In the corner of Mel’s Coffee Shop, beside the window where I can people-watch and think. This is where I sit every day. I take a big bite of my muffin—the type of bite you take when you’re alone—and sip my coffee. Chocolate chip muffin (it was—is—my daughter’s favorite breakfast) and black coffee. The same every day.

I’d never been a routine type of woman. Not until last year. Since then, I’ve found that doing the same thing every day is grounding. Good for me. The best part—or is it the best part?—is that when you don’t have friends or family around, life tends to become less unpredictable. 

Now and then there are long lines and insolent customers, or car crashes and traffic, or cops that want you to move to the curb when their sirens cry, or vexing neighbors you just want to—

Deep breaths, Elena.

But. (One more deep breath.) But you move on and you are grateful for the good days when everything goes according to plan.

Like today. Today is good. Better, actually, than most days. Mel’s Coffee Shop is emptiest on Wednesdays, so when I arrived I didn’t need to stand in line. Now, I can even hear the jazz music clearly. 

Every four days, I’ve noticed, the playlist repeats. I love it. Are the employees tired of it? How would I feel if they started playing a new playlist? What if I didn’t like it? What would happen to me?

I take another bite of my muffin. Another sip of my coffee. No need to worry about what might happen, I’ve learned. 

Familiarity keeps the mind at ease. The deepest thoughts come when you’re alone—and I am always alone—but I’ve learned to handle those. Instead, I make up stories about the people who walk by and insert myself into their lives without their permission. I think about others because it’s easier than thinking about myself. Safer. If I think, I will break, and I cannot afford to break. 

I know my family misses me. I don’t miss them much anymore, though not because I don’t love them. I merely killed them off with that old part of me. But it’s okay because it’s easier this way. If I miss them, I will break, and I cannot afford to break.

There’s a lovely young girl, maybe eight or nine, who suddenly runs by so fast I barely manage to see her figure. Her hair is in messy braids, and it’s easier now not to think about my daughter who turned ten last month. I didn’t see her, of course. I will never see her again. 

I’m just about to come up with a story for the young girl when I see him. Smiling. Just on the other side of the street, where the parking lot starts. 

Wyatt Praiser. The man I killed. My body feels like it was thrown into the arctic ocean and I can’t even blink.

But then I do, and I realize it’s not him. It’s Andre Praiser. Wyatt’s brother. The man who hired me to kill Wyatt. 

He starts walking toward me without checking the road before crossing. And I find myself praying, even though I don’t believe in God or heaven—although I do believe I’m living in hell—that a driver, distracted by their phone, speeds by. 

But no cars pass. Wednesdays are the emptiest days after all.

I watch his every move until I can’t anymore. He comes inside and sits in front of me. When’s the last time I took a breath?

“Hello,” he says. He has an accent, but I can’t place it. It’s not too thick. He is thick. Big. But so friendly looking. Friendlier than I. Is he more insane or am I? Are we on the same level?

I focus on the music. The familiarity of the always-warm coffee shop. “What are you doing here?” My voice shakes. “How did you even find me?”

“Don’t worry about that.” He leans back against the chair comfortably like it’s a couch. “I have a job for you.”

I glare and work hard at keeping my voice steady. “You said you’d never bother me again.”

He smiles. “I hear your daughter is doing better now. The money really helped, yeah?”

That wakes all the frozen bones in my body. “Do. Not. Touch. Her.”

He hums. Looks at me with an amused look, like I’m a toddler you just tried to pronounce a new word. “Listen.” He leans forward. “You did a good job with my brother. Police never even found the body.” He laughs loud at that. “Can you believe that?”


“So I need you to do it again.”

I look around. Is this some sort of set up? But the only people around me are a young mother and her son and couple who’s just starting to grey. I look at Andre, but he doesn’t look like he’s wearing a wire. Should I ask him to lift his shirt? 

I decide against it. “I did what I did for the money—for my daughter—because it was the only thing I could do. The fastest thing I could do. You can’t force me to do it again.”

“Can’t I?” He raises an eyebrow and leans even closer—so close I can smell a hint of sweat and—

And sandalwood. And spice. And a hint of citrus. My husband’s cologne.

He smiles with his teeth. “Just like you, Mrs. Davis, I’m a killer.” A tingle runs down my spine when he says that. “And I will not hesitate to hurt your daughter if you don’t do what I’m asking—no, telling—you to do.”

“But you told me,” I yell before I remember I’m still sitting in a public space. The older couple turns to face us. The woman raises an eyebrow at me. A normal gesture between women who look like they’re getting into bad situations with men. 

I smile at her, and turn back to Andre, lowering my voice. My tongue suddenly feels thick and dry, like I’ve just crossed the Sahara. I can barely get the words out. “You told me it was a one-time thing. I can’t do it again. It’s been over a year, and I still have nightmares.”

“You think this is a negotiation?” He was getting angry. I could see it in his eyes. But he was a professional and wouldn’t let anyone see it. “There is no yes or no. There is only do. And you’re going to do what I’m telling you.”

A mother’s job is to protect her daughter at any cost. But I must be honest with you once and for all. I feel a shiver of excitement run down my spine as I think about this man’s proposition. I don’t have nightmares. I sleep better now than I ever have. And when I tell a lie? My tongue gets dry.

If I were to say okay, would it be for her or for me? I laugh out loud. When did my life become a movie? 

Andre gives me a questioning (and threatening) look. I get up, grab my purse, and before I leave, I bend down to Andre’s ear and whisper. “I'll do it.” I don’t say, “But this is the last time.” I don’t threaten him. Because all this time I have been wishing not to break, but it’s a silly desire.

I am already broken.

July 31, 2020 17:10

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Richard Granvold
21:10 Aug 05, 2020

Nicely done.


Itxy Lopez
21:53 Aug 05, 2020

Thank you :)


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