Xen and Alli walked down the boardwalk. The beach ran parallel to them. The street fair was in full swing. Venders were selling cotton candy and huge, warm pretzels. Lights were strung up, all along the thoroughfare. People strolled and strode the length of the promenade. The night brought a much-needed respite from the day’s summer heat.
They sat down on a bench under a large tree. Paper lanterns hung from a few lower branches. Xen put her hand in Alli’s. Her hair floated briefly in the night’s first breeze. Alli could hear the waves lapping greedily at the shore, before receding and heading back out into the bay.
“So, you’re going to stay in New York?” Xen asked.
Alli nodded, “I am going to open up a restaurant.”
“What kind of restaurant?” Xen wondered.
“Italian-Asian fusion,” Alli joked.
“I’m serious!” Xen said.
Alli looked up. A shadow had crossed their path. Nealy was blocking the street lamp light.
“Oh hi, I didn’t see you two there!” Nealy said, “How are you?”
Xen and Alli got up. Alli shook Nealy’s hand and hugged her. She turned to Xen, “Xen, this is Nealy. Nealy, this is Xen.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Nealy said.
“No, really,” Xen laughed, “The pleasure is mine.”
Nealy, looked between them, “How did you two meet?”
Alli hooked her thumbs in her belt loops, “Oh, you know – Labyrinth.”
“Ah yes,” Nealy chuckled, “The old watering hole.”
“Do you want to grab a coffee with us?” Xen added “I’d love to learn more about you. Alli speaks highly of you.”
Nealy smiled, bemused, “She does? Well, look, I just got off from work, so I could use a bite to eat.”
A taxi ride later, they all sat in Costa Coffee, drinking a round of dirty chai.
“What do you do for a living?” Nealy asked Xen.
“I manage restaurants, like Nobu and Noma,” Xen said, sipping her tea.
“What an amazing job,” Nealy said. Turning to Alli, she said, “And you just ran into her at Labyrinth?”
“It was a rainy day. The clientele must have been different,” Alli shrugged.
“And what happens next?” Nealy said, with a bit of mischief.
Xen and Alli looked at each other. “I don’t know,” Alli laughed.
Xen also laughed, “I was telling her about my cabin upstate.”
“A magic cabin,” Nealy grinned.
“Well, summer isn’t going to last forever,” Alli said.
“You’re welcome to come too, Nealy,” Xen said.
“I will consider it,” Nealy said, getting up, “Especially, if there’s barbeque.”
They caught separate taxis, Xen and Alli, headed to Alli’s apartment in Midtown, and Nealy, heading home, to Williamsburg.
“See you around Nealy,” Xen said, “Great to meet you!”
“We have to catch up some time,” Alli said, opening the taxi door for Xen.
“Of course!” Nealy said, getting in her cab, “Just text me.”
As Nealy’s taxi pulled away, Alli couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt. But she pushed the sadness down below, into her gut. She walked around the car, to her door.
All night (feat. ローマン Roman)
Dynasty (feat. Watermane)
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