Chapter Three: A Little Meal In The Morning
As the last person to leave the clinic, Anna had the responsibility of locking up.
It was already thirty minutes past one in the morning, and she was feeling very hungry. She didn't expect eight more men to come for their tests tonight. It was usually slow, but this was the time of the year where dispatches came in flocks. Putting the key in her purse, Anna turned to find Daniel standing on the corner of the building, his hands on his pocket and his shoulders shivering as he tried to warm off by walking in circles.
"Daniel?" She called him out, and he walked towards her. "What are you doing here?"
"Guarding the building with my might," he answered cockily, so she turned around and walked away. "It's an innocent jest," he called out, and he caught up with her footsteps.
She stopped walking. "So what are you doing here?"
"Let's get something to eat. I'm starving."
"Nothing is open until five in the morning," she answered. "The camp should have something prepared."
"But I want to eat with you."
Her cheeks turned red after his statement. She was glad it was still dark, or he would see how easily swayed she was.
Anna looked round. It was true that she was hungry too, but there was nowhere else to go. Except that place.
"You're not picky with food, are you?" She asked him.
"As long as it is edible, I'm good."
Pointing her index finger up, she plastered a grin on her face. "Follow me then."
It took them ten full minutes to reach the small, two-bedroom house across the river. It was still fairly dark, but the full moon guided their way to her house.
Inside, Anna didn't have a lot of things. She had a working kitchen with enough counter space, an oven and a microwave. In the living room were two sofas made of mahogany, a television, and small square table made of maple wood, which she uses for dining. There also was her bedroom, her father's room, and a restroom behind the hall.
"Do you live alone?" He asked as she was putting on an apron.
"No," she answered. "I live with a man."
"Your father," he clarified as he was holding a picture frame of the two.
"He is a man, you know."
She cracked a few eggs in one pan, and fried sausages in another while she placed some bacon strips in the oven to crisp. Then she made fresh pot of coffee, while heating up the sourdough bread she made the night before. As she finished placing them on the table, she saw Daniel outside with an ax. He was finishing up with cutting firewood. He asked her before what he could do to help, and she told him to sit down. She thought that he must have noticed the untouched pile of wood outside.
His face lit up when he saw the feast in front of him.
"Delicious," he said as he took a spoonful. As they ate, her chest felt lighter, as if the worries in the world have disappeared.
"Do you like cooking?" He asked her as he took a bite of the bread. He lifted his thumbs up.
She smiled. "It's more of a necessity than a hobby. My father can't cook."
"How about your mother?" Daniel asked, but he stopped himself short after realizing the lack of her pictures on the wall. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," replied Anna as she took a sip of the coffee. "She died when I was two. I can't remember anything about her at all."
"That makes the two of us," he answered.
She was taking a bite of the bread when she noticed his eyes on her.
"What now?" She said, a little bit annoyed.
"Nothing." He replied. "I just think it's nice..." He paused.
In that second, Anna forgot the worries in her head. Her chest felt light, and she almost wanted to say she was also having a nice time.
But that feeling stopped the moment Daniel got up and reached for something across the table. Something had popped out from his sweater, something that had been hanging on his neck. His dog tag.
Daniel's identification tag.
"Thanks for the food," said Daniel. "Best meal I've had in a week."
"You should go now," said Anna, and she stood up abruptly. "Roll call starts in twenty minutes."
Daniel looked at his watch in surprise. "Crap! I forgot about that."
As he got up, she led him to the door, and he lingered for a while.
"Anna, there's something I want to say."
"Daniel," she pleaded. "You should go."
He looked at her in confusion, but he nodded anyway.
"Oh. Of course, I should go now."
Anna quickly closed the door. She crossed her hands, holding her elbows to support herself.
"That was close," she thought, and her forehead scrunched. "I can't do this. I can't think like this." But then, she saw a picture of Daniel in her mind. It was on the first day they met. It was a sunny afternoon inside the bookshop, and he caught her jumping off the shelves to return the fallen books. More than anything, she vividly recalled the smile on his face.
She closed her eyes to erase the image in her head, when the words of her father rang in her ears.
"You should not trust anyone. Promise me that."
And then a snake filled her brain. The same snake that had just finished swallowing a chicken in a whole. This time, it was moving rapidly towards something else behind the bushes. When the image fell clearer, she realized that the snake was aiming for a small, shivering child with eyes wide open.
It was aiming for her.
Anna couldn't remember anything after that, because her vision suddenly turned hazy, and then pitch black.
"Anna, Wake up!"
Her eyes opened to find a friendly face. She immediately wrapped her arms around the small woman that had been shaking her to gain consciousness.
"It's Emily," she sang. "Emily, my best friend. Emily, my favorite person in the whole, wide world."
When they both got up, Anna looked around to see that she had been lying on the floor just behind the entrance to her house
"At least it wasn't in the streets, like last time" said Emily. "I came over to find you passed out here. Did it happen again?"
"I told you to rest properly!" Hissed Emily. "Your low blood pressure isn't going to fix itself. Have you been drinking enough water - wait, of course not. You are passed out after all. Next time, double the amount."
Anna was filled with guilt, but she can't tell Emily the truth. That there was another reason for her episodes, and that her blood pressure was really fine.
"I'm sorry," replied Anna, and she kissed Emily on the cheek. "You know, I can only rely on you. But I did just finish eating."
Emily held her on the shoulders with a sly smile. "I know that."
"What do you mean?"
"I saw him, you know. There was a man that left your house. A soldier, judging from his clothes. You're the only one that lives in this area, so it can only be you he came here for. We passed each other on the way and he greeted me."
"-of course not! He must have been here for something else."
Emily quickly slapped her on the shoulder, and pointed at the table.
"I know Sahl isn't here. So whose plate was the other one? Did you eat two servings by yourself?"
Anna didn't reply.
"I've never seen him around, you know. Must be a new dispatch." Emily said as she helped her clean up the table. "He has a kind face."
Emily caught Anna's face lit up after her statement.
"Quite good-looking too," Emily added, and she started to hum the tune of a popular love song. Anna ignored her.
"Well then, will I see him tomorrow at the main town, I wonder?"
"The main town?"
"Because of the ceremony." answered Emily. "They'll have the National Guards ceremony tomorrow afternoon. I hear there are 15 converted soldiers this time. One of them must be him."
"Daniel Han," Anna clarified. "That's his name."
Emily raised an eyebrow. "Hoho, you even know his whole name." She flicked her hair to the side. "Don't ever let him meet my halmoni (Korean: grandmother). She's dying to find me a husband with his description."
"I don't care," she said defensively. "Take him, Ms. Park."
"Ms. Elixon, you don't mean that at all," she replied. "Look, you're holding that knife with such fire power." She pointed at Anna's hand, which had picked up a butter knife and had been unconsciously holding it up. She dropped it.
After they cleaned up, Emily made her way out.
"I just wanted to see your face for a bit today. I met Mr. Fingerstone and he said you can take the day off today because he's meeting up with a friend so he won't open the shop."
She waved Emily goodbye, and ran to bed.
"I'm a lot more tired than I thought I would be," she thought. The lids in her eyes were starting to feel heavy, so she let the exhaustion take over, causing her to have a wonderful sleep.