Chloe was quite done with the week, and had been for days. It was the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and things were finally settling down for her. Chloe had worked tirelessly from Thanksgiving evening until the following Tuesday afternoon at her two different jobs in the small, but bustling, metropolis of Flake City, a very isolated city near a rough mountain range, with a population of just over 100,000 people.
Chloe had moved to Flake City nearly a year ago with the intent to work on her art, picking up two jobs to pay the expensive rent at her high rise apartment she had found online. One job was as a waitress at a local fine dining restaurant and the other, a book clerk in a nearby book store. These two jobs had kept her very busy during the autumn holidays and shopping rushes, which allowed Chloe to finally pay rent early, having paid December’s rent already, the stress of finally being ahead on her bills made her okay with having such a dismal Thanksgiving of slurping ramen.
By the time Chloe had clocked out of her job at the restaurant on Tuesday, and picked up her book store paycheck, complete with a handsome quarterly bonus, she was exhausted, but quite a deal flusher with cash then she had expected to be. Chloe had been so broke that she had barely enough money to get to her job on Thanksgiving evening, so she obviously hadn’t had a turkey dinner to fuel her before clocking in to work the massive sales for the shopping crowds at the book store. Chloe was exhausted, and wanted nothing more than a long weekend of doing nothing at all.
But first, some provisions; Chloe didn’t want to worry about food for a while, having spent too much time worrying about food in the past few months. Chloe pulled her beat up car into the parking lot of the main grocery store that serviced the north side of town, she lived and worked, near the state park that was set in the base of the mountainous backdrop of Flake City and trailed up into the first part of foreboding mountain range. The Flake City State Park had some great hiking and climbing in the park area, and tons of wonderfully scenic and idyllic camp grounds, but after that first peak, the mountain range became noticeably hostile, packed with dangerous wildlife and rough, impassable terrain. Flake City was surrounded by water. The only real way into Flake City other than flying into the small private airport, was the main bridge, which spanned a massive distance of several miles, the shortest and easiest pass, of the water that surrounds the city.
All of these were reasons for Chloe to choose this place, and the mountains were the reason she worked two jobs to afford the high-rise apartment on the north side of the city. It was smaller than something that expensive should be in her opinion, but the patio, while also sort of small, offered her a magnificent and most importantly, unencumbered by the research facility that fed the city, unobstructed view of the friendly, then immediately foreboding, mountains, that had captured her interests two years ago when she began looking for places to move on her own. This was the first time since she had been flush with cash, and able to spend money a bit more freely. Chloe had been eating plenty of ramen, but finally, the two jobs and tirelessly saving, enabled her to have a nice chunk of money in savings under her bed, and her bills paid early, some in advance. It was because of this that Chloe finally put in a large order with the weed dealer in town, Damian, who had offered her a very generous holiday deal.
“My dealer, just flew in, so I have some great deals.” He had said.
Chloe had stashed an envelope of 100’s in her glove-box, and took her purse into the store with her after locking her car door. Chloe’s big plans for her extended weekend was to smoke large amounts of weed, drink wine, play video games, and overall, do nothing at all. Maybe, Chloe hoped, this would be the time she discovered what her art was.
Chloe had moved to Flake City to “Pursue her Art” but when asked what her art was, “You know, photography? Painting? Dance?
She would instead answer, “Well I don’t know, I haven’t worked on it yet, that’s why I moved here.” Much as Chloe liked her coy answer, she didn’t want to spend all this time grinding it out at two jobs, just to be as lost as she was back home, while working only one.
Chloe grabbed a cart and several cases of water and soda. She hadn’t been able to afford the name brand soda, and the water of Flake City always tasted funny to her, so she drank the mountain spring bottled water instead.
Deftly, Chloe guided her cart towards the junk food aisle, tossing donuts, chips, dips, and cookies, into her cart blindly, before finally adding granola bars and trail mix to pretend it was a healthy mix of junk food. Chloe hadn’t purchased much food lately, so she ducked down canned food aisle, grabbed a few cans of veggies, and several cans of chili, ravioli, spaghetti-o’s, and several kinds of soup. Chloe didn’t want to spend any large amount of time cooking, on her off weekend, more so since starting her job at the restaurant seemed to have robbed her of the joy she once felt from cooking. Chloe hated her job at the restaurant.
Chloe’s boss, Mr. Brinaforte, was a sexist pig, who enjoyed grabbing girl’s asses and making them prance around in stupid outfits. All the waitresses, (because he only allowed female wait staff) wore tight fitting knee length skirts that flared at the knee with a stupid ruffle of black fabric. The skirts were tight, and a tight white button up shirt was worn tucked into the skirt with a small apron, and a small black neckerchief that had to be tied to the side. “Like a beautiful French girl” he would say, and insist on moving the tie for you. He would also touch at girls hairs, insisting they pull a lock down, “frame that pretty little face sweetheart.” He would say before pinching a cheek, or patting her head. Chloe shuddered. She hated the man. They all did, but if you wanted to make really good money, you normally dealt with it. Over a $1000 a week in tips alone, it was hard to say no. It was wildly considered one of the best restaurants in town, Brinaforte Ristorante was an institution in Flake City. The girls all watched out for each other at the restaurant, and he never got to have any of the girls alone, not for long anyways. Chloe had been caught alone with him on Saturday, but she managed to remove herself from the walk-in freezer quickly, before he was able to touch her too much. Chloe doubled back to the wine aisle and found herself adding several bottles of red and white to the cart while thinking of the disgusting roaming hands and eyes of Mr. Brinaforte.
Before long, she finished her shopping with some PB&J and bread, some more pre-made food, and several boxes of frozen foods, like hot pockets, pizzas, and ice cream. With a cart, fuller then Chloe had ever had, she waited in the check-out aisle as the setting sun turned the outside dark. The guy at the check-out aisle, a nice enough ginger haired boy named Samuel, offered to carry her bags outside, and she accepted his help knowing that finally she had some cash to tip with.
The people of Flake City had wonderful manners, by in large, but Chloe never wanted to accept help without being able to tip, more so after working at the restaurant so much.
“The lights are still on? I thought they closed the lab for the holidays?” Chloe asked, pointing to the large research facility that so many people in Flake City were employed by.
“Yeah, I thought so too, my dad works in the warehouse, and he said they had the entire week off, it was announced in an email last week, last minute for two extra days off, when they already had Wednesday off- yet, all those office lights are on, and you can see people moving here and there.”
Chloe looked to the large looming building. The labs were rumored to be underground, but the first few floors were all lit up, and she knew those were the floors that were needed to work in order for the labs to work, some administrative and business offices, all surrounding various control rooms. The research facility shared the same layout as the hospital, but with different uses for each part. Where one floor of the hospital may have a nurse’s station, the research facility had a control panel station, and both buildings had some floors where that area was a receptionists area for offices. “Maybe overtime? I know I worked during the holidays, no one to go see and all that.”
“Sure, but you aren’t from here.” Samuel said, “Everyone who works there would at least have their immediate families living here, they pay for those kind of moves, and encourage families…it’s a family friendly company. So they should have been at homes with their families.”
“Maybe some stayed?” Chloe said, dismissing the normal family agenda of some of the people of Flake City, being of the opinion that the city should be priding itself on the arts, not family. “Surely some didn’t return home, and some didn’t care, like me. Seems like if I was doing research, I would love the holiday break.” Chloe shrugged this off, she had to, knowing that the sweet boy Gordo, a thin boy with dark black hair and dark brown eyes, who worked in the research labs, he had just moved here, and had come to the restaurant for dinner on Friday because he hadn’t had anyone to return home to.
“Maybe.” Samuel said shrugging. “My dad liked the time off, said it was paid. I can’t imagine working if I could have the day off and also get paid.”
Chloe considered this. “Sure. I wouldn’t have worked either if I had the option…But I didn’t, instead I worked, so I can give you this.” Chloe slipped him a ten. “I know you aren’t supposed to take tips, but I parked away from the cameras.” Chloe added with a wink. Samuel smiled a broad smile, his faint hazel eyes sparkling.
“Thanks, most people don’t think about that stuff!” Samuel said shoving the cash into his pocket, tactfully not looking at it. Chloe gave him the cart, and settled herself into her car, and headed off towards her apartment. Damian had agreed to meet her at her place around 8 PM, after his connection flew out of the city, so that gave Chloe time to get her groceries up the many floors, and put away, with enough time to shower the gross feeling of Mr. Brinaforte off of her small frame.
It was just after 6:30 when pulled her car into a spot near the walk up to the lobby of her apartment building. The small building elevator people could use, was slow, and it’s slow speed made everyone take the stairs unless they had several loads of groceries, like Chloe did. The building manager, who was also Chloe’s good friend, an older military veteran named Charles, was reading the paper and smoking one of his home rolled cigarettes, and offered to hold the elevator for Chloe while she unloaded her many groceries.
“Holy hell Chloe, did you finally get ahead on the bills?” Charlie asked laughing as she unloaded the several cases of water and soda. Charlie was familiar with Chloe’ poverty diet, and also knew why she was on it. Simply put, Chloe couldn’t really afford the apartment she lived in, a plight he understood. Charlie could only afford this building because he maintained the building, which offered a steep discount in rent and a weekly pay that he used to supplement his fixed income.
“Yeah, all that overtime, worked the holiday sales and everything.” Chloe said proudly as she removed a paper bag from her glove box. “I picked this up for you.” She said tossing him the bag. Inside, Charles found a large bag of his preferred tobacco from the shop downtown.
“Finally, something I can actually be thankful for!” Charlie said with a wheezed laugh that made Chloe nearly regret buying him the strong unprocessed tobacco he insisted was better for his lungs.
Chloe smiled as Charlie loaded the cases of drinks into the small elevator while she unloaded the heavier bags. After two trips to the elevator, Chloe had the entire large contents of her shopping trip deposited into the elevator, and with no one coming, joined Charlie for a cigarette on the street, while the elevator stood open, Charlie’s building keys locking it in place.
When Charlie convinced the building owner to let him manage the building in exchange for cheaper rent, since Charlie also couldn’t afford these apartments, Charlie had received a key to the building, the elevator, and extra keys to apartments for people who locked themselves out, and a supply of tools for fixing things. Charlie had actually managed to make the building a bit nicer, allowing the owner to charge more for rent, so it worked out for everyone to have Charlie, the more relaxed manager, on site, and the uptight rich fellow living out of town.
“You off a few days?” Charlie asked, now eyeing the groceries in the elevator.
“Yeah, after everything at the restaurant, I don’t want to do much cooking, so I got a bunch of junk.” Chloe laughed, shrugging as she inhaled on the cigarettes she very rarely smoked.
“The donuts look good, I will probably come by and get one.” Charlie said in his no-non-sense way.
“Feel free.” Chloe said before adding, “Don’t mind the smell if I’m already smoking. I have my own ‘tobacco’ being delivered.”
“I may stop by for that too.” Charlie laughed. Charlie held the door for Chloe, and even helped her carry her groceries inside, checking on the leaky faucet she had endured the month previously, before showing himself out.
Chloe quickly put her groceries away, and after locking her door, stripped off her uniform, balling it into a small ball and throwing it as hard as she could to the machine. Checking on her time, Chloe hopped into a scalding hot shower, feeling the tension and disgusting feeling of Mr. Brinaforte, wash off of her small frame. After about ten minutes, Chloe rinsed off and hopped out of the shower, changing into a pair of baggy black pants, a tank top and an over-sized hoody sweatshirt. Tucking the cash for Damian by a framed picture of the mountains on a bookshelf near her door, Chloe put her kettle on for a cup of tea and flicked on her TV. The news sounded positively horrible, half the country still reeling from an election Chloe literally could not care less about. Chloe had voted, and even though the candidate she voted for lost, Chloe assumed her obligation, like most everyone else in Flake City, was simply to vote.
Flake City was a beautifully isolated city. The politics were very simple: The research facility kept the city afloat, all business would dry up without it, and it did good work for the city. Everyone cared about keeping the air and water clean, the facility caring most it seemed, always spearheading clean environmental practices. The social issues were pretty calm, mostly liberal, minus guns, with even some of the more liberal of the citizens owning at least one handgun, even Chloe, a girl from a fairly liberal city, owned a 9 mm with a few boxes of ammo stashed away.
Other social issues weren’t much of an issue, everyone left everyone else alone, which was all most people want anyways, which was more progressive than some. Flake City may be a small town, grown up around one large corporate research facility with government backing, but that hardly made it a small undeveloped town. Arts were in high demand, lovely theatres, art galleries, concert halls adorned an art side of town, with artist type restaurants and bars nearby. In the more corporate side of town, what many would call the financial district, nice restaurants and good lunch specials.
The industrial side of the corporation, known simply as Flake City Research and Development, hardly encouraged bad elements, instead just hard working blue collar types who kept their middle-income homes well maintained, and were able to eat out for steak or Italian, once a week or so, in the ritzy downtown area, and once a month, they could truck to the Northside for luxury dining with a view at Mr. Brinaforte’s, or any of the other luxury fine dining options. Simple, pure happiness, in a nice little city, that stayed nice despite its ever blooming population.
To the west of city center was the hospital, and further west of hospital was a slight agriculture area which managed to produce many of the crops used by the town, despite the fact the mountains of the city kept the city in the shade for much of the afternoon, the crops here always grew large and healthy, as if they had been grown on the equator. Chloe found that there was plenty to love about this mysteriously magical place known as Flake City, and found the isolation delightful.
There was something kind of fun about having to plan accordingly and not always have supplies at the store, while still having all the luxuries of a modern city. The dichotomy of Flake City appealed to Chloe, a bustling metropolis out of her front door, quiet mountains out of her patio.
Chloe turned away from the news, and instead put it on a sitcom on Netflix. Chloe had already cleaned out a pipe, and had papers for the weed that was arriving, so she iced a soda, having finished her tea, and waited for Damian to arrive.
Chloe always liked seeing Damian, and she looked forward to being able to sit and chat with him for a minute. Normally she was so busy, and rarely had money to spare on more than a gram or two of weed, that they hardly got to talk and have a good conversation. She had urged Damian to come later in the day so they could smoke and chat. This later in the day request worked for Damian, who had been delayed, but he knocked at 8:15, and Chloe was genuinely happy to see her friend, considering how many sirens she had been hearing.
Damian entered, taking his hat off to reveal his dark brown hair. “Man, what an odd day.” He said, shrugging off his jacket while explaining that all around town things were…off. People were acting funny, quite a few sirens had been attributed to the ambulances and police cars that had been speeding down various streets.
Damian, who had a had a quite a crush on Chloe, was touched when she was concerned and worried for his safety, even offering him a taxi ride home, on her.
Damian really liked Chloe, and he also crushed on the girl who flew the plane for the mysterious dealer he used. He only had the guys number, and they only replied to texts, the dude was known simply as “Weed Guy” and he sent this gorgeous girl with purple hair who flew a plane, to make the deliveries. This girl, a very cool concert type girl who always wore a Roxy brand jacket and hat, was fun, cute, and had an energy Damian couldn’t deny, but she seemed as aloof romantically as Chloe was, so Damian assumed he would spend his days wondering how to be noticed. A far cry from Mr. Flake City High School, Prom King, Homecoming King, Mr. Popularity, Damian Jones, of Flake City he had grown up as.
Chloe rolled a joint quickly with some of the weed she had got from Damian, and impressed him further with the quality of joint she rolled.
“You don’t buy enough weed to roll that well.” Damian observed as Chloe handed him the joint.
“I roll cigarettes for Charlie, the building manager, he uses loose leaf tobacco… iuno, I never found it hard.” Chloe said with a shrug, rolling another one while Damian lit the one Chloe had handed him.
Damian smiled, casually trying to check out Chloe in her regular street clothing. He always saw her in her book store uniform of black slacks and a white button up, or the sexier version of that outfit, at Brinaforte’s, but Damian had always found girls most attractive in whatever they actually chose to wear, even if it was baggy and what some would consider unflattering, as was the case here, this was Damian’s preferred way to check out any woman- in the way they felt most comfortable, because that was their realest self anyways.
Chloe had pulled her thick dark brown hair into a messy pony tail, the kind that made romantic guys like Damian wonder how women like Chloe existed at all. The long, thick hair somehow all was messily held up in a tiny piece of plastic that looked like an old phone cord, and looked like it could all fall down in a second, despite staying locked in place no matter the amount of head shaking done. Some of Damian’s crasser friends said Damian glorified women. Damian’s girlfriends however, always reported a fantastic lover and boyfriend material, so the mocking rarely lasted.
A few locks of her hair fell down, slightly obscuring her blue green ocean colored eyes, which topped off a small, cute, face, with a small button nose and pink lips. Her small frame wore her very casual clothing well, and he spotted that the skin on her legs was as pale as the rest of her, instead of the odd paler skin color many women would have, a natural effect of wearing clothing and having some skin exposed to the sun. Chloe obviously had spent time applying sunscreen before going out, her skin an even tone wherever visible. Damian shook his head and inhaled the joint, urging his thoughts to not wonder about other parts of her body he hadn’t seen, because it felt rude.
“You roll a great joint!” Damian said smiling as he passed it to Chloe.
“Thanks, you sell great stuff.” Replied Chloe with a smile, inhaling deeply on the stash and grateful she had ordered three ounces.
“Yeah, thanks to Roxy.” Damian said, the other woman he “glorified”, “It was near impossible to get anything in this town, till she came around…” Damian took a hit of the joint, “It made my life better. Hell, for one year, the only weed anyone got was whatever the farmers grew behind their barns and sold off the extras from. Was brutal. Now, we get choice and variety, Roxy flies in once a week or so…”
Chloe nodded and offered Damian a soda from the kitchen while getting herself one.
“Sounds great,” He answered, before taking the can she offered. “Oh, name brand, nice.”
“Yeah, I worked overtime. It’s about time I treat myself I guess.” Chloe looked out her balcony doors, looking for the source of the sirens.
“That’s like the third one, in under five minutes, isn’t it?” Damian observed of the sirens.
“Yeah, I think so.” Chloe looked, but her view out didn’t afford her much insight of the roads, having a view of the mountain , and the grassy area outside the back of the apartment.
Damian stood and patted his pants pockets before removing a pack of cigarettes. “How about I utilize that balcony of yours for a smoke?” He said as he crossed to Chloe who stood by the French doors.
“Great idea!” Chloe said, unlocking the door and opening the doors out to the small balcony.
“It is a great view.” Damian said appreciatively as Chloe looked around below. She could see several crowds of people in the nearby shopping center, able to see some things to the side of the building from the balcony. From her view, Chloe could see the usual kids outside the convenience store, hoping someone would buy them beer, or whatever it was the kids did there, but none of what Chloe could see from this angle could offer much insight.
Chloe looked towards the park, nestled at the base of the mountains that gave Chloe her great view, and then moved back to her right, to lean over the balcony and look towards the city center.
Chloe held onto the banister, just in case, while leaning over it, to see past the building obstructions, and see the small, obstructed, view of the city center. It was busier then she would have expected on a Tuesday evening, but overall, she didn’t notice anything too unusual.
Damian, keeping an eye on Chloe, looked out, looking towards some of the side streets he knew tended to hold more crime than others. Not that Flake City had much to any crime, but the kind of non-violent crime that occurred in the shadows of any city still did happen, yet none of the sirens seemed to be coming from those areas. To the contrary, the areas normally seeing siren and light action, were devoid of life, seemingly quiet. Damian knew that most of the people who populated those areas were either out of town, at work, or were having quiet nights in, just like Chloe or anyone else tired from shopping, cooking, cleaning, and all the other exhausting activities that surround working around Thanksgiving- or any holiday.
Damian offered Chloe one of his cigarettes and she took it, ever the social smoker, and together they sipped their soda’s and smoked, listening to sirens around the city.
“Seems the most is coming from the center of the city, but I don’t really see anything.” Damian said leaning out after a few minutes.
“Yeah, it does. Like maybe by the research facility?”
“Or even the mall.” Damian nodded. “There are a bunch of shops in that area, maybe people are looting a little? Seems unlikely in this town but weird stuff is happening everywhere these days.”
Chloe agreed. “Yeah, I never go online or watch the news now, it’s all insane. I can’t believe half of it, no matter who says it, because it is all so weird. Who knows, maybe our small town is having riots.”
“Well, 100,000 is hardly small, plus we have all the outlying populations no one ever counts.” Damian said, pointing towards the mountains.
“People don’t really live up there do they? I mean, in big enough numbers to matter?” Chloe asked, not knowing the nuances of the city like someone like Damian, who was born and raised there, or even Charlie, who had lived there a long enough time to know.
“Well, I mean, there are some Indian tribes that are still very much alive and going, and they were always semi mountainous tribes. Plus, mountains always have a few people living in them, people that don’t want to be found.”
Chloe nodded, Charlie had mentioned a few times to her the mountain tribe and the random mountain people, making it sound like a small community of people who lived near each other but that was about it. “So, okay, maybe it is a proper city, but, regardless, looting seems unusual.”
“Sure, considering how little violence we have here.” Damian said with a shrug.
The two walked back inside after their cigarettes and shared another joint while Chloe considered ordering take out.
“I have a ton of tamales at home from the holidays, so I’ll eat those when I get home.” Damian said when she asked if he wanted anything.
“Oh man, I would love some of those, do you order them?”
“My aunt makes em, but my cousin, she started her own little side hustle business of selling em, want me to have her deliver you some tomorrow? She’s pretty fair, and they are delicious.
“That would be great!” Chloe said happily, putting in a large order of the delicious food she loved to munch on back home in Houston.
Damian shared another joint with Chloe before leaving, and she ordered some Chinese food for herself.
Chloe loaded her pipe and turned on her TV again while she waited for her food, very satisfied with her choices for a very lazy couple of days.
It was nearly an hour before the Chinese food came, which surprised Chloe, the few times she had ordered from them they had been very fast. The delivery driver looked spooked, and slightly frazzled.
“It’s crazy out there!” He said when Chloe asked if he was okay.
“Crazy how? I keep hearing sirens.” Chloe asked, taking the food from his shaking hands.
“It’s…it’s, I don’t know, people, everywhere, crazy people, banging on cars, I guess maybe drunk? Drugs?” The man, Alan, as his name-tag said, stammered. Chloe set the food down and grabbed a bottle of water from her fridge, offering it to him.
“Here, drink this.” Chloe said, urging him to drink and calm his nerves. Alan gratefully took the bottle and after a few sips, managed to compose himself. He splashed some of the water on his hand and dabbed it on his other hand, where Chloe noticed some blood.
“Here, hold on.” Chloe stepped inside her bathroom and grabbed her first aid kit, and returned to find Alan holding his hand.
“It’s not too bad, I don’t even know what happened, sorry about this, I’m sure you want to enjoy your dinner, it’s so late already.” Alan looked at his watch.
“Food can wait, people matter.” Chloe said applying some antibacterial cream to his wound. Quickly, utilizing the first aid course she had taken a year ago, Chloe patched up Alan’s cuts, and before long, he had a cash tip in his bandaged hand and a new bottle of water for his second delivery in the other.
Chloe unpacked her food and ate while watching her show, occasionally turning up the volume to account for the sirens that would go off, which continued into the night. Finally, she dozed off on her couch for the fifth time in a row, so she put away her dishes and made her way to bed after double checking her locked doors.
Chloe tucked herself into her practical full size bed, and tried to drown out the annoying shriek of sirens every thirty or so minutes.
Regardless of the sirens, Chloe smiled, happy that at least, finally, her long weekend away from work, was underway.