The Box's Pandora part 14

I sat at the dinner table, enjoying the best meal that I’d eaten in days. It was fried chicken, smashed potatoes, and green beans that had been cooked with some bacon and mushrooms. But unfortunately, it also reminded me of the fact that I’d never be able to sit down for a home cooked meal with my family, ever again.

It had been three days since Jake and I had arrived at Dave’s house, and while I was grateful for his help, I had been less pleased by his assumption that since I was a woman, I knew how to cook. Our host had subtly volunteered me to do the cooking while I was there, but after two meals, he realized his mistake. I’m sure that if I actually practiced cooking a bit more, then whatever muscle memories I’d gained from Aunt Dora would kick in and help me learn. However, that hadn’t happened yet.

Jake had taken over the cooking duties, after he and Dave both agreed that it would be better if I didn’t cook anymore. He was a decent cook, or at least, better than I was, but the food could have been better. Still, I wasn’t about to complain, because I certainly couldn’t do any better.

After finishing a drumstick, I looked up and around the dinner table, noting that Dave and Jake were both enjoying the meal as well. Then, my eyes settled on the cook, Astrid, a stocky blonde woman in her early fifties, who happened to be Dave’s aunt. She’d come over to visit Dave, make sure he was eating right, and though she never said it, to check out his two houseguests.

It was only after we’d finished eating and had cleared the table, that Astrid said, “I hear that you two are in a bit of trouble…”

Jake and I both glanced to Dave, who shrugged apologetically. “No professional interrogator can match the skills of a nosey aunt.” He winked at Astrid to show that he was joking about the ‘nosey’ part.

“A bit of trouble,” Jake admitted while I nodded agreement. “But we’re not going to do anything to bring it here.”

“What kind of trouble is this?” Astrid asked. She gave each of us a somewhat suspicious look. “Are you two hiding out from the law? Did you do something illegal?”

“We…saw something we shouldn’t have,” Jake explained carefully. “And some people don’t want us to testify…”

Astrid stared at Jake for a moment, then at me. “My bullshit detector is pinging a bit…” Dave burst out laughing at that while Jake squirmed, obviously trying to think of a good response.

“It’s the truth,” I said, feeling self-conscious when Astrid looked at me. Then I admitted, “But not all of it…”

“So, what’s the full story?” Dave asked.

Dave looked to Jake, but I was the one who answered. “I was visiting a family friend, when we were attacked.” I closed my eyes, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “They were…like the mob or something…all armed with machine guns. They killed two people in front of me…”

“Why in the world would they do that?” Astrid asked with a look of horror.

“Because that family friend had something they wanted,” I answered honestly. “An antique and family heirloom.”

“I wasn’t there for that part of it,” Jake admitted. “But it was just a glorified robbery, where two innocent people were murdered. Pan got away, along with two other people…including my dad.”

“I thought you said that they killed your dad,” Dave said, looking at Jake.

Jake nodded. “They did…but later.”

“Cliff,” I continued, adding, “Jake’s dad,” for clarification, “took us to his place to hide out, and he called Jake to come help guard us.” I closed my eyes again and took several deep breaths to help me stay calm. “But they found us there…”

“They attacked my dad’s cabin,” Jake took up for me again. “This time, they got my dad…and Theressa…the other person who survived the first attack.” Jake somehow managed to keep his voice even when he mentioned that his dad had been killed, though there was a definite edge of anger to it. “Pan and I managed to get away…barely.”

“You poor things,” Astrid exclaimed, giving us looks of pity.

“Shit,” Dave gasped. “I didn’t realize it was that bad…” He shook his head at that. “These guys killed four people…”

“Probably a lot more,” Jake admitted quietly. “These were only the ones we know about directly.” He hesitated a moment, then admitted, “Dave, you were the only one I could come to for help. Like I said, we just need to stay out of sight in a safe place, until we figure out what to do. As long as we don’t use our credit cards, or do anything like that, they have no way of tracking us here. But if you don’t want to risk it, I understand…”

“Of course you can stay,” Dave said, looking almost shocked by the idea that he might not want to help.

Astrid continued to give us worried and sympathetic looks as she asked, “Did you call the police?”

Before we could answer, Dave pointed out, “These sound like the kind of people who have the police in their pockets.”

“That is a concern,” Jake added grimly. “We wanted to make sure that we were safe and had a chance to consider our options before we tried contacting anyone…just in case.”

“That makes sense, I guess,” Astrid said.

Dave gave Jake a worried look. “If you can’t use your credit cards…how are you getting by?”

“Not very well,” Jake answered with a grimace. “We went on the run with just the cash in my wallet, and that won’t last long.”

“Definitely not,” I agreed.

Ever since we’d arrived, Jake had been looking for a way to make money, which didn’t require things like official paperwork or even his real name. Yesterday, Dave had hooked him up with a friend, who hired him for some manual labor job, where he was paid under the table. I’d been left home alone, bored out of my mind.

“Dave helped me find work,” Jake said. “That should help.”

“What about you?” Astrid asked me curiously.

“What about me?” I asked, not sure what she meant.

“Are you looking for work too, while you’re here?” Astrid asked. Then, before I could answer, she smiled a little smugly. “Have you ever waited tables?”

I blinked at that. “No...”

Astrid leaned forward, still looking pleased with herself. “That isn’t a problem. You see, I own the Corner Diner, and I’ve been looking for a little help. I can’t afford to pay you much, but it is under the table, and you get to keep your tips…”

For a moment, I just stared at Astrid in surprise. “You’re offering me a job?”

“I most certainly am,” Astrid agreed pleasantly.

Just a couple weeks ago, I’d been a somewhat normal fifteen year old boy, so I’d never had a job in my life. The idea of having a real job…an adult job, seemed both exciting and scary at the same time. But I was no longer the boy I had been. Now, I was an adult woman, and that meant being responsible and at least contributing to my own bills.

With a smile, I asked Astrid, “When can I start?”

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This story is 1280 words long.