"...It's not that I hate chocolate, I love chocolate! It's literally one of the best things ever made in this world. All I'm saying is that I don't like chocolate chips in my icecream, that's all. I love icecream, even a flavor as plain, old, boring vanilla is amazing. And I love chocolate almost more than life itself. But I like the two to be separate, you know?"
"I mean, I like cheese, I like kitkats, but would I ever have a cheese wrapped kitkat? No, I don't believe I would."
"I don't understand why chocolate chips are so popular. Chocolate sprinkles is another one, I mean, why does everyone automatically assume you like chocolate sprinkles just because you love chocolate? Well, come to think of it I do actually really like chocolate sprinkles. But they're on top of things so I don't think they count as being in the chocolate chip category."
"Karen, for god's sake!"
"Yeah?" Karen pressed the phone to her ear, not because she couldn't hear her mother on the other end but because any kind of warmth in the chilly night was very much welcome. She changed hands and put the phone to the other ear, she had walked out of the door without gloves on that morning and she was regretting it. The paths she walked on were shiny with fresh fallen rain that perfectly reflected the large moon above her. When did that happen? She could have sworn the sky was orange and the sun just setting a minute ago.
"Karen, maybe it's time for you to find some actual friends to talk to about these, obviously very interesting, observations you seem to enjoy going on and on about?" her mother's voice asked.
Karen growled. "Not this again, mom."
"How did the job hunt go today?".
"I looked, I did look," Karen said, nodding to herself, "There were none that seemed interesting." That was a lie. She had been job hunting all day, walking all over the city almost, handing out resumés and trying to sell herself to companies. The last place she had almost begged, and that was only a part-time job at the checkout counter in a small supermarket. No one wanted her.
"You have to stop being so picky," her mother scolded her "Just pick one."
"Yes, yes I know." Karen stopped in a puddle, she stomped it a few times making the water splash over her black boots. She had walked too much that day, in high heels she wasn't used to, she could feel her feet hurting with every step. She longed to get back home and out of her nice black pants and ironed shirt and into something comfortable. Like her old sweatpants and that Mickey Mouse t-shirt that was way too big. She could almost hear the clothes calling her.
"Or perhaps you should take this time to do something productive?" her mother suggested.
"What are you talking about?"
"Grandkids," was her mothers only reply. Karen rolled her eyes. "It's not fitting for a woman your age to roll your eyes." How did she know? Karen couldn't even continue before her mother had started talking again. "I had your sister when I was nineteen, think about it." And Karen often did, she often thought about how she absolutely was not going to end up heavily pregnant on her wedding photo just like her mother.
"Different times now, mom." Karen sighed. She had just turned twentyone and was no where near ready for kids.
But her mother was relentless. "You and Colin have been together for a while now, he has a good job, a baby is just the thing you two lovebirds need." It most definitely was not. Colin was fresh out of college, business major, but the only job he could find was selling used cars a little out of the city, minimum wage. Still better than Karen's no wage. Karen had dropped out of college first year, she didn't like it and didn't fit in. Instead she worked late hours at a local minimart, not far from their apartment. The minimart closed down, it couldn't handle the competition from K-mart down the street and now she was out of a job. "You know your sister's hippie husband is sterile." He wasn't a hippie, he was a massage therapist, with fertility problems. Her mother had grown tired of waiting and moved on to bugging Karen instead. "Probably all those drugs he smoked."
"Mom, I have to go, I think the line is cracking up."
"I want grandchildren, Karen, I'm not getting any younger."
"Mom? Mom, I can't hear you. Mom?" Karen hung up. She lied, her mother was coming through clearly. Too clearly. She put the phone back in her bag and wrapped her arms around herself. It was cold when she had walked out of the supermarket and into the crisp evening air but she hadn't expected it to turn this cold. She could see her own breath in the air and the moon above had gotten a frosty blue ring around it. She had called her mother for one reason only, to have a friendly voice in her ear while she took a shortcut through Central Park. As much as she annoyed her, her mother was one of the few people she enjoyed talking to. New York's glittering skyline only added to the shadows she was trying to avoid. Why did fall evenings have to be so dark? She shuddered and started walking faster. Instead of sticking to the path she took another shortcut and ran across the grass, only the grass was slippery and wet and her boot decided to run faster than her. She ended up sliding across the grass on her ass. Not a very proud moment. Never run across grass in heels, she mentally noted. She growled at herself and got up, wiping her sore butt, all grass stained and wet. "Oh for fucks sake," she yelled angrily.
Rustling in a nearby bush made her jump. For a split second she wanted to panic. But then she got a hold of herself again. Don't be stupid, Karen, she told herself, it's just a squirrel. She continued to walk, half sliding, across the grass. The long shadows from the trees started catching up to her. Light flickered above her, lampposts were turning on now. "Took your time, didn't you?" she told them. She felt safer now, now that the paths were lit at least and an orange glow bathed the trees and grass. It was almost a beautiful sight and she found herself admiring the view. Another bush rustled. This time closer to her. She rolled her eyes and mentally scolded herself once again, there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. She walked along the path, came across a bench next to a large trashcan and sat down. She needed to catch her breath, not from the walk, from the day she had had. The bench was cold, mostly because her pants were still wet, but she ignored it. She had to build up the strength to go home and announce her failure. Again.
She rummaged through her bag to find any sort of comfort; a chocolate bar she may have forgotten, maybe an apple, a stupid breath mint, anything. But all she could get her hands on was a bunch of her resumés, she pulled them out and skimmed though the pages. Some places hadn't even bothered pretending to take it. She rubbed her fingers together, breathed on them to keep them warm. She should probably start walking again, it was too cold to sit down. A rustling in the bush next to her caught her off guard and she dropped her bag on the ground. She bent over to pick it up. "Oh, will you cut it out, you stupid squirrel!" she yelled at the bush. The rain started pouring down again, now she wasn't just miserable, she was soaked and miserable.
But it was not a squirrel that answered her. A low growling made Karen take a few steps back, ignoring her bag on the ground. A dog perhaps? She looked around for any potential owner. None. And when looking back at the bush, what rose up in front of her was no dog. Two heads taller than her and twice as wide, fangs that glinted in the moonlight, yellow eyes that narrowed as they found her. It snarled before letting out a bone chilling howl. Karen fell back on the wet grass, her shoulder slamming into the ground. It couldn't be a wolf, there were no wolves in New York. And this one walked on two legs. And the size of a horse. She managed to shakily stand up, ready to run. The wolf jumped over the bench, now on all fours, not letting her escape it circled her. In the sparse light she could see it properly, but all she saw was dark gray fur and fangs, such large fangs. It was all she could concentrate on. Snarling, snapping at her feet. Her legs shook, her heart beating in her ears so loud she could barely hear the growling. She moved back, the wolf followed, advancing on her. She needed a weapon, any kind of weapon. But all she had was the stack of resumés in her hand, she rolled them up. Giant fangs in the moonlight came closer, in a quick jump they were right in front of her. Instinctively she slammed the roll of resumés on the side of the huge head. It snorted at her in surprise, she could feel the hot air from it's nostrils, and snapped its massive jaws at her again. She raised the roll once again and hit it hard across the nose, and again on the side of it's face. It did nothing but make it angrier. Sweat mixed with rain ran down her back. Out of the corner of her eye she scanned the dark surroundings for help, any kind of help. For a millisecond she imagined a person standing under a tree across the open lawn, but there were no one there when she had another look. She was alone in the park. With that thing that now jumped at her, jaws open. She shrieked and awkwardly stumbled out of the way. It missed her by inches, turning as soon as it's feet hit the ground. She had to do something. She kicked it. Right on the snout. It gave a sharp whimper and she kicked it again.
Her heel had done damage, it was snorting blood onto the ground. It growled angrily and it's yellow eyes narrowed even more. It swiped at her with it's giant paw, struck her in the stomach and she flew backwards, her back slammed into the trashcan, knocking it over. Trash tumbled onto the ground. Karen groaned and sat up. Something warm ran down her hand. Blood. She didn't know where it came from and she didn't care. The wolf eyed her hungrily, licking it's lips, ready to pounce her again. It shook it's head, its ears flapping and its blood splattered on the path, mixed in with the heavy rain. She kicked at the trashcan, it rolled noisily towards the wolf and the wolf stumbled over the rolling can. She got on her feet, her rolled up resumés still in her hand and while the wolf struggled getting to it's feet she hit it again on the side of the face, once more over it's now bloody nose. It growled angrily, pounded it's heavy paw on the ground in front of her, sharp nails digging up the dirt.
"Oh no you don't!" she screamed and hammered her heel into its paw. Or hands? She gasped, the hand was almost human. Long black nails on grey skin. She couldn't stop to think about that. She hammered her heel into its hand once again. A loud crack was heard. The wolf howled again, but this time it jumped back, snarling and panting. Cradling the hand she had just broken, it returned to standing on its hind legs. Karen had no strength left in her body, her resumés were saggy and crumbled up now, her heel had broken off when stomped on it's hand. But instead of advancing on her one more time, the wolf snorted a splatter of blood at her feet and turned, running away into the shadows of the park.
"What the hell just happened?" Karen huffed out while trying to catch her breath. She needed to get away, she needed to get home before that thing came back with friends. She could see park gates close by. If she could just make it there, she'd be on the streets. She grabbed her bag and limped her way down the path through the gates. Her black hair, that had been done up for job hunting, was now hanging over her face and got into her eyes.
In a panic she burst out of the gates, looking like a mad woman she ran right into the street. Her wet bag slapped against her legs making her wobble. Bright lights blinded her, car horns blared at her and someone yelled: "Hey, get off the road, dipshit!"
She stumbled back onto the sidewalk and had to lean on her knees in order to regain her breath. She wanted to vomit. Her back was killing her, her shirtsleeve was torn and underneath it was a deep cut on her arm, it left a bloody handprint on her pants. It started stinging. She stood up, coughed, and tried making her heartbeat return to normal.
Only then did she notice the woman staring at her, peeking out at her from under a large black umbrella. It was almost impossible to make out her face, but her hair was piled high on her head. A black trench coat wrapped tightly around her tall thin frame and laced up boots made her appear straight out of a time long passed. The rain hammered on her umbrella, dripping down in front of her face. The woman approached Karen and nodded in greeting. "Good evening." A playful smile spread on the woman's lips. Karen couldn't determine her age, her face was youthful yet mature, her hair was graying yet her expression juvenile. She winked at Karen.
Karen wanted to reply but started coughing instead. When she finally found her voice she pointed a shaky finger back at the park. "Did you? Did you see that? Did you see the wolf?"
"A wolf? In central park?" the woman asked her. She laughed and shook her head.
"Or something!" Karen exclaimed. "There was something in there and it attacked me."
The woman cocked her head to the side and studied Karen from head to toe and back again. Karen felt uncomfortable under her gaze. She thinks I'm insane, Karen thought to herself and sighed, she thinks I'm just another fucking weirdo. Suddenly the woman looked to the ground, she bend down and picked up Karen's soggy resumés, she let it drip onto the sidewalk a little before reading the headline. After being rolled up and wet, the only thing readable was the headline. "Are you looking for a job?" she asked, "I have one for you."
"I'm... I'm..." Karen stuttered.
"Here, take my card." The card pressed into Karen's hands was soon stained by the blood from the gash on her arm. It no longer flowed freely but her hand was covered in it. She absentmindedly wiped it on her wet jacket before reading the card. Dead End Diner. She looked up again, but the woman was gone. She looked around the street, wanting to thank her for the offer, but couldn't even see her walk away, she had disappeared.
"Odd." Karen sighed. Not that there was any chance she was going to accept a job offer from a stranger on the street. Not in this city, no way. She threw the card away, it landed neatly in a little puddle on the sidewalk. Why on earth would she want to work in a diner anyway? She sighed again and stretched, her back cracked. "That's going to be sore tomorrow," she told herself and rubbed her painful back. She cast a glance into the dark park. Maybe her mind was playing tricks on her, maybe there never was a wolf, although her injuries proved differently. A low growl carried on the wind reached her. Or maybe that was her imagination too. Imagination or not, her legs couldn't run home fast enough.
She crisscrossed across the city and reached her building. After seven sets of stairs she was finally able to shut her door behind her. She was safe. She leaned her back against the door and exhaled in relief. But quickly shot up when her sore back started complaining. "Colin?" she called out.
"In here," came the reply. The apartment they shared was the smallest Karen had ever seen and it was starting to get on her nerves. She was standing in the small kitchen, the door to her left led into a tiny bathroom and the door on the other side of the kitchen table led into the bedroom. That was it. Nothing else. She found Colin in the bedroom, sprawled on the bed watching the old tv they had perched on an old wooden crate. He had his hand down his pants, his shoes on the bedspread even though Karen had repeatedly asked him not to do that. She didn't care about that tonight.
"You're not going to believe what happened to me today," Karen said.
"Oh yeah, what?" Colin asked not looking up from the tv. Karen stepped in front of it, blocking his view. "What the hell happened to you?" he blurted out when he saw her bedraggled state.
"I was attacked!" Karen yelled, "In the park! By a- a- a- wolflike creature, like a werewolf!"
"A werewolf?" Colin suppressed a laugh "Really? Are you sure it wasn't just a dog?"
"Do I look like I was attacked by a dog?" Karen shrieked.
"Yeah, actually you do," Colin said craning his neck to be able to see the tv again, "Are you hurt?" Karen rolled her eyes at him, not believing how he could be this calm when she was in such an uproar. "People should really start keeping their dogs on a leash in that park, it's obviously not safe," Colin continued.
"Colin, listen to me," Karen shouted, now angry, "I was attacked by a large wolf, a very large wolf."
"Those annoying Manhattan wolves," Colin mumbled and snorted in a laugh.
"Colin, look at me." Karen spread her arms wide, showing off her torn clothes and bloody hand. She lifted her shirt to show the bruises on her back.
Colin sighed and gave her a dull look. "Do you want to go to the doctor?" he asked.
Karen scoffed at him. "No," she eventually said.
"Well then." he said once again returning to the tv. Karen growled to herself and walked out the door into the little kitchen, she started peeling off the wet clothes. "Did you find a job today?" Colin yelled after her.
Karen left her wet clothes in a pile on the kitchen floor. What she needed was a cigarette, but when she took the packet out of her wet bag she realized it was all soggy as well, and also that the woman had taken her soggy resumés. What the hell would that lunatic want her ruined fucking resumés for? Fucking great, Karen thought, Now I'm going to have to print more. "No," was Karen's delayed answer.
She walked to the bathroom, the light flickered when she turned it on, the bulb would break soon. She grimaced at her reflection, her mascara and eyeliner had run down her face. The gash on her arm wasn't so bad once she ran it under the tap for a bit, but her back was bruised and there were three nice cuts across her stomach. She had to stand on her toes to see them properly, she had always been short. "You are going to have to start working soon," Colin said when he appeared in the door, "I can't keep paying the rent alone."
Karen nodded and hung her head low. She knew. They were lucky to have this place, it was a shithole apartment but at least they could pay the rent out of Colin's paycheck and have a little leftover for them at the end of the month. It couldn't last. "I know" she said. She felt tears pressing on, she hated crying and she tried blinking them away.
"Oh, poor babe," Colin said and patted her on her back. Karen winced at the pain. "There, there, you'll find a job soon, don't worry." Although, she had just survived an attack from a wolf, a job was the last thing on her mind. Karen turned around and wrapped her arms around him, she needed comfort, she needed a loving embrace. But he just unwrapped her arms and took her chin in his hand. "I already ate," he said. Turning his attention from her to his reflection, he ran a hand through his dirty blonde hair.
Her eyes burned, she still wanted to cry, she had to change the subject somehow. She sniffled. "I like your cologne," she said, "Is it new?"
"No, no, no, it was just a gift." He shrugged and let her go, walking into the kitchen. "Pot-noodle or cup-a-soup?" he yelled back. She could hear him put the kettle on.
"Neither," she answered. She wasn't hungry, she couldn't possibly eat now.
"You need your strength," he called, "If you're going out to get a job tomorrow."
Karen growled to herself. She shut the door and let a few hot tears roll down her cheek. This day had just been too much for her. She couldn't handle it. She wiped away the tears and bit down on her lip. She turned on the little shower next to the sink, it always had to run for a while before any warm water came out. And then, on the side of the sink, next to Colin's hair gel and grooming kit, she noticed a little card. It looked oddly familiar. She picked it up. Dead End Diner. "I thought I got rid of this," Karen mumbled to herself. She picked up the card and read the address. "I've never been to this part of town."
"I'm going to bed," she heard Colin yell from the bedroom. She ignored him.
"I wonder what they're actually looking for," Karen said to herself. She turned over the card. "Waitstaff needed," she read aloud. It was scribbled in hand and she was pretty damn sure it hadn't been on the card when she first got it. "Well that answers that." Perhaps she should just check this place out, a jobs a job, she could be a waitress. She looked at her reflection again and gave a half smile. She could definitely be a waitress, how hard could that be?