A man and woman randomly strike up a conversation on a bus/train and then get coffee together as they were both heading there. Later the man finds out the woman is homeless and he tries to figure out how to help her.
Lillith was grateful to finally be sitting down for the day. She placed her backpack on the floor beside her, putting her leg through one of the arm straps so no one could steal it without her knowing. She’d learned that lesson the hard way. She’d lost an entire paycheck because she hadn’t been paying attention to her bag. Most of the items in it were replaceable but for her, money was not.
She was surprised when the man next to her asked about her day and she gave a polite smile. She could never be sure if whoever was talking to her was a drunk, a thief, or a genuine person. Based on how long she’d been taking the subway and living in the city it would have been thought that she would have better instincts than she did.
“That’s an understatement.” She gave a small laugh and watched him grab the rail. He didn’t seem too keen on the subway ride and she figured he probably didn’t have to ride it every day. You got used to the jerks and stops and occasional fire alarms.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Lillith. I’ll be your overly tired waitress for the journey?” She looked upward, trying to figure out if that made sense but then shrugged her shoulders and shook his hand. Normally she stayed far away from other people and tried to ignore men who talked to her, especially late at night but she was so exhausted that she her senses weren’t quite where they should be.
She released his hand and studied him for a moment. “So, what brings you on this lovely subway at this time of night?” The subway was anything but lovely. To her, it smelled half of human waste and half damp air. She’d once seen a drunk college kid pee in one of the corners and stumble out at the next stop like that was normal. If she could have found a different mode of transportation that was equally as affordable, she would have taken it in a heartbeat. Most people who rode the subway into the late hours were usually just odd.
“Hopefully you’re not heading out to some hip event because I think it’s going to rain.” Rain always put her in a tough situation. Most times she’d just mull around in the station until it died down, especially if she wasn’t in a hurry to get to work. Her boss was always annoyed when she walked in without an umbrella, soaked to the core. He’d even sent her home once, telling her she needed to come back looking presentable if she wanted to work her shift. Needless to say, she’d called one of the other waitresses, asking them to take her shift.
Atlas had finished reading the sign and had even gone over a few of the ones he had already read again before he tried to imagine what the ones he couldn’t read said. His gaze finally broke from the sign only to scan over the others that were on the wall above his head where he had been sat, those were not as exciting as the others, most too small for him to read from inside. He decided to ditch looking at the signs, the subway would start to move soon anyway so it was pointless to fixate too much on anything outside. He shifted in the seat and put his bag on his lap with his arms around it as he settled in for the trip, it wasn’t an overly long one, but it was longer than the fifteen-twenty minutes it took him when he drove.
Movement caught his eye and he turned to look at who was about to sit down by him and he was glad to see it was a young woman, and she seemed rather exhausted. He knew that feeling all too well- he sat up slightly in his seat and glanced around, there wasn’t much movement towards the end of the subway so Atlas placed his bag on the seat next to him, “Long day, huh?” Atlas said with a friendly smile as he watches her hair fall over her shoulders.
He was always the type of person who would strike up a conversation with anyone, he figured it was why he was able to work as a bartender for so long- or at least why he enjoys it so much. He gets to hear a lot of stories from the people who come to drink, sure sometimes it’s a drunken story of bullshit but there is always a truth to what they say- most the time.
The subway suddenly jerked and then it started to quickly gain speed as it started off down the tracks, Atlas grabbed onto the rail beside him until the ride smoothed out again and he laughed slightly, “Always hate that part…” he adjusted himself in his seat again and this time he leaned forward slightly and extended a hand out, “Atlas. I’ll be your entertainment for the ride.” he joked.
“Come on Palo, just one more roll?” Lillith pouted as she took off her apron, folded it haphazardly, and shoved it in her backpack. She was standing in the kitchen of a run-down 24-hour bar and grill called Chicken Nibble.
She stared at an overweight cook whose formerly white apron was now more grease than anything else. Her own black shirt and pants had little grease spots splattered on it from dropping a couple pieces of chicken but she hoped she could get it out with some soap and water later.
In her opinion, the food there was some of the worst she’d tasted and that was saying a lot. She wasn’t sure how they managed to stay in business beyond their regulars who couldn’t seem to get enough of their cheap five-dollar bucket and fries.
Palo groaned as he reached, bare-handed, into a warming tin that was filled with bread rolls and tossed one across the kitchen line. “No more. Go home and eat your own food.” The restaurant was empty but Palo was always protective of the food. Not that anyone would notice if a few pieces of chicken or even a plate of rolls went missing at any given time
She caught the roll and picked up her backpack as she shoved it in her mouth. “You’re a lifesaver Palo!” she yelled as she took a bite and ran out of the restaurant. She looked back through the window to catch a glimpse of the clock before running down the street. She had about ten minutes to catch the subway before she’d have to wait for the next one. She had picked up another shift in eight hours and couldn’t afford to miss this one. Honestly, she would have preferred to work a double than to have to waste money travelling on the subway just for a few hours of sleep.
The subway was only a couple blocks away and since it was so early there weren’t many people out walking around. That also meant no one to yell at her for running down the sidewalk. A year ago this run would have left her gasping for air once she reached the station, but now she was a pro. She’d shed at least fifteen pounds between her daily exercise getting to and from work as well as her meagre diet of bread and random cheap fruits she could find at the convenience store. She didn’t get paid well enough from Chicken Nibble, even picking up shifts, to afford an actual trip to the grocery store. Plus, the owners of the store had known her for so long that they frequently gave her discounts and sometimes even threw in a free bottle of water.
Running those couple of blocks was a breeze and soon she was at the entrance of the station. She closed her eyes for a moment, praying that there weren’t any creeps down there tonight. She had pepper spray tucked in her back pocket but it didn’t completely ease her worry, especially if she got stuck in a subway car with one. She’d only had to use it twice but that was two times too many in her mind.
After her quick pleading to whatever higher power might grant her request, she ran down the stairs. The smell didn’t bother her anymore. It was one of the first things she’d gotten used to when she started riding it. What stressed her out the most though was finding a seat, especially in the afternoon when it was crowded with people coming home from their 9-5 jobs. When she got to the platform the subway was already there and a fleeting sense of panic rushed through her chest and she ran closer. She was later that she thought. Maybe the clock at the restaurant was a bit off.
She rushed forward and heard the familiar sound of the doors preparing to close. She let out a squeak as she launched herself through the closing metal slabs. One of the ends of her backpack got stuck in the door and she spent a few seconds tugging it the rest of the way through. She looked around to make sure no one saw and to her relief everyone seemed preoccupied with their phones. She made her way over to the corner of the car where a man was sitting and took the seat a couple down from him. She reached up to take the out the clip that held her hair in a bun and let if fall down her neck and over her shoulders. She let out a sigh of relief. She would make it back to get a few hours of sleep and that was all she could ask for at this point.
Atlas sighed as he pulled his jacket up over his shoulders and walked out the back door of the bar and locked it. This was his last of five night shifts and he couldn’t [b wait] to get home and crawl into bed and sleep for his two days off. It wasn’t that bar tending was an overly hard job but, dealing with the idiot drunks was another story. It was almost once a week he would have to break up a bar fight, and most of the time the ended lasting the whole night; and always over something that isn’t even worth the breath fighting over. As he approached his car he noticed that the front left end was drooping and he quickly went around to the front side, “Asshole!” he yelled as he stared down at a slashed front tire. He gave the tire a hard boot before he turned and looked up the street, “Fuck…” he mumbled and then turned to face the car again. Another sigh escaped his lips as he walked up to the car and opened the door, tossing his bag over the seats and into the back before he dropped himself into the seat.
It was at least fifteen minutes before he finally made any decisions on what to do next, and he had decided he was going to have to take the subway home; it had been years since he was on one, [i maybe it’ll be fun] he tried to convince himself. He reached back into the back seat and grabbed his backpack and then got to his feet, slamming his door shut he locked them and then started off down the road towards the subway stations. He looked over his shoulder at the car one last time before he rounded a corner, he still was trying to figure out who would do this- sure he pissed off a lot of people by breaking up their fights, or denying them more drinks but it was never [i this] bad, or at least not the regulars..
Once he arrived at the station he slowly made his way down the steps, the unforgettable smell of the subway hitting his nose and already he was mocking himself, [i sure, lots of fun. Should do this everyday!] Atlas made his way through the station and got himself a ticket at the teller before making his way to a seat and sitting as he waited for the subway to show, thankfully he had come at a great time and the next one was due in three minutes. He got his cell phone out of his backpack and opened his messages and opened a conversation that hadn’t had anything new now for three years. Quickly he turned the phone screen off and shoved it back into his pocket, this was hardly the place to be looking at that so he found something else to look at and occupy himself for the next few minutes so he settled on a half destroyed sign across the way from where he was sitting. He didn’t have to read much before he could hear the subway hissing to a stop so he abandoned reading about the perks of quitting smoking and headed towards the subway, hoping he could get on quick so he could get a seat his stop was a two hour trip with a half hour waiting at a station- he groaned at the thought.
[i Thank Jesus!] he thought as he sat down in a corner where there were three other seats empty next to him, there didn’t seem to be too much of a crowd on the subway this early in the morning and Atlas couldn’t be more thankful. As he settled into the seat his hand made its way back to his cell phone but this time he only checked the time and then clicked the screen off; he didn’t even know why he still had the thing, no one called, no one texted him anymore, it’s just an overpriced paper weight now. He shifted his weight in the chair and looked out the large window where his eyes met with the sign he was reading as he sat on the chair [i why not] he thought as he started to read the rest of the text that he missed.
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