~(1)~

"Hey Miri, wake up." my little sister whispered in my ear. I groaned and turned over. I felt a pinching sensation on my right arm.

"Ow, you little brat what did you-" I said as I lifted my arm. I winced as I turned it, but there was no mark there. I pushed myself up off the sofa and sat on the floor.

"Why did you sleep on the sofa?" she asked as she bounced on a cushion, perilously close to my legs.

"I was working on something...guess I fell asleep." I mumbled.

"Rina says you have to work an hour earlier now."

"I thought I quit." I said. I stood up and winced when a sharp pain went through my head.

"You went back when she gave you a raise and made that creepy guy move to another station." Ava replied. I sighed and went into the bathroom. I looked unnaturally pale in the mirror because of the overhead fluorescent light. I reached for my brush when I suddenly saw a dark shadow fall across the sink. I looked up at the mirror and saw someone wearing a dark trench coat. He gave me a lecherous smirk and reached for my arm.


"Mari! Stop screaming and wake up! Wake up!" someone yelled in my ear. I gasped for breath as I woke up and saw my mother's worried face. She had dark circles under her eyes and my father was sitting on the other side of my bed, I noted dimly as I started coughing. My mother sighed and rubbed my back.

"She didn't take the new sleeping pills then?" my father asked Mom. She shrugged and shook her head.

"At least ask...me." I gasped between coughs. Dad avoided eye contact as he got up and went out of the room.

"Must you try quitting your pills now? You know we got this prescription so you wouldn't have those dreams anymore." Mom sighed.

"I hate the pills. They make me feel like I'm dead." I retorted. Mom closed her eyes and huffed. Dad walked back in with a glass of water and a couple of my sleeping pills in his hand.

"Take them." Dad said. He picked up my hand and dropped the pills. I looked up at him but he was steadily staring at the pills.

"Fine." I hissed. I held the pills in my mouth and drank the glass of water. Mom sighed and stood up as Dad left. She gave me a tired smile as she turned off the light and then she left me too. I stared angrily at the ceiling until I started to feel drowsy and my eyelids closed of their own accord.


The alarm clock shocked me awake and I automatically turned it off. I stood up slowly and yawned. At least it was summer vacation.

"Oh, shoot! I have to go to work!" I gasped. I ran down to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and ran back and changed into jeans and a purple t-shirt and put on my work apron. I dashed down the stairs and grabbed a protein shake and a Snickers. They'd end up canceling out, right?

"Mari, at least take a sandwich or something!" Mom yelled.

"No time!" I yelled back as I ran out the door. I always tapped the top of the door for good luck and today was no exception.

"Oy, Mari, it's about time you got your lazy butt out here!" my friend Cerise yelled good naturedly from her Porsche. Her friend Keyne smiled slightly and shook his head.

"Sorry, sorry." I laughed as I slid into the backseat. Cerise pulled out smoothly from my house's driveway.

"So, has your hot boss asked you out yet?" she asked mischievously. Unfortunately, I was drinking my protein shake while she asked that, causing me to do a spit take out the open window.

"Wait what? She has a hot boss?" Keyne asked with a glint in his eye.

"Hey, I call dibs if you haven't asked him or the other way around in about two weeks. Deal?" Cerise said to me.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence Ceri." I sighed. "Not like I was planning anything of the sort."

"You snooze, you lose." Keyne replied flippantly. I looked out the window and saw signs on the dying grass for the Community Festival, 'Fun for the Whole Family!'

"Are you guys going to the Festival?" I asked.

"You're kidding, right? We've never gone before and I'm not going to start now." Cerise snorted.

"I don't know, it might actually be pretty interesting. After all, we've never actually gone to it." I shrugged. Cerise looked up into the rearview mirror and rolled her eyes at me. I stuck out my tongue at her and she grinned.


After a few more minutes and a lot more signs, Cerise finally pulled into the parking spot nearest Ari's Coffee Shop, the place where I worked.

"Well, as soon as you're in there, I'm allowed to be as rude and annoying as possible to you." Cerise grinned.

"Try to control her, will you Keyne?" I shook my head. I walked inside and breathed in as much as possible of the dough and sugar smell that seemed to be always present in this place.

"Good to see you, Marelda. Glad to see you've brought in your own customers." the store owner Ariane smiled.

"They were just hanging around, I figured they could do something useful." I shrugged.

"Well, Kore and I are going to that district meeting." Ariane rolled her eyes. "Try not to kill Carlin while I'm gone."

"I'll make sure she won't." Cerise trilled. I glared at her.

"Right, well we're off. Kore!" Ariane called out. A girl bounded into the store from a closed door behind the counter. She had strawberry blond hair, a bright pink t-shirt, a pair of short shorts, and a huge grin on her face.

"I'm here Auntie Ariane." Kore grinned. She noticed us then and said to me, "Oh, you must be Marelda, right?"

"Mari, yeah, but how do you know me?"

"Auntie talks about you whenever I mention the store. You look taller than I expected."

"Seriously?" I glared at Ariane.

"You're short, get used to it." she shrugged. "We've got to get going now." She left and after an apologetic shrug, Kore ran after her. Cerise rolled her eyes, walked over to a window seat, and sat down.

"I'll have a caramel covered chocolate milkshake, waiter." she called out.

"Ceri." I said warningly but I went behind the counter anyway. I got a medium sized glass cup and put it into the machine that would swirl warm caramel syrup into it. After the machine was done with the cup, I took out from the freezer a tub of homemade chocolate ice cream and put a couple of scoops into the cup and a dollop of whipped cream on top and took it outside to Ceri. I put in on her table and she took a sip.

"I've gotta say, you make a mean milkshake." Ceri grinned.

"I learned from Ariane, but hers is way better than mine." I shrugged. Ceri played around with the whipped cream on top of the milkshake. I went back behind the counter and wiped the machines carefully. The door chimed as a customer walked in.

"Welcome to Ari's Coffee Shop. I'll be there in a minute, so please decide what you would like while you're waiting." I called out. I was a bit surprised Ceri wasn't talking to whoever the new customer was-I usually had to tell her to stop talking to customers so I could take the order. I washed my hands and walked back to the counter.

"What would you..." I trailed off as I saw the customer. He (or she, I couldn't quite tell) had on a dark trench coat, a black and grey striped scarf covering the lower half of his face, a black fedora on his head and black sunglasses covered his eyes. I realized that he looked just like the guy from my dream and I shivered.