Marge was walking; he loved walking with a warm mug of coffee in hand. The park was foggy, the air crisp and cold. As he inhaled, he couldn't help but imagine he was breathing in snow flakes or maybe ice water. There is nothing like fall. He sighed as his phone vibrated in his pocket sarcastically thinking to himself, nothing beats family. He used his free hand to check his phone. The message read:
"What are you bringing to the family reunion?"
He began typing tiredly. Ah, reunions, the only way to make fall feel just as cramped as the other seasons. Fall was now going to be the season of you're such a gorgeous young man. Where's your wife? Why don't you have a girlfriend?
The questions were so uninspired, so repetitive. Not only that, but it was demeaning. They acted as if he had no other reason to exist. If he flipped the question, they would call him rude. Well, what made it different when it was angled at him?
He pictured it in his head, her approaching him at the reunion "Why aren't you married, Marge?" you are so handsome. " She would give him that look as if she was basing his worth on his answer. And he would respond, "Why are you divorced, Aunt Mandy? Since you clearly know so much about marriage. " He smirked to himself, his grip on the coffee relaxing.
He deleted what he had typed, however, deciding to enjoy the rest of his walk in peace. He put his phone away, notifications on silent. He could make this an argument, or he could wait until he was more calm and have a conversation.
He looked at his coffee and sighed, trying to blink away his irritation. His family held reunions every year, but they were never in the fall. They called him about a week before it would happen, giving him basically no notice. Now Mandy was messaging him, saying he was supposed to bring something. He ran a gloved hand through his dark medium-length hair before sighing.
He sat down on the frosted grass, feeling it melt against his pant legs. There were benches, but he liked it better this way. He downed his black coffee, its harsh, bitter warmth fueling him. When he took the mug away from his face, the steam warmth was gone. His face immediately felt colder than before. It was like his face missed being immersed in the cup.
He resisted the temptation to take off a glove and plunge his hand into the frozen grass. It didn't really matter how cold he was physically; it would not make him any calmer. Instead, he picked up an icy maple leaf, which had now slightly melted in his gloved palm. He smiled slightly at the beauty of it before squeezing it. The leaf was compressed in his fist. He couldn't help but imagine himself as the leaf. It was a bit dramatic, but the reason he had moved away from his family was to feel less constricted.
He now knew he had no choice but to go to the reunion if he wanted to be able to continue living free of these people. He would have to get right in the middle of them during the holidays, and feel that burning sensation of a scream welling up in his guts. He was anxious as they cheerfully demoralized him and his values. In the same breath, someone would ask, "Oh Marge, darling, why haven't you visited us?"
Why didn't he visit. They only saw him every holiday, every reunion. He felt that was plenty of visits. There were a few ideas he had developed over the years of how he could run further away. He had already moved states. Faking his own death felt like a more reasonable plan every year. Then of course there was the fake marriage idea he had probably at three am last Thanksgiving. No one would agree to that. Plus he was pretty sure it was illegal.
He flopped onto the grass, now laying down with his knees in the air. The cars passing by the park were loud, but they sounded so distant. He didn't even care that someone might spot him lying there on the path. He let his arms fall to either side of him. One of his hands was still tightly gripping the mug handle.
He yelled out to no one in particular, "Would I still be expected at the reunion post mortem? Carrying potato salad in my casket!"
He felt energy rising in his chest and his cheeks reddened. A low, deranged sound tore from his throat and he rose, slightly astonished that it came from him. There was no one else around him. It was true. It was his sound. The energy came back, and he burst into hysterical laughter. It wasn't really even that funny to him, but he had pictured Mandy's pickled expression. The face she would always make when she felt outsmarted
He heard footsteps approaching, and for a small moment he thought about staying there, lying on the ground, looking half crazed. Maybe they would keep walking; he feared they would ask questions. He rose quickly, scurrying further down the path. He was now wet with melted frost, well, half wet and half dry his clothes dark with water hung close to the back half of his body. His hair was heavy with the cold liquid, on the verge of freezing, he thought, and his ears were pink. It was time to go home.
He looked back over his shoulder to see a tall man walking to the bench he had avoided sitting on. He seemed solemn and thoughtful—definitely the type to ask questions. Marge hurried off passing a few well wrapped people dressed in outfits more suited to winter than he thought necessary.
He practically ran out of the park, but his pace drew slower as he reach the exit. He certainly wasn't going to run across the street, it was really busy, he would find a crosswalk. After he crossed the street he looked up from the sidewalk to the stone grey buildings he moved past. The windows shone with that too clean feeling,the metal leering at him menacingly. A car drove by its headlights breaking the thin veil night left between streetlights. The city was more peaceful at night, but it was still loud.
The motor growled past angrily past and Marge gave it a sideways glance. He was glad it was fall and below freezing, otherwise it would have splashed him. There was no need to drive so close to the sidewalk. He took his key out of his pocket as he approached his apartment complex. The two shifty gentleman that were always sitting drapped over lawn chairs outside the apartment doors were there. He gave them a brief cursory glance before plunging key in lock, they had stopped bickering amongst themselves when he approached the door of his unit.
As the door swung open he heard them both rise from their seats and an electrifying chill climb his spine. He heard one of then grunt amusedly, "looks like you have expensive appliances in there, mind if we share.." His eyes widened as he swung the door open and stepped inside. He slammed the door scrambling to lock it as he heard them move to force it open. He slid down the door after locking it, his hazel eyes still wide with shock.
He whispered aloud, "I was almost robbed..." As if his fight or flight response was just now calm enough the realization had time to hit him. The men outside continued forcing at the door and Marge praised the fact his shitty apartment had no windows. After what felt like hours, probably fifteen minutes, had passed they left. Marge stayed sitting there in wet clothes clutching his mug for five minutes after, a lot had just happened.
Slowly he raised his weary body from the burgundy carpet and walked to the living room space of his apartment gently placing his cup on the counter. He then walked to his bathroom, to take a long hot shower. At the end of his shower he briskly towel ed off and put on a robe before walking to his room to change into a brown sweater, blue jogging pants, and purple toe socks.
Once firmly seated in warm clothes on his sofa he looked at the dirty cup on his counter a moment before rising from the couch. He brought the cup into his small kitchen, it was filled with beige and autumn tones. He quickly washed it and set about making a second coffee. So it's nearing eleven p.m. he thought to himself, I need this to calm my nerves. After stirring some liquid hazelnut creamer into the dark potion he smiled calmly inhaling the smell of it. It was as if the smell alone had a power to enhance his mood.
He went back to his living room and sat heavily on the sofa. Now was the time to answer the text. He had retrieved his phone already and was now blankly looking at the text. He would try to give a polite response.
"I didn't know I was supposed to be bringing anything. What do you think everyone would enjoy?"
He hoped that she was asleep; so her reply would come tomorrow while he was at work. He would be at liberty not to answer. However quite immediately he saw a text bubble, three dots swirling madly as she typed.
"Marge! Why on earth are you awake at this time! Of course you are supposed to bring something, that is the rule of reunions don't you know. I can't make up your mind for you! You are a grown man Marge, twenty-four years old . Think! Think! Just bring something!"
Marge sighed clenching a fist until his nails dug into his palm and his knuckles turned a pale peachy white. He was bringing his stress ball to the reunion most definitely. He had a feeling that wouldn't count. He had a few days, four exactly to get a ride to the reunion. He had sold his car a while ago in a money crisis, he doesn't know anyone in the city really. Well, besides his boss at the ' Medieval Morning Cafe ' but they weren't close enough for carpooling.
Oh no, speaking of work how was he supposed to tell his boss? This was practically no notice! He had work in the morning! Randall would be so upset, he had to tell the manager as soon as he checked in. He texted her back quickly too panicked to watch his tone.
"Mandy you texted me first and you are still awake answering me; don't tell me it's a surprise. Also, is this a newly released rule? Last year I hadn't heard of it. I was just asking if you knew what people liked, never mind Mandy, I will get eggnog on my way there. Next year tell me a month in advance or at least two weeks, I have a job. I have to give my manager notice before I take a three days trip to drive to another state stay a day and drive home and not show up for work. If I don't get fired when I tell him today I will be very lucky."
He slapped his phone down on the counter and shook his head leaning his back into the soft cushions. He couldn't tell her he had sold his car, that he was almost robbed. He couldn't trust that she wouldn't try to twist it into reasons he should be held captive in Arkansas where the rest of his family lives. She would definitley use it to lecture him as to why New York City was a bad place to live.
He heard the blip of the notification and looked down at the phone. "No Mandy. Shut up Mandy." He exasperatedly rubbed his face, it was as if she absolutely prided herself on how argumentative she was. He knew whatever she had sent him must be absolutely irrational, yet he still picked the phone back up. Why did he do it...
"Oh whatever I expected you to be responsibly snoozing! You are really going to act like you care about your job, up late at night? I think the notice I gave was what you deserved. Oh no it isn't new I just decided not to let you embarrass yourself this time. You should thank me really, in fact, you were named after me. You have a lot of things to thank me for darling. And you would know what everyone liked if you didn't move away, that is your fault."
Marge nodded running a hand through his hair again, this time pulling it slightly, okay. Okay then. He frowned, the names Mandy and Marge weren't even that similar. In fact the only thing they had in common were the letters 'M' and 'A'. That was like saying muffins were named after mud. It made absolutely no sense. He actually loved his job as well, she couldn't be more wrong.
"Thank you 🙏 aunt Mandy. Thank you for sharing this information so late I have to worry about it affecting my job; worry about being jobless. Thank you for leaving me to make travel arrangements last second, that makes me feel so considered. Thank you most of all for having me buy something I'm not even sure other people will like to share at the reunion, I am sure I won't ever be embarrassed again. And thank you for my name, I am sure since I was adopted, my original parents thought you were very remarkable. I bet you knew that, and knew them very well Auntie Mandy. It had nothing to do with my grandmother named Margaret I'm sure."
Was that text a bit harsh... Mmm.. Nah. She definitely deserved it. He might loose his dream job because of this! Medieval Morning Cafe was only the job find of a century. The theme of it was Alchemy, it was decorated in the most unique way to a coffee shop! There were fog machines! Expresso cauldrons! The mugs were pewter and the countertops were a finished mahogany, the place was lit with lanterns! (And strategically hidden yellow led lights but that is beside the point.) It was like walking into a novel, he felt more comfortable there than anywhere else. He had chosen his service name for his name tag, it was 'Muggins'. He adored being called Muggins more than his actual name!
Not to mention that she assumed his schedule was messed up. That was rude. He worked early mornings, to get ready and have some time to himself he got up when almost everyone was asleep, or going to sleep. Mandy would call him antisocial, and that would be the only time she wasn't wrong. He usually slept during the day, and that was how he liked it. He had a shift from twelve until six am, if he went to bed now he would literally sleep through his work day. What did Mandy know about that? Nothing as per usual.
He walked to the kitchen to prepare some sort of filler meal, preferably something hot and crunchy. He unceremoniously scoured his small kitchen, placed the hot plate on the island and plugged it into the built in surge bar. He grabbed a nonstick skillet, it was a little old and the nonstick was non-nonsticky now. He placed it on the hot plate and hovered over to his brown mini fridge, took out butter and cheese and moved back to the island. He placed the items beside the hot plate cutting off a chunk of butter before moving to a cabinet to grab light bread. He went back to his designated cooking area and sprinkled a fist full of shredded cheese onto the piece of bread before he slapped another bread piece on top setting it in the skillet. Grilled cheese, the 'this'll do' meal of the century.
He ate it with the 'it was this or ramen' vibes one would expect. He was just happy to eat it while the cheese was still stretchy and the crust was crunchy. His phone made another notification sound and he turned it off, shoving it back in his pocket. He would deal with her temper tantrum later. He had adult things to deal with right now, like not getting fired. He walked into his bedroom after rushedly cleaning up and opened his dresser.
He took out various folded items: a linen smock apron, a dark blue green tunic, brown jeggings, a dark brown cloak. He then took out knee high black leather boots. It was time to awaken Muggins. He took off his civilian clothes, besides those purple toe socks those stay, and began transformation, he pulled on his jeggings and then carefully made sure they didn't crinkle under his boots as he slid them on, then pulling on his tunic, he adjusted it before pulling on the smock and smoothing it over his thighs. Now was time for the spice, he walked over to his dresser and took the black and white corset off of it and he put it on. He tugged the strings just enough for it to take the baggage away from the tunic and smock, fitting them to his already decent almost hourglass figure, the way the cloth bagged gave him the perfect male hourglass making his upper chest seem wider. He then pulled on the cloak he rubbed a finger over the large neatly embroidered letters, 'Muggins'. He was now an alchemist, a damn good alchemist.
He took out his long spiraled cocktail stirring bartender spoon and strapped it to his thigh. He meant business; coffee business. He walked out of his house with unchecked confidence, the door locked behind him. In fact he had so much confidence he walked right by the men who tried to rob him not twenty minutes before. They looked at him as he walked out of his house and then looked at each other.
One mumbled to the other, "What in the hell happened to him?" The other also seemed confused. They approached him but he didn't even look at them. He was in main character mode, petty thieves didn't make his radar. The second theif spoke up saying, "Damn did he get taller?"