“Can we go and play?” I ask my uncle, staring longingly outside, where the sun is shining brightly. We have a pool, and all I want to do is go swimming. Maybe Spencer will shoot some hoops with me afterwards.
“After you show me you can do this, Sylar. Come on, stop being so distracted.”
I inwardly groan, then throw the knife one-handed at the target in one skilled, quick movement.
Of course I can do this. I’m the best student he has. At fourteen, I’m big for my age, and I excel in martial arts and weaponry. I overheard my uncle say I’m going to be an asset.
“Am I done now?” I ask him, and he nods.
I quickly leave, passing my youngest brother, Sebastian, on the way. As usual, his head is in his books.
“You okay, little brother?” I ask him, messing his hair as I pass him. “Want to come for a swim?”
He closes his book and stands. “Yes.”
I smile, then look around for Spencer, our middle brother. I find him training outside, practicing his kicks, and ask him if he wants to join us.
“Am I allowed to stop?” he asks me, glancing around as if scared of being told off.
I nod, even though I’m not sure. No one will touch him though. I will make sure of that. My brothers are my responsibility to look after.
I’m the eldest, and I’m the strongest.
And unlike them, I remember what life was like before this.
I will also be the one to get them out of this. They’re going to live normal, happy lives. They’re going to be loved.
Not trained and used as weapons.
I will make sure of this.
I lift my head when I see him walk into my café. He’s a very tall man. Tall and built. He commands attention from everyone around him, but probably not in a good way. People don’t admire this man. They fear him. This is the third time he’s come here in the last week; he must be new to town. No one other than me wants to serve him, and it’s not that I necessarily want to, but I am the owner of the establishment, and it’s up to me to make sure all patrons are taken care of. Equally. It doesn’t matter how imposing or scary this man seems¸ or that it feels like he sucks up all the oxygen in the room. He’s still just a man. For all we know he could be the nicest man in the world. Appearances don’t mean anything. I don’t think it’s his tattoos that cause people to take a step back—I actually like his many tattoos—it’s more his vibe. He has an “everyone fuck off and leave me alone” standoffishness about him, and people heed that warning.
“Good morning,” I say to him. “What can I get for you?”
He swipes his hand down his thick, dark beard, looking up at the menu on the board, even though I’ve noticed that he’s ordered the same thing every time so far. His eyes are pale blue. I could stare at them all day.
He doesn’t say good morning back, and I’ve learnt not to expect it from him.
“Long black,” he says, not looking me in the eye. He pulls his wallet out and takes out some money while I ring the order up.
“That’s five dollars,” I tell him, our fingers brushing as the money is exchanged. I like that he puts it in my hand though; I think it’s rude when people simply leave money on the table. He retracts his hand quickly and shoves it in his pocket. When I try and give him his five dollars change, he shakes his head and nods toward the tip jar.
“Thanks,” I say, shoving the note inside. Someone who always tips so much can’t be that bad. I make his coffee and then place it in front of him. “Hope you have a nice day.”
“You too,” he mutters, gaze on his coffee. When he leaves, it’s like all the air returns to the room. He’s a good-looking man, albeit a little scruffy. I get the impression that his looks mean nothing to him, and it’s almost like he wants to hide them under his beard, shaggy dark hair, and loose black clothing.
But I see him.
“Bree, can I go on break now?” Christina asks, pulling me from my thoughts. “Or do you want to have yours first?” I turn to look at her, and nod.
“You can go. I’m not even hungry yet.”
“Thanks,” she says, as she pours herself some coffee. “I’m starving. And I had a huge breakfast. Why can’t I stop eating?”
All my employees get free coffee and a meal when they’re on shift. I like to look after them, and they work hard for me in return. Christina and her twin brother, Charlie, have both become close friends of mine, but they never use that to their advantage at work. Sure, we joke around a lot, and act silly when no one else is here, but we also provide amazing customer service and work our asses off. We’re a very productive team, and I truly think they are assets to my small business.
“I don’t know,” I say, smirking at her. “But you never put on any weight, so don’t complain.”
She grins and runs her gaze down my body. “Neither do you.”
“Yeah, but you know how much I exercise,” I say, groaning. I don’t have a very cooperative body; I have to work hard to keep it the way I like it. Luckily for me, I actually enjoy running. I find it therapeutic.
“True.” Christina smirks, taking a sip of her coffee, her brown eyes staying on me. “So what’s the deal with that guy?”
She nods to the door. “The guy. The creepy hot one.”
“Creepy hot?” I ask, laughing. “The shit you say, Christina.”
“Well, he is,” she says, shrugging. “I’m going to make a sandwich out back.”
She walks into the kitchen, leaving me manning the front counter alone. I glance around the mostly empty café and lean my elbows on the counter. This place is my own little slice of heaven. It was my parents’ business, until they handed it to me and went into retirement. I’ve been running it for two years now, ever since I was twenty-six years old.
“Hey, Bree,” Charlie says as he walks in. Dressed in black, like the rest of us, his hair is neatly brushed back, his brown eyes warm and friendly. I look down to his hands, where he’s holding his helmet. “I suppose I’m not in trouble for being late, considering the place is dead.”
I glance at the clock on the wall. “I don’t think you’ll be fired for being two minutes late, Charlie.”