She woke up deliciously warm. There was a faint crackling of a fire and a richly scented promise of chocolate nearby. For three whole heartbeats she forgot about cold and fear. She let out a silent breath and fully opened her eyes. She was in a sparsely decorated living room. Two windows, sealed, no latches. Three doors and an archway. Light and sound came through the arch. Clinking and clanking of a kitchen and the subtle rustling of cloth from a single person moving. The other doors, two interior and one exterior. Exterior door locked. Interior unlocked.
The coffee table in front of her held a tray with a small mug of hot cocoa and a plate of gingerbread.
“You’re awake.” A man was standing in the archway, leaning against the frame. She froze, looking for warning signs, but he didn’t come any closer. “I found you on the roof. You were too cold. I thought you might die. I brought you in. Made sure you were warm. The cocoa and gingerbread are yours.” He stopped briefly, but she did not reach for the treats. He didn’t nod but she got the sense of one anyway. “I am going to go back into the kitchen to make some soup and a sandwich. Then I will bring them out on a tray, and you may have them as well. After I leave the tray, I am going to go through that door,” he nodded at the interior door closest to him, “and not come out until tomorrow morning. You can sleep here. The other door is the bathroom. Use what you need.” And he turned back into the kitchen like he said he would. Adults said a lot of things. Some times they did what they said, but most times they didn’t. She made sure she had a clear view to the kitchen before taking the mug and slowly sipping the cocoa. It warmed her insides just as delightfully as the blanket and fire had warmed her outsides. The whole environment soothed the familiar ragged edge to a strange ache. She set the empty cocoa mug down and clutched the blanket around her shoulders.
“I’m coming in now,” the man said from the kitchen.
She slipped off the couch and moved to the end farther from him, keeping the arm between them. The man walked to the coffee table and set down the tray. “Tomato soup and grilled cheese. Leave the dishes on the tray when you’re done. I’m going to my room now. I hope I’ll see you tomorrow.” He nodded to her and left through the other door.
The grilled cheese was crackly brown with butter and the tempting cheese melted slightly out of the sides where it got all crispy. The bowl was small and the sandwich was a half. She sat down and took a small bite of the sandwich. Her eyes closed. Cheese and bread had never tasted so good. In small bites, she ate the entire sandwich and the soup. For the first time in weeks she really felt full.
She left the dishes on the tray and went to explore the bathroom. She washed her face, re-braided her hair, and perused the linen closet. Among the linens, she chose a sturdy grey pillow case and carried it to the kitchen. There was a distinct lack of Ziploc bags. All the food was kept in glass or ceramic containers. Half had labels she didn’t understand. She did find aluminum foil, parchment paper, and plastic wrap, so she made small packets of essentials as she raided the pantry. Dried fruit and nuts, packets of uncooked rice or dried beans, or any other non-perishable, she made well thought out packets of supplies, wrapped them carefully, and packed them in the pillowcase. In case she had to run, at least she wouldn’t be hungry. Her eyes were getting heavy as she made sure everything was meticulously back in its proper place in the pantry. Clutching her running bag, she dragged her feet back over to the couch. Clambering onto it, she tucked the bag between her body and the back of the couch so it wouldn’t be seen and pulled the blanket up over herself. The fire was mellow and low and she was warm from food and the soft hug of the blanket. Her eyes closed and she hoped that this dream, maybe, could last a little longer.
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