Alchemist: A Guest (Part 2)

A scraggly black man with a general weary look sits across from her at the kitchen table.

She offered him coffee, or at least she waved the pot at him and he waved his mug back at her, never giving up his stream of talk. She wasn’t certain if that was what you did with a captor. Did you offer them a hot drink? It seemed polite, but he wasn’t particularly threatening, more pissed off.

It was as if he knew her, like she’d done something like this before.

He gulped the coffee like he hadn’t been fed in long while and kept calling her Kathleen, to which she found herself tilting her head like she was questioning it.

This felt different to the unexpected arrival of the card. It was still lying by the mat at the door. He had stepped over it, briskly. Did he have an air of high ranking military? But he slouched, was dirty, his boots were poorly laced. He gave the sense of having had to march, without breakfast.

Perhaps she should offer him a meal as well? She realises he’s staring at her in silence.

“Where are you Kathleen? You haven’t said a word since I got here.”

She tilts her head in reply, he pushes his chair back and stands in one swift movement; exasperated. It’s that feeling again, like he’s dealing with a difficult child. A consistent runaway, who’s forever causing him problems. Who won’t listen, who goes against orders.

Who consistently tilts her head rather than replying.

“Did you not think we’d get word? A woman hiding in the valley, her face half-burned, wandering round covering her face when she decides to speak to delivery boys. Only choosing to talk to fourteen-year-old boys strikes people as odd. Disturbing. You may not have any electric in your home, but everyone round here does.”

The woman watches him silent still. She doesn’t know his name, he walked in like she should know him, he talks to her like she should know him. He acts like he followed her, but he doesn’t seem dangerous.

He isn’t a threat.

She sips her coffee, he’s bothered by this she can tell. Her silent evaluation of him. It’s pissing him off more than whatever it is she did originally. Did she run from him? That doesn’t sit right. Was he by her at The Plaza?

He’s not who she’d been expecting. It occurs to her that she doesn’t know who she’d been expecting. That she was acting on something else, some memory like a groove in a record player, she was waiting for the needle to hit it right, for it all to sync up, to harmonize.

It hadn’t. He was still exasperated in her kitchen.

Was his name Henry? Harold? Albert? Bert? Cane?

“Kane, you look starved, I have some bread, some cheese?”

He looks back at her hungry but angry.

“Kane?”

He’s not Kane then.

He stands to attention. “I didn’t know we were reverting to last names, ma’am. “

Is that why Kathleen didn’t sit right? It wasn’t her name anyway, she had always been Kat, but he had been Harashan. He was Hara, it was sort of awkwardly falling into place like half-folded origami.

She pulled the bread and cheese from the cupboards and hoped sandwiches might make things better, bring things to light.

“Did you send me the card?”

“What card?” His face crumpled, he was no longer angry, but concerned.

She busies herself with sawing at the bread. He pulls at her shoulder, “Kat, what card?”

She finds herself with the knife at his throat, a drop of blood at the blade. He puts his hands up, and backs away finally realising he hadn’t walked into a familiar setting.

“You know me Kat.”

She continues sawing at the bread, the glance of blood now threaded through its veins.

“I’m not sure what I know.”

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