Chapter Four: Common Ground

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Damian woke up at six AM. On a Saturday.

Damian loved Saturdays. He loved sleeping in. But ever since yesterday morning at the coffee shop, there was one thing he couldn't get out of his head. And that was showing up today, at the park, between 10 o'clock and 1 o'clock.

His body just happened to interpret that as "wake up as early as humanly possible on the weekend".

The morning dragged by as he refused to get out of bed, opting to numb his mind via phone instead. It worked, for the most part. He was able to push the incoming anxieties regarding the upcoming meeting off for a while. And that was good.

At around 9:45, he finally decided to sit up and get ready for the day. It didn't take long for him to get ready. It wasn't like he really needed to worry about his appearance where he was going.

With a haphazard excuse, he left the house. He made the conscious decision to skip breakfast this morning. Whatever was going to happen, he had a feeling it was going to make him incredibly uneasy. And maybe a little queasy.

The drive to the outside of town was far faster this morning than it was during the week. Despite residing in the area for the past two months, Damian really hadn't had time to explore much of his surroundings. Not that he was really jonesing to anyway. There was something about this town that was so entirely okay, he felt like he'd already seen it a thousand times over.

The longer he sat on that thought, the less it sat right with him.

He parked his car in his work's parking lot before making his way down to the park.

The walk to the park's entrance felt so much longer than it actually was. It was almost like one of those dreams where you're trying to run but the ground beneath you never moves. To think of it, so much of what was going on felt like an indescribable dream. If the knick from Damian's morning shave didn't still sting, he would have seriously considered that as an option.

The park itself was cute enough. It was small, located in the center of a commercial area. Most of it was just a wide open grassy area with walking paths snaking up both sides. There was a playground off to the far left hand corner and trees lined the border of the area, as if to block out the industrial air. It almost worked, sort of. There was something refreshing about the atmosphere. But for Damian, it also held something foreboding.

He entered the park and started down one of the walking trails. The short message gave no indication of where exactly the barista would be located, but he was sure he'd figure it out.

He looked at his phone.

It was 10:17.

About two thirds down the walking path, Damian spotted him. He was sitting on a bench, staring off into the distance. His hair was flatter than it had been in the coffee shop, but the curls were still tightly wrung. Today he'd traded his apron in for a flashy T-shirt and a pair of close-cut shorts. He still had the glasses, though. The same fashionable specs.

Damian froze. The weight of what he was about to do suddenly dropped on him. It wasn't a big deal, he had to convince himself. He was just going to go over and have a conversation with some guy he met at the coffee shop across the street. It wasn't a totally unnatural thing to do.

The context of the conversation he would just conveniently not think about.

Using all of his gall, he took the first couple steps forward and eventually made his way over to the park bench. Alex didn't notice him at first. Unsure of what to do, Damian sat next to him.

They were both silent for a moment.

Damian spoke up first. "Uh, hey."

The barista practically leapt out of his skin. "J--eesus."

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