From Beneath You, It Devours (Chapter 2)

Continued from Chapter 1: Phoebe enters the coffee shop.

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Phoebe set her curiosity of the occult shop aside and went to get herself some coffee instead.

The door to the little coffee shop opened with the gentle ring of the bells attached above the door, and the scent of the coffee was strong in the air. She inhaled a moment, feeling a little better already. Phoebe stepped up to the counter and gave the teller her order: a hot latte with a shot of mocha sounded really good. And, while they didn’t have any croissants, they had a nice assortment of muffins.

The teller beamed at her, interacting with her only briefly, but very cordially nonetheless. Phoebe paid the required amount, taking her latte and chocolate muffin with a grateful, tired smile.

There were a few people in the place, and not a lot of places to sit. None of them places she could actually sit alone.

There was a young woman with raven-dark hair seated on the couch up against the front window, sipping an iced coffee as she scrolled through her phone. She looked vaguely annoyed and appeared to be waiting for someone, as she kept looking up at the door.

There was a table past the counter where a young man in flannel and jeans sat with a laptop, a golden retriever happily panting as it lounged by his feet. “Yes, nailed it,” the man muttered in a deep voice she found very familiar, but couldn’t quite place for a moment. She knew him, but her brain felt like it had been fried from exhaustion.

He looked up and, upon seeing her gazing at him, he grinned widely. The expression was unmistakable, and he got up and strode forward to meet her. Now she definitely recognized him; the sun-bronzed skin, dark hair and appealing blend of European and Asian features in a manner that was entirely unique coupled with that bright and open, almost childlike expression. She hadn’t seen him in some time, but he was not so easily forgotten.

“Phoebe? Hey! How’ve you been? I haven’t seen you in a minute!” He immediately gave her a warm hug, which she accepted despite her hands being full. The familiar scent of his cologne also brought with it memories. Memories of laughter and filial comfort.

She smiled at him, grateful for a friendly face. “Hey, Mark. I didn’t expect to see you around here. How’re you and Amy doing? I haven’t spoken to her in awhile. Caught up in my own stuff.

She felt bad about that, she really did. But she and Amy had kind of drifted apart ever since Amy had come to an understanding with Mark, and Phoebe’s time had likewise been taken up with her now ex-boyfriend. It hadn’t been Amy’s fault or hers; it had just been how life had happened.

It didn’t change, though, that they were still family. Blood was thicker than mere water. Though, upon further inspection, Phoebe’s ex had subtly discouraged interaction with her friends and family, resulting in Phoebe having become a little isolated from everyone else.

That was a situation that could not stand, and needed to be remedied as soon as possible. She needed to let people back into her life.

"Well, come on,” he said, ushering her to his table. “Sit down. Stay awhile.”

She sat in the chair opposite him, taking care not to step on the dog’s tail. After he sat back down, he leaned down and scratched the golden-furred dog’s head, cooing at her lovingly and calling her “Chica-Beeka.”

Mark then turned back to Phoebe, asking, “So what’ve you been up to?”

There was a long, but companionable silence. Phoebe gathered her thoughts as Mark patiently waited, petting the happily panting dog.

“My boyfriend dumped me,” Phoebe finally admitted, picking apart her muffin.

“Yikes,” Mark replied, wincing sympathetically. “I’m sorry to hear that.” He stopped petting Chica, reaching over the table to grasp Phoebe’s hand consolingly. “I know this is probably the last thing in the world you need to hear, but he was kind of…” He hesitated, but ultimately forged on. “Well, he was kind of a douche. I hope you’re able to move on. You’re better off without someone like him. Honest.” There was a brief pause, before he added sheepishly, “That sounded way more sympathetic in my head.”

Phoebe found herself smiling a little at that. “You’re right, though.” Her smile quickly faded. “I’m a little peeved at myself, though, for letting it go on this long. And hurt. I kinda want to forget about it all.”

She took a sip of her latte, letting the warmth of the beverage —and the company she was keeping – envelop her. Briefly, she felt that old jealousy monster rear its ugly head, but immediately squashed it down. He was a genuine, sweet guy and was just trying to help.

Don’t make things weird, Feebs, she scolded herself.

“Well, Miss Peeved, you’ve come to the right guy.” He grinned, blissfully ignorant of her internal struggle. “How about you and I hang for awhile? We could head to the arcade – they’ve got a lot of fun games there. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like skeeball?”

“I don’t want to keep you from your work though.” She gestured to his laptop, before taking another sip of her drink. “You looked like you were in the middle of something.”

“Nah. It can wait,” he replied with a dismissive wave at the piece of technology. “Best thing about being your own boss? You get to make your own hours.” He folded up the laptop and slipped it into a messenger bag that had been waiting on the floor, propped up against the wall. “Besides, I can use a little down time, too. Amy’s always telling me I work too hard.”

He smiled, the expression a guileless invitation.

Phoebe’s attention was briefly arrested by the sound of the dark-haired girl on the phone, apparently bickering with her caller over some matter of import. The girl’s voice was too quiet to hear, only the tone registering. Dismissing the occurrence as mere background noise, Phoebe turned back to Mark.

“So, whaddaya say?” he asked. “Wanna have a little fun, after we’re done here?”

YOUR CHOICE:
Phoebe goes with Mark to the arcade. OR Phoebe declines his invitation and heads home.

TO VOTE:
Reply to this post with your choice. If you wish to remain anonymous, please send your choice as an ask to my inbox.

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Mostly, I write stuff. And, like the Egyptians and the Internet, I put cat pictures on my walls. Also, I can read your Tarot.