Chapter 30:

Book 2, Ch. 5: The Oyster's Way

ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]


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BOOK 2, CHAPTER 5: THE OYSTER'S WAYBookmark here

A quick search on Sandra’s smartphone earned her a decently cheap hotel room along The Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s premier, upscale commercial district. The bustling commotion of the vicinity was something she missed about the city, and the constant hubbub around her synchronized well with the chaotic swirls within her brain.Bookmark here

“Enjoy your stay,” the overly cheery hotel receptionist told her. “Your room has one of our better views, so you can experience the city from an exceptional angel!”Bookmark here

“W-what?” Sandra stuttered, clutching her room’s card key with a twitchy hand.Bookmark here

“An exceptional angle!” the receptionist repeated.Bookmark here

“Ha! Yes, of course…” Sandra replied, laughing louder than she had control over.Bookmark here

Moments after entering her room, Sandra immediately stripped down and took a hot shower. Two days-worth of deodorant and perfume were easily washed away, but the anxiety would require a deeper scrub that the cheap, brittle hotel-brand bar soap couldn’t reach.Bookmark here

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit… With her head pressed against the tiled shower wall, the hot water beating onto her face, she mulled over her situation. Calm down, don’t freak out, calm down, don’t freak out…Bookmark here

Out of the shower, she wrapped a towel around herself, not bothering to put on any clothes. She paced around the small hotel room, playing the day’s events repeatedly in her mind. The job interview, Regal’s odd behavior at the bar, the stalker angel in McKraken’s…Bookmark here

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…Bookmark here

She stopped pacing and looked at the closed blinds. Walking over to the window and peeking out, she saw the view of the city below, filled with people, vehicles, shops, restaurants, lights, and everything else she had longed for while away in the quieter countryside for those past few years.Bookmark here

Being anxious and jittery, she couldn’t stay put. With both hands at once, she smacked her cheeks, and the stinging sensation instantly halted the bothersome thoughts.Bookmark here

After a deep breath, which simultaneously brought in a sort of relaxation that filled her chest, Sandra put on some casual clothes, slipped on her sneakers, and headed out of the hotel. In that instant, when walking out the front entrance, when embracing the city face-to-face, she forcefully disbanded her woes as she headed down Michigan Avenue on foot. Eventually, she headed east toward the Lake Michigan coastline.Bookmark here

The overcast clouds remained overhead as Sandra observed Soldier Field from afar. While taking some pictures of the iconic football stadium with her phone, she remembered the 2011 NFC Championship Game in which the Chicago Bears lost against the Green Bay Packers, thereby missing their chance to attend Super Bowl XLV.Bookmark here

Sandra explored more of the busy district, refreshing her memory of the area and taking multiple random pictures with her phone for no reason. After a while, she came across a new bar that had good reviews according to the internet search she did on her phone. Knowing that her funds were tight, she made the whimsical decision to go inside and have a few more drinks.Bookmark here

The place wasn’t too upscale, and seemed aimed toward young adults and pop culture, which was perfect for her casual attire. A fair number of customers were inside, but she was able to find a seat at the bar. She took a look around, seeing the crowd of happy people who were together in groups, then gazed up at the nearby television streaming an episode of Marshall and Mud Flap, a show that Sandra could never understand, despite its huge success lasting over a decade.Bookmark here

Her leg bounced as she drummed her fingers on the bar. Sitting still would be difficult.Bookmark here

The front entrance door opened as a tired-looking young man with messy hair walked in…Bret Taurus. His day of skipping school had turned out to be boring, as his buddies were all busy or weren’t answering their phones. He’d heard about the cheap drinks and addicting curly fries at the new bar, so he wanted to swing by and check it out.Bookmark here

He scanned the room, noticing that most of the seats were taken. However, toward the end of the bar by the wall, close to the TV showing one of his favorite shows from childhood, was an open seat. More importantly, the seat in question was right next to a girl whose prettiness could be seen across the room.Bookmark here

Bret moved in without hesitation.Bookmark here

“Hey.”Bookmark here

The voice caught Sandra’s attention, and she turned to see the scruffy boy talking to her. He looked young, but…rugged.Bookmark here

“This seat taken?” Bret asked Sandra.Bookmark here

She shook her head. “No.”Bookmark here

Feeling somewhat accomplished, Bret sat down as the bartender, a blonde young woman, approached them both.Bookmark here

“Hi there,” the bartender greeted. “Are you two together?”Bookmark here

Sandra was about to say no, but Bret was quick to speak.Bookmark here

“Put her on my tab.”Bookmark here

Surprised, Sandra didn’t protest. In fact, the thought of more free drinks made her want to smile, but she held her composure. She even found it humorous that she hadn’t paid for a single drink since arriving in the city, a trend that appeared set to continue.Bookmark here

“Oh…thanks,” she said to Bret.Bookmark here

“No problem.”Bookmark here

The bartender asked for their identification. Bret opened his wallet and removed his convincing, well-made fake ID that he had paid a hefty price for. When the bartender checked it and handed it back without suspicion, he smirked to himself.Bookmark here

“Heh, sucker,” he said mockingly under his breath, putting his fake ID back into his wallet. He looked at Sandra and asked, “Whatcha drinking?”Bookmark here

“Uh, Pabst Blue Ribbon.”Bookmark here

“Oh, real classy,” Bret told her sarcastically with a snicker.Bookmark here

Sandra cracked a small smile, requiring much deliberation to do so.Bookmark here

“Don’t flatter me.”Bookmark here

What’s this guy up to? she wondered, eyeing the disheveled young man as he ordered the same for himself. I have a good idea, so better keep my guard up.Bookmark here

“I hear this place has badass curly fries,” Bret said, flipping through a copy of the menu he took from the menu holder.Bookmark here

“Do they?” Sandra glanced at the menu Bret had. “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been here.”Bookmark here

“Me neither. I think I’ll try ’em.”Bookmark here

They received their beers. Sandra tried distracting herself by watching the bubbles float up her amber drink to join the ranks of the foamy head at the top of the glass.Bookmark here

“My name’s Bret. What’s yours?”Bookmark here

“Sandra.”Bookmark here

“Well, Sandra,” Bret held his beer up, “cheers.”Bookmark here

“Cheers.”Bookmark here

Sandra took a sip, tasting the contrast of its hops, malt, and crisp finish compared to the sweet, citrusy mango-lime margaritas from earlier. Unpleasant at first, another sip reinstated her acceptance that beer was beer.Bookmark here

“You from around here?” Bret asked after taking a drink.Bookmark here

“Originally, yeah,” Sandra replied. There was a nearly unnoticeable, solemn tone in her voice. “I just moved back.”Bookmark here

“Okay. Where’d you come back from?”Bookmark here

“Ohio.”Bookmark here

Bret thought about Ohio, but didn’t have much to think about. Wasn’t that another Midwest state? Seemed correct.Bookmark here

“What’s in Ohio?” he asked.Bookmark here

After another sip of beer, Sandra chuckled.Bookmark here

“Not what I was looking for, I guess?” she replied with an unsure half-smile and a shrug.Bookmark here

“What are you looking for, then?” Bret asked her, only mildly curious about her answer as he snuck in a quick scan of his bar partner; her clothes weren’t tight-fitting enough to give an accurate sense of her figure, but he imagined it couldn’t be very disappointing.Bookmark here

Sandra considered her answer, and considered it rather deeply. Her train of thought took such a long, precarious route that Bret could see the temporary disappearance of presence from her face—eyes lost, not seeing, reflecting the expanding hollow in her heart as her answer remained elusive.Bookmark here

“Probably nothing,” she said softly.Bookmark here

Without a good response of his own, Bret looked at her with confusion.Bookmark here

“You don’t know what you’re doing here?” he asked flatly.Bookmark here

“That’s not entirely true,” Sandra said, running her finger along the rim of her beer glass. “But…partially true.” She stared at her drink, gripping the glass.Bookmark here

A short silence followed during which Bret felt frustrated.Bookmark here

Damn, she’s gonna play hard to get, he thought distraughtly. Gotta play the charm.Bookmark here

“Well, don’t worry about it too much,” he told her. “You’re young, so the world is…uh, your oyster.” He looked at her, but she continued staring at the beer she was gripping. “What, you don’t like oysters?”Bookmark here

Something inside of Sandra lit up. She couldn’t explain it, but it made her smile and laugh. It was a feeling akin to hearing a good joke, except she didn’t know what was funny…it didn’t matter, though.Bookmark here

Bret wondered why she was suddenly laughing, and it irritated him a little.Bookmark here

Sandra quickly chugged over half her beer, exhaling loudly and robustly. She looked at Bret with a sudden gleam of energy in her eye, which actually made him recoil from shock.Bookmark here

“I hate oysters,” she said with a big smile. “The way they stay stuck inside their shell, and you need to pry them out, like they’re so caught up in themselves! Also, they’re slimy and disgusting.” She chuckled softly. “But you know what? Some curly fries sound good about now.”Bookmark here

Now that Bret had seen the enthusiasm and outgoing demeanor of the young woman named Alessandra Starling, he gave his own delighted grin as he flagged down the bartender.Bookmark here

“Yo, bartender!” he called, waving his hand. “Two orders of curly fries!”Bookmark here

Sandra finished off her beer, quickly adding, “And another round of PBRs!” while holding up her empty glass.Bookmark here

“Hey, whoa, I ain’t finished mine yet,” Bret said.Bookmark here

“Well, you’re gonna fall behind.”Bookmark here

That response seriously delighted Bret, who said, “We’ll see about that,” before putting the glass to his lips.Bookmark here

Two orders of curly fries, several conversation topics, and uncounted beers later, Bret suddenly found himself outmatched by his bar partner. Unprepared for the direction the encounter had taken, he was beginning to have trouble with, and doubts about, his decision to figure out what Sandra was about.Bookmark here

Having lost track of the drinks racking up on his tab, his growing concern mounted as Sandra was actually polishing off beers faster than him.Bookmark here

Little did Bret (and Sandra, for that matter) realize was Sandra’s repressed depression could drink like a fish. Her conversation topics aligned as such:Bookmark here

“It was right then,” Sandra said, her words pompously punctuated and slightly slurred, “when my ex-boyfriend had the gall…the gall to tell me that that slut completed him in ways that I could not! Me! Could not complete.”Bookmark here

“What a prick,” Bret said somewhat monotonously, basically in nod-and-agree mode as the warmth in his face became apparent. He took a sip of his beer—it tasted like water and went down effortlessly…so how was he falling behind in the number of drinks?Bookmark here

“So! So here’s what I did.” She drove her fingers into the lacquered surface of the bar with each syllable. “I said…I said, ‘Fine. Go get herpes, you skank-loving ass-clown!’”Bookmark here

“Ass-clown, eh?” Bret swigged the remainder of his glass, fighting to keep the foam on a one-way track down his gullet.Bookmark here

“I mean, I don’t know if she has herpes, but she might. She should.”Bookmark here

“Damn, you’re harsh,” Bret said before forcing out a bubbly burp.Bookmark here

“I may be harsh…” she pointed a finger a Bret, her hand taking an unnecessarily wide trajectory before stopping inches in front of Bret’s disgruntled face, “but you! You…are…needing another beer.”Bookmark here

“Uh, hey, maybe we should chill out. How many have you had now?”Bookmark here

Sandra took a moment to (probably) count the drinks she had consumed, before grinning goofily with a shrug.Bookmark here

“Pfft! Who’s counting? The real count begins now…with shots.”Bookmark here

Bret was impressed by Sandra’s willingness to continue, but he could almost hear his wallet whimpering from his pocket.Bookmark here

“Eh…I’m serious,” he said gruffly, “we need to slow down.”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, I got it covered. I’ll pay for the shots. What sounds good? Gin? Whiskey? Irish car bombs? Slambushes? Alaskan shatter smashers?”Bookmark here

“…What were some of those called?”Bookmark here

“What sounds good? The names don’t have meaning. No meaning in names.”Bookmark here

“Well, if you’re paying,” Bret said with a smirk, “then you decide.”Bookmark here

At that moment, Sandra burped, clutching her throat with an unpleasant look that made Bret raise his eyebrows.Bookmark here

“Oh…oh.”Bookmark here

“Um, you okay?” Bret asked.Bookmark here

After a wrinkly-faced silence, Sandra asked, perplexed, “Uhhh…how many? How many did I have?”Bookmark here

Bret slapped his forehead.Bookmark here

“I already asked you that! And you ain’t been paying attention.”Bookmark here

The realization knocked on Sandra’s mental door.Bookmark here

“Oh…oh.”Bookmark here

Standing up, Bret gestured toward the back exit.Bookmark here

“Let’s take a smoke break,” he told her.Bookmark here

“But…but I don’t smoke.”Bookmark here

“Join me anyway?” Bret said with a shrug.Bookmark here

“Maybe. I gotta use the restroom.”Bookmark here

“I’m sure you gotta about now.”Bookmark here

The walk to the restroom informed Sandra of the quantity of alcohol she had consumed. Though she drank wine from time to time, it was uncommon for her to get as drunk as she was now. She gave the restroom door a jolly ol’ shove, which was much lighter than she had anticipated.Bookmark here

When she returned to the bar, Bret had not come back yet. For no reason, she walked out the back door and found several customers smoking in the alleyway, including Bret.Bookmark here

“You aren’t driving, are you?” Bret asked Sandra through smoky words, watching her walk over with loose legs.Bookmark here

“Nah, I’m walking,” she replied gleefully.Bookmark here

“Hmm, you be careful with that, too.”Bookmark here

Sandra glanced around at the alley and crowd. She seemed to fit right in with the group of people, other than the fact that she was the only person not smoking.Bookmark here

Bret offered her one of his cigarettes, which she declined, saying smoking was bad. After mocking her, Bret placed it back into its pack.Bookmark here

“You remind me of a guy I know,” he told her, thinking about Chris.Bookmark here

“I do?” Sandra asked curiously.Bookmark here

“Yeah. He’s a pampered goody two-shoes.”Bookmark here

“Geez, thanks.” Looking down the alley again, Sandra suddenly felt lethargic. She rubbed her face, realizing she was drunker than she was comfortable with.Bookmark here

“Well,” she said with a sigh, “I…I think I’m gonna get going, actually.”Bookmark here

Slightly panicked that his potential one-night stand was now in jeopardy, Bret said, “Already? What happened to all those shots you wanted to do?”Bookmark here

Sandra smiled faintly.Bookmark here

“The thing is,” Sandra replied, cautiously shifting her weight from one leg to the other, “I really don’t think I need to drink any more tonight.”Bookmark here

“Uh, well, how about getting some food somewhere?”Bookmark here

“No thanks. Those curly fries were enough.”Bookmark here

“Oh, so you gonna call it a night?”Bookmark here

Nodding, Sandra said, “I think so. I’m tired…and just want to go back to my hotel.”Bookmark here

“Where’s your hotel?” Bret asked, throwing his cigarette butt on the ground.Bookmark here

“Um…” Sandra looked around, not quite sure, “it’s, uh…it’s somewhere. It exists.”Bookmark here

“No shit.”Bookmark here

She laughed, feeling embarrassed, and said, “I can look it up on my phone.”Bookmark here

“Let me walk you back,” Bret told her. “I have time.”Bookmark here

“Oh. Uh…”Bookmark here

“Gotta pay the bill first,” he said, nodding toward the back entrance to the bar.Bookmark here

As Bret walked inside, Sandra stood in the alley and contemplated the situation. It was true that she was tired and could easily fall asleep in the hotel room, which was what she really wanted. While it was nice to have someone to talk with, she sensed some obvious ulterior motives behind Bret’s actions.Bookmark here

Guy gets girl drunk, she thought, guy offers girl food, guy walks girl back to hotel, guy gets girl alone…Bookmark here

She immediately felt foolish.Bookmark here

“This could be bad,” she said to herself nervously.Bookmark here

Before she could take a single step away, Bret came back outside.Bookmark here

“How the hell were those fries so expensive?” he grumbled. He looked at Sandra, his expression being eager and even somewhat devious. “You ready to go?” he asked, still looking at her.Bookmark here

“Y-yeah.”Bookmark here

Walking out of the alley, it seemed like a good idea to Sandra not to go back to her hotel with Bret, even if he had only claimed to walk with her.Bookmark here

I have a general idea of where my hotel is from here, she thought as they took to the sidewalk. Maybe I shouldn’t lead him straight there.Bookmark here

“Hey,” Bret said, “do you know where the hotel is, or don’t ya?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” she said, “it’s this way.”Bookmark here

“Cool. I’ll just let you lead.”Bookmark here

“Uh, you know…you don’t need to walk me back. I’ll be fine on my own.”Bookmark here

With a pang of desperation, Bret replied, “I insist.”Bookmark here

With a pang of nervousness, Sandra replied, “Heh.”Bookmark here

“So, you said you’re originally from Chicago?” Bret attempted more small talk while heading down the street. “What part?”Bookmark here

“North Center.”Bookmark here

That answer grabbed Bret’s attention.Bookmark here

“Really? That’s where I go to school!”Bookmark here

“What school?”Bookmark here

“Lyonbole.”Bookmark here

Sandra stopped walking, and Bret did the same.Bookmark here

“That’s the school I graduated from!” Sandra told him. She smiled, feeling nostalgic. “Four years ago.”Bookmark here

“Heh, small world, huh?” Bret said with a grin, rubbing the back of his head.Bookmark here

“Wait…that means you’re a student there?” Sandra asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah.” When he saw Sandra narrow her eyes and look at him disapprovingly, he added, “W-what?”Bookmark here

“You’re a high schooler,” she said, staring the boy down. “And you were drinking with me.”Bookmark here

“Ack!” Bret had to cover himself up quickly. “Uh, I’m a super senior. Held back, and stuff.”Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

“Er, like a super-duper-deluxe senior!”Bookmark here

“How old are you?” Sandra’s glare intensified.Bookmark here

“Twenty-one,” the nineteen-year-old replied, sweating.Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

“Mmm…”Bookmark here

Ohhh?”Bookmark here

“Blah, dammit!” Bret grunted, shrugging with defeat. “Okay, I’m nineteen. You busted me.”Bookmark here

Sandra went pale.Bookmark here

“Crap,” she uttered meekly. “I let a minor buy me alcohol.” A swarm of angry butterflies fluttered in her booze-filled stomach. “What are the charges for that? Are there charges for that? Oh man…”Bookmark here

“Eh, I think you’ll be fine,” Bret muttered. “My fake ID is really convincing.”Bookmark here

Grabbing her head with both hands, Sandra groaned.Bookmark here

“I don’t believe this.” She looked at Bret and gritted her teeth. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”Bookmark here

Bret shrugged. “I just don’t care.”Bookmark here

Sandra balled her fists before running her hands through her black hair with frustration.Bookmark here

“Glorious Chicago!” she blurted out, making nearly a dozen people look her way. “What an adventure this is turning out to be!”Bookmark here

“Hey, c’mon,” Bret told her impatiently. “Calm down, okay?”Bookmark here

“Shaddup!” Sandra’s slurred speech was making a comeback. “Just stay away from me! You’re nothing but a troublemaker!”Bookmark here

Bret rolled his eyes.Bookmark here

“So,” he said, “does this mean you don’t want me to walk you back?”Bookmark here

She wrapped her arms around herself. “Of course that’s what this means! I know what you’re after.”Bookmark here

“Sheesh, make it sound so bad, why don’tcha?”Bookmark here

Flabbergasted, Sandra said, “It is bad!” She tightened her hug around herself, unconsciously for security.Bookmark here

With a sneer, the troublemaking teen stepped toward the young woman, making her quiver.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I lied about my age,” he said smoothly, “but what’s the big deal? You didn’t do anything wrong. Let’s just spend one night together.” He leaned in close with a sly smile. “What do ya say, Toots?”Bookmark here

Embarrassment swelled into Sandra’s cheeks.Bookmark here

T-T-T-Toots?”Bookmark here

At the end of her rope, the limitations on Sandra’s temper instantly collapsed. Being lied to by a teenager who wanted into her pants was one thing, but being called “Toots”…unforgivable.Bookmark here

With ninja-like prowess, Sandra thrust her hand out and grabbed Bret by the throat, lifting him into the air. Bret clutched Sandra’s arm with both hands, gasping for breath as he was forced to look the vehement young woman in the face.Bookmark here

He was unable to break free. Despite his recent superhuman strength, he could not break free.Bookmark here

“Jeepers, bitch!” Bret choked while his feet dangled above the sidewalk. “You’re really strong!”Bookmark here

That particular statement had a profound effect on Sandra, and she dropped the boy to his feet while she looked at her hand.Bookmark here

“I am strong,” she said in awe.Bookmark here

“Don’t act surprised,” Bret muttered, rubbing his neck.Bookmark here

Without warning, Sandra grabbed Bret by the throat again, this time with her other hand, and lifted him off the ground once more. Bret gasped and choked, but Sandra merely lifted him up and down like a small dumbbell.Bookmark here

“What’s up with this?” Sandra didn’t know how to respond to her newfound strength. “This isn’t supposed to be!”Bookmark here

Freed again from the death grip, Bret jumped away, putting himself at more than arm’s length from the young woman.Bookmark here

“Whatcha mean it ain’t supposed to be?” he asked croakily, rubbing his neck more.Bookmark here

Sandra looked at him with wide eyes.Bookmark here

“How am I this strong?”Bookmark here

She reached for Bret’s throat again, but he swatted her hand away.Bookmark here

“Cut that out! My windpipe is important.”Bookmark here

“Is there a problem here, you two?”Bookmark here

Sandra and Bret were approached by a police officer who had overheard some of the commotion between them; it was Officer Lars Briggs. Bret scowled at the officer as Sandra put forth effort to sober up as quickly as possible.Bookmark here

“No, sir,” she said with a big smile. “We were just a little rowdy.”Bookmark here

The African American officer looked at both of them, quickly sizing them up as a couple who had been arguing.Bookmark here

“You need to dial it down,” he told them sternly. “You two were making a ruckus in public and making people uncomfortable.”Bookmark here

“Ah, sorry,” Sandra replied.Bookmark here

“Have you two been drinking?” Briggs asked, smelling the alcohol on their breath from three feet away.Bookmark here

Bret looked away with irritation as Sandra continued to explain.Bookmark here

“Yeah, and we were on our way back from the bar.”Bookmark here

“Where are you going?”Bookmark here

Sandra glanced at Bret, who didn’t make eye contact.Bookmark here

“To our…hotel room,” she said slowly, regretting it immediately.Bookmark here

Bret wanted to smirk, but hid it.Bookmark here

“You two should go straight there,” Briggs told them. “If you cause a disturbance, I can fine you for public intoxication.”Bookmark here

“Yes sir.”Bookmark here

“Are you driving?”Bookmark here

“No. Walking.”Bookmark here

“Good. Be safe.”Bookmark here

Briggs walked away, leaving them alone. When the officer was gone, Bret snickered.Bookmark here

“Going to ‘our’ hotel room?” he said.Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

“You didn’t try to get me busted for sexual harassment?”Bookmark here

“Just leave me alone.”Bookmark here

“You were scared,” Bret mocked. “How much effort did it take not to sway or slur in front of him?”Bookmark here

“Um, a lot.”Bookmark here

They looked at each other, then laughed. Seconds later, Sandra groaned, almost crying.Bookmark here

“What a day,” she whined, slumping over. “What a day.” She grabbed her head, laughing. “Yeah, great times. Real great. Greater than great. Better than best. Haha! Yeah, that’s for sure! More sure than sure-tainly certain…”Bookmark here

“You’re actually a nutcase, ain’t you?” Bret murmured, putting a bent cigarette in his mouth and lighting it.Bookmark here

“You don’t even know the start of it.”Bookmark here

She looked at the overcast sky, relinquishing herself to the infinite vastness far beyond the atmosphere…or maybe it was just the beer.Bookmark here

Sandra wanted to open up herself; there were heavy weights on her mind, and she didn’t want to be like an oyster, closed off and hard to get to.Bookmark here

“Wanna hear something real crazy?” she asked.Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“I met somebody today…” she said thoughtfully, ignoring Bret’s answer. “I was eating chicken nuggets…”Bookmark here

Somebody save me, Bret thought despairingly.Bookmark here

“It was an angel. That’s what it looked like. But…I think somebody must’ve spiked my nuggets.” Sandra laughed again, not feeling any comedic relief for herself. “Who the fuck spikes chicken nuggets? That’s why I don’t like fast food.” She gazed down the street, which appeared to swim for a bit in her intoxicated vision. “Meh, whatever. You probably don’t even believe me. You lied to me, so I guess I’m ‘lying’ to you. Now we’re even.”Bookmark here

She looked at Bret, but the expression she was met with was not what she had expected. The delinquent stared at her, eyes big and mouth open just enough to keep his cigarette from falling out. How he stared made Sandra uneasy, and she felt goosebumps run up and down her arms and legs.Bookmark here

Sandra had meant to open an oyster, and had unknowingly given Bret a pearl.Bookmark here

“What?” she asked cautiously, staring at Bret.Bookmark here

“You saw…an angel?”Bookmark here

“Y-yeah. I mean, it’s stupid, right? When I get back to the hotel, I’m gonna do a bunch of research on hallucinations and mental disorders.”Bookmark here

Bret didn’t look away from her.Bookmark here

“What’d he look like?” he asked abruptly, engrossed in Sandra’s tale.Bookmark here

“Huh? What’s up with you all of a sudden?”Bookmark here

“What’d he look like?” Bret asked louder, moving toward Sandra. “It was a man, right? Long hair, blond? A little taller than me? A smug grin that you wanna smack off his pretty-boy face?”Bookmark here

Sandra couldn’t believe it—Bret’s description of the angel was spot on.Bookmark here

“Uh, yeah! Wait, how do you know? Tell me!”Bookmark here

Feeling utterly annoyed and unenthusiastic, Bret looked away from Sandra. He took a deep drag off his bent cigarette and blew the smoke out his nose.Bookmark here

“We’re gonna need more beer,” he told her dully.Bookmark here

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