All Calix wanted was something to eat.
Make no mistake. She wasn’t a foodie. Cookery shows weren’t her thing. She just needed fuel, something to get her through the rest of the afternoon.
Calix’s stomach was grumbling at her like a bastard. All she needed was silence while she filled it. She had an important interview at three. Frigging gargantuan carrot! What the hell was she supposed to ask the farmer about that? It wasn’t exactly the world’s most scintillating topic. And while there was no plan for the conversation, she didn’t want to appear an ignorant fool because she didn’t know if a carrot was a fruit or vegetable. Screw that!
Calix strode into the small, cosy café, took the first bunch of stuff that came to hand, then chucked some money down on the counter. “Keep the change,” she muttered in the waiter’s general direction, and moved on. She made her way to an empty table in the far corner, where it was sure to be quiet. No one could disturb her work there. And if they did, she’d put a fist through their gormless smile. Hey, that was just how she rolled.
She opened her shabby, second-hand laptop, and started to google. It was quite a sight, Calix throwing bits of muffin, pickle and beef jerky into her mouth. She really didn’t care what it was as long as her stomach shut up at some point. This carrot farmer interview thing was playing on her mind, so she had to get on top of it right away.
Calix was washing down a salmon sandwich swilled with lukewarm cappuccino when somebody guffawed loudly. It sounded like it was coming from just behind her. Irritated, she hunched over the keyboard a little more, as though this would block out that unwelcome noise completely.
“Fuck. That’s put me off me lunch.”
More guffawing. And it wasn’t stopping this time. At least not immediately. Calix sat there, her body tense, her hands now slamming down on the keyboard with naked aggression. Fuck these fools! Couldn’t she have some peace?
“Hey, you!” she said as politely as humanly possible. “Shut up, huh? I’m trying to work here.”
“I’m surprised that shitbox of yours works at all, luv.”
“At least it doesn’t have shit for brains,” growled Calix. “Moron.”
She still hadn’t turned around, and she wasn’t going to. These turd heads were beneath her, so why would she so much as look at them? She didn’t need to fill her head with their idiot faces.
There was a noise, a scraping noise. Perhaps a chair being pushed across the vinyl floor. Then someone’s shadow was suddenly hanging over her. “Too cocky by half, aren’cha luv?”
Calix snorted derisively. “Make like a tree, jack.”
A hand fell heavily onto her shoulder—and this was when Calix saw red. Her reflexes were quicker than her mind. There was a satisfying crunch followed by a loud, pitiful howl. It almost sounded like a dog had been kicked, only it wasn’t that.
“You broke my finger, you bitch!”
Calix—still refusing to look in the bully’s direction—flexed her hand. “Aw, don’t cry to me, baby,” she smirked. “It’s only dislocated. Now, if you don’t want to end up another Simpson, then get out.”
“A… another Simpson?”
“Four fingers or five? Your choice.”
She heard more scrapings followed by hurried footsteps. It seemed everyone in the bully’s group was making their exit.
“And we won’t mention the colour,” she called out after them. “You’re already yellow enough!”
The other patrons looked on, as did the wait staff. All seemed a little shell shocked, but Calix didn’t care. She continued to torment the poor laptop with aggressive key jabs and eye rolls.
Something rustled behind her back.
“So, you’ve chosen Simpson. Not a wise move, is it?” Calix spun on her seat, ready to pound the daylights out of whomever was there.
It was some weird looking guy with wild hair, spindly limbs and a pot belly, and it appeared he was about to faint. Calix looked him up and down. Frankly, she hadn’t expected this. He didn’t really look like a bully, didn’t fit the profile, so there had to be one of two options here: Either he was the bully and his gang’s crime boss (such dweebs usually cowered in the shadows, commanding a gang of impressionable thugs from a position of relative safety), or he was their stooge. Calix made up her mind. He was their stooge.
Oh god. She could sense another conversation heading in her general direction. How exhausting. Did she really have to do this right now? Why couldn’t people just leave her alone? Calix wrinkled her nose in supreme annoyance.
“What did you say?” she bit out. She didn’t even try to hide how annoyed she was.
The guy cleared his throat and repeated, a bit louder this time: “Thank you, Calix.”
Calix narrowed her eyes. “How do you know my name?”
He seemed a little taken aback. “Ezra Darwin? I’m the ‘Hooves, Horns & Rhododendrons Monthly Digest’ illustrator.”
She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. Wouldn’t she have remembered this?
“We work together? I’m the dude you usually push near the coffee machine with the words, ‘Ladies ahead!’.”
Calix cocked an eyebrow at him. That didn’t even sound like something she’d say. Sure, she could be a little pushy from time to time, but what of it? And anyway, the comment didn’t make sense.
“You also like to say, ‘Who drew this crappy cover for the last issue?'”
Calix grinned to herself. Oh yes, she remembered saying that. She studied the guy’s face again. Nope. The guy still didn’t ring a bell.
“Sorry, jack. I don’t know you.” She turned back to her laptop. “Unless you’re a world-class carrot academic, then this conversation’s over.”
Calix resumed her work as Darwin looked on. He hovered for a moment, then sighed and walked away. They say not to meet your heroes. He supposed that this must be one of those cases.