Kalea unknowingly walks into a world that very few know about. She doesn’t miss her old life at all, and the mystery of the guy who got her into this mess makes her want to stay, even without knowing what she’s getting herself into. She has to find a way to convince them that she can be trusted and that they need her, and in doing so has to dig up some memories that she had vowed to keep forgotten.


2. Instant Coffee


       The walk to the convenience store isn’t far, but I put my headphones on and take my time, in no hurry at all to return home to my nightmare of a mother. Across the street I see Jesse walking in the opposite direction. He lives next to me, in the house with the cat. Weirdly, we’ve never actually spoken or been introduced, and yet whenever I see him, he gives me a small nod of acknowledgement and a shy smile. I smile back and wonder if he even knows my name.

       A couple of years older than me, he’s already gotten a degree and is now working at some high-profile broadcasting company. Back in school, he was the type who was good at everything, from sports to academics to making friends. I feel a quick pang of jealousy and wish I was as ambitious as him, and maybe had a clue about what I wanted to do with my life. I increase the volume of my music to drown out my thoughts.

       Before I know it I’m at the store, and a bell jingles as I push the door open. It’s not a place I make a habit of visiting, as I am not fond of the cramped aisles and terribly high shelving put into place in an effort to save space. To me, it looks more like a storage room than an actual store. Unfamiliar with the layout, I keep an eye out for the instant coffee that my mother drinks.

       I manage to find the coffee section and then start looking for the particular brand that my mother likes, and I finally see the distinctive red packaging on the very top shelf. Great. I stand on my tiptoes, but still it’s just out of reach. A hand reaches out from behind me and easily grabs a packet, and I step aside in surprise, having cancelled the rest of the world out through my headphones. I remove them and take in the guy standing next to me, holding out the coffee.

       He stands a couple of inches taller than me, with the build of a soccer player. Feeling slightly flustered, I take it from him and mutter a quick thank you. I don’t really like being helped, I’ve never been the damsel-in-distress type.

       “Not a problem,” he says, and I wait for him to walk away, but he’s still looking at me, as if amused, though I’m not sure what about. His brown eyes are playful, but I look away. I’m not used to being looked at, I’m used to being ignored. “I’ve never tried that one before,” he goes on, gesturing towards the packet now in my hands.

       “Oh.” I say in surprise, as I wasn’t expecting him to carry on the conversation “well, it’s not for me. It’s for my mother. I’m more of a tea person.”

       “Me too,” he replies with a smile. “Nice top. I have all their records”.

       I look down at my AC/DC tank top, and by the time I look up again he’s making his way to the cashier. I look at the ground, a little thrown off. I’m not used to even being talked to by strangers, let alone complimented. I turn around and pretend to look for something else.

       When I see him leave the store in my peripheral vision, I walk over to pay for the coffee. The bell jingles again as I walk out, and just as I’m about to put my headphones back in I step on something, and looking down I see a black wallet. I pick it up and see that it’s made of quality black leather. It’s quite thick too, and inside is a thick stack of bills, mostly fifties. I eye it uneasily. Surely it isn’t normal for someone to be carrying around that much money?

       I see a few cards, mostly credit cards or loyalty programs, but no driver’s licence. Through a clear compartment I see some sort of a business card, though it doesn’t look very formal at all, more like a calling card really. It has a large printed “23” on it, along with the name “Ryder Lavner”. There is a small picture on the bottom corner, and I see the deep-set brown eyes that had been looking into mine just a minute ago.

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