To Josie’s daily disdain, the lunchroom was past the morgue, meaning every day was a trek through hell just to get their tray of hospital sludge. There were some options that more closely resembled food from the outside, but Josie had never particularly enjoyed people-food, so they settled for their nutritionally-complete Brown Chunks in Sauce.

Marigold, as always, had gotten herself a giant tray full of everything. It wasn’t like they judged her, but they just couldn’t imagine what she got out of it. Eating was such a process, and for what? “I accidentally got myself an extra biscuit. Do you want it?” she asked.

They didn’t answer. They were looking at the wall, where the thing was crawling inch-by-inch out from behind a generic painting of a sunny field.

“Why’re you always staring at shit?” she asked bluntly, craning her head to stare at the same wall. “What’s so interesting over there? Don’t tell me you actually like those depressing-ass paintings.”

“I hate them.” The creature was all the way out now, and it fell with a sickening plop onto the floor, where it stared up at them like a newborn giraffe with a serrated knife for a face.

“Oh, anyway… Damn, I got so sidetracked. Alex! I was gonna ask you, well… what’s up with you two?”

“I don’t know what you could mean,” they said, poking at their food with a plastic fork.

“I thought you two were… you know.”


“Dude, stop playing cute! You two broke up at that stupid holiday party! But I walked in on you two holding hands like, just a few days ago.”

Josie stared blankly, gears grinding in their head. “We… didn’t break up?”

Her expression grew very confused and focused, like she was trying to look at one of those puzzles you have to cross your eyes to see. “He threw his drink on you and then you two never hung out again. I just… assumed…”

Oh. “I mean… He was having a hard time, and I was feeling pretty weird myself, and we just agreed to take it down a notch, and… Oh.”

“You… didn’t know?”

“I just assumed he wanted to take it slow,” they admitted.

“How slow can you possibly go?! You’ve been on-and-off for as long as I’ve been here! But that’s slower than paint drying!”

She was right.