Enemies 9-Vignette


Back Into Your Life.

2 years ago, or thereabouts.

“And so the first guy says, ‘look, I don’t know what you want from me, I just make the dough'!” Flint delivered the punchline with a goofy grin.

Edith frowned down at him. “I don’t get it. What's the context? What’s the setup? It’s not a joke, it’s just… a line.”

He shook his head. “No, no, it is a joke: it's meta-humor! You know how in TV and movies and stuff they always cut into a scene halfway through a joke? It’s an intentional pastiche of that concept, isolating a punchline of a non-existent joke, then delivering it without the context as an intentional parody of the concept!”

She considered this, lips pursed. “No,” she decided, “no, it’s still not funny. Sorry. I appreciate the effort, though.”

He visibly deflated. “You are no fun today, E. No. Fun. At. All.” He poked her lightly in the chest with each word, and a little giggle escaped her lips. “Ha!” he said triumphantly. “Sadness, fall before the might of Flint Perez!” He struck a pose, fists on hips and head turned to nobly stare into the distance.

Edith snorted involuntary, then took a sip of her coffee, trying and almost succeeding to hide her smile. “You're such a dork.”

He dropped the pose and grinned. “You know you love it.” She smiled and said nothing.

The two of them were sitting across from one another at a small table in a coffee shop. Midday on Saturday business was quiet but steady, and the buzz of conversation around them was low under the hum of the grinders. A cold snap had hit the previous night; frost coated the windows, snow fell gently outside, and heavy coats hung from the backs of their chairs, a tan parka for Flint and a long black coat for Edith.

He wasn’t showing it, but Flint was worried about her. The last few days, she’d been surly and bitter, shooting daggers at anyone who even mildly inconvenienced her. She’d been avoiding him, too, and he didn’t know if it was just to spare him from her mood, or something else. He'd hoped this… date, he supposed, would help, and surprisingly enough, it actually seemed to be. She was much less hostile than she’d been, and a smile and a laugh was good progress.

He couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment their relationship had moved from friendship to… whatever this was. They'd still done the same things, still chatted and joked and hung out and everything, but slowly, a closeness had entered it. This was probably, he realized, the closest thing to a first romantic moment they’d had.

Unconsciously, he reached up, pushing his ponytail back over his shoulder. Edith made a face. “You should really get a haircut.”

“What? Why? I’m channeling my cultural heritage.”

“No, you think you're doing the sexy Latin lover thing, but actually you just look like a black girl whose parents forced her to straighten her hair.”

“Hmph,” he sniffed. “You’re just jealous.”

She fingered her own thin, dry hair, twirling it around one finger. “You said it, not me.”

Leaning forward, he reached over and mirrored the gesture. “What you need is better conditioner. You’d be amazed the difference it makes.” His tone was very different from his words. He let his hand hover there, twirling the hair around.

“I really feel like this conversation should be going the other way round,” she said, blushing slightly. “You know, me lecturing you about hygiene.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” he said quietly.

“I didn’t say that,” she replied with a hint of smile.

For a moment, they held there, staring into each other’s eyes. Very slightly, Flint's hand began to drift towards her face. It might’ve gone further, but they were interrupted by the appearance of a waitress, asking if they wanted her to take their plates. They coughed, awkwardly, retracting hands and looking away, muttering vague confirmations while avoiding eye contact with the server or each other.

The waitress, a young, dark-haired girl who couldn’t have been older than Flint, obviously realized she’d interrupted something; she swept up the crumb-laden plates with quick, efficient motions, and swiftly departed.

They sat for a moment in silence, both of them sneaking darting glances at the other when they thought they weren’t looking, smiling small smiles they tried to keep hidden. Outside, a street-cleaner rumbled past, salting a trail in the snow.

Flint broke the silence. “So, how's Eve?”

Edith looked up from her lap, where she’d been studying the surface of her coffee a little too intently. “Hmm? Oh, she's good... ish. Mom's been… pretty hard on her recently. She's not handling it so great.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, sulking and tantrums a lot. It's not been fun.”

He winced in sympathy. “Eesh. Do you…” he hesitated.

“What?”

“…do you want to stay at my place for a few days? Um, get away from it all?”

She actually smiled properly at that. “You’re cute when you’re flustered.” Now it was his turn to blush. “That’s sweet of you to offer. But no, there's no way mom would-”

She froze, eyes locked on a point above his head. “Edith?” he asked. “What’s-”

“Shit,” she muttered, scrabbling at her purse and jacket. “Shit shit shit shit shit. Flint, we need to go right now.” She stood up from the table, knocking her chair backwards, still looking past him.

“Edith?” he asked, standing up with considerably more care and picking up his coat. “What's wrong, what's happening? Why do we have to lea-” she grabbed his wrist and started dragging him towards the exit. “Hey!”

“I’m sorry, Flint, I'll explain later. We just-” she stopped suddenly, and he almost ran into her before stopping himself.

Standing in front of them, blocking the way to the exit, was a short woman with cold eyes set into a stocky face, and light brown hair hidden under a tattered beanie. She was dressed like a homeless person, clothes torn and shabby, but Flint could see from her posture that she was obviously concealing multiple weapons. He'd always complained to his dad that there was no way he’d ever be in a situation where it’d be important to know that, but he’d never been more glad to be proven wrong.

“Well, ain't this just a mighty fine coincidence,” the woman said.

Edith swallowed audibly. “I'm sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Could you please move? You're blocking the exit.” She attempted to push past, still holding an iron grip on Flint's wrist, but the other woman stepped in front of her.

“Nah, I don' think so. Ya really think ya can try that crap and get away with it? I’ve seen your face.” She smirked, and Edith's face frosted over.

Flint looked back and forth between them, confused, and worried by the sudden change in his girlfriend's demeanor. “Edith-”

Not now, Flint,” she hissed, and he jerked back at the sheer venom in her words.

The woman chuckled. “Flint, huh? Tell ya what, why don’t ya get out of here. Go on, git.” She flicked her hand towards the door dismissively.

He spun on her. “Why don’t you? I don’t care what imaginary beef you have with my girlfriend, but you need to back the hell off.” She actually took a step back, faced with his sudden outburst, and then her face went still, and her hand dipped inside her jacket.

For Flint, instinct took over. He stepped into her, one hand using his momentum to pin the arm reaching for the weapon against her body, and the other coming up into a quick jab into her throat. As she jerked back, he pulled her arm out and away, pointing it and the gun at the ground and twisting sharply. The motion forced her hand open, dropping the gun to clatter onto the floor, and made her fall onto her knees to avoid dislocating the shoulder. He kicked the gun out of her reach and pushed her backwards, then yelled out “she’s got a gun!”

From start to finish, it had taken less than three seconds.

There was a brief moment of stillness. Then the screaming began. Everyone in the store began running or hiding, ducking behind cover or sprinting for exits. Flint grabbed Edith's hand and followed them. They burst through the doors at full pelt, the cold smacking them in the face, and as he looked back, he could see the woman glaring after them.

They ran for a few blocks before ducking into an alleyway, breathing heavily. Flint leant against the wall, trying to calm himself. Edith was almost doubled over, hands on knees as she took deep, gasping breaths. Eventually, they looked up at each other.
“What the hell was that?” they asked simultaneously.

“You first,” Edith said.

Flint shook his head. “Nope, nope, nope. That woman just tried to kill you, E! What the shit?!”

“And then you took her down like it was an action movie! Where did that come from?! You're the scrawny little art nerd!”

He glared at her. “One, scrawny? Really? I take back the nice things I’ve said about your body. Two, I’ve mentioned doing martial arts multiple times! Did you think I was joking?” She opened her mouth, but he waved her down. “No, don’t answer that, don’t divert. Who was that woman, and why did she try and kill you?”

She looked away, avoiding meeting his eyes. “Flint, I… can’t tell you. I’m sorry, I really am, but I can’t.”

“What? Why not?”

“I can’t tell you that either.”

He stared at her. “Edith… what does your mom actually do?” She’d always danced around the question before.

Edith looked up at him, and he found that there were tears in her eyes. “I… don’t think we should see each other any more.”

“Wh- what?”

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “I'm so sorry.” And with that, she turned and walked away from him, slipping her coat on.

“Edith?” he called after her. “Edith! I don’t- why are you- just stop and talk to me!”

She didn’t look back. She just kept walking.