GH Tuesday: Day 03 Scene 16
A police car turned on its siren as it passed her walking up Mass Ave, making her jump a little. It sped on its way, lights flashing, two ghouls snapping at its wheels as they loped after it on their long, fish-white limbs. They were nasty things that gave her the creeps, made her think of the grave and dead, rotting flesh, bitter and vengeful. She shook her head. They’d soon be gone, the SDA would be working to clear up all the excess magic leftover from Sunday’s storm.
The Starbucks was half-way between Harvard and Porter Squares. Opposite was a gas station, notable only for its lighted sign that had become unmoored from its post and was now perched high in a tree. Every now and then it chirruped down at those who gathered below it. She stood and watched it for a few minutes. Most people passed by, unheeding, but every now and then, someone would stop and take a photo of it on their phone.
She went into the Starbucks, her stomach too sour for another cup of coffee. Two storm-fighters were ahead of her in line, proper ones dressed in the grey-and-black of dragon masters. Even a cadjin like her knew that they wouldn’t be charged with cleaning up the gas station sign, or the ghouls and banshees currently plaguing the city. Their work was to fight the storms with their dragons, to redirect the magic so that it didn’t consume the city. The female storm-fighter ordered a black tea, the male a dopio espresso. They chatted incomprehensibly together about gammas and omicrons and aspirated plosives. When it was her turn to order, Indigo asked for a herbal tea. The barista rattled off a number of choices and Indigo picked the first, called Awake Tea. There was a thin bar that ran the length of the storefront and once she had her drink, she stood at it, staring out at the passers-by. It was growing dark, the headlights of passing cars glowing gold on the slick dark streets. She sipped her tea and grimaced. Not a whole lot better than over-brewed coffee.
A young woman came in, dressed in black tights, designer red rain boots and a black Canada Goose parka. She was a little shorter than Indigo, and a lot skinnier. She looked around her, anxiously, as she opened up her parka to reveal a short black skirt and cropped white fisherman’s sweater. She spotted Indigo.
“Hi, Melissa. Can I get you a drink?”
“Yes, please. A cinnamon dolce latte. Grande.”
Melissa settled herself at the window, while Indigo waited in line to get her coffee. Several times Indigo caught her looking at her, only to look abruptly away the moment she realised Indigo had caught her. She carried the coffee back to Melissa and sat down beside her.
“Thanks,” Melissa took a cautious sip. “I needed this. It’s been a hard day.”
“You’ve been studying?” Not being possessed of a sweet tooth herself, Indigo wondered how the younger girl could bear to drink something so sickly as a dolce latte sounded, not to mention how she stayed so slender. Then again, she supposed her preferred vices of Aunt Sophie’s home cooking and beer were hardly light in calories.
“I’ve been in the library most of the day and I’ve got to work tonight,” Melissa pulled a face.
“What work is that?”
“I wait tables at the Blue Room.”
“So you work with Delgado?”
“Yes, though he doesn’t so much as say hi to me these days, of course.”
“Because I know his little secret.”
“You said he was married?”
“Yes. Not that I found that out until after… we dated.”
“How long did you date for?”
“Oh, not long,” Melissa opened up the lid of her latte and blew on the foam, as though to cool it. She seemed intent on the task, putting the lid carefully back on. “I found out about her early on.”
“How did you find out about her?”
“I went round to his place, to surprise him, you know? He would never let me visit him there, said it was too rough an area for a nice white girl like me. But let me tell you, I’m no delicate flower that I need to be protected. I mean, it’s only East Cambridge, right? The Galleria’s right down the road from there.”
“And the courthouse.”
“Exactly, nothing’s going to happen to me there, it’s not the ghetto.”
“So what happened when you got to his place?”
“Well there was this woman coming out of there, small child in tow. Joe was kissing her, real possessive-like. And the kid was smiling up at him,” she shot Indigo a furtive look. “I speak a little Spanish, but not well enough to work out what they were saying to each other.”
“How do you know the woman was his wife?”
“Because I asked him, I said, who is that? She was gone, walking down the street, fast as she could go in those heels. She didn’t see me, I don’t think. Even Joe was surprised when I walked up to him and said hi. And then he got all mad at me, like I was sneaking up on him or something, so I got suspicious. I said who is that? That one of your girlfriends or something? I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t have a reputation at the club. I was an idiot to think he’d be different with me, but he called me princess…”
“What did he say?” Indigo prompted, when Melissa’s voice tailed off. “When you asked who it was?”
“He said it was the mother of his son. He said it all defiant-like, like it wasn’t a big deal, like I should have known or something, but that’s bullshit, I didn’t know, no one knows he’s married. I said that, I said you’re married? and he said, so what if I am? and I said, well, I’ve no interest in dating a guy who’s married and he said so fuck you, who asked you, he was done with me and all that crap. I walked away. I was so upset at the time, but I tell you, I’m thinking good riddance. He was just using me.”
Melissa stared wistfully out of the window, or maybe just at her own reflection.
“How do you know they’re married? She might just be his girlfriend.”
“What’s the difference?” Melissa was icy. “She’s the mother of his child, isn’t she? And they’re clearly still together or what was she doing at his place?”
“Maybe trying to get some child support out of him, or picking up her son after a visit.”
“No, I told you he was kissing her. With his hand cupped around the back of her head, you know? Very romantic,” Melissa’s voice was dry.
“Have you seen Joe since then?”
“Sure, we work at the same place don’t we?”
“Did he speak to you at all about the other woman?”
“Yes,” Melissa looked down at her phone, checking the screen.
“What did he say?”
The other girl said nothing.
“He said not to rat him out,” Melissa looked up with eyes bright with tears. “He said if I went round telling people about Maria, he’d hurt me. And I believed him. I nearly quit my job right then, if it wasn’t good money and I need to pay my rent…”
“Maria? That’s the other woman’s name?”
“I guess,” Melissa shrugged.
“And the child?”
“How would I know?”
“When was the last time you saw Joe?”
“Not for a few days,” Melissa frowned. “I know Harry’s pissed.”
“My boss, the bar manager. He hates it when people don’t show for work, don’t even call. I reckon even if Joe does come back to work, he’ll be fired.”
“What do you think might have happened to Joe?”
“I don’t know,” Melissa said. “And I don’t care. Whatever it is, if it’s bad he deserved it.”
“All that, for having a girlfriend and a baby? You don’t even know they’re still together.”
“He said he’d hurt me. And I believed him.”
“Okay,” Indigo got off her stool, handed Melissa a business card. “If you think of anything else - the kid’s name, anything like that - call me, okay?”
“Okay,” Melissa frowned down at the card as though she’d never seen such a thing before.
Indigo stepped outside. The air was even more frigid than before, now the sun was down, and she pulled on her gloves, pulled up her hood and walked back to the jeep as fast she could.
© Essie Gilbey, 2014