She hopped off the bus, her pack much lighter now. As such tended to happen when using its supplies or, better yet, when somebody else did so without her permission.
Ashar stretched and wiped the sweat off her brow. It was hot already despite it not even being noon. Of all the places they chose this year, why did it have to be this one, and why did it have to be during the hottest month?
With a shrug Ashar continued on. She was here early, which was a pleasant surprise compared to last year. She now had time to kill and decided to find the nearest source of coffee. To her great irritation, one of the things stolen had been her coffee tumbler. Worse yet, it was the Star Wars one she had gotten at a garage sale. Sure it was cheap, and sure the owner had probably let it mold over a few times, but it was hers and something she had gotten for herself.
Well maybe if the barista was cute, she’d go and get a new tumbler and get more coffee for the road from there.
Ashar readjusted the straps of her backpack and made her way into town. She never really needed to search too far for what she wanted–she simply had to think and start walking. Her feet always took her to where she needed to be. If Ashar couldn’t think of anywhere to be, she’d walk anyway and see where she was meant to be placed.
As she walked, Ashar noted how old the town looked and felt. The roads were cracked and half seemed to be more dirt and dust than asphalt. Many of the wooden structures made her think of the Gold Rush. They creaked with age, but the patrons inside didn’t seem to mind. Ashar craned her neck as she walked by one, noting the jarring contrast between outside and inside. Outside, the building–it looked like a bar–was dusty, wooden and had a rusted bell at the top of its flaking roof. Inside, there was a large flat screen TV and LED lights lining the shelves that held drinks.
Ashar dug into her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. It had the name and address of the diner they were to meet at. Glancing at the numbers on the ‘saloon,’ Ashar noted it wasn’t too far off. Sticking the note back into her pocket, Ashar continued on. Coffee first.
The cafe was more modern in appearance, she found. Its windows were tall and the outer walls smoother, but it certainly held the brown ‘aesthetic’ that seemed to reign over this town. It also seemed to hold the vacant and dead feel the streets held.
Ashar swaggered in, the bell above tinkling.
A man stood behind the counter, one hand under his chin, the other holding down a book. Either he didn’t hear or didn’t care. Definitely note cute enough for a tumbler, though.
She walked over, her dusty boots muffled by the thick, wooden floorboards.
“Good morning, sir,” she said, resting a tan arm on the counter.
The man looked up. He was more boy than man, actually. Blonde. Pale. Glasses. Blue eyes. There was a hard look to them she recognized.
“Good morning, ma’am,” he said, closing the book and setting it aside.
Ashar stole a glance at it–old and dog-eared.
“What’ll it be?” He asked.
She glanced at the menu, taking the place in. It had an old feel to it, despite the more modern exterior. The menu was three chalkboards–one of drinks, one of baked goods and the other of miscellaneous things such as home-crafted mugs or hand-sewn bags. Folding her arms, Ashar cocked her head to the side and glanced back at the student.
“I’ll go for a large house coffee, some of that pesto pizza and an oatmeal cookie.”
He punched in her order. The register was a well maintained thing from who knew when–the 20s? Ashar stared at it, fascinated as he put everything in with the metal keys.
“Your total’s $6.75.”
Her eyebrows twitched as she gave him the cash.
He shrugged. “You can’t see it from where you come in, but we got a lot of farmland. Everything’s from the farm, practically. Well. Not the coffee.” He didn’t smile.
Ashar glanced at his name tag–Cornelius. He had written it with little flair.
She bowed her head. “Thanks, Cornelius.” She dumped the change in the jar and walked over to a booth. Ashar flopped down in the wooden seat, thankful for the cushions. She stretched out, careful to not get mud on the opposite cushions.
As she waited for her order, Ashar looked around again. There was the sound of a door opening and closing, followed by confident steps. Glancing to the source, Ashar saw a man with a very wide-brimmed hat take his seat. She scolded herself for having not noticed earlier. One of the tables by the window clearly ‘belonged’ to somebody. His old laptop had been sitting there, the porcelain mug meant for a small order rested near it. His bag of things was on the chair opposite to him.
Ashar kept her gaze steady and not directly at him. Something about the man rubbed her the wrong way.
She hated it when that happened.
“Your items, ma’am,” Cornelius said, arriving at her table. He looked disgruntled.
Ashar grinned. “Thanks, sir!” She said, accepting the items.
“You’re welcome.” He looked out of place, now that she got a better look at him from when he was behind the counter. His jeans were nice, and so was his buttoned up blue shirt. The apron he wore was worn and black.
Spoiled rich boy who resented working, perhaps?
Ashar didn’t think so. She shrugged, deciding to investigate later. The pizza and cookie had both been warmed up. She mentally cursed, forgetting to have asked for it cold given the heat. The coffee was scalding hot, but that was how it was meant to be regardless of weather.
As she devoured the pizza, her eyes were back on the door as it was thrown open. Three people entered, laughing and standing close. Two men and a woman.
“Hey, Cornelius!” The man with tan skin called out. “How ya doin’ today?”
What had to have been a rare smile cracked on the blonde’s face. “Hey, Nick. Just more homework.” He looked at the other two and nodded. “Heya, Sabrin. Heya, Oceana. I take it you all want the usual?”
“You got it,” the girl replied, already handing him her credit card.