Lily parked behind the coffee house and took a deep breath through her nose. Her last non-coffee scented air for the next eight hours—until she could get home and wash it out of her hair later that night. But at least it would be a busy day. A day that could keep her mind off the night that she had, keep her mind off the dream and off “them”, The Man and Woman who occasionally seemed to have conversations inside her head. Even if this busy day was filled with the whiny teenage girls who worked there on the weeks, earning just enough to fund their spending habits, and doing as little work as they could in the meantime.
“Lily.” She was barely through the door when her boss grabbed her gently by the arm and tugged her to the side. “I need you to do back room work today.”
“Aw—Rachel, come on. It gets so dull back there.” Lily wasn’t above whining like the high school girls if she thought it might get her out of the worst work in the store.
“I know—I know. But the checker is probably coming tomorrow, and the place needs to be spotless and above and beyond coed. You’re the only one I can trust to go back there and actually do your job.”
“Remind me to be half-hearted and lazy from now on.” Lily griped, reaching for the cleaning apron off the hook.
“Ah, ah, Lily. We just know that wouldn’t be you. Not a lazy bone in your body.” Rachel grinned.
“You’ve clearly never spoken to my father.” Lily responded, but headed back to the back room regardless, and got to work.
Luckily, Lily had been the one roped into doing the cleaning for last quarter’s check as well, so the back room wasn’t anything as bad as it could have been. Unluckily, it was time consuming, but mind numbingly dull work that would take most of the shift without any mental stimulation. It was going to take such a long time.
This was normally the time when she’d listen into the voices, just to see if they had anything fun going on, something for her to focus on that would help pass the time.
Normally, she would have done it without hesitation. Anything would be better than sitting back here, scrubbing drains, plumbing fixtures, floors, and walls in silence. But should she today? After those dreams she’d had? Something about her helping them? Should she encourage it by listening again? Was it worth it?
Finally, Lily had a “screw it” moment. The scrubbing was so boring, and if she heard something that she didn’t like, she could always just blame it on cleaning fluid fumes. Those things could get pretty nasty, so she had a ready-made excuse right there.
She tuned into them—the man and the woman she’d heard since she was a child. It was kind of like adjusting a radio dial in her head. If she put it at one setting, it was soft and static-y, something she could listen to but not something she gave her full attention to.
At another setting, they came in loud and clear, high definition sound pumping right into her brain. And that was the setting she put it on now. Anything to drown out the boredom and silence.
She was worried that they were going to be talking about her again, but really, she needn’t have been. In the long run, they almost never talked about her, percentage through her life wise.
“Ah-ha!” That makes seven points for me!” I’m kicking your ass, little man!” The woman crowed. They were playing rocks, which was, as best as Lily could figure, some kind of dice game. They played it a lot to kill time.
“You know I only let you win because you get very pouty when you lose.” The man replied calmly. Lily knew that was true. She’d heard him make moves that were too stupid to ever make unless he was doing it intentionally, but subtle enough that she wouldn’t call him out on it directly, whenever he started to pull too far into the lead. Lily had also heard the hissy fits that the woman had thrown on the occasions where she had lost. She was a very competitive creature.
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever you want to tell yourself so you can sleep at night.” The woman rolled the dice again, “And another nine. Okay. Your turn. Unless you just want to go ahead and concede the game to me now.”
“No, no, I think I can hold out for another couple rounds.” Lily smiled to herself. It was great to listen to them play rocks. It was one of the best ways to pass time, even though she couldn’t actually play herself. She settled into her routine, cleaning away as they threw the dice again.