One of the stalls? One of the stalls?! The words kept running through Kate's head.
I suspect this is actually a tremendous compliment on his part, Shereen's voice butted in eventually, apparently tiring of listening to his last words on loop.
You don't suspect anything, you're simply an aspect of my consciousness which has, rather annoyingly I might point out, decided to take on the persona of Shereen.
No, no, think about it, said the voice, dryly. He could have just sat you on the sinks, or propped you up next to urinals... a private stall, it's really quite romantic, perhaps there'll be candles on the cistern…
It's not funny…
…you can help him adjust his ball-cock…
…oh my God…
…but why the men's room? The women's one is guaranteed to be empty in this place… oh! Perhaps it's like his private domain; maybe he's Atlanta's very own Fonz!
Sit on it!
A phrase that has taken on new and disturbing connotations in this context, so be quiet. Okay, okay, think Kate, think! There are two options; leave now...or stay.
If you stay, he'll expect you to…
I KNOW! But I'm not going to screw some stranger in the toilets.
So leave. And I would suggest you do so soon, or he'll be back and then you're fucked; definitely figuratively, and possibly literally.
I don't know, he's been quite fun and interesting. Running out on the guy, it seems so…so rude.
Rude?! He hasn't bought you dinner in a nice restaurant…or even a drink in this sleazy bar, now I come to think about it, and he's still expecting you to help him prop up the wall!
Yes, yes, I know all that, but he wasn't… nasty about it. I could just explain…
Oh yes, said the voice of Shereen sarcastically, clearly a man to be reasoned with! Need I remind you he's just gone in there to either buy or sell drugs? What if he's not just a dealer? So he's nice now, but what if he takes something in there and comes out tripping balls? Think he'll take rejection calmly? Maybe pay for your beer, call you a cab?
Hmm…it's true, that is a consideration.
A consi… I give up! Kate had the distinct impression that Shereen's 'voice of reason' had left the building.
Logically, the sensible thing to do was to leave. It would avoid awkward explanations and allow her to exit the scene with some dignity. It would also possibly avoid her being beaten to death by a large biker… No, stop. That's not fair. Sure, he looks tough, and in a fight he would undoubtedly kick ass and take names, but once we started talking I didn't feel threatened for a second. But the drugs…that might make for a different story. If he was buying them, if he took them, people do crazy stuff when they're high…
Mulling the situation over as she downed the last of her beer, she was regretfully making up her mind to leave when the door to the bar opened again and a small, person shaped tornado raced up to her.
"Quick, drink up! We've got to go, the bus is here!"
Shereen was very petite, but contained the nervous energy of a much larger person. She was slightly out of breath, and there was a sheen of sweat on her brown skin.
"Yeah, the driver's being a total git. He told me he'd only wait ten minutes for us, and when I pointed out he was twenty minutes early, he said 'I don't give a shit, lady!"
"Really? That is one surly bus driver…did he sound like he was from New York?"
"Yes, and no, and now…" she looked at her watch, "it's taken me at least 3 minutes to get here, so pay up quick and we can walk back slowly. It's too bloody hot out there."
"Okay, I just need a minute…" She whipped out her purse and strode over to the bar. Cheryl was staring in resentful astonishment at Shereen, and Kate wondered if she could dislike this woman more. You, madam, are a bitch, and I'm glad you're a dried up minimum wage skank…
She put a cheery smile on her face. "Hi, Cheryl isn't it? Here's what I owe you… by the way, do you have a serviette please?"
"Wha'?" asked a surprised Cheryl, looked confused.
"Ask for a napkin," said Shereen from behind her, "and why do you want one?"
"Do you have a napkin?" Kate asked again slowly, starting to lose hope at Cheryl's expression. However, although she did so with ill-concealed distain, Cheryl did reach below the bar and take out a yellowing paper napkin. Obviously Dusty's clientele rarely felt the need to clean up anything spilt here; Kate suspected what was usually spilled here was blood, in which case they probably had bigger concerns.
"Many thanks. Now, Shereen, lend us a pen please."
"What? Why?!" Said Shereen confused, but reaching into her bag all the same. "What are you doing?"
"I need to leave a message to someone I met," responded Kate, ignoring Shereen's disapproving yet unsurprised grunt and scribbling quickly on the napkin, "I just need two minutes. How long before we have to leave?"
"Shit. Alright…," she wrote for a little longer, with Shereen almost hopping with nerves beside her, before stopping and folding the napkin up. "That will have to do, I suppose," she said as she shoved the napkin under Merle's half empty beer. Then, moving so Cheryl wouldn't be able to see from her position at the bar, she took out the last of her dollars from her purse and shoved them under the napkin.
"Come on, come on, what are you doing…?!" whined Shereen.
"Okay, let's go."
"God, we'll have to walk fast now, you're such a bitch to me…" moaned Shereen as they moved quickly towards the door.
"Oh come on, you know you love it when I make your life more exciting," grinned Kate as they stepped out into the burning heat of the afternoon, "and I'm going to make it up to you when I tell you what happened this afternoon…"
Barely a minute later, Merle came back into the bar. He looked around and couldn't see Katie.
Fuckfuckfuck…wait, maybe she'd gone to the restroom. He turned to Cheryl; "Hey, where'd she go?"
Please Jesus, let tha answer be restroom…
Cheryl had a smug look in her eye and a prim look to her mouth like she was trying not to laugh. "Ya missed her. She jus' left, mebbe a minute ago. All but ran out of here."
Tha' fuck? Goddammit! Fuck! FUCK!
Merle slumped down in his seat despondently, before viciously kicking over the chair she'd been sitting in.
"Hey," yelped Cheryl, "don't ya dare mess up tha place!"
"Fuck you," Merle responded, and though Cheryl said nothing he knew he'd burned that bridge. He couldn't say he cared much. Bitch.
Ran out? He'd been gone mebbe 10 minutes, wha' tha hell could'a happened? Shit, he couldn't a' scared her off, could he? Naw, she was up fer it… or made out she was. Fuckin' cocktease.
He reached for his beer, and knocked the last half back in one go, knowing it wouldn't be enough to… he stopped mid thought as he noticed that there was a fuckin' napkin tucked under his beer, which had now unfolded on the table. He didn't think Cheryl would have put it there; Dusty's didn't have a lot a time for niceties. He looked closer; it appeared to have writing on. He put the bottle aside and pulled the napkin towards him; as he did so, something shifted under it. He lifted it slightly to reveal…huh?
Merle was completely confused but, being Merle, the first thing he did was quickly take the money, count it and put it in his wallet.
Forty bucks, not bad.
Then he picked up the napkin; it had been folded in four, and there was a large letter M on one of the outside squares. Guess i's fer me. He opened it and read the contents.
Merle, I'm so sorry, I have to go. My friend came because the bus arrived. To make up for running away I've left the last of my money so you can buy yourself some beer to compensate. It was lovely meeting you, good luck and good hunting.
Kate, a.k.a. 'Sugatits'
Well, fuck me…
Merle reread it, but it didn't help. His feelings were still conflicted, which made him distinctly uncomfortable; he liked it better when he was either happy, which normally meant he was drunk or high, or pissed. That was when people got outta his way or hurt. But this whole fuckin' thing just confused him. Firstly, he couldn't believe that the dumb bitch had given him the last of her money, like he was a fuckin' charity case. Why would anyone jus' give away money fer nothin'? Plus she'd run off and not fucked him. That counted towards pissed, and he understood pissed. It was familiar. But then…
…she hadn't just run off. She'd written him a note; and if he was a pussy like the guys she probably fucked around with back home, he might have thought it was… well, sorta nice. She'd all but said she liked him, and given him enough credit to assume he could read, and even handle three syllable words. She'd given him money…she hadn't loaned it, she hadn't owed it to him… she'd just fuckin' given it, and told him to spend it on alcohol. Alcohol! And wha' wit' givin' him forty bucks ta do it, tha' was all but orderin' him ta get shit faced drunk! It jus' didn't make any fuckin' sense.
There was a catch, had ta be. He jus' needed ta work out wha' tha fuck it was.
He reread the note a third time, and a phrase caught his eye before he shoved it into his pocket and stood up to leave...
My friend came because the bus arrived.
He smirked. Tha's a pretty fuckin' impressive bus. Still, a' least someone got ta come today.
They were sitting next to each other on the bus, and Shereen had a slightly knowing smile on her face. "So, tell me about this man then."
"I never said…!"
"It's always a man," Shereen interrupted. "So what was this one's particular brand of crazy?"
Kate maintained a creditably straight face. "Oh, he was perfectly normal…although… before you arrived he was going to take me for sex in the toilets."
"What?!" Shereen bolted upright, staring at Kate.
"Yes, I must admit I'm not sure what happened there; I did rather lose control of the situation at that point."
"You told him no though, right? Kate? Kate?!"
"Oh my god…"
"I did think it! I was just too shocked to say anything. But apart from that, he was very interesting. With more time I feel sure there was a fascinating discussion to be had on the correct preparation of squirrel meat for the modern consumer."
"Another crazy," muttered Shereen. "Hmm. Well, at least tell me he was stunningly good looking. And don't think I didn't see you leaving that money"
"I'd only have to change it when we got home, and it's just bother. Plus you never get as good a rate."
"Uh-huh. So, the man with your money now burning a hole in his pocket… extremely hot or not?"
Shereen gave an exaggerated sigh. "Another dog then…"
"No! I mean, he wasn't handsome…but he was, well…"
"Hung like a donkey?"
"Shereen! You realise that everyone on the bus is listening to this conversation now?"
"It's more likely they were listening from 'sex in the toilets', but I don't care. Continue."
"I suppose," Kate fumbled for a way to describe Merle, "he wasn't conventionally attractive. I would say he was…hmm… strangely compelling..."
"Dog," interrupted Shereen in an uncompromising a voice, and having lost interest she went to sleep.
When Kate was sure Shereen was asleep, she muttered to herself with a small smirk, "… though since you ask, from what I could see I'm pretty sure he was hung like a donkey..."
As Merle drove back home, forty bucks worth of beer cans stacked in the passenger seat next to him, he realised what the catch was. The half full bottle of Jack Daniels in his lap had helped, as he knew it would.
"I know wha' cher up ta!" He slurred cheerfully, wagging a finger in up towards tha sky. "Tha tits, tha legs, tha free booze. Ya tryin' ta punish ol' Merle, aren't ya, JC? Yeah! Ya think I'm a bad man, don't cha, ya hippy dipshit? Ya think yer showin' me what I can't have...like' i's what I want or somthin'…somthin' nice like that."
He paused, suddenly worried that he hadn't identified the catch, and that maybe he wasn't making much sense. But he was in a fight, and Dixon's didn't back down from a fight, not wit' anyone. "Yeah. Tha's it. But ya know what, JC, ya fuck? I would'a still liked her even if she wer'a whore." He reached down and took another long swig; the police had bigger things to worry about now than DUIs. He frowned slightly, and continued talking to himself.
"In fact, I would'a liked her better. Least then I could'a just paid her an' got laid…"
And so, my wonderful reviewers and followers, this is where we leave our characters and return to the zombie apocalypse in the next chapter. Many thanks for your lovely reviews – I hope you continue to enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoy writing it.
Also, I'm just going to be cheeky and pimp my other Walking Dead Story, 'Shame.' It started out as a one-shot and is very different to this in tone, but you never know, you might like it.