By Edele Winnie
McKay came back the very next day. Hester was going out for breakfast, which today meant black coffee. There was a young man seated on a bench across from her building. He was wearing shiny black pants, a black shirt and black boots. His hair was dyed black. She could not see how tall he was because he was sitting.
“I took your advice,” he said to her as she passed. “Got some new clothes.”
He stood up then, painfully short McKay, all blacked out. It caught Hester by surprise and she almost said something but bit her tongue instead. They walked together in silence. Entered the coffee shop one after the other, sat at the counter on stools side by side. He ordered what she was having. The barista asked if they wanted separate bills. She said yes. He said no.
She turned to him. “Okay, let’s get through this. This isn’t going to work, you know? I don’t need a boyfriend. And I don’t want you.”
He didn’t seem discouraged. “What about in the bushes? Did that mean nothing?”
“I was tricking you, trying to get you to leave me alone. If you’d paid attention I was actually shouting for you to leave me alone.”
He had a long slow sip of coffee. “I just want to be friends.” He said finally.
“Why? And don’t say it’s because I look like I need a friend. I don’t.”
“It’s because you’re lonely and weird and beautiful and you don’t fit in and you make your own path and I really respect that.” He had to stop to breath. “We’re so similar.”
She rubbed her eyes. “Look, McKay, I’m not into you. Not as a friend, not as an acquaintance, not as anything. Go blow. Leave me alone. Or I’ll punch you in the face.”
McKay considered this. He looked up at the coffee shop menu. “Do you want to get some eggs and toast?” he said.
He did not see the it coming. Her fist hit him squarely in the nose and he fell backwards off his stool and hit his head on the floor. Blood poured from his nose and the floor head smack knocked him cold. People gathered around.
“Just one bill after all.” Hester said. “He’ll be paying.” She pointed at the unconscious McKay and walked out.
It was later in the day when Hester saw the love vulture again. Hester worked as a secretary for a funky architect in the cool part of town. She hated him but she had to eat and pay her rent so until she found something else it had to do. She usually escaped on her lunch hour to nowhere in particular- library, cafe, ducks in a pond. She was walking listlessly between nowhere and a place unknown when a short black-haired punk dressed all in black jumped out of an alley and sucker punched her in the face. The blow split her lip and she felt it swell as she swallowed the blood.
McKay looked flushed. His short hair was untidy and his face was red.
“Yes!” he shouted, like he’d just scored a touchdown.
She booted him in the crotch but McKay just took a step back. Stupid cup.
“If you want to have a relationship like this, I can do it!” He howled. He looked like he was high on something. “You’re really sexy when your lips are swollen!”
Laughter burst out of her swollen mouth and she actually doubled over in its grip. He began to laugh too, confident that he was in on the joke. Still chuckling she kicked him behind the knee so that his legs buckled and he went down. She lifted her boot, intent on stepping on his face, crushing his nose, breaking his head- but she just couldn’t do it. He looked up at her with shining, love filled eyes. Puppy eyes. She put her foot back on the ground.
“I can tell you love me too.” He said. “You wanted to step on my face, but you didn’t. It’s okay, you can- I’ll step on your face too if you want.”
“I don’t want that.” She said.
“We can do whatever you want.” He continued. “I’m yours completely. I knew it from the moment I saw you. We are meant to be.”
Her legs gave out then too and she sat down on the pavement and started to cry. He reached for her but she pushed him away, landed a weak punch on his jaw. He hit her lightly on the shoulder. She lay back on the hard pavement and he did too. They both howled in agony at the clear blue sky. Pedestrians crossed the street to avoid them.
She couldn’t fight him anymore. It had exhausted her.
McKay sat up, face even redder, shrieking.
“I will slash my legs!” He shouted. He held a pathetically small pocket knife above his jeans. “I will slash them wide open!”
“Go for it.” She said. She pulled out her much more substantial switch blade and threw it at him. “This’ll do more damage. Go for it.”
McKay waved the knife in the air.
The police car arrived just then. Two officers, one male and one female slowly got out, guns drawn.
“Put down the knife.” The female officer ordered.
McKay continued to wave it.
“Put down the knife!” the male officer ordered. “This is your last warning.”
“Put it down McKay.” Hester pleaded.
McKay sat the knife on the pavement.
“What’s going on here?” the male officer asked.
“We’re bonding.” McKay answered. “We’re in love.”
“We’re going to handcuff you.” The female officer warned. “Don’t make any sudden moves.”
She was tall with a blond ponytail coming out the back of her police baseball cap. She advanced cautiously and put restraints on McKay’s offered wrists.
“Hester I won’t be gone long. Will you miss me?”
“We’ll be married.” Hester said. “We’ll move in together. I’ll cook for you.”
The police officers escorted McKay into the cruiser. The female cop stayed with him. The male officer returned and crouched beside Hester, who was still seated on the ground.
“What about you?’ he asked.
“What about me?” she echoed.
The policeman nodded. “Will you give a statement?’
She stood up angrily. “Everything sucks.”
The policeman cracked half a smile. And Hester walked away.
It was a gray rainy day and McKay was waiting at the prearranged coffee shop. He’d dyed his hair brown again. He was wearing jeans and a yellow T-shirt, sneakers. Only a bottle of water sat in front of him.
Finally the man arrived. He was middle aged and chubby, glasses, wore a suit. Likely on his lunch. A lawyer or an accountant, McKay thought.
The man sat beside McKay. Ordered coffee. Black. He pulled out an envelope and passed it over.
“Everything satisfactory?” McKay asked after confirming the cheque in the envelope was for the right amount.
The man nodded. “She’s quite her job and returned home. Had her hair done, back to its normal colour. No more black clothes. She’s going back to school to finish her degree. I don’t know how you did it, but she seems to be completely done with her alternative life phase. She’s normal again.”
McKay nodded. “I have my ways.” He said smugly.
“Well, a father appreciates the return of his daughter.” The older man smiled. “I’m glad to see her back on the right path in life.”
They shook hands and the happy father left. McKay sipped his water. His cell phone rang.
“This is McKay.” He answered. “Yes, I do interventions with young adults.” He smiled. “I have a three day program.”