***one month later***
Ari wasn't sure what it was that woke her. Maybe it was the sharp turn off the highway. Perhaps it was the honking of horns in the major traffic. Maybe it was the way the clouds parted for a moment to allow the sun to glare in her face. She always woke up slowly, so she wasn't really sure.
All she knew was that she was in the city.
A quick glance at the sky showed that even though the sun may have been on her face for a second, the sky was a deep purple. She pressed her ear to the window and listened to the wind screaming past.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are sorry to inform you that the Country Bus will be stopping here, in Raleigh, North Carolina, until the extreme weather conditions pass. Please make arrangements for spending the night here in the city. We will not depart before 9 o'clock tomorrow, at the earliest. If you miss it, we won't wait. If you have any questions, there will be at least one staff member here with the bus at all times" With the end of that sentence, the bus swung into the parking lot of a cafe.
The veterans of the Country Bus got off while the newbies ran up to ask all sorts of questions. Even though she had only been with the bus for a few weeks, Ari exited without question. The unexpected break was welcome. She needed more food and soap. And money. But of course she needed money. She always needed money.
Ari saw a group of ladies with giant handbags walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street. They didn't look like the kind of people who would go for walks just to exercise, and they certainly weren't dressed for it. Must be shoppers. Ari followed at a reasonable distance.
Sure enough, within a couple of minutes Ari was walking down a long, crowded boulevard. Shops pushed and shoved against each other, fighting for the most space open to the street. Bright colors and advertisements screamed and horns from the cars in the street blared at the jaywalkers.
She found a busy coffee shop with a Help Wanted sign in the front window. On her first step inside, it was obvious she had judged correctly. There were about one hundred people jostling for a place in the narrow booths and one person behind the counter, trying valiantly to serve them all. Ari felt a smirk spread across her face. They looked like they could use her help.
"Can I talk to the owner?" She asked after successfully forcing her way to the front of the line. The boy behind the counter didn't even respond. Her was too busy brushing his blond hair out of his bright green eyes. Ari turned in the direction he waved his hand and saw a door behind the counter.
The door basically embodied the entire shop. It was painted half green and half brown, worn and chipped. The name of the coffee shop, The Grind, was displayed on a bronze plaque. Ari reached for the handle, intending to go right in, then decided to go for a good impression instead. Allowing herself to fall into character, she knocked.
"Come in." The voice that called out was thin and stressed, yet even then it seemed to have a thread of warmth and kindness in it. Already, Ari found herself fond of whoever was standing on the other side of this well-loved door.
She walked in.
For a moment, her senses were overwhelmed. Pictures-some professional and framed, some clumsy and taped up-littered the walls. Multiple fans sat about the room, trying to alleviate some of the heat and humidity the storm had brought. A cluttered desk was shoved into one corner and a large armchair with a great many rips and tears sat behind it. Ari glanced around for the person who had answered the door, but apart from her, the room seemed to be uninhabited.
"Drew, I've told you again and again that you don't have to knock. You spend so much time here you could practically be my son." While she had been standing on the other side of the door, the voice she heard had been too muffled to tell if it was male of female. It was definitely masculine now, and Ari looked around again. By now, there was only one possible place he could be. He was behind the chair.
As soon as the thought had made its way to her mind, a man stood up and, yes, he was behind the chair. Ari stared at him until she realized what she was doing, and then dragged her eyes away. Then again, the man had been turned away. She doubted he'd seen her yet.
|Anna Popplewell||as Ari|
|Cody Linley||as Drew|