Anduin scooped up his tea and sat by the microwave in the break room. Five, four, three. He watched the seconds tick away, anticipating the ding and popping the door open just before the chime. No one was there to be annoyed--or marvel at his impeccable timing--but little games kept him amused throughout the day. His cup of eggs still needed another go and after a quick stir he placed in back inside.
The store felt particularly empty in the morning. It was often empty. But something about the morning deepened that emptiness. He didn't mind it. In fact, he found it quite cozy, as if the world was still waking up and Anduin happened to find himself slightly ahead of everyone else. People were still at home, showering, preparing their breakfast, wrangling their children. And here he was, already dressed and at work, his cup of eggs t-minus five seconds from being ready.
Pulling his sweater tight around his shoulders, Anduin settled into his seat, popped the microwave door open, and dug in right there on the counter. It was a lovely start to the day. Why ruin that by walking.
Taylor hit the door to her studio full-on. So hard that it left a greasy mark where her forehead had hit. She'd placed the key in the slot, but failed to turn it. She was in a rush. Classes had started two hours ago, and while Gwen had told her not to worry, that she would cover her spot, she felt she needed to be there. It was her name on the website, her name on the contracts, her name on the social media posts, newsletter, fitness programs, and the one that everyone mentioned whenever they pitched the studio to anyone.
Showing up late made her feel ashamed. Passing by the main studio, she rubbed her face, unconsciously trying to hide from any stray glances that happened to wander to the doorway in between squats.
"Mrs. Hiddleston, hi. How are you?
Mrs. Hiddleston was a seventy-five year old widow with more free time than she knew what to do with, and enough indispensable income to try and figure it out. She also had no friends. Or, at least, it didn't appear that way.
"Wonderful! Simply wonderful. We missed you this morning at spin."
"I know, I'm sorry for missing it. I had an issue at home."
Mrs. Hiddleston made a face partway between deep concern and morbid fascination. All women had a nose for drama, but old ladies seemed to sniff it out everywhere, even when there was none.
"Hopefully nothing too serious."
"Oh no, it was a... well, it's silly really. A bird got into the house somehow."
"A bird?" Her disappointment was hidden, poorly, behind a thin veil of shock.
"It was the strangest thing. It just sort of, appeared."
"Check your roof." The opportunity for gossip gone, Mrs. Hiddleston had entered her second phase: know it all. "When Henry was alive, that's what he would always say. If something goes wrong, check the roof. Leaks, animals, smells. Do you have an attic?"
"No. Well, yes, but..." Taylor looked around the lobby, hoping to find someone to latch onto to free her from crashing into this iceberg. But to her horror, no one was around. "It's more of a crawl space."
Mrs. Hiddleston nodded her head knowingly. "There you go."
"There I go?"
"Who knows what could be living up there. A missing shingle and you could have a family of mice cozying up against a family of squirrels. Throw in a few birds and you've got a whole menagerie up there. They could be playing poker with your Christmas cards for all you know."
Taylor forced out the best laugh she could manage. She thought it made her sound like a horse. Whatever. So long as she could decouple herself from this. "Well, it was wonderful talking to you, Mrs. Hiddleston. Sorry I missed the class. Hope everything went well."
"Oh, no worries dear. Gwen came in. She's do darling."
"She's very good."
"Good to hear. I'll see you later. Bye."
Walk, don't run. Twelve classes a week for the past two years. Weekly newsletters for the past 4 and a 1/2. Countless coaching calls and blog posts, and hallways conversations around muscle and body control yet here, in the hallway of her studio, she could barely put one foot in front of the other in any kind of normal facsimile of a human gait. Just get to the office and everything will be alright. Fishing around in her pocket, Taylor produced the keys but not before getting them stuck on her hoodie and dropping them. Bending over, she chanced a glance back at Mrs. Hiddleston. She was still standing in the hall, half watching Taylor, half stretching, and half scouring the building for her next prey. The woman had a lot of halves.
The keys hit the lock like bomb but refused to work. Damn things, Taylor said under her breath. Focusing, she placed the key in the hole and turned. Just breath and push, everything will be better after that.
God dammit. "Yes Mrs. Hiddleston."
"What kind of bird was it?'
The plush green dinosaur stomped down a mountain of sheets. First it came down in the middle of a triangle, flattening it. Then it smashed a square and a rombus.
"Feeling better kiddo?"
Jack continued the dinosaur's destructive path across his bedsheets.
"Hey, little man, I said how you feeling?"
Jack's little head turned on his little neck. But the look he gave his mom didn;'t belong a