“Order for Sarah!”

Sarah almost jumped almost too eagerly for her drink at the counter. She smiled at the barista and said “thank you, have a nice day!”

Sarah paused to wait for a response, but the barista had already moved on to the next order. 

Slowly backing away, Sarah wondered if her tone was off? Or maybe the barista was just having a bad day? Or maybe she didn’t hear and she should call out thank you one more time? Why wouldn’t you respond to someone saying thank you. That is the proper thing to do isn’t it?

Turning on her heel, Sarah made her way into the sardine mass of people waiting for their morning buzz. She squeezed her way to the door and took a peek at her watch. Perfect, she was going to make it just on time. It was test day.

To ease her nerves, she always treated herself to a special hot chai latte before every school exam, every big performance etc. Just the smell of the spices alone always gave a moment of peace. A moment where she wasn’t standing in the middle of downtown Boston on a Wednesday morning, amongst the chaos of the morning 9-5 rush. It brought her back to the days when her mother, who could always tell when something was off, would take her for a special chai latte and patiently wait for her to finally share what was going on. She felt lighter back then…

“Sarah, there is no time for this today” she told herself. Her mother has been gone for well over 5 years and today of all days is not the time to bring this up. It was test day, everything she had been working for, for the past 7 years was all riding on how she did today.

If she didn’t pass the exam, she wouldn’t be able to get her dream job, and if she didn’t get her dream job she wouldn’t be able to make the money she needed to take care of herself and pay off the debt she’s accumulated over the past 7 years and if she couldn’t pay off her debts she would be struggling the rest of her life and not be able to enjoy anything. She didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck, thus she needed to pass the test today.

Sarah was always a hard worker and was labeled somewhat of a perfectionist. She didn’t necessarily agree with this label. She just liked things done right and if they weren’t done right, it wouldn’t sit well with her. That's all. What’s wrong with that?

Shuffling through the sidewalk of morning commuters, Sarah could finally see the testing building. Perfect, 15 minutes early. She could check in, find the best seat and have some time to get settled. 

Finally exhaling a sigh of relief, Sarah took her first sip of her chai latte. Without any warning to clusters of bodies around her, she stopped abruptly. One man carrying a few boxes even knocked into her. 

This was NOT a chai latte. 

The barista… the barista who wouldn’t look Sarah in the eyes. Who wouldn’t respond back to her nice ‘thank you’. Who wouldn’t even acknowledge she existed. The barista made the completely wrong order!  How could this have even happened? Sarah was positive she told the man behind the counter she wanted a chai latte. How could that have been miscommunicated? The label on the cup even said ‘chai latte’!

Looking at the testing building right in front of her, a pit fell to her stomach. She couldn’t go take her test without her drink. She just couldn’t. This has been her pretest ritual for 5 years. She would fail if she changed anything about her morning and she could NOT risk this on test day.

With no mind for the people trying to walk around her, Sarah took off heading straight back for the coffee shop. All that was flashing through her mind was fixing this situation. This was how things had to be.

The faces on the sidewalk blurred and all looked the same as she rounded the corner, slamming into a woman.

Jumping to her feet, Sarah muttered “sorry” and sprinted off, leaving the woman discombobulated on sidewalk pavement.

Opening the door to the coffee shop, the sardine mass had not lessened since her visit. She elbowed her way straight to the counter. This time the barista would look her in the eyes. This time she would acknowledge her.

“Excuse me.”


Finally looking up for the first time, the barista made her way over to Sarah.

“I ordered a chai latte and this appears to be something else.”

The barista took the cup and looked at it. “Okay, would you like me to make you another one?”

“YES WHY DO YOU THINK I’M HERE?” Sarah scoffed.

The barista turned away blushing.

For the first time since taking off running, Sarah became aware of the faces around her. The disapproving looks normally would impact Sarah’s behavior, but not today. The barista is the one who made the mistake, not her.

She glanced down at her watch, “holy shit”. She had 7 minutes to make it back to the building and check in.

Breaking her train of thought, the barista placed a new cup in front of Sarah on the counter “Sorry about that.”

“Thank you and have a nice day,” Sarah smiled gleefully, finally getting the recognition she wanted.

Turning out the door, she now had 6 minutes to make it back.

Sprinting down the same sidewalk past the spot the collision occurred, thoughts of doubt crept into her mind.

Was risking being late really worth it? Why couldn’t she just go take the test like a normal person? A normal person can handle when life isn’t perfect. A normal person doesn’t need to have the same ritual before every big event. Why can’t she just be normal?

Tears started to form in her eyes as she couldn’t shut the intrusive thoughts out. The building was in her line of sight, but it was going to be close.

Yanking open the heavy front door she sprinted down the hall where the signs indicated the test was taking place.

“I’m here!” she screeched at the check in booth.

“I’m sorry honey, but check in closed. It’s 9:03”

“But.. but I’m here. They haven’t even started yet! Please just let me in!” Sarah croaked out.

“I’m sorry my hands are tied, you know there’s no exceptions for late check ins. You’ll have to contact the administrator to reschedule.”

Sarah looked stunned. She couldn’t believe it. She missed her test. 7 years of work, to have missed her test. Sure, she could take the test next year, but what was she supposed to do for the next 12 months!?

Slowly turning around Sarah spotted a bench, slumped down while angry tears streamed down her face.

She took a slow sip in shock. All of this for a chai latte.

October 13, 2022 21:29

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.