Kieran lay in bed, staring at the clock. The blue digits stared back, etching “8:14” into his mind, staying with him as he blinked. I should probably get up.
He sat up, peeling his blankets off and turning himself so that he sat on the edge of the mattress. His head was quiet and lazy, full of disconnected murmur. He stretched his arms and yawned, then stumbled out of the room. His feet found their way to the couch, where he plunged into the cushions. Goddamn, I am still really tired.
He stared off in no particular direction, vision unfocused and unimportant. His thoughts slowly processed information: It’s morning. I’m tired. I’m really tired. I’m supposed to be awake. Are there eggs in the fridge? I could go for some eggs right now. I’m supposed to do something today. I’m still really tired.
His vacant stare continued to pierce some ambiguous space between the TV and the window. No thoughts sustained themselves for more than a few seconds. He yawned, again.
“SULLIVAN!” a muffled voice shouted, knocking rapidly on the door. Ughh… no. I’m not awake. I’m asleep.
The knocking continued, and Kieran dragged himself out of his seat and towards the door, opening it.
“Hi,” Liadan started, quickly. “I really need your help.”
He stared at her for a moment, delayed in reaction.
“My parents are running a marathon and I just lost some people who were going to help out and I really need your help,” she rushed.
“Hang on. I’m not awake. What did you say?”
“Can you help run a water table for a marathon my family’s in charge of?”
“You’re doing a marathon in February?”
“It’s for charity.”
“I dunno, I’m kind of… not awake, like I said. I gotta do something today.”
“I need to find a new job.”
“I’ll relieve you of a month’s rent.”
“I don-- what?” Kieran said. What did she just say?
“I really need the help. I got Finn, but everyone else has work…”
“You’ll do it?” she asked, visibly excited.
“Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” Liadan chanted, hugging Kieran. What the hell…
“Come outside when you’re ready!” Liadan said, and sped off. Kieran stood still at the door. I should… go get ready.
He stuffed some bread in the toaster, and went to go get dressed. He muttered sleepily to himself about how stupid it was to be awake so early as he pulled his shirt over his head. When he finished dressing, he went into the kitchen and grabbed his toast, quickly eating it. He downed a glass of water, then went out the door.
Kieran walked out to the sidewalk, still groggy and yawning. Finn, Bianca, and Liadan all stood beside a car.
“Alright, now that Sullivan’s finally here, let’s get going.”
“Shut up,” Kieran muttered. He could barely see from all of the light reflecting off of the snow.
“Okay, here is your station,” Liadan said, pointing at a table on the side of the road. “The marathon starts in about an hour and a half. But they won’t get to you for a little while after that. Basically, you’re just filling up as many cups as you can until the runners start coming. Then you’re going to pass off the drinks to them. All of the supplies are there. If you need to, you can stack the cups with these cardboard sheets on top…”
They checked out the supplies.
“…now, if you have any questions, I will be at the finish line. So you’ll have to call me or text me. All set?”
“Yeah.” “Yes.” “Yep!”
“Good. Thanks again!” Liadan said, and headed to her car, waving.
“So… let’s get started,” Finn said. “How about… one person passes the cups, the next fills them, and the last places them on the table?”
“I’ll place the cups on the table!” Bianca said.
“Okay, then, I’ll pass off cups to you, Kieran?” Finn asked.
They started filling the cups, and quickly covered a sizable portion of the table.
“How many runners are there?” Finn asked.
“Four-hundred… eighty… somewhere around there,” Bianca said.
“We should have plenty by the time it starts,” Kieran said.
By the time the runners arrived, the table was covered with cups. They each stood in front of the tables, passing off cups repeatedly, until the crowd dwindled. They fell back in their seats, and waited for the remainder of the runners.
“That was pretty intense.”
A few more runners came by, and they continued the routine. The table still held a large number of cups.
“If it’s okay, and you guys think you can handle what’s left, do you mind if I go to the finish line?” Bianca asked.
“Yeah, sure! We’ve got it,” Finn said.
“…alright,” Kieran said.
“Okay! Great. Good luck! I‘ll send you a message when it‘s over, and we‘ll come by to pick you guys up,” she said.
Kieran and Finn sat in their chairs, the wind blowing at the trees.
“So, hey, good thing it was a bit warmer today than usual,” Finn said.
“I was surprised you came to help; I figured you would be busy.”
“Well, Liadan made me an offer.”
“No rent this month.”
“Seriously? That’s awesome.”
“Yeah. I feel like a jerk,” Kieran said. He regretted saying it immediately.
“Ehh… like I’m taking advantage, or something.”
“Don’t worry about it. She can handle losing a month’s rent, plus, I think she wanted to help you.”
“That… doesn’t really make me feel any better about it.”
“…I don’t want people to help me.”
“Everyone needs help sometime.”
“I’m not…” Kieran started. “…forget it.”
“Well, I’m not going to let you refuse my help when you really need it, alright?” Finn said, laughing.
Kieran found himself stalking down the sidewalk, yet again. The same routine, peering in windows and stopping in stores and businesses in search of a job. Today, he focused on another block. He hadn’t been this way in his search before, but it wasn’t proving to fare much better. As he stared through the window of a book store, he stopped. Slowly, he realized he saw Finn at the counter. Finn noticed him, and signaled for him to come in.
“Hey. This is where you work?” Kieran asked, approaching the counter.
“Yeah! It’s great, isn’t it?”
“Certainly is… a bit old,” he said. The floors creaked as the customers walked around, and the wooden columns looked worn out. The smell of wood was second only to the smell of paper and ink.
“Yeah. I like it. It’s comfortable,” Finn said. “Hang on a second.”
He turned and headed for a door behind the counter.
“I’m going to take my lunch break, is that alright?”
“Go ahead,” a voice answered back. An older man came out of the room, putting on his glasses. Finn walked out from behind the counter.
“Let’s go!” Finn said.
“What? You can just take a break like that?”
“Yeah. He’s fine with it!” Finn said, smiling at the old man. They left the store.
“So, let’s get some lunch.”
“You know I can’t afford that right now.”
“Yeah, so, I’m going to buy for you.”
“What?” Kieran said. “You don’t have to do that.”
“Well, I will. So, you’re going to have to just deal with it!” Finn said, smiling again.
This guy sure smiles a lot.
“So, what are you up to?” Finn asked. He sat with a cup of coffee and a salad.
“Or, were, I guess.”
“I was looking for a job around here,” Kieran said.
“Oh, yeah, have you had any luck?”
“No… I thought I almost found a place that was hiring, but they just got someone. I just barely missed it,” Kieran said, sighing.
“That sucks… I’ve been trying to look out for somewhere that’s hiring, too. When I can. Oh! You know, we could probably look online to see if anyone’s hiring,” Finn said, taking a sip of his coffee.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there are websites where people post help wanted ads. We could look on there.”
“I don’t have a computer.”
“What?” Finn said, a look of disbelief on his face.
“I can’t afford it.”
“Well, yeah, especially not now… I’m just surprised. You know how to use one, right?” Finn asked.
“Sorta… I only really used them in college,” Kieran explained.
“That’s so weird… well, we can use my laptop. Come over later, after work, and I’ll help you out with that.”
“Hey, it’s no problem. I wouldn’t want you to lose your apartment.”
Kieran walked along the sidewalk in the cold, his eyes glancing over the cluster of businesses he passed by. He scanned the windows for some sort of “Help Wanted” sign. He had been down this way before -- several times, in fact (though, not all on the same day). There was never anything, but he had to try. Funds were drying up, and soon, he would have nowhere to live.
He sighed, sticking his hands in his pockets to warm them. It was too cold, and it was starting to snow. After checking a few more stores, his phone buzzed. He checked the screen; Finn.
“Hey,” Kieran said, holding the phone to his ear.
“Hi! Are you busy?” Finn chimed.
He glanced at the stores on the sidewalk.
“Do you want to hang out?”
Kieran entered the noisy sports bar, brushing snow off of his coat and wiping his boots on the doormat. He unwound the scarf around his neck and tucked it into his pocket; then, he looked around. Finn waved at him from a table off to the left.
“Kieran! Gavin’s here,” Finn said, motioning towards Gavin.
“Uhh… hi,” Kieran said to Gavin.
“Hey, I wanted to apologize,” Gavin said, sticking out his hand. Kieran awkwardly shook it.
“I was being a huge asshole last time we met. Pretty ironic, huh? Well, Finn’s explained to me pretty thoroughly how wrong I was,” he said, laughing. “So, I thought I’d try apologizing and see if we could start over.”
“Alright,” Kieran responded. That’s… not what I expected.
“Well, take a seat!” Finn said. Kieran looked around. Finn’s other friends were there, and there was an empty seat between Bianca and Finn. He sat down, and Bianca smiled at him. He directed his attention to a menu on the table.
“So, I hear you’re a painter,” one of Finn’s friends said. Kieran looked up--the voice came from the woman sitting next to Gavin.
“What do you paint?” she asked.
“…dreams. Or, whatever’s interesting.”
“Hmm… that sounds cool! You should show me, sometime!”
“Err… maybe,” Kieran muttered. That’s probably not happening.
“Kieran’s a bit private about his art,” Finn interjected.
“Ah, really? Well, if you ever wanna show me, please do. I’m an artist, too!” she beamed.
“Jenny, you just draw silly anime stuff,” Gavin said, laughing.
“Heyyy! I thought you were on my side.”
“I am, I am,” he said, hugging her and kissing her on the forehead.
“That’s more like it!” Jenny cheered. Kieran winced.
The bar grew noisy. Kieran looked across the room and noticed the hockey game on the TV.
“Looks like the Bruins aren’t doing so well, Finn,” one of Finn’s friends said with a laugh.
“They can turn it around,” Finn assured, staring at the TV.
“I still think it’s weird that Florida has an ice hockey team. Ice. Florida. The two don’t usually go hand-in-hand,” Kieran said.
“What about the Phoenix Coyotes? LA Kings? San Jose Sharks?” Finn asked.
“That’s all Western Conference, who cares? Anyways, the Sharks at least have an awesome logo,” Kieran said. “That shark fucking hates that hockey stick.”
“What’s a shark doing on the ice?”
“Waiting for it to melt?” Kieran suggested.
“Anyways, if you’re just going to talk Eastern Conference, then, Tampa Bay? Carolina? Atlanta?”
“Same thing; too damn hot for hockey.”
“Want more Canadian teams?”
“Fuck Canada,” Kieran grumbled. Finn started laughing.
“Hey, see you guys later this week!” Finn shouted as he waved to his friends. Kieran was walking down the sidewalk. Finn ran to catch up.
“That’s the most I’ve ever seen you talk!” he said, smiling.
“I’m glad you got along with everyone. Gavin’s been meaning to apologize for a while now,” Finn explained.
Kieran headed out the door of his apartment, turning the lock and checking the knob as he entered the hall. He checked his pockets and moved on, sure that everything was in order. The old, worn steps on the stairs creaked as he trudged down to the first floor. Heading towards the door, he caught sight of a woman he recognized -- Bianca.
“Oh, hello!” she said with a smile.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Ah, I came by to see if Finn was here… seems he’s out. I’m waiting for my sister.”
“Liadan! Finn never mentioned my last name?”
“No, I guess not,” Kieran answered. He could see the resemblance, though Bianca was smaller and more feminine.
Kieran approached the glass doors. As he stood across from Bianca, she started, “Oh, that’s right…”
“Are you in love with Finn?”
For a moment, Kieran froze.
He regained himself, and turned his head, asking, “What?”
“You are, aren’t you?” she marked, bearing that same smile.
He stared at her, trying to read her face.
“I won’t say anything.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I can tell from just the few times I’ve met you… and that’s not to say you make yourself obvious.”
“Why are you saying this?”
“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m not trying to be rude, here, but, I guess I was… I’m just happy that someone else loves him, too,” she replied, embarrassed.
“Because… you see what I see. And, you’re a very kind person.”
“I… doubt that.”
“I think you should have a little more confidence in yourself.”
“And, anyways… maybe you’ll finally be the one for him?”