5. The River of Dreams

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I've been searching for something; Taken out of my soul - Billy Joel

8:23 p.m. Monday, October 4, 2021

Home. Disappointment rolls through her as she parks in front of her townhouse on Main Street.

"We enjoyed the piece."

"You have a wonderful writing style."

"We're looking for someone with....a different perspective."

"Someone who, you know, has traveled beyond her hometown."

The criticism was honest, and unfortunately it made sense to Michele. Frustration flies in to sit on her left shoulder. How is she supposed to get experience if no one will take a chance on her?

With a grumbling stomach, Michele drops her overnight bag on her bed and empties her bladder before climbing behind the steering wheel again. The drive to the Choo Choo is short, and it's late for dinner on a Monday night. Plus it's Leftover Day. Good. She's grumpy and doesn't want company. All she wants is about 3000 calories of junk food.

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8:27 p.m. Monday, October 4, 2021

Having spent the afternoon with Patrick and his exuberant nature, Harry is looking for some time to quietly reflect on....everything. Tired of eating cheese and fruit in his room and well aware The Cellar isn't open on Monday nights, Harry parks his rented 4Runner next to the only other car in the parking lot at the Choo Choo. Rubbing a hand over his face, he climbs out of the vehicle. He's weary. Of himself mostly. Every time he thinks he's on the brink of learning something new about himself, he is dragged into the Moore family's web. Does he purposely lose himself in their lives to avoid facing his own?

He doesn't know, but a dinner that will cause him to work extra hard tomorrow with the weights and punching bag will certainly hit the spot. Having sworn off carbs for so long, he finds himself eating them almost exclusively the last few days. That's not entirely true, but he did try two different breads and three muffin styles today while hanging out with Patrick at Moore Breads.

Drawing open the glass door to the fast food restaurant, Harry is slammed by the silence inside, causing him to stagger backwards. Making his way to the front counter, he waits for the single teen at the cash register to notice him. She's chomping on a piece of gum while typing into her phone, both thumbs moving wildly at a pace that makes them blur in Harry's eyes.

When he clears his throat, she glances up at him, her mouth dropping open.

"Uh, hi. You're, uh, like, you're, him, right? Like HIM?" Her words are barely coherent, but the meaning is clear. It's not the first time he's been on the receiving end of this dialogue.

"Yes. I'm Harry Styles. And you are?" He turns on the charm, holding his hand out to her.

Her lips form an O as she continues to pose like a statue. "Modern Teen" is the title that pops into his brain, and he smiles, hoping the dimple doesn't slay her so much that she can't prepare his meal.

"I'd like a grilled cheese, onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake," Harry informs her, waiting patiently for her to type in his order. She doesn't move. Blinking twice, she stares at him.

"You're Harry Styles?"

"Yes."

"I thought you'd be taller."

Harry never knows what to do with these comments. He's exactly as tall as he is. With a shrug, he repeats his order. The girl squints at the cash register.

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