Introduction: "Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick..." "SHUT UP ALREADY! MY TIME ISN'T UP YET!" "Holy crap Rana... you kinda killed your clock." My brother gawked at my hand as blood streamed from gashes in the soft skin of my palm. I shook my head and sighed. "Um... sorry dude. I... I should go." My chair scraped across the floor as I pushed away from the table where I was helping my brother with homework. Walking towards the door, I began to pick shards of glass out of my hand, wincing as each was removed. "Rana come back! I need help! Please?" Jonah, my brother threw his arms around me as I tried to open the door. I frowned and knelt in front of him, pulling him in for a hug. "Sorry Joe, I don't know where that came from. Just got real mad." "It's cool Rana! I'm gonna go try that math problem again!" he conjured a huge, jovial smile and raced back to the table, scribbling numbers on his paper. I rubbed my head and paced the small room. My brother and I used to live with our mother, Janice, who was a well known druggie, alcoholic, and as I call it around Jonah, a "public dancer." My dad, Barris or something, met Janice at the town bar during a karaoke night. If Janice had one redeeming quality, it would probably be her singing. She had a beautiful voice, which enticed Barry and created me. Barrey left before I was born, because he was a deadbeat and so was Janice, and left her to raise me alone. We never had a consistent home, always moving, hiding, sneaking... We once lived in a dumpster, no joke. We rarely ate meals, and when we did they were free bar food. So after my 12th birthday, Janice announced that there would be a new member in our family, in other words, Jonah. Jonah's dad was named Harold, and he was a construction worker at a new job site in town. Harold stuck around until Jonah turned two and he realized Janice would never pull any family weight. A few months later, Janice became depressed, going out late at night, drinking more, and coming home less and less. One night she was real drunk, stumbling around the house, and she found Jonah, who was four at the time, drawing on the wall. She flipped out and began screaming how we ruined her life, and how she could have been a famous dancer... That's when I decided to leave. One night when she was out at the bar, I took Jonah and we escaped to a nearby city. That was around a year ago, and now we live in a foreclosed tiny home. Jonah goes to school at a nearby academy, while I work at the local diner as a waitress to feed our tiny family. When Jonah gets home, he walks to the diner and does his homework in one of the booths while I finish up my shift. On Saturday, he goes to a friend's house, and we spend Sundays together. Last Sunday we went out to get ice cream together, and he saw a kid playing on a shiny, new tablet and asked me what it was. I laughed and called it a 'fancy book'... but I couldn't help but feel as though I wasn't doing enough for the kid. "Hey I got it Rana! Come see! I'll explain it to you cause I understand it!" Jonah called from the table. I walked over with a smile and watched as he presented me with the answer.
"Anothah coffee on three!" Yelled the chubby, grey haired lady from behind the stove. I quietly walked to the coffee machine and poured some of the thick, dark liquid. The diner was housed in an old building, with 'rustic' exposed brick. The ceiling tiles had water stains, and the walls were covered with grease and crayon from children who visited. I tightened the ponytail that housed my long strawberry-blonde hair and breathed deeply. The smell of burgers and sweat filled my nostrils, and I struggled to keep down the nausea that filled my stomach whenever I came here. I carried the cup out to the table where a young guy sat, looking over his menu lazily.
"Hey, here's your coffee sir." I spoke quietly, setting down the coffee and turning away. I stopped as I felt a hand on my arm, and the guy spoke.
"Hi there. Can I get some pancakes? Extra syrup... and don't call me sir, it's too adulty." He laughed, which was a calm and relaxed sound. He pushed some reddish-brown hair from his green eyes and smirked at me.
"What should I call ya then?" I questioned, playing along with this guy's antics.
"Allan, but I go by Lan for short."
"Alright, Lan. One order of pancakes. Comin' up." I sighed and pushed my way back to the kitchen, the smell of grease once again filling the air.
"One order of pancakes on three Jess." I told the cook, who nodded and poured some thin batter onto the griddle. I leaned back into a wall and sighed. Jonah would be here soon, as he had the day off, so I will probably have to work extra hours to make up for the time off. I have to make sure he has food... and he can go to school... and...
"Ey! Rana! Pay attention! Three's pancakes are ready!" I shook my head and found Jess waving her arms and shoving a plate of pancakes into my arms. I blushed and hurried to deliver the food. I ran over to the faded red booths and set down the plate.
"Here are your... uh... pancakes... Lan!" I huffed, trying to catch my breath. Lan simply raised an eyebrow and gestured to the seat across from him.
"You look like you need a break, um..."
"Oh I'm Rana."
"Rana. Nice. That's a unique name. I like it." He smiled and once more gestured to the seat. I shook my head and sighed.
"Aw, but I insist that you do!" He smirked as I sat down, defeated. I looked out the window quietly, but I felt his eyes studying me.
"Why are you working here? You could do better."
"I'm doing it for my brother, Jonah. To give him a life ya know." I sighed and looked back at Lan.