Maine isn’t the most exciting state. People often forgo it for New York, the shine of the Big Apple far overpowering that of the Pine Tree state. Or they skip the East Coast all together and head to Cali or Hawaii, the lure of sunny beaches and tans all too tempting. Or they leave the United States entirely and head to Europe, or some other island.
Honestly, Keefe couldn’t blame them. Ever since he had run away from the Lost Cities, he had stayed in Maine. He didn’t know what he had expected. The elves had drilled into his head that the Lost Cities were superior to the Forbidden Cities in every way, but he had dismissed that as another desperate attempt at masquerading as a perfect utopia. He was surprised to see that maybe...the elves were right.
Keefe winced at the thought. While he hated to agree with his Mentors (or any authority figure in general), he had many issues with the Forbidden Cities. Everything was so loud , and it was harder to get from one place to another. The technology was definitely different, and the way everyone treated each other was horrible . He felt his heart pang every time he saw a person sleeping out in the open. There was even something wrong with the air!
He exhaled, tightening his coat around himself and running a hand through his hair. He wondered if he could really compare the Lost Cities to the Forbidden Cities, since both were flawed as hell.
Keefe picked up the pace as he headed to his favorite coffee shop, Covfefe Beans. He had taken to visiting it whenever he could, but especially when he had a human object in his possession that he needed to figure out. Today’s object was a small, colorful, strangely-shaped box with a lever on the side, a shiny thing picked up from the ground and washed off in a bathroom.
He pushed open the door, paused to inhale the scent of the coffee grounds and clear his sinuses from the polluted air, and grabbed a seat near the window, fishing the object out of his pocket. Placing it on the table, he poked and prodded it suspiciously. Nothing happened. The bejeweled object glittered innocuously, taunting him. Keefe pouted.
“Hey.” Keefe felt a tap on his shoulder and whirled around to meet the green eyes of...a very cute human boy. He was as tall as Keefe sitting, and had olive skin and dark hair. The nametag on his apron said his name was Taylor, and his apron said he was a barista. “You need some help with that?”
Keefe was too busy staring to realize he was supposed to answer.
Taylor smiled slightly, waving his hand in front of Keefe’s face. “Hello?”
He felt his face heat up. What was wrong with him? “Yeah, sorry.” The English rolled off his tongue easily. “What is this, exactly?” He gestured to the box.
Taylor’s face lit up. Keefe found that annoyingly adorable. “That’s a music box! Here, let me open this.” He slid into the chair next to Keefe and took the music box into his hands. Keefe resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands, he was so close . Taylor opened the box, and up rose a mini figurine in a tutu with her arms raised up. He cranked the lever and a tinkling tune floated out, while the figurine slowly spun.
“This is a good quality box!” Taylor handed it back to Keefe. “Where’d you find it?”
Keefe, who had been concentrating very hardly on the music box and nothing else, remembered again that he was supposed to talk. “It was just laying on the sidewalk, so I picked it up and washed it off.”
Taylor raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, that’s not suspicious at all.”
“It’s true!” Keefe jerked his head up, locking eyes with a smirking Taylor. God, that was so cute! He searched for something to snap back with. “What’s suspicious is a barista who’s on the job leaving the counter.”
He shrugged. “I like to connect with the customers.” Taylor winked, and Keefe felt like his face was going to explode. The audacity of this human. “Anyway, customers usually order something. Would you like anything?”
Keefe raised an eyebrow. “Was this all an elaborate plot to get me to buy something?”
Taylor chuckled, and got up. “Oh, no. This drink’s on me. Call it a...discount for cute boys.” Keefe had no idea what his face looked like right now, but he reckoned it resembled a ripe tomato. He didn’t reply, and the silence stretched on for a little too long before Taylor’s smile dropped and he took a step back. “Sorry, I-I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if you were into guys, I- sorry.”
Keefe’s eyes widened and he threw up his hands to stop him. “There’s nothing to be sorry for! I- well, now I’m not sure if I’m not into guys, either.” He laughed weakly, and soon, Taylor’s smile returned. Keefe wondered about how many people had been blinded by it.
“Well, always happy to confuse people. Let’s get you a latte, hmm?” He sent one last grin, before disappearing behind the counter and leaving Keefe alone with his music box to mull over his thoughts.
Liking boys...now that was new. He hadn’t even considered the fact that he could like both girls and boys. First and foremost, he knew he liked girls. Foster was a glaring example of that. But boys? Sure, maybe he could appreciate the looks of most of the guys at Foxfire, and maybe when he and Tam sniped at each other his heart raced and he felt flickerwings in his stomach, but that was normal.
This was confusing. Keefe would have to check “Google” for answers. Good thing he could use a computer at the human library. What would he search up though?
His thoughts were interrupted when Taylor returned, holding a light brown drink and a napkin. He handed the items to Keefe, and smiled.
“Thanks,” Keefe said, taking a sip of the cold drink. His eyebrows shot up. “ Wow, this is good.” He got out of his seat
“Glad you think so,” Taylor grinned. He pointed at the napkin. “Open it!”
Keefe did, and on it he saw a phone number scrawled, along with the message “Call me :)”. He grinned widely, closed the music box, got up, and slipped it into his pocket. “It was...really nice to meet you.”
“And you,” Taylor replied. “Hope to see you again!”
Keefe waved, then slipped out the door.
Maybe Maine wasn’t so bad after all.