Home > No Tomorrow(3)

No Tomorrow(3)
Author: Carian Cole

“Ma’am?” he urges, though there’s no one in line behind me.

“I’ll take a cheeseburger, a hot dog with no bun, a bottle of water, and a sweetened iced tea,” I say quickly. “And can I have an empty cup or a bowl?”

He throws me an irritated glance as he flips a patty on his miniature grill. Minutes later, my stomach growls loudly as he wraps the burger and puts it into a plastic bag with the rest of my order. The tiny garden salad I packed for lunch can’t compete with a juicy burger, but I’m determined to stick to my goal of healthy eating.

After I pay, the hunger pangs turn to nervous jitters as I walk down the paved pathway toward the musician. I wait off to the side until he finishes the song he’s playing, not wanting to interrupt. The couple watching him smiles, praises him, and then walks away hand in hand. They don’t tip him. I wonder what that feels like for him. Does it feel like rejection? Lack of appreciation? Or maybe it doesn’t bother him at all and he just likes to play music for people.

He squints up at me as I awkwardly hold the bag out to him. Now that I’m standing closer to him than I was in the gazebo, I can see his perfect white teeth and the tiniest dimple in his left cheek. “I got you a hamburger and a bottle of iced tea. And a hot dog and water for your dog.” I try not to get lost in the endless realm of his eyes as he studies mine. “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to,” I continue, hoping I haven’t offended him or gotten him something he doesn’t even like. “I just kind of guessed.”

A smile tips his lips. “You guessed right. I’ve been dying for a burger. Sitting here smelling the food coming off that cart every day has been driving me crazy.” He stands, towering over me and making me feel even shorter than my four feet eleven inches. “I almost moved to the other side of the park, but I didn’t want to give up the view of my favorite bench.”

I follow his eyes, and my heart skips a beat or two or twenty when I realize he means my bench.

Is homeless guitar guy flirting with me?

“Sit with me while I eat?” he asks.

The invitation bounces my thoughts around like a ping-pong ball. Although he seems nice, I’m wary of sitting with a homeless person. I have no proof that he might not be a thief, a murderer, or any other brand of criminal. He may just hide it really well, as some do.

At least that’s what they do in books and movies. Maybe I watch too many late-night movies… someone is always a victim or a suspect.

I scan the park surroundings, knowing I should politely decline, but I’m too intrigued by the tiny spark of excitement I felt when he asked me to sit with him. Other than a pizza with every topping imaginable or ice cream in a waffle cone, not much really gets me excited lately.

“C’mon,” he urges. “I could use some real conversation.” He rubs the dog’s head affectionately. “He’s a great listener, but he doesn’t talk much.”

His pleading smile convinces me to give in. I hold the bag of food while he packs up his guitar and shoves his Mason jar in his duffel bag. I follow him and his dog to a spot farther away, to a picnic table near an old stone bridge that arches over a road that hasn’t been in use for years. My heart beats a little faster with apprehension as I glance behind us. There are about twenty people in various areas of the park, most of them still close enough to hear me if I let out a blood-curdling scream for help. I finally join him at the old wooden table.

The truth is, though, I think the slow realization that I might actually like this guy and want to spend time with him is making me far more skittish than the possibility that he might have plans to hurt me.

The beating of my heart calms to a normal pace when he fills the paper bowl with water and breaks the hot dog into bite-sized pieces for the dog. Then he unwraps the burger for himself. It’s the second time I’ve seen him show special care for the dog, and I find it very endearing. It proves he’s not an asshole and, in my naïve twenty-one-year-old mind, also that he’s probably not someone who would hurt me. Serial killers torture animals. They don’t worry about them getting wet, and they wouldn’t feed a pet before feeding themselves.

He moans as he chews the burger, and the raw sensuality of the sound sends a heated shiver through my body. I cross my legs and focus on the dog lapping up his water.

“Mmm… this is so fuckin’ good.” He takes another bite with his eyes closed and moans again. “Thank you for this.” He holds the burger out to me. “You want some? It’s delicious.”

“No, thank you.” I lean away from him. Germs scare the heck out of me. I never share drinks with other people or use soap at people’s houses unless it’s in a liquid dispenser. I keep tissues in my purse in case I have to use a public restroom. Who knows who touched the toilet paper in there? Or if it rolled across the filthy floor before it was put in the dispenser?

“I already ate my lunch. I just wanted to give you something to say thank you for your music. I look forward to hearing it every day now.”

“So you took the fast track to my heart by giving me food when I’m starving. Nice move, slayer.”

My cheeks burn as he takes a sip of his iced tea, the rim of the bottle pressing against his full lips. Damn. He’s way too good-looking and talented to be homeless and playing in a park in this small New England town.

After devouring the hot dog and water, his dog nudges my hand, wanting to be petted. Smiling, I stroke his soft, floppy ears, hoping he doesn’t have fleas and that my hand doesn’t end up smelling like dog. Archie the cat will probably bite me if he smells another animal on me. He’s very possessive and territorial.

“What’s his name?” I ask.

Guitar guy finishes off the hamburger and puts the wrapper in the plastic bag. “You want to know his name, but not mine?” he teases with a tone of mock offense.

“You can tell me your name, too.”

“His name is Acorn. He’s been my best friend and traveling buddy for two years.”

I smile at the unique name. “It fits him. He’s adorable.”

He nods and places his hand on the dog’s back. “He’s loyal. And smart. Only took me a few hours to teach him how to wave when people give us money.”

As I pet Acorn’s ears, I catch his owner staring at me. He doesn’t look away, but I do. “And your name?” I ask, focusing on the dog between us.

“Evan. But my friends call me Blue.”

I summon the courage to look at him as I smile shyly. “It’s nice to meet you, Evan.”

He squints, almost as if he’s wincing from a sharp pain, and the left side of his mouth pulls to the side into a frown. “You didn’t call me Blue.”

“Well… I’m not sure we’re friends yet.”

He nods slowly. “You’re right. We could end up being much more. Or less.” He pushes strands of his long hair away from his face, revealing a five o’clock shadow of stubble on his cheeks. I haven’t seen him with this much facial hair before, so he must shave pretty regularly. Or at least does sometimes. I’m envious of his defined cheekbones. “Time will tell.”

I can’t imagine us ever being anything other than a girl who eats lunch in the park and a homeless street musician, but I let him have his faith in time and what it might someday tell.

He leans back against the edge of the table top and stretches his long legs out. The soles of his black motorcycle boots are worn thin. “You’re supposed to tell me your name now.”

“Oh. It’s Piper.”

He repeats my name, and on his lips, it sounds different than I’ve ever heard the word sound before, as if I’m a special and mystical being.

I wish I was special and mystical, but I’m just… not.

“That’s different. Does it mean something? To your parents?”

I shake my head. “No, my mother just liked how it sounded. Apparently, she bought a bunch of baby name books when she was pregnant, and Piper was her favorite. My father doesn’t like it. He thinks it’s a stripper name.”

He lets out a deep laugh. “I’ve never met a stripper named Piper, and I’ve met my fair share.”

I laugh along with him. “I’ve often wondered why my father was thinking of strippers, but that’s probably something that’s better left alone.”


A glance at my watch shows I’m five minutes late for work, but I don’t want to leave the park to go back to the stuffy office and answer phones for the rest of the afternoon. Time drags there, as though the moment I walk through the door, the clock comes to a screeching halt, every minute an eternity. Yet somehow, my hour lunch flies by in the blink of an eye.

“Sucks to be on a schedule, huh?” Evan asks.

I sigh, but don’t move. “Yeah, it really does.”

“So don’t go back to work. Spend the day how you want to. Go shopping. Go home and nap. Go for a long drive to nowhere. Sit here with me and people-watch.”

How awesome any of that would be. “I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’ll probably get fired. That’s why.”

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