32 comments

Sad Teens & Young Adult Contemporary

The morning is swimming with threads of pregnant silver clouds by the time I thrust the key into the lock. I twist it around until the doors click open and shadows peck me on the cheeks. 

Shreds of dust whisper while I think about Kitty and her problems. I still don’t know why she asked me to open the shop’s doors today. Busy, dealing with daydreams, is what I wanted to tell her as my excuse. Instead I asked for a raise and she didn’t reply. 

I call her Ma when I’m feeling generous, but today I have my own mother to take care of. Flipping the lights on, I blink my eyes to adjust. I’ll never adjust. 

Kitty told me, earlier that morning when she was probably in bed with her boyfriend, that there are frozen jam rolls in the freezer. I take them out. They’re hard and cold and make me think of the slashes across my antique rings and the way my mother’s eyes roll back into her head. 

I like the way life is easy. The way I only have to spread the rock-hard rolls filled with artificial jelly across a pan and slide them into the oven. 

Then I make coffee. Kitty’s voice echoes in my head because now I have to make the seasonal drinks. It’s autumn now, and I don’t like them and how the customers order them with eyes like sandstone and smiles that aren’t even a little embarrassed that they’re asking for a drink with about 375 calories. 

My mother told me I needed to lose weight and perhaps that’s why I hate autumn and the leaves that fall from the sky like swallows with broken wings. 

There’s a new shipment of our famous pumpkin bread with pumpkin seeds. It’s not packaged so I push a few slices into the display. Stumbling out from behind the counter, I admire my work. The display is like a window into the world I never had with pieces of fancy bread from little suburban coffee shops. I don’t blame my mother for keeping me from this. 

The frown forms on my face before I can register it. I see my reflection in the glass. My face is blotchy with acne and almost-invisible scars from picking at scabs. I know life is a painting so I won’t hold my breath. 

The doors sing of black footprints and the infinite fingerprints it’s collected over the years. I make sure to walk around back behind the counter before addressing the first customer. 

A man with a face from lumpy, spoiled milk. He is always the first, and I know he takes pride in it. Did I mention he’s proud? He orders the same thing every day, yet I can’t remember what it is. He looks down on me for that. I want to tell him he’s not my mother. 

“What can I get you?” I ask. 

“I’ll have my usual.” He answers, rubbing his hands together. 

I shake my head. 

“Cappuccino with almond milk,” he reminds me. I hate the way he touches the counter and fingers the tip jar and uses the hand sanitizer like it’s a luxury everyone can afford. 

When I know he isn’t looking, I back away and twirl in the curtains until they’re tangled around me. It’s fun and it makes it seem like I’m wearing a ballgown with little coffee cups printed all over it. My dream dress.

When I unknot myself, I duck beside the curtains and into the little pantry to get a cup and have a metal machine with a sharper mind than mine let shots of espresso drip into it. It’s a calming experience but it doesn’t last long. 

There isn’t that much espresso in the paper cup but I don’t care because I don’t like the man anyways. My mother wouldn’t approve. I pour foamy milk onto the dark liquid and watch how they stay separate like the night and the day. 

I wish I could sit under a tree in a thin forest silent like war and drink milk so puffy as this. Preferably with a chocolate chip cookie. I pop the bubbles that try to escape from the cup and appear in front of the man. 

He takes it and presses not enough bills into my hand. I pretend not to notice because I know it won’t really affect me. Kitty will be the one showing up for work on time and I know that will be the change. 

The second customer is a woman with two little girls. They’re identical with two pigtails that hang from their ears like golden snakes. The woman looks nothing like them with obsidian hair and hazelnut skin that you want to spread on a piece of toast. I make no comment. 

“What can I get you today?” 

One of the girls chimes in, “Two hot chocolates, please.” 

I want to ignore her because it’s going to be 70 degrees outside and she shouldn’t be ordering that but the woman smiles and nods like it’s all part of her plan. 

“Anything else?” 

The woman leans in, and she smells like dirty beach towels and balloons that are already set free. I want to back away but she holds me there with her gaze. 

“Nothing else, thanks.” she overenunciates. 

I wonder if she’s the mother of the girls as I go step by step back into the pantry, and I think yes because that’s exactly how my mother would’ve acted with someone who had even the slightest hint of an accent. 

I’m back in the pantry with a container of chocolate syrup. I’m squirting some into two cups and mixing some hot milk in. It’s a simple process and I can do it quickly. I forgot to ask if they wanted whipped cream so I pile it on nevertheless. Who doesn’t like whipped cream? 

I set the drinks in front of the girls on the counter and I can see their mouths watering. It’s satisfying having all control, even if it’s with the effortless things. 

The woman asks for a few fig jam rolls. It reminds me that the rolls in the oven and I rush over. My fingers dance over the buttons and I pull the tray out. 

I hadn’t noticed the burning smell before. It was sour and rotten and brought up pictures of Hindu demons from learning about different cultures back in elementary school. 

When I returned with a bag of slightly toasted fig jam rolls, there was a new customer. I hadn’t heard the doors rehearse their usual melody but after ringing the woman and two girls up, I faced them. 

My mother. 

Not Kitty with her wild mane dyed pink at the tips and black at the roots and the ring that curves right through her nose. Although I’d rather have her right now. 

My mother with her hair plastered to her face by sweat and that ballistic look in her eye. She glances around the shop, unfazed by her new surroundings. 

“Ma, what are you doing here?” I inquire calmly, attempting to creep around from behind the counter. 

My mother stomps both her feet and clear beads make thin tracks down her cheeks. “Why are you here?” Then she sees my red apron. 

“I work here, Ma. Why are you here?” I stalk towards her cautiously. 

“I followed you here. You go out every morning and you say I can’t go out. But look, I am out.” She crosses her arms defiantly across her chest and plants two feet in the ground. 

I suck in my cheeks like a child even though I’m not one anymore. My mother will never understand that money isn’t just sent to our orange paint-chipped mailbox without hard work. “Ma, someone has to support us. And it’s not me telling you that you shouldn’t go outside. That’s Dr. Keyes. Remember him?”

She jerks violently and fear writes itself through her face with the expensive fabric pens from the art shop just down the street. 

My mother collapses into my open arms and I lead her over to a chair in the corner of the shop. We’re alone and the silence clinks like a typewriter. She wriggles out of my grip as if to tell me that she doesn’t need any help. 

I stand over her for some time, watching her ball her hands into fists and go misty-eyed like the fog that sweeps over the city every day. 

What I think of is autumn and how I should start marking off the days until it ends. I still dislike it like rocks painted with bright inspiring messages, and you can go to fallen swallows for evidence. 

“Ma,” I say suddenly, and her eyes connect with mine. “Can I get you anything?” 

Her face wrinkles, “What?” 

“Well,” I start, shifting my feet under the table. “You’re at my cafe. I won’t make you go home. So why not order something?” 

Her expression changes and she lets a quick smile dash across her lips. “I want pumpkin bread. And black coffee, hints of milk.” Her tone is confident and sure. It reflects her eyes which she must have crafted herself with those scraps of fabric I gifted her last year. 

I walk into the pantry and tip black coffee into a cup. Grasping the tongs, I edge two pieces of pumpkin bread onto a paper plate and brush the curtains aside. There’s one more stop before I can give my mother her breakfast. I rip open a little milk container and empty it into the cup. 

The coffee is hot but I don’t care as I bring it over and set it down. My mother is gazing out the window with her hands gathered nicely in her lap and her mouth in an unpredictable line. It’s now that I see her back curving over and her spine almost folding into her lap. 

She takes the cup and plate gratefully but doesn’t say thank you. I want to care but I don’t. Her throat expands like the beat of a heart when gulping the drink and I forget about all our past issues. 

“Sit with me,” she beckons, and I do as she says. “My wings might be broken, child, but yours are not. Forgive me for my behavior.” 

I smile and squeeze my small hands into hers. What I want to tell her is that her behavior is to be expected and that wings could still be used for other pretty things, but all that is stuck in my throat. 

I watch the sky open its bumblebee eyes and customers trickle in. I ignore them because moments like this are scarce nowadays. Tearing off a piece of the pumpkin bread, I toss it into my mouth. It tastes like autumn and I don’t mind it. 

October 16, 2020 03:37

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32 comments

Zilla Babbitt
14:08 Oct 17, 2020

Hey, great job on this one. Your descriptions as always are brilliant and poignant, and the dialogue is a great contrast to the wistful, perfectly stilted tone of the rest of the story. Some parts that I liked: "A man with a face from lumpy, spoiled milk." "I watch the sky open its bumblebee eyes" "because that’s exactly how my mother would’ve acted with someone who had even the slightest hint of an accent." I think I just love the word bumblebee. Your style is so distinct. I think you've read some of Amy St. Pierre, and you'll agree ...

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Scout Tahoe
14:38 Oct 17, 2020

Who doesn't love the word bumblebee? Thank you so much for reading. Yes, I've read some of Amy St. Pierre's stories and I see why you like her writing so much. And yes, we're quite opposites, but I accept your challenge. It's good to expand as a writer and short, plain sentences are exactly what I'm told not to do. ;) Thanks.

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Zilla Babbitt
14:44 Oct 17, 2020

You're welcome! Oh, yes, I love her work and I wish she'd post more often! You know, tons of writers shy from the short and plain, but when it's done well, like Amy, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck, it can be even greater than the flowy and expressive. It's easy to be influenced by English teachers who tell kids to write long expressive sentences. I know I have. I look forward to reading that story you'll do! Good luck :)

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Scout Tahoe
14:49 Oct 17, 2020

Thanks so much! Yes, I can vividly see my elementary school teacher reminding me that sentences must be "Long with commas and description." By the way, thanks for letting me know who you're going to follow. I watched their points/followers change and it's very interesting. :)

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Scout Tahoe
14:52 Oct 17, 2020

Also--if you're looking for people for your Spotlight of the Moment, Mia S or Genevieve Taylor have fabulous stories but aren't getting enough reads. ;)

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Scout Tahoe
03:44 Oct 16, 2020

This story wrote itself. For my good friend inside and outside of Reedsy, Genevieve Taylor. For someone who recently told me I need to write more in 1st person. For my aunt who can relate to this. For Zilla Babbitt for her lovely advice. Thank you for stopping by.

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Genevieve Taylor
03:45 Oct 16, 2020

Ahhh thanks for mentioning me xoxoxooxoxoo

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Mia S
00:29 Oct 17, 2020

I think this is one of your best ones! The title, the descriptions, the characters, the plot - everything works. Love the bittersweet ending. I hope you're doing well :)

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Scout Tahoe
01:32 Oct 17, 2020

I’m doing well, thank you!

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Genevieve Taylor
03:47 Oct 16, 2020

Scout scout scout! This was amazing! I loved the descriptions, and I think that every sentence really fit into the story and the theme. This flowed beautifully. Great work!

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Scout Tahoe
03:48 Oct 16, 2020

Thank you! All thanks to you and your support, of course. :)

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Avani G
21:43 Nov 30, 2020

I caught a typo, though I know it will be of no use to you, now. "It reminds me that the rolls in the oven and I rush over." --> "It reminds me of the rolls in the oven and I rush over." or "It reminds me that the rolls are still in the oven and I rush over." Some of my favorite parts: "The morning is swimming with threads of pregnant silver clouds by the time I thrust the key into the lock." "I watch the sky open its bumblebee eyes" "The doors sing of black footprints and the infinite fingerprints it’s collected over the years." Good ...

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Scout Tahoe
22:33 Nov 30, 2020

Thank you, Avani. Glad you enjoyed reading. If you want me to check out a story of yours, I'd love to. Do you recommend any?

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Avani G
23:46 Nov 30, 2020

No problem. 'Moonlight Reflection' and 'Suntan Lotion' are my favorites :)

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Scout Tahoe
00:01 Dec 01, 2020

Cool! Thanks. I'll be by soon.

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Avani G
03:02 Dec 01, 2020

Yay!

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:01 Oct 18, 2020

Your descriptions are something else entirely. They’re abstract but meaningful at the same time. I can’t wait until the day a golden retriever wins a Reedsy contest 🙃 Also i just wanna say the part where she twirls in the curtain is soooo cute. Like that perfectly enapsulates her personality right there, at least for me

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Scout Tahoe
16:04 Oct 18, 2020

Golden retrievers are definitely capable! ;) Thank you! The part where she twirls in the curtains was probably my favorite part to write because I can relate.

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Dalyane Deblois
16:37 Oct 17, 2020

Hey! Great story, your descriptions are well written and beautifully worded. You have a great vocabulary! The flow of the story is steady and the characters are realist and interesting. Really beautiful and brilliant story, keep writing!:)

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Scout Tahoe
16:40 Oct 17, 2020

Thank you, Dalyane!

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Dalyane Deblois
21:49 Oct 17, 2020

I finally wrote Cyrus's and Sierra's coffee date, feel free to check it out if want!

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Scout Tahoe
21:50 Oct 17, 2020

Really? Wow, I'd love to! Thanks for letting me know. I'll stop by when I can.

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Dalyane Deblois
22:02 Oct 17, 2020

You're very welcome! And thanks in advance!:)

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Scout Tahoe
22:11 Oct 17, 2020

;)

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Julie Ward
14:58 Oct 17, 2020

Your first two lines sucked me right in, Scout! I love the way you intertwine the mundane, cozy coffee shop routine with such vivid descriptions of your character's relationship with their mother. And how you paint the mother like a rag doll - it's all so sad and beautiful. Heck, all of your descriptions are beautifully vivid and colorful! Great story.

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Scout Tahoe
14:59 Oct 17, 2020

Thank you, Julie! I'm very glad you liked it.

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Julie Ward
15:19 Oct 17, 2020

You have a way with words! I love the title, too. Just beautiful!!

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Scout Tahoe
15:25 Oct 17, 2020

Thanks!

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Audrey .
11:55 Oct 16, 2020

"pregnant silver clouds" that was a first for me. Haha, I loved everything about your story-absolutely EVERYTHING. I love your descriptions and your title. This was great

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Scout Tahoe
12:51 Oct 16, 2020

Thank you, Audrey!

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R. K.
19:17 Oct 17, 2020

I'm sorry I didn't get here earlier. I loved this so so so much and I can't even put words to why. I've enjoyed so many of your stories, but I'm not lying this takes this cake. Zilla's outlined all the wonderful goodies (so many lines which made me feel whole) so I won't bore you with that. I'm going to leave you with two things. First, excited for more beautiful compositions and second (going a bit bold here), if this doesn't at least get shortlisted the judges don't know what they're missing out on.

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Scout Tahoe
20:03 Oct 17, 2020

Aha, thank you, Ru! (Love your name by the way.) I hope someday mine will either win or be shortlisted.

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