She was the last in line; she'd arrived late, but they'd made an exception. She stepped warily past the immense bodyguard and slid into the booth. She smiled respectfully, she folded her hands, she tried not to make eye contact. Don't speak until—
He'd been staring out the window; he glanced down at his watch before delivering a businesslike "What can I do for you?"
She'd rehearsed it — in the mirror at home, in the car on the drive up from Gary, standing in line — but she was suddenly vacant, unsure. "Uh…"
"Where are you from?"
"Gary. Just outside of. Like, right between Gary and Hobart?"
"I'll be in Chicago tomorrow, why not wait and see me there?"
"I have to work." She managed to make eye contact, only for a fraction of a second, a guilty, furtive glance. His eyes were a robin egg blue, an arctic blue, with a glow like they were catching the light just so, like
He leaned back against the cushioned seat, head cocked to one side, regarding her. "You have a job."
"You don't like it, though, you wish you did something else?"
"A lot of people don't have a job at all."
"I'm not 'people'." It was an instinctive retort, and she was immediately regretful for the outburst. "Sorry."
"No, no." A smile grew across his face, like he'd decided something, good or bad, like he had an understanding he'd lacked before and nothing she would say from here on out would change it. "What would you rather be doing?"
"I don't know. Just… somewhere else."
He leaned in, arms crossed in front of him on the table. "You know the story of the Faerie Kingdom? Of course you do. You were held in arms and fed it with breast-milk. All your life you've been told it was real, that it was out there, that one day we'd go back there, that we'd have everything we'd ever needed or wanted or imagined."
"Deep down, you think to yourself, 'why hasn't that happened yet? What's the hold-up? Why not now? Why not for me?"
He was giving her speech, the rehearsed one, the one from the mirror, giving it back to her as if he'd been watching her for days, memorizing every word and inflection. "Yes."
"But you're a… what do you do? Your job."
"I'm a check-out girl." She locked eyes with him now: no less afraid, but drawn into it, into them. "It's me and eight scanner machines that do the same job. The manager fired seven other girls when he installed the machines. The only reason he picked me is he wants to fuck me; he's said so. The other girls think he already has. They won't speak to me."
"He's a pig."
Offhandedly, with a shrug: "You should kill him."
Now she leaned in, her voice a hiss of a whisper. "I want to. But then what? Some other checkout job at some other store with some other pig manager? Maybe I could do something even more humiliating. Maybe I could clean their bathrooms; maybe I could answer their phones. Plus having to worry about the police coming—"
She fell silent, leaned back, willed her heartbeat to slow and her breath to calm. He was waiting, eyebrows up, for her to collect herself, and continue; eventually she managed it. "I can put up with a lot, if I know there's something better I'm working towards. Working for. Right now I'm just feeding the enemy. Your enemy."
"You want purpose."
"You want a commission from your King."
She paused, gathering her will, marshaling her strength. She didn't need to think it through, she'd come with this choice already made. "You are my King. Command me."
The smile returned to his face. He nodded to the bodyguard, who called over a waitress. He didn't need to look at the menu. "Two eggs, scrambled; bacon, hash browns, and an English muffin. And coffee. The same for the young lady."
"Sure." The waitress winked at her before walking off towards the kitchen.
She wasn't hungry; she didn't say so. When the food came, which was almost immediately, she picked at and tasted and and rearranged while he devoured.
He had a mouthful of hash browns when he finally continued. "Here's what you do. Ready?"
"You go home, get a good night's sleep, you go in to work tomorrow, and you kill the pig." He didn't look up from his afternoon breakfast to gauge her reaction. "You don't take a weapon; you beat him to death with your hands, with your fists. It'll feel better. Leave the body in the grocery. Don't worry about making it look like there's been a break-in: they'll see you were scheduled, that you're not dead too, that you're not home, and they'll know it was you. But they won't be able to find you because you'll be in Chicago with me." He took another bite and then added, "Leave your car, you won't need it; take the bus. You know where to meet us?"
"Ever hear of King Canute?"
She shook her head.
"It doesn't matter. Ask yourself this: if the story, the one you were weaned on, the story of the Faerie Kingdom is real—" He looked at her, pointed at her with his fork, bits of egg hanging precariously from the tines "—and I'm not saying it's not. If the story of the Faerie Kingdom is real, and I knew where it was, and how to get us all back there, if I had the power to make it happen, do you think I would be sitting in a diner in Michigan taking audiences?"
"It would already be done, wouldn't it?"
"Yes. It would."
"Don't let it break your heart." He took another bite. "And eat your eggs. You don't want to be hungry on the drive home."