That was all eleven long weeks ago. I eventually found out that Rider’s sorta brother who owns the building Brew is in was the Alex I had given the coffee to that first day. But Alex wasn’t the guy I gave it to – that was Ryan – another sorta brother to Alex and Rider, but none of them were related. It really was all very confusing. Rider had a twin brother, Laker who was pretty much married to Matt. Who was a very odd person.
Not in the personality department but when I looked at him my entire body seemed to relax. The few times he’d touched my hand when he too his coffee it felt like the world washed away – all color, all sounds, there was nothing. It was odd.
They had a really big family. And they had invited me over for the last barbque of the year on Labor Day, but I was busy. Abby had already invited me to her not-famly barbque and I couldn’t say no to her.
We hadn’t been roommates for well on 2 months now, but we still saw each other everyday. I made her breakfast and she brought me pumpkin pie after her shift at the dinner. And every month she disappeared for three days and I had no idea where she went. Will said she was fine. Armande agreed with him. Everyone including my boss told me not to worry about Abby. But I worried.
I would always worry about my friends – specially those who I felt overly inclined to protect. Abby and Will always seemed to bring trouble to their door steps. I had lost track of the number of times that I’d stepped between someone shouting down at either of them.
Today was no different. I’d been walking back from my shift at Brew with a cup of coffee in my hand. I walked most days – it was good exercise and I always seemed to have an abundance of energy even after a long shift. Several block before I crossed into Harlem proper I heard shouting down an alley way. “You need to get out of here,” a voice growled deep in their throat. It was almost like they didn’t have human vocal cords.
I was about to walk past the mouth of the alley when I heard a familiar voice, “Dude, I live here, back the fuck off.” Will had found yet another reason for someone to try and bitch slap him back across some imaginary line drawn in the sand. It was fucking stupid.
I sighed and stepped into the alley way, “Why do you always have to pick on the little guys.” Will wasn’t little, he was an inch taller than I was, but he was toothpick thin. But still he was a lot stronger than he looked.
“Nox, just go. I got this.” He said. But the guy pinning him to the wall thumped him hard against the wall and there was a crack of bone. Will looked stunned.
“Just let him go. He’s just going home.” I said again.
This time the guys in the shadows took a few steps towards me. I rolled my eyes, “Really?”
It wasn’t a moment later before they both rushed me. There were three of them. And it wasn’t the first time I nailed the first one in the throat, ducked his punch, swept the legs out from the second guy and in my swinging momentum round house kicked the third in the head. I didn’t know where I learned to do it, and I didn’t question it at any time. I just reacted – it was muscle memory even if I didn’t remember it myself.
The guy pinning Will to the wall looked at me, “Who the fuck are you?”
Will chuckled, “He’s no one. Just get out of here before he hurts you.”
The man looked at Will then at me, then back at Will. He tossed the other man into a garbage pile like Will was a rag doll. He and his friends all ran off down the alley leaving me to help will out of the pile of black garbage bags.
“Thanks. But I had it. Now they’ll just come at me again.”
I shrugged, “Whatever line you are crossing is it worth it?”
Will nodded, “Yeah it is. Those guys are just ass hats. The shouldn’t even be this far across their own lines. They wouldn’t dare catch me in Harlem.”
“No, just the guys in Harlem harass Abby.”
Will sighed. “She won’t leave. Rider offered her a place to stay when the heat started picking up on us. But she won’t leave.” He growled, “Mostly because of you, honestly.”
“Me?” I asked as we rounded the corner of the alley we’d jsut left.
“Yeah, you. She doesn’t want to leave you there alone.”
“I’m pretty sure I can take care of myself.”
Will laughed, “I’m sure you can, man, but you know how women are. She thinks she’s being all motherly for you and you are the one who’s taken care of her.” He clapped me on the back, “Which I’m utterly grateful for by the way. The food is epic. You should find a place to cook at for real.”
I shrugged, “I just do it for me. I wouldn’t want that pressure.”
“Yeah all that pressure. I’ve never seen someone do what you do in the coffee line. There ain’t a regular who doesn’t know your name, and I don’t know how many people have come in just because you are making the coffee.”
I shrugged, “A talent I guess.”
“You got everything under control there. I’m surprised Alex hasn’t made you shift manager yet. Probably afraid Rider will take some of the business with him if he were to leave.”
He’d never fire his brother. I knew that much and I should have said as much but we were at the brownstone and I climbed down the stairs to my studio apartment, “Tell Abby I said hi.”
He grinned at me, “Sure thing.”