“Go back to sleep,” said Max.
“What he said. I’m sure your boss will understand if you ask for the day off.”
“And you’re barefoot.”
“Yeah, that too.”
I shook my head. “I’ve got a spare pair of shoes in my locker at work. I can wear those. And I’d feel more comfortable if I didn’t take any time off. I feel like I’d go crazy if I stayed here all day. N-not that this place isn’t nice or anything. I just wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”
Jeremy tilted his head to the side. “I guess it’s important to establish routine as quickly as possible to get over a trauma.” He looked over to Max and squinted.
No words were exchanged, but it was like they were having a silent conversation through eye contact alone. I didn’t believe in telekinesis, but it sure looked like information was passing between them.
Max eventually sighed and said, “Fine. At least let us drop you off at work.”
I nodded in agreement. I didn’t much feel like walking twenty blocks barefoot to get to work. The thought of traversing the diner’s sticky tile floors made me want to cringe.
Jeremy patted the empty chair next to him. “Grab a seat, get something to eat!”
I laughed. “Did you rhyme that intentionally?”
He beamed with pride. “I’m a poet, and you don’t even know it.”
Max snorted. “He says it every morning.”
Jeremy flipped him the bird. “Party pooper.”
Breakfast was to die for. The bacon was perfectly salty, the eggs were still wonderfully runny, and the bread was toasted light enough that it was still soft to bite into, but hot enough to allow the butter to melt into the cracks for the bread. Max joined us at the table, setting down a normal-sized cup of coffee for me. I couldn’t remember the last time I actually sat down and had breakfast. I was normally in such a rush to get to work that I usually skipped the meal and waited until my lunch break to eat something small. Cookie always tried to sneak me mistake orders. We’d sometimes split them in the breakroom while nobody was looking.
“This is delicious,” I said, finishing off the bacon. “You’re a really good cook, Max.”
Max’s expression softened slightly. It wasn’t quite a smile, but I could tell he was pleased. “Thank you.”
“He wanted to impress you,” teased Jeremy. “He’d never make breakfast for just me.”
“You’re a grown ass man,” was the stark rebuttal.
“Take care of your own damn self.”
Jeremy wagged his eyebrows at me. “See? I think he likes you.”
The glare that Max shot his roommate was sharper than a bullet piercing through paper. “Shut up,” he grumbled.
I giggled. “Oh, stop picking on him. I think you’re going to make him blush.”
Jeremy chuckled. “Really? Hold on, let me pull up my camera.” He immediately started flicking through his phone to find the right app.
Max rolled his eyes, but he didn’t seem unhappy. “Put your phone away now or I’ll shove it where the sun don’t shine.”
“You want to fight, big guy? I’ve had my coffee, so I’m ready to go.”
“Mark your words.”
Jeremy hid behind my shoulder. “Protect me, Alice. See what I have to deal with every day?”
“You can always move out,” Max said flatly.
“Yeah, but then you’d be lonely.” Jeremy whispered in my ear. “He’s like a big puppy. Leave him alone for too long and he’ll just make a mess.”
Max started to chuckle a bit, the corner of his lip curling up into a small grin. “I’m going to deck you.”
I laughed as I listened to them squabble like an old married couple. It was easy to be here with them, my worries temporarily forgotten.
As promised, Max and Jeremy dropped me off at work. It was an understatement to say that Cookie and Wilma reacted dramatically at my arrival. As I rushed to my work locker to pull out my shoes, which were a bit grimy from having stepped in a grease puddle the other day, Cookie continued to swoon.
“Hot damn, girl,” he chattered. “Look at you, arriving in style. Who were those yummy snacks?”
“Were those the same guys from the other night?” inquired Wilma, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “How on Earth did you manage to score a ride with them?”
I put my shoes on and tied my laces. I didn’t have any socks with me, so the hard soles beneath my feet were a little uncomfortable. “My apartment burned down,” I explained solemnly. “They were the firefighters who rescued me. I’m currently staying in their spare bedroom until I–”
Cookie grabbed me and shook me by the shoulders. “Excuse me. Did I hear that correct, little miss? I have so many questions. Are you alright? Is there anything I can do to help? Which of those boy toys do you like better? Because I’ll do you a favor and go after the other one.”