She wasn’t someone who particularly liked taking money from others, especially when they offered it to her, as she found that oftentimes these offers were underlined with the idea that she would then owe them something in return. “Nothing is for free” was a motto that her mother had drilled in her mind, and for the most part, she had seen it to be proven true. As well, it was just offensive for someone to assume she couldn’t afford something. Like, did she have any money on her? Well, no, but it’s not like he knew that. It is for these reasons that her lips turned down slightly at his offer of lending her money, and she closed his fist around the bill, lightly pushing his hand back to his body. “There’s no need,” she said, shaking her head ever-so-slightly. “We can get it at my store anyways, so neither of us has to pay.” Anastasia gave him a small smile, lifting her shoulders lightly in a shrug. “Save that money for your pets,” she added, her eyes on the birds that pecked at his feet.
Anastasia watched as his hand went to his temple, where she’d hit him with the ball earlier. Her lips pursed slightly, eyes trained on his movements and outward expression as his hand felt the bump. Pausing for a brief moment, Ana then walked the few paces that separated the two of them. “My sister’s a doctor you know,” she said to him, though that statement was only half-true. “She can fix that for you, make it look like I never demonstrated my horrendous football skills.” Her lips quirked upward slightly, a telltale sign of amusement in the crease. “But really, that was totally my fault, so let my sister fix it for you and we’ll be even. Debts paid.”
It wasn’t until he appeared confused by her calling him Kim that she remembered that his name wasn’t actually Kim, and that that was just the name she’d mentally assigned him. “Yeah, Kim. That’s you, I’ve decided.” She flashed him a charming grin, a light peal of laughter raining from her lips. “You took too long to tell me your name so I gave you one. It’s derived from Kind Man, if you must know.” He said his name was Arthur but that might as well have fallen on deaf ears, as she had pretty much declared that he was Kim, regardless of his actual given name. Kim suited him well enough, she thought; it was practically as good—if not better—than his original one, so she couldn’t see him having an issue with her calling him that. “You cool with being called Kim? If you really don’t like it, I won’t call you that but I think it’s a cute nickname.”
“My name?” She hesitated for a second, wondering if she should give him a fake name, but then figured that was pointless since they were going to a store that she co-owned; if he wanted to find out her name, he definitely could search up the store records and find her listed. So she went with the truth for once, a faint smile gracing her lips as her eyes raised to meet his. “It’s Anastasia. Nice to officially meet you.” A light laugh bubbled out of her.
Though she may have appeared to be, Ana wasn’t totally self-absorbed. In her mind, conversation was like a dance; your partner could be not particularly good at it, but if you were a good enough dancer, you could lead them through difficult steps with minimal stumbling—assuming they were willing to put in the effort. Conversing with Kim was like guiding him through a delicate waltz while he remained limp, not contributing any effort to even attempting the steps at all. Ana was good at carrying the conversation, but this wasn’t even in carrying territory anymore; this was her deadlifting the conversation while she ran with it to the finish line.
Even with his minimal—no, non-existent—engagement in the conversation, she could tell it wasn’t because he wasn’t paying attention. Or, at least if he wasn’t paying attention to the words coming out of her mouth, he was definitely paying attention to her. She felt as if he would notice any movement she made, no matter how slight, so she kept her suspiciousness to a minimum, only making very predictable movements that one would expect from her. She didn’t need to give a police officer—nay, a police captain—any reason to suspect her, especially if they would be heading to her store. Despite his evidently limited conversational skills, she kind of liked Kim, as he had a warm air about him that felt comforting to her. Elise would not be happy with her finding a friend in a police officer, but the potential long-term benefits were too good to pass up.
Ana had had a feeling that he might be more inclined to go with her if she mentioned the horrible disappearances that plagued their city, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when he replied in the affirmative to her request. She allowed a relieved smile to spread like butter across her lips, and she nodded tightly at him. “Thank you, really.” She hugged herself, her hands rubbing her arms. “It’s been really difficult to not feel wary, especially with more and more people disappearing, as you said… almost feels like anyone could be the kidnapper these days.” Her voice grew soft, and she looked off into the distance, unfocusing her eyes for a moment. “My sister’s older than me but she can still be taken one day, and gosh, she’s all the family I have left. I can’t lose her I-” Her voice broke and her hands fluttered to her lips, eyes closing as she appeared to take a breath to compose herself. Anastasia turned back to him, a strained smile on her lips. “Anyway. Sorry. Just. Thank you.”
Of course she had noticed that he had a prosthetic—it isn’t something that one could easily hide. However, it was rude to point it out, so she played by social rules and didn’t. When his gaze travelled over her shoulder, she followed it, watching him watch the boys react negatively to his prosthetic. Ana doubted it was a coincidence when Kim’s hand moved to his pocket, the movement signalling to her that he wanted to hide it. She frowned, anger simmering as her eyes flicked to the boys. Anastasia didn’t know Kim well, sure, but she had a low tolerance for people who made others feel less than about something they couldn’t control. Why did he put any worth on the opinions of a group of twelve-year-olds, she didn’t know, but still, a very loud f*ck them was ringing in her mind.
A faint memory emerged, pushing itself to the forefront of her mind. She and her sister were children, Elise still young enough that her heart wasn’t protected by its fortress, and as a result, she was easily being cut down by the words of her peers. She’d been caught kissing a girl who’d then accused Elise of forcing herself on her—which wasn’t true—and the aftermath had not been good for Elise at all. She remembered a particular afternoon when a posse of girls harassed her sister. She remembered the same fire burning beneath her skin, in the way her small fists clenched at her sides, The very same f*ck them reverberating in her mind as she walked over there, fists flying.
In the present, her hand was moving again, once again an irrational motion, but instead of an attack, it was gentle and she was pulling his metal hand out of his pocket, intertwining her fingers with his. “F*ck them,” she said as an explanation, voicing her thoughts. “There’s nothing at all wrong with your hand so don’t let them—or anyone really—make you think differently.” This was perhaps the realest she’d been in their whole encounter, her eyes blazing as she clutched this virtual stranger’s hand. “It’s a hand and it’s nothing to be ashamed of at all. So f*ck them. I’d honestly fight them if I wasn’t pretty sure you’d arrest me for like child abuse or something but, Kim, your hand is awesome and it doesn’t matter what they think. What anyone thinks. Okay?”
She turned away from him, starting to walk ahead again. “Now yes. The store. It’s not too far, from here just down [street name]. Just follow me.”
@sunflower.flow hi Kim