“red cigarette” story excerpt

Staying awake was hard. So was falling asleep. Red’s body didn’t know what it wanted—to be conscious or to let her fade away into dreamy unconsciousness. Sitting on the bottom step of her building’s staircase, the smoke from Red’s cigarette made her eyes sting as his voice floated in the back of her mind. It bumped against her cerebellum like an intrusive gnat.
“Don’t go running off to tell your friends about this, either.”
Red made an angry noise in the back of her throat, blowing trails of smoke out of her nostrils with more force than was necessary. Standing up suddenly, she stomped the still-smoldering cigarette underneath her bare foot and took off down the street, away from her apartment building. Her mind too preoccupied to go and get shoes, Red instinctively headed towards Harry’s. A flashy silver car honked at her, teasing, as she rounded the corner but she barely flinched.
Inside Havana Harry’s the regulars barely grunted a greeting, eyes kept low over steaming mugs, but a few bold tourists stared openly at her. Red allowed herself a brief moment of embarrassment—she was wearing an oversize tie-dye shirt and no pants, feet bare and ashy. She had only planned on stepping outside her building for a quick smoke, after all. She didn’t make it a habit to walk around in the semi-nude.
If only that damn voice would shut up. Red wished for early onset Alzheimer’s, anything to scrub out the memory of her friend’s familiar blond locks in between her fingers.
“Oh, it’s you. Tea will be out in a min’.”
Monty, the owner, surprisingly not named Harry, was waving her along. He barely glanced at her get-up and Red laughed under her breath, mentally giving herself a little shake.
“Good man.”
Red strode over to her usual seat, or couch rather, in the corner of the cafe furthest from the door. A rickety table stood in front of the dilapidated purple sofa, much too high for how low the typical patron sank into the couch cushions. It was unbelievably comfy, however.
Two minutes later, a cheery yellow mug full of earl grey was sitting in front of her.
Tendrils of steam rose from the brew, whispering his name. Red scowled.
Even here, in her safe haven, he’d managed to find her. She threw back the scalding tea before the silky voice from the night before could come back, echoing up from the fragrant vapors.
Throat burning, she realized in that moment that she was honestly and truly screwed.




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