Weekly Short Story: The Cafe’

Harper Mallory looked down at her watch. It was one of those weird times of the day where she was torn between eating a late breakfast or having an early lunch. There was a word for it. There was a word for everything, she thought to herself. The day was a cloudy ominous one that seemed to threaten the people walking on Charles Avenue with a sudden downpour of rain at any moment. Harper realized that she wasn’t dressed for that and this day was turning into a dreary and unremarkable excuse for an early martini.

After walking for a few minutes, the answer to her earlier dilemma was staring right in front of her in the form of Dale’s Cafe’. She smiled. It was a Saturday morning and she didn’t really need to be anywhere but she just had to get out of that tiny apartment. It had been several months since her boyfriend Chris disappeared and she just wanted to put all of that behind her. She swore she could still smell his cologne on her pillow even though she had washed it many times since.

Harper walked up to the outdoor counter of the small cafe and ordered a coffee with creme and sugar. The older lady seemed pleasant enough and offered a return smile as she handed over Harper’s change. A few moments later with coffee in hand she made her way to a two person table as far away from the Barista as possible. People just weren’t her thing.

It felt something a little below sweater weather and the sky seemed to get a little darker. Harper stared at the coffee in her cup. Chris had been the perfect boyfriend for over two months. She couldn’t stop thinking about him. Where did everything go wrong? Days and nights of second guessing everything she said and did. Their final conversation resulted in a reaction. A bad reaction. She never saw it coming. Nary, a warning sign to be seen.

He wasn’t physically abusive. Harper had been in one of those relationships before and it ended pretty much the same way as her relationship with Chris had. Chris was different. She should have picked up on his obsession with cleanliness. She never thought it would lead to yelling. She really didn’t like yelling.

About half way through her cup and a few thoughts later, a young couple purchased a couple of drinks and took a seat several feet away from Harper. No waves. No hello. No eye contact. “Was this one of those spy situations?”, she wondered to herself. The man sported dark features and wore a baseball cap. She couldn’t make out the logo but it was probably a baseball team. She wasn’t into sports. The woman was blonde haired and petite. It was the kind of small that made Harper wonder if she was eating properly.

A few minutes later, things got more interesting. A hand slammed down on the table nearly topping over the couple’s drinks. The murmuring began to get louder and started to form into words. They were unkind words. The kind of words that hurt and all directed at the young lady. Harper tried not to look in their direction. She couldn’t help it. Tears started forming in the young lady’s eyes.

Harper’s heart began beating faster in her chest. This is exactly what her last night with Chris was like. His voice and his words cut like a knife. This woman. This young and frail looking woman was a victim in much the same way she had been all of those months ago. She caught the words “dumb, cunt, and worthless” as if the man didn’t care who heard them. The woman held her face in her hands.

That seemed to make the man yell even louder. All of the words could be heard now. It was so suddenly clear to Harper. The crime that this small woman committed. The crime that was so horrible that they had to leave their apartment and get their morning coffee elsewhere. No sugar.

Anyone watching the scene play out without audio would think that the lady must have cheated on him with another man. Because, why would he be so visibly agitated? Although a steady stream of people walked by the cafe’, no one seemed to care about the verbal violence playing out before them. A frightened little voice between bellows of anger and near hatred spilled into the cacophony of sound as the fighting continued.

Harper slowly stood up and gathered her things. She couldn’t let this go on much longer. She felt so much pity for this poor woman. She could make all of this stop. It was her duty. Much in the same way that Chris had to go away, so did this angry man wearing a baseball cap. She slowly walked up behind the man and brushed the tip of her index finger against his exposed and dare she say, sweaty neck. In the time it took for her to draw her next breath, the couple had vanished. First the man and within milliseconds, the small and abused woman to the notice of no one at all.

Harper looked up at the sky. It was still gray but seemed to be getting a little lighter. This day might not turn out to be a bad one after all. She smiled. “Miss, your mug!”, the lady behind the counter yelled out to her. “Oh, sorry. I must have been daydreaming.”, She said. After placing the mug back on the counter, Harper continued walking down Charles Avenue.

Somewhere in time a young blonde woman holds her baby daughter up in the air. The child laughing as though this was the best thing ever. Another older male child lays on the blanket next to her. The birds in the park are singing their morning tunes as the sun begins to rise over the park. She turns to her right and looks at a man pushing a young boy on a swing. She smiles. He smiles back and she thinks “This truly is going to be the best day ever.”