I’ve known for over a week now that Han is an alien, and it’s actually been a pretty normal week. Han and I work at Coles – me in Liquorland and her in the deli in one of those meat-stained aprons, her brown hair tucked inside an oily hair net.
It happened in the cool room. I was hiding from Drunk Dave who regularly sang in the middle of the wine racks and had to be escorted out, shaking and telling us he couldn’t leave without his wine. Han had been told to take a breather after she’d got shirty with a fat-necked middle-aged man asking for 17 slices of tasty cheese, cut ‘as thin as tracing paper.’ We sat down on the beer battered chip boxes to be sarcastic and chew on twiggy sticks for a while.
My mouth was hot and lined with salt and fat when Han told me that she was pissed off at everyone that day. I asked why. She said she hadn’t been sleeping well. ‘My brother, who’s also an alien, is being teased at school, big time. I’m so angry for him. At night I just lie there and think about punching their fucking faces in.’ She was looking straight at me, watching for my reaction. ‘I’m an alien, you know? And it seems like we still need protection. After all this time. My dad’s right.’ It didn’t really shock me – Han being an alien. I’d grown up being told about aliens by my parents, and had watched the landing on telly when I was five. I didn’t care, and I sure as hell didn’t want Han to think I didn’t like her anymore.
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘I think you’re right. There are some dickheads out there who are scared of anyone different from them. Your brother’s lucky he’s got such a cool big sister.’
It’s Tuesday and I’m cleaning out behind the dumpsters, where our most regular customers head to zonk as soon as they’ve paid. It’s a shit of a job – we Rock Paper Scissors each week to work out who does it, and I did Scissors one too many times. Han’s called in sick and I’ve texted her but she hasn’t replied. As I’m coming in from the back I pass through the lunch room. The TV’s blaring. Steve from Shelving turns around, his eyes wide like paper plates. ‘Didya see the news? They’re taking the aliens back into detention. Say it’s for their own safety.’ He has a floppy sandwich in his hand and sauce on his upper lip. ‘Hey maybe that’s why Hannah’s away today! I always thought she was weird.’ He laughs and chokes and coughs up a bit of mushy bread.
‘Shut up Steve,’ I say. ‘You don’t know anything about it.’
I don’t know anything about it either. I scroll my phone for Han’s number and press down hard on the picture of a green telephone. She doesn’t answer but I’ll keep calling.