I’m tired of waiting… so…

Chapter 1

Julia: The Coffee Hut

A tiny bit of white caramel-infused foam splashes onto my thumb as I snap the lid on bleary-eyed Karen’s daily caramel macchiato. The timing of this daily hand-off is vital, so I leave the foam there, and, gripping the metal frame of the drive-up window, carefully swing the cup into Karen’s greedy hands. As usual, she presses the straw between her lips and sucks so hard one would think we were on Mars and the tiny cup held oxygen.

One side of my mouth slides up and I shake my head indulgently as a pathetic glow of affection for this caffeine addict fills my chest. Karen has been with me the four years I’ve worked the Coffee Hut and my heart gives a little ache knowing I will be leaving her and all this familiarity behind.

I look out to the sparkling morning. The absolutely perfect purples and greens of the Timpanogos Mountains dominate my view and shrink the strip mall before me to comic proportions. The air is cool and there isn’t a hint of a breeze.

I take a deep breath and wait for Karen to suck the life out of the perfectly tempetured drink. I sigh but keep quiet as I wipe my thumb off.

Over the years Karen and I have developed an understanding. If I have her drink ready, and I don’t force her to talk to me, she leaves me a rather large tip.

It does feel a tiny bit like I’ve sold my soul to the green paper god when I do try to say something to her, because she glares and holds up the cash in a threatening manner which makes me shut my mouth. This exchange happens today. I want to tell her I’ll be leaving in just a few weeks, but with my tip on the chopping block, I don’t.

Once she is certain I won’t speak she furtively passes the cash through the window and speeds away.

It’s all rather shady. And I feel pretty terrible about it until I pocket the money that is mine. Once I’ve slipped the rest into the register, I move to the other side of the hut and watch Karen pull onto Federal.

Her Volvo moves from the lot, onto the street in a jerky, swerving motion and she almost t-bones a glossy silver car turning into the strip-mall.

My fingers automatically move to my lips, my body tensing for impact, but Karen narrowly evades the collision. Still feeling a bit uncertain that Karen will make it to the bottom of her coffee without killing someone, I yell out the window; “Hands on the wheel.” She can’t hear me, I know but I feel compelled to do something.

I watch as her car drunkenly jerks to the stop light and from here I can see she still has her mouth plastered to the straw. “Crazy woman.” I mutter.

Taking a few deep breaths, I wipe down the counter all the while shaking my head in disapproval. Chores done, and blood pressure calmed, I sit back on my stool, and examine my nails.

Polish needs an update.

I lean over to dig the bubble-mint polish out of my purse when I hear the tell-tell sound of an engine. I turn to see the posh looking car from the ‘almost accident’. The silver vehicle is shiny and all foreign looking. Way too fancy for this side of the tracks.

Moving to the window, I strain to see who sits behind the illegally tinted glass.

When it stops, the driver’s window descends barely an inch, so all I can see is the top of a blonde head.

“How can I help you?” I ask politely.

The woman is turned away from me, so I glance beyond her and wait. Across the parking lot a very tall woman, with straight black hair to her butt maneuvers around her bright red sports car. She plops herself on the trunk of her car and looks right at me. I narrow my eyes at her, confused by her direct stare.

“You wouldn’t happen to have Yerba Mate tea, would you?” A scratchy bass voice interrupts, as a pair of masculine sunglasses and a bold nose becomes visible through the window slit, which descends another inch.

My eyes snap back to my customer, my male customer. The mistaken gender takes me off guard. I stutter my answer.

“Uh, no, um… I don’t think so… but I’ll check.”

I know that we don’t, yet I feel compelled to turn away from the man and fumble around a bit.

As I do, goose bumps creep over my arms and I stop in the middle of my pretend searching to look at the funny little raised hairs. Swiping my hand down my arm, I open a rarely used cupboard and scan its contents. Goose bumps pop up again followed by a violent shiver running up my back.

I pull my hands away from the door and notice that they are shaking.

I stop and stare at them as if they are someone else’s hands. My mind completely disconnected from what my body is experiencing. Because my brain is still engaged, my internal clock tells me this is taking too long. The customer at the window will be annoyed with me if I don’t say something soon.

As I turn to the customer I feel a wave of dizzy nausea swirl in my middle. I reach for the counter, suddenly needing the support, and take a deep breath. My head dipping down.

When I open my eyes, I notice my purse. The soft pink vinyl splayed open exposing its contents. On top is my keychain with my emergency mace.

Suddenly, a concept from a pamphlet my guidance counselor forced me to read about fear and how human bodies react instinctually in dangerous situations, pops into my head.

I glance again over at the car, just as the male voice says, “Hello?”

I automatically answer. “Yes, uhm we don’t have it, I don’t think.” I call out to him and make an effort to shuffle around some more.

Is this somehow a dangerous situation? It is a weird leap to ask that question. But my somewhat clear mind attempts to remember what I should do if my subconscious is telling me I am in trouble.

However, my thoughts are dulled by a swimming sensation around my peripheral sight, followed by a rattling sound and then a solid movement in the corner of my eye. It catches my attention.

 It is a strange, bright purple canister. I blink at it. Not understanding its existence. I had just looked in that exact spot five seconds ago and not seen it. I know I hadn’t. I pick it up and read, Yerba Mate: tea of the gods, written in orange letters across the front.

A little stunned, I stand and realize with a weird jolt that all signs and symptoms instantly are alleviated. My hand is now steady as it goes to the back of my neck. I take a deep breath, reeling from the physical freak-out and move to the window in a slow, shocked, zombie-like shuffle.

Holding the canister, I look at the man completely uncertain of what is happening to me or around me.

“Well, is that it?” The man’s voice holds serious impatience.

Confusion colors my voice, “Yes, actually, it is.”

The man sits looking forward, as if he expected as much.

Then in the same aggravatingly, gravely, blasé way he says, “The water needs to be 160 degrees, and I’ll take milk and a bit of sugarcane, if you have it.”

With this longer sentence I feel the reoccurrence of the before mentioned unpleasantness. Hands trembling, shivers, goose bumps. It is such a strong reaction that I openly examine him—well, the bit I can see of him.

I wonder if he is dangerous or just—I don’t know—superhumanly annoying. Perhaps his voice is on the exact wrong frequency for my ears—like one of those whistles that torture dogs. In a brief moment, I reanalyze my reactions for fear or warning. I don’t really feel either, though I am still shaking.

He clears his throat and, though he doesn’t look at me, he does look at his watch. And by looking at his watch I mean he holds it up to his face like someone visually impaired would.

I don’t miss it.

I narrow my eyes and cock my head. When his actions don’t cause the desired reaction, he clears his throat again and taps expectantly on what I assume is his steering wheel.

I can’t help it, my foot begins to tap too as I cross my arms and I purse my lips. But the annoyance that is just beginning to gather in my chest is abruptly overshadow by a sudden and crushing throb in my head.

The tea canister hits the floor as my hands go to my head. My eyes close and a slow gathering scream begins in the back of my throat.

Within the space of an exhale I feel like I am outside myself. Blinking my eyes against the pain and light, I find myself moving, mechanically, through the hut.

Then, as suddenly as a faucet turning off, the pain ceases.

I blink and almost drop the cup I hold out the window to the impatient man.

“That will be two fifty,” My mouth moves but again it feels like I am a puppet and some string master is pulling on my lips and jaw, making them work, because I sure as heck am not consciously speaking.

I look at my hand holding the tea and know only two seconds have passed, but there I stand with brewed tea in hand.

The sound of the window descending pulls my head more fully out of the daze and my eyes toward the man. The stranger turns to me, his face unobstructed for the first time and I almost drop the tea—again.

Fumbling, I grip the cup between my now consciously controlled hands spilling a bit. That wakes me up. I look back into the stranger’s face. He isn’t a man man, he is my age perhaps a bit older, and he’s striking; full lips, strong jaw, blunt, angular nose, and of course long blond hair. His sunglasses obscure his eyes and I am glad they do.

However, before I have time to analyze how someone could be so…whatever he is, his money is on the counter, the tea is swept out of my shaky hand, and the silver car is thundering off.

I jerk my hand-off hand back toward me. It feels like an electric pulse just zapped it. I cradle it into my chest as I blink in rapid succession.

 Then out of nowhere, my head pain burst to the point of agony. Sitting down, I try to calm my breaths, which are coming in short, erratic huffs. A ringing starts in my ears and I clamp my hands over them. Agonizing moment after agonizing moment reverberates through me. It hits a peek of sharp and terrible torture but then I am a stone rolling down the summit, the agony stays where it is as I race away from it.

I close my eyes and try to gain some control.

It takes a few minutes, all the while the pain is backing off.

I start to feel a bit calmer. Except for one thing; the sound of that guy’s voice and the planes of his face seem to be seared into my mind.

Everywhere I look, I see him. Sort of like my eyes are scorched, but not by the sun, by him. 

This story is the property of Theresa Pocock 2020

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