T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 48: Nantasket
David sat in the corner nursing the ice water in a paper cup with three pastel slashes of across it. It wasn't free, but it was cheap. It had that tin-taste of unpurified water from the tap. Bottled purified spring water had become more expensive than a cup of soda, ridiculously. Due to limited funds, he opted for tap.
"We're closing in three minutes," the ice cream girl called. The interloper pretended not to hear her. She pretended she didn't see him linger on after the other customers left. He was either thinking very deeply on something or was trying not to think at all. Either way, the cup was raised to his sun-chapped lips every ten seconds for a short sip, like clockwork, as it had the night before and the night before that. He didn't order anything else. He made that less than a dollar purchase last as long as he could.
Strands of the soggy mop pushed at his sandaled feet. She hadn't meant to bump him. Or maybe she had ... just to get a reaction from him, like poking a snake with a stick to see if it was still alive. He whimpered, a slight sound hard to hear under the creaking of a poorly installed ceiling fan. He curled his deformed toes back as far as they could bend.
"Don't you have anywhere else to go?" She couldn't take his silence any longer. He shook his head 'no'. "I didn't catch your name. I'm Judith ... or Judy, for short," she offered her hand to him. He stared into his cup instead, swirling the last half melted ice cubes around. "Can you talk? I don't mean to insult you if you're deaf or mute."
He cleared his throat, "I can talk." Sadness hung off of each short word.
"So which is it?"
"Are you trying to forget something or trying to figure something out?"
He looked up at her. She had never seen such striking ... SILVER ... eyes. "Both." And again, in just one word, he spoke volumes. She almost felt as if he was glad she'd noticed him and the tough time he was going through.
"Well, you know what seems to cheer people up? Ice-cream. You can have someone me." She walked the short distance back to the freezer-counter.
"Won't that be cold?" When she looked confused he added with a boyish smile, "With ice-cream on you?"
"I mean you could sample some free ... on the house," she explained, happy to see him smile.
"I think caramel instead, or butterscotch. Those are warm." He picked up the handle of the ladle in one of the topping bowls, drizzling a few spoonfuls worth on her wrist. Her first reaction was to grab a fistful of napkins with her other hand to wipe it off. He stopped her.
"Here, let me," he smiled wider.
She bristled at the strange sensation of his tongue licking the syrupy sweet substance off her skin. He had the grin of someone who had gotten away with something very naughty. She was almost annoyed with him.
He was too cute to be a jerk. He hadn't meant any harm by it. She took back her hand and used the napkins to clean the rest as she'd meant to. "Don't try anything that sleazy again," she cautioned. She liked the way he was admiring her, with a smile and a dreamy look in his eye. "Now I really have to close. For real. There's no more clean up to be done."
"I could make a mess if you wanted me to," he offered, blowing away one of the black strands of hair with blonde roots that kept falling in his face.
"No thank you." She took out the master keys from the pocket of her smock. "Another girl does the weekend shift, so I'm not busy tomorrow if you wanted to do something."
"Sounds great. I'll be hanging around until then. Oh, do you own a bikini? We could go swimming."
"Why not a one-peice bathingsuit?" She put her hands on her hips.
"Because I like pretty girls in bikinis?" he flashed an impish grin.
She didn't know whether to call him a pervert or be flattered that he thought she was attractive. So, she pushed him out the door, literally, locked up for the night, and that was that. From across the street (after she'd crossed it of course) she shouted, "I didn't catch your name!"
"David!" He shouted back, neglecting his last as she had hers. He figured it was safer that way ... for her and for him. He liked her but wasn't ready for a serious relationship of any sort. He wouldn't risk his secrets to her, or risk her life because of them.
Eleven o'clock rolled around. At this hour, no one was on the beach. For good reason: there was no beach left to be on. David hurdled himself off the railing. He dove head first into the rising waters below. He was fully armored before he hit. The swell smashed him against the cement wall. Grappling on to the pits worn in by the salty surge, he positioned himself sideways. He was safe in his cocoon of Xilvrin. Some of it he left soft to catch and dissolve drifting seaweed to serve as a meal to maintain the shell even if he was unconscious. The tide pushing into and sucking out of the cracks of the sea wall made a glug-glug sound, but other than that it was quiet. The motion of the waves rocked him to sleep.
He wouldn't wake up until the tide went out ... and that wouldn't be until dawn. From here to then he was able to dream in peace.
(to be continued!)
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