It took Maddy no less than two hours of moving in to cover her walls. She always hated blankness. A fresh canvas terrified her. She needed color, stimuli to distract her. With a splash of spite, she unboxed artwork that Lucy never enjoyed. These pieces had a new chance. The stained glass French Bulldog. The Napoleon Dynamite poster. Her new dwelling was smaller and colder, but it was just for her. This was her fortress. No more parties with her people she never liked. No cleaning around a lazy partner. No more dragging her girlfriend to brunch because she thought it was a commercial ploy to make Americans into day drinkers. Smiling at her headquarters, she twirled around and floated onto her couch. After twenty seconds of sitting in silence, she scoured for something to keep her from thinking. She couldn’t face it yet, so she jumped up and called Cory.
Nothing better than a farmers market with her best friend to take her mind off of her fresh break-up. Four stalls in, she bought an aloe plant. It was no more than three inches tall, but it would learn to grow on her. She never owned a live plant before, but letting go of one person allowed her to become someone new. She had a whole reason to wake up in the morning, but she would shortly realize aloe vera didn’t need to be watered every day. After thirty more minutes, she had seen one too many couples walking their dogs or buying organic tomatoes, so she plotted a plan to leave.
“Cory, I heard about this new coffee shop on Washington.”
“But you don’t drink coffee.”
“Sometimes I do.”
After a few more comments filtered because of her fear of hurting Cory's feelings, Maddy won and off they went to the café. While Cory ordered an iced coffee with a splash of soy milk, Maddy scoured the menu for the beverage with the most layers -- whatever was the farthest from coffee -- and settled on an iced vanilla latte with two pumps of caramel. After placing her order and scolding her people-pleasing tendencies, she gasped and realized her first mistake as a plant parent.
“I left Phoenix in the car.”
Before Cory could ask who Phoenix was, Maddy scooted past ten people to squeeze through the exit. Just as the barista finished crafting their drinks, Maddy joined her companion with her new friend in hand.
As they found a table, Cory said, “I'm sure it would’ve been okay in the car.”
“I’m not sure. I just figured it’s better to be safe than sorry.” She snipped her drink and disappointed her taste buds. Wondering why she wasted six dollars on something she knew she wouldn’t like, she focused on Phoenix. Its bright green naivety. Its growing rind. Its leaves that don’t really look like leaves. Phoenix was here to detox Maddy’s new --
In hindsight, she knew she should’ve ignored that voice.
“It’s nice to see you. How are you doing?”
Their words echoed, making the crowded coffee shop even louder.
“I’m fine,” she replied, after averting her eyes from her former roommate wearing the purple biking shorts she bought her and a stupid, after-run, endorphins-rich glow. Stuck with a drink she hated underneath the stare of Satan’s spawn, Maddy noted her nearest exit.
“What are you up to these days?” Lucy asked, dismissing the fact that the people she was talking to faced away from her. Maddy shook her head, finally realizing how unaware her old love was.
She cleared her throat and said, “I’m getting into planting. This is Phoenix.” Like an infomercial model, she gestured to the aloe vera plant sitting in between their glasses.
“That plant won’t last long,” the she-devil scoffed.
“Get out,” Cory interjected without hesitation.
“Get out, you disrespectful, selfish twat,” she continued with ironic tact.
“You can’t tell me what to do,” Lucy whined, as Maddy stifled a smirk. While the brat went on about financial freedom and consumer rights, the two coffee drinkers sipped and relished. Somehow, the coffee began to taste better and better.
“Maddy, how can you let your friend say that to me?” With this, the plant mom was shocked out of her brief confidence. She was now on the spot and had nothing but a seedling to hold her up. Underneath the table, her leg shook like a jackhammer. She thanked the cafe’s owner for not using transparent tabletops.
“Maddy?” Cory checked in with her, but she couldn’t get her eyes to leave the floor.
“Did you not hear me?” Her ex pushed her psyche.
Triggered and teleported back to five months prior, Maddy remembered going out to dinner with Lucy and her friends. Maddy always struggled in loud restaurants. She never wanted to contribute to the already excessive noise, so she’d have to repeat her order for the server to hear. That night, her ex-lover rolled her eyes, snatched the menu, and ordered for her. Left floundering internally, Maddy forced a smile and sipped her beer. She hated beer more than coffee yet still finished the pint.
“Earth to Maddy,” the nuisance continued.
“Please go,” our heroine muttered, causing her sidekick to smile.
“Did you say something?”
She straightened her back and repeated, “Go.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you… again.”
She got up from her seat, dusted off her pants, assumed the Superwoman stance, nodded to her posse of one person and one plant, and said with clarity atypical for her, “Go, you selfish twat.”
After a few babbles and a scoff, the enemy left, and Maddy let out a breath she had held for months. As if she ran a marathon, she plopped down on her seat and smiled at Cory. They raised fists in victory, carefree and not phased by their fellow patrons. As Maddy and Phoenix skipped home that day, she captured the strength needed to jump invisible hurdles. Having turned a new leaf, she was eager to make room for a new life.