Next Time

Connor sat alone at a small table in the university cafeteria, poring over some maps. A woman’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Writing a horoscope?”

He glanced up from his work. A young black woman in an apron smiled at him, holding a pot of coffee in her hand.

“I’m sorry?” he asked.

“That’s a star chart.” She gestured at the papers strewn across the small cafeteria table. “I thought maybe you were writing a horoscope.”

“Oh. No.” He fidgeted with his glasses. Corvus and Scorpio were already at work tracking down the next Knight, and Connor was damned if that was going to happen again. The memories stung in his mind—Aquila’s memories. Failing to make it back in time to stop Corvus from falling to the Darkness. Now she and the fallen Knight both had to be dealt with. Redeemed.

“Are you alright?” the woman asked, putting her hand over his. “You look like a man who could use another cup of coffee. What do you say?”

“Please. And my apologies. I’m a bit distracted. Teaching a class tonight, and I have a lot on my mind.”

“Say no more!” She refilled his cup. Connor reached out to take it and she smiled. “I love your nails.”

Without thinking, he folded his hand to hide his purple polished nails. Stupid. “Ah. Thank you. For the coffee.”

“Oh, god, I didn’t mean to—”

Samantha!

An older white woman with blonde hair down to her shoulders called across the cafeteria. Judging by her uniform, she was one of the managers.

Samantha made an exaggerated grimace at Connor that her manager could not see. “Call me Sam,”  she said as she trotted off. “Let me know if you need another cup.”


The next day Connor ordered his coffee at the counter. Sam was there. Immediately concern appeared on her face.

“Oh god, what happened?”

He waved his hand dismissively. The polish on his nails was scraped. Connor could tell Sam was staring at the bruises along his neck, where Scorpio had tried to crush the life out of Aquila.

“Archery accident.”

She raised an eyebrow, but let it drop.

He cleared his throat. “Connor.”

“I’m sorry?” Sam blinked. “I didn’t catch that.”

“My name is Connor,” he said. It had always been his name, but it felt strange and heavy on his tongue.

A grin curled on her lips. “How do you take your coffee, Connor?”

“Black.”

“Like the night.”

He shook his head. “The night is full of stars.”

“You’re an interesting one.” Sam passed him his coffee. “You should let me do a reading for you sometime.”

His eyes met hers. “No.”

“You’re one of those astronomy kids, aren’t you? Don’t believe in what the stars have to say?”

That made him chuckle. Or was Aquila the one laughing? “I never said that.”

There was the sound of someone else clearing their throat. Connor and Sam both looked over to see Sam’s manager staring at the two of them. Her look was not an approving one.

“At least tell me your sign,” Sam whispered.

Connor picked up the coffee. “That is a hard question. I’ll see you next time. Sam.”

“There’s a next time, huh?”

He looked down at the mug, which was warm in his hands. There were swirls on the dark surface. “Always.”