There is a very short list of people that can show up unannounced and it not bother Maya. That list ends at two: Abby and Alice. Or Alice and Abby. There is no correct order, they both mean just as much to Maya and even though she had known Abby just a bit longer, she still spent a large majority of her time with Alice in the time when she had first met her two closest friends. Abby’s appearance at Mag’s that morning made Maya feel infinitely better. Much like her books and movies and TV shows, she could always count on getting lost in her friends whenever there was something particularly troubling on her mind. Even though today she talked about some things she would have rather avoided, it did feel good to relieve some of the pressure that had built up inside of her. If she had known that opening up and talking to someone about this kind of stuff had this freeing feeling then she would have tried it years ago. At least with the guy stuff. She had no idea how she would even bring up her bullet catching or her res=cent revelations from her strange dreams. OR how they would even react to them. Her mind keeps going back to the crumpled bullet at the bottom of her trash bin making her want to fold the entirety of her being inside of itself and hide. Hide forever. I need to do something about that bullet. She manages to tell herself in a brief moment of strength.
The day’s customers were just enough to keep her mind occupied but Maya knew that there were thoughts still stewing in the back of her head and that life would soon catch up to her. The knowledge that Zena would soon arrive to work peaked in at her whenever there was a break in her distractions and little bits of dread slipped through the cracks to the forefront of her mind. It was Zena, in an uncharacteristically sincere moment, who spoke up when she first saw that spark between Maya and Kyle. Zena had known Kyle most of her life, and while she did enjoy giving him a hard time, she truly did consider him a friend and knew enough about him for Maya to trust her judgement. She was also present at last night’s meltdown, another recent even in Maya’s life that she would rather not revisit and, unlike Maya, Zena was never one to avoid a conversation.
“Have you been outside? It is the worst.” Zena yelled after checking that the store was clear of any customers and walked past Maya without even giving her a hello. This was common for the two of them, Maya likes to avoid interactions if at all possible and Zena abhors pleasantries so Maya just smiled and looked outside to see a calm, sunny afternoon. Zena and Maya could not be two more different people.
“I should have brought an umbrella.”
You could try wearing something other than black. Maya wanted to reply but obviously kept her comments to herself. If it wasn’t one of her many black dresses, Zena could be found wearing any combination of other black garments. It was definitely her color of choice when it came to her attire, very rarely would it be accented with any other color.
The day moved on and the moment had come and gone for Zena to say anything to Maya about the previous night as Maya’s shift came to an end but before her anxiety could be alleviated the absolute worst thing in her mind that could happen did. She was ready to leave, for her day to be over, anxious, even, to get home, bury herself in blankets, and lose herself on her laptop, aimlessly browsing at first and then settling into a long stretch of binging anime but her daydreaming of her evening’s plans was interrupted by an all too familiar figure of the very person she was trying to ignore stepping through the door. She should have seen this coming but her over obsessing of everything going on in her life seemed to forget the fact that Kyle had been rekindling his friendship with Lottie which included walking her to work whenever he wasn’t working himself. Dangit, Abby, give that boy more hours. Then, as if on cue, Abby trailed in behind them.
“Abby?! You’re back.”
“Yea, I thought I’d walk back to the apartment with you seeing as there’s some strange stuff going on on our streets as of late.”
Don’t remind me.
“And then, upon hearing of our worries, Kyle here even offered to escort us both home.”
Behind them Maya saw Zena smirk as she was stocking clothing rack at first trying to look busy while eavesdropping in on the drama she full well knew would unfold upon Kyle’s entrance. “But then who is going to protect Kyle?”
“What a gentlemen.” Lottie chimed in.
Were they all in on it? Maya was beginning to suspect something more was going on with her friends. She did not like how this day was going.
“Hey look Maya,” Kyle began. “About the other night, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“No. It’s okay. It wasn’t you.” Maya wanted control of the situation. Diffuse things before they got worse. Redirect. Control. She wanted control of the conversation so she could avoid yet another scene. “It was everything else, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s okay, really.”
“Cool. We’re good then? I don’t want things to be weird between us.”
“Yea, we’re good.” But things with me will never not be weird.
Bullet catching was the least of her worries right now. How a simple boy could upset her world more than weird dreams, super powers, and different worlds was beyond even her. But at least with Kyle she could do something. She was in some sort of, even if just a little, control. Or at least try to be. Stifle her feelings. Hide from her emotions. Anything. She was desperate.
“You ready?” Abby asked, bringing Maya back from the void that was her thought processes.
“Yea…” She began to trail off, trying to remember if she truly was ready checking her bag for her keys and whatever else she may not wasn’t to leave behind at the store. At least Abby will be there. Maya was trying to think on the positive side of things. Hiding behind her more talkative friends was her go to strategy when dealing with conversations with strangers. But Kyle wasn’t necessarily a stranger. She may have been distracted by Abby’s performance at the show that night but a lot of what Kyle as talked about actually stuck with her. He liked art, both digital and traditional, and hoped to make a career out of it but was beaten down (his words, not hers) by the educational system. He had trouble with art on demand and while Maya recognized this as a fault, him lacking the discipline to act when needed, but she liked how he treasured the purity of his work and the passion he exuded when talking about it. Most of Maya’s own passions were consumption based, she liked to watch things, or listen to things, or read things but Kyle loved to create and she admired that about him. She didn’t like that she admired it. She didn’t like that she knew enough about him in the first place to admire anything about him. It made things far more complicated. It would me so much easier to push aside any thoughts about him if he was only a complete stranger or just a friend of a friend but she knew just enough for him to keep popping up in her thoughts and she was afraid that the longer he stuck around then the harder it would be for her to ignore those thoughts.
“Alright, let’s go.” Maya clung tightly with both hangs to the strap on her bag, keeping her eyes on the ground as they walked down the sidewalk and towards her apartment making sure to stay several paces behind both Abby and Kyle, just enough to make it look like she wasn’t trying to avoid their conversation.
“So, Kyle, Superheroes. Real or fake?”
“Oh man. That’s tough. The realist in me says ‘no way. Either the video is fake or there’s something missing’ but the kid in me wants to believe it so so bad. What did you think of it?” He asks, turning to an obviously not paying attention Maya.
“The bulletproof girl?” Abby reminds her.
“Oh. That.” Anything but that. “I don’t really know.” She says, finally looking up. “We’re here.
Maya picks up her pace and quickly passes Abby and Kyle, making her way into their apartment building without even saying goodbye. Freedom! She was so caught up in escaping Kyle that she instantly regretted not at least giving him a polite goodbye but there is no way she is going back out there to correct her mistake.
“I’ll talk to her.” Abby tells Kyle before heading in after her.
“Alright. See you guys tomorrow.”
Abby had to run to catch up with Maya who was already in the apartment. By the time Abby made it to the front door Maya was already closing the door to her room and she knew that once that door shut Maya would be locked away for the rest of the night.
“Maya, wait up.”
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow? Nothing. I’m off. Why?”
“We’re all going out to brunch, you should come along.”
Maya knew that when Abby said “all” that meant more than just her and Alice.
“Yea. Me, Alice, and Kyle.”
Say no. Say no. Say no. A voice repeated inside of her.
“Yea, alright.” Why? Why did I just say that?
“See, getting out’ll be good for you.”
Or maybe not.