The barista stepped sideways. Slowly, he began to fill Lysander’s order, not taking his eyes off of him for more than a moment at a time. Finally, he capped the cardboard cup and set it on the counter. He slid it across to Lysander.
“Here you go. On the house.”
Lysander felt the tension drain out of him all at once. He picked up the tea.
The barista nodded, also relaxing.
“New in town?” He asked.
“Visiting.” Lysander replied. “Not sure for how long.”
“Do you have a place to stay?”
“Ah, no,” Lysander said cautiously. “Why do you ask?”
“You’ve accepted my gift of sustenance,” the barista pointed to the tea, “as such, you are bound by the laws of hospitality to offer me no harm, as I am bound to offer you food and shelter. For three days, no more, no less.”
“You’re fey,” Lysander said.
“You’re observant,” the barista countered.
“Pretty confident, too, if you’re inviting me to stay with you.”
“You’re no danger.” The barista shrugged. “Not for the next three days. You accepted my hospitality of your own free will. You quite literally can’t harm me for that time.”
“I didn’t know it worked like that.”
“You’ve made an in-depth study of the fey, then, have you?”
“Alright, point taken.” Lysander took a sip of his tea. It needed sugar. “Thank you.”
“The pleasure was all mine.”
“I’m sure it was. I’m Sand, by the way.” Lysander offered up his other name almost on instinct. Names hold power, and when dealing with the fey, it never hurt to be cautious.
“Call me Val,” the barista replied. “Go ahead and make yourself comfortable. Let me know if you’d like anything else.”
“Will do.” Sand stepped out of the way as a businesslike woman walked into the shop and toward the counter.
Sand doctored his tea with a strong dose of sugar and found a spot in an out of the way corner. The overstuffed leather chair was welcoming and quite comfortable. Lenore should have had time to wake up and make her way to his apartment by now, which meant that any moment now…
A small pink bubble popped into existence near his right hand. The glinda from Lenore, right on schedule. Rather than pop it right here and have his possessions spill out all over the floor, Sand gently stowed the bubble in his duffel.
The coffee shop began to fill up. With 20 or 30 floors of offices directly above this level, it was inevitable. Sand slowly drank his tea and thought back over this rather bizarre day he was having. He was nearing the bottom of the cup when something drew across his senses, like a bow across the strings of a violin.
Someone was dreaming. He could feel it. It was near, and it was strong.
Sand’s eyes flicked across the crowd. Strange. People were talking, drinking, typing on their laptops. No one, however, was sleeping.
But if no one was sleeping…who was dreaming?
To Be Continued…
Next Time, on Digital Dreaming: “Eyes Wide Shut”
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