The man walked through the kitchen lit only by the pale light of dawn, humming a gentle tune as he ran a hand over his balding head. The thin light bounced off the grey cabinets, revealing a spattering of black mold, but he seemed oblivious enough to the filth beneath his slippers as he poured the black grinds into the small coffee machine. It gurgled to life as he flipped the switch, the red light illuminating a newspaper bearing yesterday’s date. Peter swept the paper off the table, leaning up against a rotting countertop to better read the headlines in the grey light.


The headline screamed at him, bold capitals prioritizing the front page. The image below showed the the jail behind chain link fences. On the cover, hapless guards tried to cover up their incompetence, but Peter didn’t waste his time on that article. He’d heard enough of the snivelling guards already. He had flipped to page three, where the local journalist had covered a charity project at the local college. There, sandwiched between information on bus cancellations and a model airplane meet, three girls stood proudly behind a table covered of cookies and muffins. The middle one beamed a smile that looked like she had been practicing it since birth, shoulders back with straight blonde hair pulled back by a pink headband. The caption happily bore her name.

“Melissa Jenkins, Penny Andrews, and Heather Delours, all students here at Uppertown College and members of the Nu Rho Delta Sorority, proudly display their bake sale to raise money for breast cancer.”

Peter ran a dirty fingernail along the image of Penny’s cheek. It had been 7 years since he’d seen her last, he wondered if she would still remember him. The coffee maker clicked off and the man casually pulled the chipped blue coffee cup out from beneath it, sipping at the brown liquid. The stale beans had made for musty coffee, but the drink still tasted like freedom to him. The sun had flooded into the kitchen as Peter sat down at the small table, flipping over to the crossword on the last page. He still had time, Penny had classes until 8.