Chapter 8.

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My jacket hood was pulled up high over my head as I trudged my way down the sidewalk towards Mama Rosa's Coffee House. It was a bit colder than usual for mid-November in New York City and I couldn't wait to get inside out of the cold. Regina's amazing hot cocoa sounded more than appealing at the moment.

 I suppose you could say that I was a woman on a mission. I hadn't seen Archer since our rather unpleasant interlude at lunch yesterday, and since it was the weekend right before Thanksgiving break, I wouldn't see him until two Mondays from now. I couldn't exactly afford to waste a week doing nothing when I could be out with Archer, so I'd more or less had to get over my nerves and go look for him.

  My first and only thought as to where he could be was Mama Rosa's. It was obvious that he didn't hang out with anyone outside of school, and he had three little sisters, right? Maybe he was babysitting them or something. It was as good a shot as any, really. 

 Regina Morales was on call at the front counter as I wrenched open the door to Mama Rosa's and quickly stepped inside. The coffee house was just about empty, save for a haggard looking woman in the corner beside the fire place. At least there was a merrily crackling fire in the grate, so the place was toasty warm.

 "Hadley!" Regina said in surprise as I approached the front counter. "I haven't seen you in a while!"

I did my best to smile as I tossed back my jacket hood. "It's nice to see you again, Mrs. Morales."

 "Oh, please," Regina laughed, holding up a hand. "Call me Regina. I feel so old being called Mrs. Morales." 

 I tried not to feel too awkward as I smiled back at her in return.

"So what can I do for you, Hadley?" Regina asked conversationally. "Are you here for Archer?" 

 I forced back a blush, dropping my gaze to my feet. "Yeah, I am, actually..."

 "Well, I'm afraid he's at work," Regina sighed, drumming her fingers against the formica counter top. "He won't be back for a couple of hours."

  I fought back the urge to burst into tears. Well, there went nothing. Literally.

"Oh," I said in a flat voice. "Okay. Sorry for intruding, then."

 I made to leave the coffee house, but Regina called me back with a bit of a frantic shout.

"Wait, Hadley! Why don't you stay for a cup of coffee or something? It's pretty cold outside. You look a little frost bitten, in all honesty."

 Okay, so a cup of coffee didn't sound so bad. It actually sounded pretty freaking amazing.

But with Archer's mother? Wouldn't that be a little awkward?

 Well, you can always ask her a few questions, a tiny voice in my mind reasoned. Who would know Archer better than his own mother?

  "Okay," I said slowly, turning back around. "That sounds lovely."

Regina smiled warmly, looking pleased. "Great. This gives me a chance to get to know you!"

I hadn't been expecting her to say that, but it was a little nice to hear it. Having an adult actually say that they wanted to get to know me was definitely more than my own parents could account for. 

 "But don't you have to work?" I asked, glancing around at the place.

Regina laughed as she set about making a fresh batch of coffee. "Oh, this place is always dead in the afternoon. The morning and after five are our busiest hours."

 That made sense.

"Okay," I said again with more confidence. "Perfect."

 I rummaged around in my pockets and came up with a five dollar bill that I quickly dropped in the tip jar on the counter beside the register. Judging by the look Regina was giving the money, I figured Archer had been right in saying that my money wasn't welcome here. 

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