Chapter 1
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One unfortunate side effect of a life lacking restful sleep is a constant, all-consuming craving for anything caffeinated. Honestly, I’ve been meaning to ween myself off the stuff, but drinking an unreasonable amount of coffee is way easier than going to therapy and trying to untangle whatever clusterfuck I have going on in my head. Though given my usual haunt, probably not cheaper. The Coffee House is a popular franchise with a menu as original and inspired as its name. A menu that, though sparse, can be almost hypnotic to a guy running on empty.

“Hey, excuse me? Are you listening? Hello?” I snap back to reality, beckoned by the increasingly frustrated calls of the person behind me in line. How long has it been my turn to order?

“R–Right, umm… large black coffee… please.” I hand my debit to the woman behind the counter and turn around. “Sorry about…” My words and mind stall as I take in the sight behind me. The woman looking at me through ochre brown eyes and an understandably frustrated scowl is wearing blue jeans that feed into black boots, and a flannel shirt over a band tee so strange I’m convinced it has to be made up. She has enough piercings to be attracted to magnetic north and undercut hair that at some point was probably a vibrant wave of multiple colors but has faded into a dull gradient of slightly tinted mauve. If I’m being honest, she’s beautiful… Yet nothing of her appearance sticks out more than the fact that she doesn’t have any lines. 

I quickly glance at the main seating area of the coffee shop, at the crisscrossing strands forming strangely intricate and chaotic cat’s cradle patterns. Then there’s her, as disconnected from it all as I am. How can someone so striking be– “Dude, think I can order my coffee before you continue gawking?”

Picking my jaw off the floor and skittering to the side, as ashamed of my faux pas as I should be, I listen to the woman order some iced sugary concoction. Before she can reach into her purse I hand the barista my card again.

“What’s this for?” She asks, looking at me with a distrustful edge that I can neither question nor criticize.

“Peace offering?” I say, hoping a sheepish grin and a free coffee can somehow make up for acting like a complete ass. The woman shrugs and the two of us wait for our orders by the counter. “Sorry again… for staring… that was rude.”

The woman scoffs and waves off my words. “It’s alright, I’m used to being literally stunning. It’s the cross I bear having a face like this.” I stifle a laugh that doesn’t go unnoticed and she turns to face me with a playful smirk. “Alright, rude! How was that funny?”

Recovering as quickly as possible, I put on the best gruff and unamused face that I can possibly fake. “Oh, no laughter here. You just… took my breath away, very suddenly, and it just sounded like I couldn’t help but laugh at your well-deserved self-compliment.”

“Wow… adding breathtaking to my resume? So smooth, so confident… so barking up the wrong tree.” She rolls her eyes and leans against the wall.

“Ah, damn, felled by hubris once again. When will mortals learn!?" I shake my fist at the sky and silently hope I don't get struck down by a passing god taking offense. "Guess I’m just an Average Joe?” My eyes dart down to her shirt for a moment before meeting hers once more.

She crosses her arms over the design I referenced and shakes her head. “You can’t honestly tell me you heard of them before. I don’t even think their music is available anywhere.”

“Nope, never heard of them. Are you wearing that as some kind of hipster call sign or something? Like ‘oh my goodness, I like a band so obscure even I can’t listen to them!?’”

“Hell no, I just got this for free. Apparently, it’s proof that at some point my best friend’s mom was actually cool. Plus, it looks awful, which I think is funny.” One of the workers calls my name and I see two cups hit the counter. The woman and I each grab our drink and turn to one another again. “Well… thank you for the coffee… and for being the most pleasant to talk to ogler I’ve ever dealt with.”

I toast her with my cup. “And thank you for letting me live that one down and not bringing it up again to make things awkward. Super appreciate it.” She chuckles a bit at my expense and I shrug, making for the door. “Goodbye forever, random stunning, breathtaking lady I will never see again.”

“Goodbye, Mr. Hubris.”

With that, we each turn and walk in opposite directions to distant destinations. Were the world a more magical place that emulates the saccharine trends of romance movies, this one simple interaction would serve as a meet-cute, setting up a grand relationship rife with drama and the requisite will-they-won’t-they tension that greenlights more television shows than genuinely innovated and interesting ideas. Unfortunately, that sort of spark, that connection, that chance encounter… isn’t in the cards for me or the woman who will eventually realize that being incredibly attractive did not guarantee a happily ever after written and directed to be aired directly on the hallmark channel. No line. No love. End of story…

Speaking of which, it was almost time to go to work.


Twelve thirty-two, north end of Guava Lane Park, right on schedule. Two people are seated on the benches, and just as I was told… there is a grey line connecting them. One of the pair, a woman, stands up and walks off leaving the man she’s with alone. I take a deep breath, reminding myself that this has to be done, before walking over and sitting next to him.

“Oh, sorry friend, but I’m saving the seat for somebody.” The man says in a cheery tone. He’s clearly out of his depth here. Oh, I almost feel sorry for him. There’s a handkerchief in his pocket that’s so worn down and drenched in sweat, that it's become translucent… a genuine accomplishment given the chill in the air. His hand is shaking, his foot is tapping, and if the real world worked on cartoon logic, I’m sure I’d see the outline of his heart trying to escape his chest. The poor lad probably hasn’t been this nervous in ages, and despite how good I look in a sports coat, I know it's not because of me.

“I know, saving this spot for your girlfriend, right?” I answer, matching his chipper voice with a lighthearted version of my own.

“Girlfr– Oh, no, we’re just friends… but she’s great!”

“I’ll say,” I look off in the direction she walked off in. “She is quite gorgeous, isn’t she?”

The man tenses up. “Yeah… hey, she’s gonna be back any minute now. Sorry to ask, but I’d like some privacy with her.”

“But she’s not your girlfriend, you just said so… I thought I might stick around, ask her out myself. That… wouldn’t be a problem, right?” Oh, Mr. Flop Sweat doesn’t like that one bit.

“Actually… I was going to ask her out. Today.”

I close my eyes, slipping deeper into character than I want to before opening them again and facing the man with a sadistic grin. “You!?” I laugh at the man. “Holy shit, I mean, I’ve heard the expression ‘shoot for the stars’ but goddamn.”

The man’s face shrivels up like a raisin in the sun as he looks at me with disgust. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You… can’t be serious, right? Are you going to make me say it? She’s beautiful and you’re… well, you showed up. Points for that, I guess, but come on. Guy like you, girl like her. Doesn’t take a mathematics professor to tell that things don’t add up.”

“Shut up!” The line starts to fray, just slightly… so I push harder.

“You’re just mad because you know I’m right. You’re a walking case study in blandness, a stock photo come to life… Hell, the fact that she was able to stomach being around you for so long is a testament to her unending patience. You know you don’t belong with someone like her.” He tries to stammer a response, but I see the strand quickly unwinding and know that I can make quick work of the rest. “Let me guess, you’ve only known her for a short while, but you’re trying to steamroll your way into a relationship. Lock her in before she sees you for what you really are: An anchor, wedged in the sand, going nowhere and ready to hold her down in place forever as well. You don’t care that you’ll never make her happy, so long as she sticks around and makes your meaningless existence a bit more colorful… right?”

The man looks shell-shocked and while he’s distracted, I take out my blade and swipe it, cleanly severing the line which crumbles to dust. “Pleasure talking to you.” I stand up and walk away, leaving the man with one less line available to him moving forward. Don’t worry though, both him and the girl have other lines, other possibilities… beautiful glowing red lines that will never fray or snap. The goddess' perfect, untarnishable blessing.

Almost makes me feel like less of a piece of shit for doing what I do... Almost. You'd think I wouldn't feel so empty after doing the work of the literal goddess of love, but here we are.

As I retreat through the trees, trying to get as far away from here as possible, I hear a series of loud, rapid claps. I halt my retreat and look around in time to see a teenager in an Aloha shirt and cargo shorts step out from behind one of the many trees surrounding me. “Very nice. Very clean. Incredibly textbook severing, friend.” The teen’s voice is condescending as he continues with his sarcastic applause. “Honestly, I always do love seeing a professional at work.” When I look at the boy, was eyes strain and clamp shut as a blazing bright light threatens to blind me. “Yeah, might not want to try your little parlor trick on me. It might be fun to have a taste of divinity, but a puddle doesn’t get to wet the ocean.”

Pausing my use of Eleonora’s vision, I look at the boy again and find him having a laugh at my pain. “Who are you?”

“Just a guy who enjoys watching cruelty… you know, you could do so much more with your talent for torment working for someone with a bit more ambition than your lovesick leader.”

“My mom’s not lo–.”

“I don’t mean your petty little priestess. I meant Eleonora, the pathetic, broken-hearted fool.”

I clench my jaw and step closer to the boy. “I have given too much to the faith to have a little shit like you blaspheme like that.”

The boy’s laughter grows until he’s clutching his stomach with glee. “You!? You didn’t give anything. You were robbed, and now the people who wronged you have you doing their dirty work. It’s fucking laughable how your story is playing out right now. Which is why I thought I’d try to offer you another path... but perhaps this isn’t the right time.” The boy calms himself down and wipes the tears from his eyes. “Well, at least this wasn’t a completely wasted trip. I do so love watching a good fight.”


“What the fuck did you do!?” A strained and furious voice calls to me and I turn around to see the woman from the coffee shop storming toward me. “Answer me!”

“What are you talking about, I was just talking to–” Off to the side, the boy is no longer present. “Of course not… Okay, what is it you think I did?”

“I don’t fucking know! But you did something and made that line between the park couple disappear! How did you do that? Why would you do that!?” The woman from earlier, who I didn’t expect to ever see again looks like she’s about to bury me in these woods and I back up as she continues advancing.

Wait a second… this doesn't make any sense!

“You can see lines too!?”