mother to tell her about how my first day at the job went. Naturally, she thought that I'd waited too long to let her know.

My friend Joe stopped by my apartment to say hi so I related the unexciting events of the previous night to him. "The manager seemed pretty nice. She wasn't that bad looking either."

Joe laughed. "Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah. I think she was into me. She kept touching me and she let me drink from her coffee cup."

"Maybe she's Italian," Joe said, shuffling his feet. "They're always touching like that."

I rolled my eyes. "Her last name's Cohan, Joe. I don't think she's Italian."

"Maybe she's married."

"Nope. No ring."

"Well, I'd get on that if I were you, man."

We talked for a little while longer until Joe said he had to take off and left.

As the afternoon came, I set my alarm so I could take a nap but made sure the clock was far enough away from the bed so I couldn't snooze my way out of waking up. When it did go off, I was groggy and grumpy but ready to begin day two at Morton Williams.

As I groggily climbed onto the bus and turned to find a seat, I blinked in surprise. The same caped guy from yesterday was there. It looked to me like he hadn't moved an inch in the twenty four hours since I'd last seen him. He was still in the same seat, still looking out the window, with his mask on and the cape and everything.

Seeing him again made me feel uncomfortable and I tried to shake it off when I got to Morton Williams. I made sure to talk to Sheila again before I started my shift, and while I was working, I tried to talk to Lisa some more. She was pretty hard to hold a conversation with.

The next few days passed without incident and I developed a routine of getting on the eight o'clock bus, seeing that strange guy sitting in the same row, going to work at the cash register, and then leaving a lot more tired than I'd been when I'd arrived.

I'd taken to calling the masked man on the bus Cape Kid, since I didn't have the desire or the will to strike up a conversation with him. Neither did any of the other regular bus goers or even the bus driver, as far as I could tell. We all ignored the oddity and avoided sitting near him as best as we could.

Sometimes, instead of wearing a black half mask, Cape Kid wore round glasses. There wasn't any particular pattern I could figure out as to why he switched off like that. It was on my list of things to never ask him.

Frequently, I wondered why it was he dressed like a superhero. I had a few theories. The first was that he worked at a children's store where they had to dress up to entertain the kids. That theory was rendered useless when I realized children's stores probably wouldn't be open so late at night. Theory number two was that he was some kind of walking advertisement for a company or a movie. But that theory was no good because he never said anything to anyone, and I think a guy selling something would be verbal about it. Theory three was that he just became paralyzed in that position and no one had the heart to move him away from the window. Theory three was the most plausible, I thought.

I told Joe about the weird guy and we had a good laugh at Cape Kid's expense. Joe was sure to make a bunch of inappropriate jokes on the subject. He found the whole thing hilarious and promised to take the bus to work with me one day so he could see the guy for himself. He also wanted to meet Sheila, which was something I was hesitant about.

Next Wednesday came along and I boarded the bus, as usual, taking a seat one row behind Cape Kid in the opposite aisle. He was wearing his round glasses that night, and I could see the reflection of the neon lights outside in their frames. It was easier to see his face when he was wearing his glasses. It was somewhat freckly and rather pale, made even more so because the bright lights from the buildings washed out his face.

I was fiddling around with some of the functions on my cell phone when a loud commotion made me look up. Some guy had gotten on the bus, wearing a leather jacket and oversized headphones. His music was so loud I was sure everyone present could make out each vulgar word of the song that was playing. The guy and his bald head settled in the row next to mine, the row just behind Cape Kid, where I'd never seen anyone sit before.

I admired Cape Kid at the time because the loud music did not make him shift his gaze from the window. This was followed by a pang of worry since, although he was definitely strange, I had developed a kind of loyalty to him. We did ride the bus together every day, after all.

Sure enough, my anxiety was not unfounded, for the tough guy, who had been distracted by his blaring music, had just noticed Cape Kid sitting in front of him. A sneer crossed his face and he turned around to look behind him, as though expecting everyone else to be dressed the same way. We were all silent and watching Tough Guy, waiting for what was going to happen next.

Tough Guy leaned forward on the back of Cape Kid's seat slowly, like he was savoring a good joke. Cape Kid didn't turn from the window.

Tough Guy cleared his throat and shouted over the cacophony of his headphones, "Hey!"

Still, Cape Kid didn't move.

Angry that his prey wasn't acknowledging his presence, Tough Guy poked Cape Kid between his shoulder blades, hard. "Hey!"

And yet, Cape Kid still didn't move his gaze from the window. Looking for something to do, I started typing out an imaginary text message into my phone, and I braced myself for what I knew was coming next.

With a snarl, Tough Guy struck Cape Kid on the back of the head, hard enough to knock his glasses off. They fell onto the floor with a skittering sound. We, the observers, tried to pretend we weren't watching the scene unfold, although we were hooked on every gesture.

At last, Cape Kid slowly turned around to look at Tough Guy. He blinked a few times and stared his opponent directly in the face. For a moment, Tough Guy seemed to be cowed. Then Cape Kid spoke the first words I'd ever heard him say, "That wasn't very nice." He blinked some more. "I would appreciate it, sir, if you would kindly pick up my glasses for me."

I gaped. I gawked. I could tell everyone around me had the same reaction to Cape Kid's response. I was sure even the bus driver, who was maneuvering the vehicle through the streets mechanically, was listening intently.

"Are you retarded or something?" hissed Tough Guy, rising up out of his seat and towering over the far scrawnier and younger man.

Cape Kid returned the death stare with just as much determination. "I don't think there was anything wrong with what I just said. You knocked off my glasses. I would like you to pick them up."

I winced inwardly. Damn, Cape Kid, shut up while you still can.

Tough Guy leaned forward menacingly. "I don't give a rat's ass about your glasses."

You could have heard a pin drop. Actually, what we heard was the racket coming from Tough Guy's headphones. Some rock star was yelling about burning the world down.

Cape Kid did not falter in his response. "Watch your language, sir. There are women present."

I almost laughed, and I probably would have if Tough Guy hadn't been right next to me. He emitted a growling noise in his throat that reminded me of a sound a big territorial dog would make. Then, with the back of his foot, he kicked Cape Kid's glasses. They skidded somewhere underneath my seat but I pretended I didn't notice. I was too interested in my imaginary text message.

Mercifully, at that moment, the bus reached my stop and the doors swung open. As hastily as I could, I leapt up and made my way down the aisle. Unfortunately, it also appeared to be Tough Guy's stop since he stormed after me down the steps. He shoved past me roughly and I wasn't expecting it so I found myself losing my balance. I staggered off the steps and fell into a garbage can, smacking my head on the edge.

I cursed under my breath as a sharp pain manifested in my forehead. I held my head and tried to reorient myself from my crouching position on the ground. I could see the feet of people shuffling past me and was just about to get up when a voice caught me by surprise.

"Are you alright?

I shifted my gaze from the concrete sidewalk to a pair of big black boots that had halted in front of me. My eyes moved up the figure standing before me until I saw Cape Kid's unmistakable face, full of genuine concern. It appeared that he had retrieved his glasses from underneath my seat since he was wearing them now, although the lenses were somewhat scratched. He had an arm extended down toward me.

I stared up at him, blinking. My mind struggled to create the appropriate response. Cape Kid blinked back at me.

At last, I managed to regain my composure and I accepted his outstretched arm. He lifted me to my feet with a surprising amount of strength that I would not have expected from his scrawny physique. "I'm alright, yeah," I finally answered, rubbing my forehead. "Uh…" I watched as he righted the garbage can I'd knocked over and then turned back to face me. "Um…thanks…"

Cape Kid suddenly leaned forward and stared very intently at my face, squinting, like someone trying to read a book with small print. "Uh…" I said. Eventually, he drew back as though satisfied and grinned at me, rather lopsidedly. "Yeah, thanks." I repeated.

"I'm Scott Williams," he announced abruptly. He adjusted his glasses which were slightly askew.

Well, at least now I can stop calling him Cape Kid, I thought. People passing by us gave us looks and I fidgeted a little, feeling uncomfortable. Scott seemed immune to the attention.

"My name's Robert," I offered. Now was a good time to get to the bottom of the Cape Kid mystery. "So, um…" I began uneasily. "I've noticed that you're on the bus every day."

Scott was still smiling at me, blinking more often than was usual. Often he would squeeze his eyes together tightly like there was something in there bothering him.

"Oh yes," Scott replied, nodding sagely. "Every day. I have to be there every day, you see."

I didn't quite know what to make of this response so I tried again to ask the main question that had been bothering me ever since I'd first laid eyes on the guy. "I also noticed you…well…you wear," I gestured to his attire. "A superhero outfit."

Scott nodded again. "Of course! Every day! I have to wear it every day."

I decided to be blunt and get it over with. "So why do you wear a superhero costume every day?"

Scott raised his eyebrows at me. "It's part of my job."

"Oh," I said, relieved. "Do you work somewhere where you have to dress up or something?"

He shook his head. "No. All superheroes have their superhero outfit. I wouldn't be able to be a superhero without my outfit."

Oh no…so he is crazy. I blanched. "Are you telling me," I asked incredulously, "That you….fight crime?"

Scott positively beamed at my deduction. "Yes, sir, I do. I want to help people." He swirled his blue cape about him, trying to appear impressive, I guessed. "I fight for justice. I protect the innocent! Truth, virtue, and hope are my weapons and crime is my enemy." He looked up at the sky then turned his head back at me and grinned sheepishly. "I need a superhero name, though. Scott Williams is no good. And I need an insignia. See, my shirt is plain white." He pointed unnecessarily at his chest to prove what he meant. "But I can't think of anything."

"Oh," I said slowly, my eyebrows lifted. "Well," I turned around to go. "I have to go to work now. It was, uh, nice to meet you."

Scott easily fell into stride beside me. He didn't appear to have understood that I was trying to get rid of him. "Superman is my favorite superhero," he declared, out of the blue.

"…Right." I tried to walk a little faster but Scott just increased his speed to match mine. Realizing I wouldn't be able to shake off this guy so easily, I thought I might as well try to figure him out while I could. "Wait. If you're…a superhero…then what did you mean you have to ride the bus every day?"

"It helps me cover more ground that way. At night, I take the bus so I can watch for any signs of trouble. I wish I could fly. It would make patrolling so much easier."

I tried to avoid looking at him as I walked so it would appear less like he was talking to me. "Then why'd you get off the bus just now?"

"You needed help. So I gave it," Scott replied. When I heard that, I slowed down and glanced sideways at him. He was smiling at me. "That's what a superhero does." I felt a sudden surge of pity in my stomach.

At that moment, I reached the front of Morton Williams. I stopped and briefly turned to Scott. "Well, bye."

Scott smiled at me unevenly and nodded. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, Robin!"

I paused as I stepped past the sliding doors and looked back at him. "It's Robert," I said. "Not Robin."

But Scott just kept smiling and didn't correct his mistake.

I entered the store feeling uneasy. Safely inside, I checked to see if he was still there, but he was already walking away, alone.

Sheila was talking to a customer when I approached her. When she saw me coming, she smiled. "Hey, you're late today." She tilted her head. "You seem kind of upset about something. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," I replied, shaking my head exasperatedly. "I just ran into this really strange guy."

She laughed. "You see strange guys in the city every day. What did you expect?"

I sighed and rubbed my forehead. "Just…never mind."

"It looks like your forehead's bleeding. Are you alright?"

I looked down at my hand, and sure enough, there was a smear of blood on my palm. "Shit…" I mumbled. "Yeah, I just fell over and hit my head on a garbage can."

Sheila pulled my hair away from my forehead and examined the damage. "Eesh, that looks bad. Man, first you run into a strange guy then you hit your head on a garbage can. Having a bad day, are we?"

"Actually it was the other way around."

She gave me a look. "I'll go get something to clean that up."

While waiting for her to return, I took a seat on a stool. I saw Lisa peering at me with her purple topped eyes from above her register. She was sniggering to herself, so I guessed she was pleased that I'd gotten hurt, for some reason. I glowered at her a little, which just made her laugh more.

Sheila came back, brandishing a bottle of peroxide, a cotton swab and a Band-Aid. I grinned at her. "You're certainly well equipped in there."

"Yeah, I've got a first aid kit in the back. It's mostly for the little kids who fall over in the store or something," she said as she dipped the cotton swab into the peroxide. I winced in advance. She laughed. "You're such a baby."

Very methodically and very gently she applied the medicine to my forehead. It stung like hell.

"You know," Sheila chuckled. "If meeting this strange guy freaked you out so much, you can just go home. I'll let you have the day off."

"Why?" I asked worriedly. "What, do I look freaked out?"

She rolled her eyes at me. "God, you're such a worry wart." With finality, she dabbed my cut a bit roughly. "Get over it."

With my Band-Aid in place, I took my spot next to Lisa. She was still grinning at me. "What," I rounded on her, "is so funny?"

She blew a bubble with her gum and popped it. "You're wearing a Dora the Explorer Band-Aid."