It had been three weeks since my flight had arrived in Los Angeles, and two since I’d begun working for the small university publication press. I’d fallen into a sort of ritual; wake around six-thirty, shower and attempt to tame my hair into something remotely presentable, and slip out the door with a granola bar and a mug of lukewarm coffee. Walking became my primary form of transportation, as I slowly realized the small amount of money I did have was shrinking everyday and taking the public bus system or even a subway required a daily allowance. It wasn’t horrible walking though, as the weather in L.A. was unreal and proved to be a drastic change from the erratic environmental patterns in New York. Many days were blessed with glassy blue skies lined with clouds and I was welcomed to the gentle warmth of the sun each morning I stepped out of my small apartment complex. The buildings, while nowhere near as grand in size as back east, exhibited a different sort of glamour and were built with beautiful soft-colored bricks and stones that seemed to glimmer beneath the rays of sunshine.
As I stepped out of the apartment around seven, my fingers grasping my usual cheap portable coffee mug and a weathered brown bag slung over my shoulder, I made for my usual route which took on average twenty minutes. I hummed to myself softly, taking occasional sips from my cooling drink, and when my eyes caught sight of a corner pharmacy, I stopped. My stomach was gurgling unpleasantly and I knew I’d need to eat something, especially since I’d forgotten to grab anything on my way out. After a quick moment of thought, I made way for the store, stepping inside and pausing for an instant to appreciate the wave of coolness from the air conditioning. I hurried for the snack food aisle, reaching for my phone to check the time. I inwardly groaned - I’d be at least ten minutes late, but with the lunch break being five hours away, I had no choice but to stop. I felt a solid form collide with my arm and like an asshole, I continued to walk, only turning my head slightly over my shoulder to murmur a quick, disingenuous apology. The man that I saw was long down the aisle and more than likely didn’t hear me - but with a dark hood covering his head, I was almost relieved he didn’t respond. I reached for the cheapest snack available - an cereal bar with fake cherry-flavored filling - and made a quick turn for the front of the store. Sighing softly to myself in relief at the sight of a nearly non-existent line, I stood patiently while an elderly woman paid for a gardening magazine and a bottle of sweet tea. As I waited and controlled my desire to groan aloud at the sluggishness of the woman in front of me, I caught sight of the back of the same dark-hooded man I’d run into just moments prior dart out the front doors, his broad shoulders and tall frame disappearing quickly between the automatic glass.
I jumped slightly at the sharp, terse voice that broke my gaze from the front of the store, and saw a young girl - maybe my age, staring with annoyance at me. I stepped forward quickly, dropping the cereal bar onto the counter and offering an apologize half-smile at the girl. She didn’t return the polite favor, and instead grabbed the food item with her long, manicured fingers. I was accustomed to encountering girls like this one in Los Angeles; the bottle blondes and overly-tanned females were practically their own species in the west coast. Regardless, I continued to offer a slight smile to the girl as she scanned the food, Reaching up to tuck a coarse strand of platinum-blonde hair behind her ear, she glanced at me.
I reached into the bag slung over my shoulder, setting my mug of half-consumed coffee onto the counter to allow me better leverage. I felt around my bag, the tips of my fingers skimming the very bottom of the fabric, and felt my throat tighten at the realization that I hadn’t any cash whatsoever on me. I pulled out a handful of change, swallowing against the lump in my throat as an array of pennies and nickels and dimes sat pathetically in the palm of my hand. The change didn’t equate to even a dollar.
I forced a smile to the girl once again, laughing nervously as I dropped the change with a light clinking to the bottom of the bag. “I’m sorry, I guess I’ll have to use my card - “ I stopped