New 25-Vignette | 2

Brand New Day.

1 year and five months ago, or thereabouts.

“Really?” Flint asked, scepticism dripping from his tone.

“Aw, come on,” Natalie replied with a slight grin. “It’s not that bad, is it?”

“It’s literally,” he pointed, “literally falling apart.” As if to illustrate, a wooden board fell from where it had been blocking a window and clattered to the ground in front of them.

The last time Flint had been to the warehouse they currently stood in front of, it had been night, and the dim lighting had given it an air of menace. Now, though, in the light of day, he could see it for what it was. A deathtrap.

“Well,” Natalie countered him, “no-one will think to look here, then, will they?”

He scowled. “They won’t have a reason to look, because it’ll have already collapsed inwards and killed us all. I didn’t agree to join your little bookclub just to get crushed to death by some architect’s fever dream.”

She laughed, walking forwards and opening the door. “I promise, it’s not as bad as it looks.” She held the door open, inclining her head slightly, and, with a sigh, he followed her in.

“I’ve taken a look around,” she explained as they walked through the dusty offices. “None of the damage is so deep that we can’t repair it.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Last time I checked, one of the structural pillars had collapsed.”

“Like I said,” she replied with a wink. Sure enough, when they entered the large warehouse space a moment later, he was surprised to find the rubble had been cleared out, and the hole in the roof repaired. A ratty old couch had been placed on one side of the room, and sitting on it was-

“Lisette?” he blurted before he could help himself.

She waved at him with the bottle of beer she was drinking. “Hey, kid. Sorry fer not tellin’ ya last time, but ya seemed kinda down.”

He stared at her in confusion as Natalie chuckled. “You’ve already met everyone one way or another,” she said, gesturing to the other figures scattered around the room, and indeed he managed to match them all to his memories of their first meeting in this building. “But we can do a proper meet-and-greet later. First, I’d like to welcome everyone to the very first meeting of…” she paused dramatically, as everyone looked at her, “the Outliers!”

“...really?” Flint asked after a moment. “That’s what you’re going with?”

She deflated slightly. “You... don’t like it?”

“Are you kidding me?” he asked. “It’s fuckin’ awful!”

“Oh, come on,” she said with a pout. “I’m sure it’ll grow on you.”

Despite himself, he laughed, for what felt like the first time in years. “I guarantee you it will not.”

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