Original Writing — Excerpt #3: Skullhorn Coffee
I have friends who like to post writing prompts, and I occasionally humor them with my take on a scene.
Prompt: This picture by WolfSkullJack.
The trees were bright with changing leaves, the October air crisp and dry, whipping through sweaters and jackets as if they were no more than mesh. Down on Mainstreet, outside Skullhorn Coffee, people sat at tables and pulled their scarves more tightly around themselves. Inside, Pandora topped off Jackson’s cup and handed it back to him. “Here,” she said, shoving the cup at him.
He looked up from his book. “Are you mad at me, Dora?” he asked, his hollow black eyes narrowing in question and confusion.
“No. Not at all. I’ve just been serving customers all morning with no help because you scared off the new hire. Again.” She sniped, heading to the self-serve counter and re-arranging the milk carafes as she wiped down the counter.
“Are you being sarcastic? You know I can’t read sarcasm.” He said, cocking his head. As he did so, one of his horns tapped the wall loudly. “Oh, sorry,” he sat up straight and looked around. The few customers seated inside didn’t look up from their conversations.
“Yes. I’m being sarcastic. How do you expect me to run the shop by myself? I only have two arms.”
“I also only have two arms,” Jackson replied.
“And I’ve burned myself four times today on the espresso machine.”
“Well. I guess I could help with that. Temperature doesn’t bother me, you know.” he said, flexing his skeletal hand and grinning his boney, toothy smile.
“The morning rush is over. There’s no point in helping now, you’d just be in my way.” Pandora replied, tucking a stray red hair behind her ear. Jackson tracked her movement with disguised interest. He would never understand why she insisted on dying her hair break-light red. Her naturally mousy brown hair looked much better on her. He supposed she liked to look edgy, or something. He forgot what the kids were calling it these days. After 4,000 years he’d stopped trying to remember the latest hip verbiage.
“Jackson. Earth to Jackson?” Pandora was waving her hand in front of his face.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Sorry. What did you ask?”
“I asked if you could let go of my ankle so I can go help that customer.” She said, hands on her hips.
He looked down to find that his tail had unconsciously wrapped around her ankle. He unwound it slowly, listening to her breath catch as he did. “Sorry,” he said, but she had already whirled away and gone back behind the counter. He watched her for a few moments, appreciating her plump form as she leaned on the counter and took orders. She looked so at home there. She belonged here. With him. No. Not with him. He shook his head again. No one belonged with him. No matter that Pandora was the closest thing to family he’d had since… well since he became this. Six years of running Skullhorns and seeing her beautiful face every morning, and it might as well be a few seconds in the grand scheme of his life. But she didn’t deserve to be saddled with him. No one did.
He picked up his book again and began to read.
From behind the counter, Pandora looked up at Jackson, her skin still warm where his tail had caressed it, and a shiver passed through her. That devil was impossible. She frowned and fixed her hair again. It was probably best that he hadn’t heard more than half of her remarks. If he knew how distracting his presence was, things could become much more complicated than they already were.