Everywhere to Hide – Siri Mitchell

I was just ten steps away from the Blue Dog|RINO Coffee Shop where I worked when a hand closed tightly around my forearm. I flinched as my heart raced. Though I’d pulled my hair into a ponytail, a gust of wind grabbed the free ends, looped my hair around my neck, and then cinched it. The hand tightened, jerking me off course as a wind-driven cardboard box tumbled past. Then it let go. “Sorry. Didn’t want you to get hit.” The man to whom the voice belonged headed toward the Virginia Square metro station, bowing into the wind. I hated myself because I couldn’t bring myself to hate him. He could have no idea he’d left me there on the sidewalk trembling. That his grasp had resurrected memories I preferred stay dormant. As I leaned into the wind, I took a deep breath. Reminded myself that I was safe, that I’d left my ex-boyfriend on the other side of the river. That he had no hold on me. Not here.

Not now. * * * Every hiss of the espresso maker that morning amplified my anxiety. Every jangle of the bell on the door made me jump. I was well into my eight-hour shift before my nerves calmed. And it was several hours after that when my ex finally receded from my thoughts. A hurricane was spinning somewhere out in the Atlantic. As always, the DC region was spared the worst of the storm. No hurricane-force winds, no rain. But fast-moving clouds, muggy humidity, and the gusts of tropical storm–strength winds reminded us of what we were missing. As our wind spun in concert with the hurricane, the door to the shop by turns wouldn’t shut.

Or became almost impossible to open. When I took my break, I popped a couple of ibuprofens to relieve the pressure building in my head. My cell phone rang as I was heading back to the floor, and I pulled it out of my pocket. Not recognizing the area code, I let it roll to voicemail, but it added to the dread that had been pooling in my stomach since my encounter with the stranger. I shoved my phone back into my pocket, determined to ignore it. Corrine jabbed me with her elbow as I tried to pass her on my way to the register. “Hey! Your boyfriend’s here.” “What?” My head whipped out to the tables where she had gestured. My heart stopped for a moment. But then I saw the man had red hair, not blond.

He was wearing a pair of basketball shorts and a T-shirt, both things my ex wouldn’t have been caught dead in. I forced my lips into a smile as I replied, “I don’t have a boyfriend.” As we looked at him, though, the man raised a hand in our direction. Corrine laughed. “I think he’d like to audition. Oh!” She jabbed me again. “Look at him wink!” As always, her dark curls were spun up into a bun on top of her head. Her short-sleeve T-shirt revealed the “Nevertheless” tattoo on her inner left arm and the “Persist” tattoo on her right. The blue apron she wore was the twin of mine. The hand tightened, jerking me off course as a wind-driven cardboard box tumbled past.

Then it let I hated myself because I couldn’t bring myself to hate him. He could have no idea he’d left me there my eight-hour shift before my nerves calmed. And it was several we were missing. As our wind spun in to open. When I took my break, I popped a couple of ibuprofens to relieve the pressure building in my But I didn’t have a boyfriend. Didn’t want one. Never again. I stepped away from her so our other coworker, Ty, could open the fridge beneath the counter. Corrine and me? We always found our rhythm as we worked together. Ty and me? We were forever bumping into each other.

I tried to continue on my way, but Corrine wasn’t done with me. “Ooh—Whitney!” Her voice carried over the light jazz playing in the background. As I turned, she flapped her hand at me and then tilted her head toward the entrance as a man walked through the door. “Here comes Mustache Man. Can you leave him for me? Just for today?” It was the joke that every man who walked into the shop fell in love with me. I didn’t think it was very funny. But I was the newest barista and it was worth playing along, so I traded places with her and started pulling shots so she could take Mustache Man’s order. Why not? It was the little things that made shift work bearable. By the time things slowed down at the espresso maker, the guy by the window was gone. But Mustache Man lingered.

He was a relatively recent regular customer. We never had to ask for a name for his drink because he always ordered a green tea. Iced. Once he got it, he’d sit at the bar by the mobile-order area, angled sideways so his back was to the wall. He’d sip that tea like he hoped it would last for the rest of the day. Now that he had his order and was sitting at the bar, Corrine traded places with me again. From there, she would be able to talk to him. I went on taking orders, juggling the long line of in-person customers with the never-ending queue of mobile orders. The printer was sprouting labels like politicians sprouted horns. Our coworker Amber came in about half an hour before I clocked out.

I called to her. “Hey—Amber! Can you take over here so I can—” She turned her shoulders toward me, pointed to her name tag. Maddie. “Sorry. I caught you out of the corner of my eye and—” She had long, straight hair just like Amber did, and they both tended to wear bright colors. As I grabbed a cookie from the pastry case and bagged it for a customer, I glanced at my watch. After my shifts ended, I met up with high school students at the library for my other job: college-test coach. I had ten minutes to make it from the Blue Dog to Central Library. With summer vacation in high gear, Mondays were my busiest coaching day. I had back-to-back students from two to eight.

When I wasn’t working at the coffee shop or the library, I was studying for the bar exam I’d be taking at the end of the month. I’d already graduated from law school, across the river in DC, from one of the most prestigious programs in the country. But my degree wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t pass the bar. In my favor, I’d been one of the top students in my class, and the exam was pass/fail. Although most of my peers were taking private courses to prepare, I couldn’t afford it. My solution was to check out books from the law-school library on a rotating basis and work through as many of them as I could. I was already on my second round. When I wasn’t working or studying? Sleep. In very short doses. Maddie and I tag-teamed the counter and the pastry case for a while.

Then I moved down to the espresso machine and helped fill some of the mobile orders that were waiting. An iced latte. A brewed coffee. I recognized one of our regular mobile orders: a large soy mocha with just one pump of chocolate relatively recent regular customer. We never had to ask for a name In my favor, I’d been one of the top students in my class, and the exam was pass/fail. Although most syrup. No whip. Honestly, why bother making it a mocha at all? I took a peek at my watch: 1:40. Five more minutes until my shift was over. I tore off a label that was coming out of the printer, stuck it to the side of a cup, and added it to the others waiting to be made.

Maddie was dealing with a food order, so I went to the register and helped the next person in line. And then the next. By that time, my shift was long over. I called out my good-bye and stiff-armed the swinging door that led from the front area to the back room. Then I pocketed my magnetic name tag, drew the apron off over my head, and looped it over a hook on the wall. I opened my locker and grabbed my backpack, plunging my hand inside to search for my phone. I used it to clock out, and then accessed an app to unlock the scooter I’d have to take to the library. I let myself out into the hall, making sure the secure door shut behind me, and decided to leave through the back door; I didn’t want to get trapped into doing anything else out on the floor. The door was difficult to open. The tropical storm had transformed the alley into a wind tunnel, funneling the muggy air from one side of the block to the other.

I raised a hand to pull my hair off my face and turned into the wind to keep it there, quickly turning my ponytail into a bun. As I stepped away from the door, I was surprised to see someone sprawled on the pavement in front of me. He was lying face up. A red puddle had formed a halo around his head. He wasn’t—was he—he wasn’t—was he dead? As I stood there trying to process what I was seeing, the wind sent a recycling crate skidding across the cracked pavement. I jumped. I glanced up the alley, then down. Nothing was there. Nothing but the wind. And a dead man staring up at the cloud-streaked sky.

Behind me, I heard something scrabble across the low, flat roof. I pivoted and glanced up. Saw a form silhouetted against the sky. Shock gave way to panic as I realized he had a gun in his hand. As I realized that he had also seen me. I should have lunged toward the door. But a familiar numbness was spreading over me. The prickle on my scalp, the sudden dryness in my mouth. I was living my nightmares all over again. As I had done too often in the past, I reverted to form.

I froze. Please. Please. Please. My thoughts latched onto that one word and refused to let it go. If I could just punch my code into the keypad, I could slip back inside and pull the door shut behind me. But I couldn’t do anything at all. My fingers wouldn’t work. Please. Please.

Please. I willed them to function, but they had long ago learned that in a dangerous situation, the best thing to do was nothing. Any movement, any action on my part had always made things worse. And so I just stood there as my thoughts stuttered. Fragmented. And then a garbage truck came rumbling around the corner. syrup. No whip. Honestly, why bother making it a mocha at all? I took a peek at my watch: 1:40. Five more minutes until my shift was over.

I tore off a label that was coming out of the printer, stuck it to the side of a cup, and added it to the others waiting to be made. Maddie was dealing with a food order, so I went to the register and helped the next person in line. And then the next. By that time, my shift was long over. I called out my good-bye and stiff-armed the swinging door that led from the front area to the back room. Then I pocketed my magnetic name tag, drew the apron off over my head, and looped it over a hook on the wall. I opened my locker and grabbed my backpack, plunging my hand inside to search for my phone. I used it to clock out, and then accessed an app to unlock the scooter I’d have to take to the library. I let myself out into the hall, making sure the secure door shut behind me, and decided to leave through the back door; I didn’t want to get trapped into doing anything else out on the floor. The door was difficult to open.

The tropical storm had transformed the alley into a wind tunnel, funneling the muggy air from one side of the block to the other. I raised a hand to pull my hair off my face and turned into the wind to keep it there, quickly turning my ponytail into a bun. As I stepped away from the door, I was surprised to see someone sprawled on the pavement in front of me. He was lying face up. A red puddle had formed a halo around his head. He wasn’t—was he—he wasn’t—was he dead? As I stood there trying to process what I was seeing, the wind sent a recycling crate skidding across the cracked pavement. I jumped. I glanced up the alley, then down. Nothing was there. Nothing but the wind.

And a dead man staring up at the cloud-streaked sky. Behind me, I heard something scrabble across the low, flat roof. I pivoted and glanced up. Saw a form silhouetted against the sky. Shock gave way to panic as I realized he had a gun in his hand. As I realized that he had also seen me. I should have lunged toward the door. But a familiar numbness was spreading over me. The prickle on my scalp, the sudden dryness in my mouth. I was living my nightmares all over again.

As I had done too often in the past, I reverted to form. I froze. Please. Please. Please. My thoughts latched onto that one word and refused to let it go. If I could just punch my code into the keypad, I could slip back inside and pull the door shut behind me. But I couldn’t do anything at all. My fingers wouldn’t work. Please.

Please. Please. I willed them to function, but they had long ago learned that in a dangerous situation, the best thing to do was nothing. Any movement, any action on my part had always made things worse. And so I just stood there as my thoughts stuttered. Fragmented. And then a garbage truck came rumbling around the corner.

.

PDF | Download



Thank you!

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chapter1.us © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x