Liz walks into the cafe, almost able to taste the mocha lattes, and goes into the backroom to put on an apron and clock in. She works the register, taking orders, all the while impatiently eyeing the clock and waiting until she can clock out and go home. The register is usually uneventful, which is why Liz, the newbie, gets the honor of working it. She hates all of the Karen's and Susan's who always need to speak to the manager, but she takes it with a smile. Then there comes a customer who’s just… off.
Liz: “Hello! What would you like today?”
The redhead flicks her hair off of her shoulder as she says: “I need a venti mocha cappuccino with 2 pumps of espresso and one pump of caramel, with whipped cream on top. $8.99, right?”
Liz: “Sure! Would you like to order anything else?”
Customer: “No, thanks..” (She hands Liz a 10, and Liz gives her a dollar in change.)
Liz: “We’ll call your name when your cappuccino is ready. Enjoy!”
Customer: “Thanks, talk to you later!”
Liz: Huh, that was... weird. But why? Whatever my shift is almost over, then I can go home.
(Liz serves a couple more customers, and her shift is finally done. She clocks out and has just walked out of the door when she felt a hand on her shoulder.)
Customer: “Heyy, are you off of work?”
Liz: Is this… That lady! She’s a customer, why would she wanna even know?? Besides, did she wait a whole half hour to walk me this?“..Yea, I am off of work. Why do I know you from somewhere else?”
Customer: “Oh, I was wondering if you could tutor me. We go to the same algebra class, and I see you all the time. You’re kinda a natural with numbers, and me, well… not so much. If not, that’s okay. You are Lizzie Burnet, right?”
Liz: I don’t want to spend time with her, to be completely honest. I still think she’s creepy.
“No, I have to work a lot of double shifts, plus I have homework too. Maybe some other time?”
Customer: “Sure. Can I at least get your number, so I can text you sometime?”
Liz: “Uhh, sure, why not. I have to warn you though, my phone is dead 75% of the time.” Just a little white lie won’t hurt anyone, I’m sure other people could tutor her… Besides, for some reason, she seems... creepy. (Liz writes her number on a receipt, and hands it to the lady.)
Why was she so… off-putting? God, my skin feels like it’s crawling…..
Customer: “I will call you later!! Bye!” (The lady smiles, and it looks too wide and strained, unnatural.)
Liz: God, what happened to her to make her smile so wide? It looks like she is demented.
(Liz starts to walk home, thinking about that girl.)
How did she know my full name? I don’t remember her in any of my classes, I think I’d remember her.
(She gets inside her house, takes off her hoodie and shoes, and goes into the kitchen to get some coffee. She hears her phone ringing and checks it, but it's not a number she recognizes. She answers it out of curiosity, and almost immediately regrets it.)
Liz: “Hello, who’s there?”
???: “Eliza Burnet…..”
Liz: Wait, how do they know my full name? “Excuse me, do I know you? Is this some sort of prank? How did you get this number?“
???: “Hmm, I suppose not, but I do know you, very well… No matter, Eliza. I want to play a game.”
Liz: “Oh, no-no-no. I’m not playing any games. Besides, you didn't answer my question. How did you get my number?”
???: "Ah, rather impatient, are we?"
Liz hears him chuckle softly.
???: "To answer your question, I'm sure you remember your potential study buddy? Let's just say I gave her a bit of incentive to get your number for me."
Liz: "Who are you and what do you want? Quit trying to sound like Jigsaw, because I'm not playing your game."
???: "Why not? It's just a simple game..."
He laughs again, but somehow, it sounds more... Deranged.
???: "Quite the... Inspired nickname. Ah, I'm afraid our little chat has to be cut short, Eliza. Rest assured, I'll be seeing you quite soon."
(The stranger hangs up, and Liz tosses her phone on the sofa, thinking about the unsettling call.)
Liz: Who was that? God, they sounded like every villain in every terrible horror movie ever, but there was real menace behind the voice. They sounded serious, but how did they get my full name? And they said they knew me… They seemed genuinely psychopathic, whoever they were. What is going on??
(Liz walks into the polished kitchen to get stuff out of the fridge to make dinner, but instead comes back to the couch with a pint of vanilla bean ice cream.)
Liz: Today was just… weird. First the creepy girl, and then... This. Whatever this is. Seems like the plot of every bad horror movie ever, starring me in the lead. It would be even creepier if the girl and the mystery caller were actually connected, like he said. So, if it is connected, then who’s behind all of it? I don’t have many enemies that I know of, sure I’m not the most popular kid in our class, but I’m not hated, just ignored. And besides everyone in my class knows me as Liz or Lizzie, not Eliza. Only my family calls me that… but Mom and Dad wouldn’t pull a stunt like this. And I’m an only child, like both my parents, so..? Maybe a stranger who got my identity or something… But then why did they say they would see me soon, wouldn’t they want to remain hidden? God, my head is spinning, what is happening?
(Liz looks down, momentarily broken from her thoughts, to find her golden retriever, Rose, looking up at her, licking clean the ice cream container.)
Liz smiles weakly, exhausted from the confusing day.
Liz: I have to figure out who is behind all of this, but first, I need a nice, relaxing rest. I will figure everything out tomorrow when my head is clearer.
(She turns out all of the lights and heads to bed, curling up under the comforter with Rose. She tucks her legs under her in a curled fetal position, lightly stroking Rose’s fluffy golden fur, as she drifts to sleep.
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