stop myself if I didn’t.
I dressed quickly and followed her to the kitchen. We sat in comfortable silence as she moved around the kitchen with the same ease and grace that she did at the restaurant. A few moments later, she presented a plate full with fluffy eggs and crisp-looking french toast. I murmured my approval after the first bite, and a pleased expression stole over her face.
As much as I was enjoying sharing this meal, there was a matter I needed to address.
“Why are you there so late? And by yourself.” I said the last sternly and making no attempts to hide my displeasure with the fact that she worked alone.
“I usually have at least two people open and close, but I lost my best guy, and finding a replacement has been tough, so I’ve had to pick up the slack. And besides,” she smiled brightly, “I meet the most interesting people.”
I didn’t return the expression.
“It’s not safe. You need to have someone with you.”
A spark of anger ignited in her eyes.
“I’d prefer not to be lectured,” she said, voice hard.
“And I’d prefer you not be vulnerable,” I returned quickly.
The harshness of my words was rooted in fear. No place was safe, not at any time, not really, and she was tempting fate. If I hadn’t been there…I cut off that train of thought before I could take it too far. I had been there, and I was here now, and I need to focus on that, and not what could’ve been.
We stared at each other for several long moments, neither giving an inch. I appreciated the fight, but I was right and wouldn’t yield on the issue. Apparently she agreed, for she looked away after a few more beats.
“You’re right,” she said with a deep breath. “I was silly, somehow thought that I was protected or immune, but I guess that’s not the case. Which sucks, because I’ve never, ever been afraid there. Not even when I get the occasional crazy who rambles in. But now…” She trailed off, and I hated that her peace had been shattered.
But I was also a little grateful, a small selfish voice deep in my mind reminded me. If last night had never happened, this morning wouldn’t have either.
“You work at night too?” she asked suddenly.
“Yes.” I didn’t elaborate, and she seemed satisfied by the answer.
“I can tell. Most folks look tired, but not you. Always so focused and alert. How long have you worked nights?”
“Years. I’m used to it now, not sure if I could do anything else,” I said.
I hoped that my discomfort didn’t show, but I hadn’t even considered how to handle this conversation. Normal people, people like April, talked about their work, especially with those they spent time with. But I wasn’t normal, and I had no frame of reference for this type of interaction. I’d just have to be vague and hope that it worked.
“And you like it, what you do?”
“It has its benefits,” I said honestly. “And its drawbacks.”
“You do physical work right, work with your hands?” she asked.
“Usually. My job can be strenuous, but not always,” I said.
It wasn’t technically a lie, but I felt a great wave of shame.
“I could tell that too,” she said, smiling again. “You have that look about you, move so smoothly and comfortably. I can’t imagine you behind a desk all day, or night in this case,” she said.
I didn’t respond, but her smile remained as she glanced at me shyly, and I took the opportunity to change the subject.
“Don’t say it. It’s not necessary,” I said.
“I’m too transparent, but I don’t know what else to say. So thank you. I’m done now,” she said quickly raising her hands.
“Good. I have to go,” I said.
Her smiled dimmed the smallest bit, but she recovered quickly.
“Would you mind if I come by sometimes…?” It was my turn to fumble, and I trailed off, cursing myself for speaking the words. I needed to pull away, not get deeper involved. But there was no part of me that could fathom leaving April to wonder