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Thriller

Sally has always been a friend. I moved here sometime ago after I got my new job as a freelance contractor. The job didn’t pay a lot but it got me to California quicker than I expected. The first person I met in San Francesco was her. She lived next store to me in this two bedroom small apartment. Every time I was there it was decorated different. Her reasoning was that everyday was different why not be different as well? It was who Sally was and who I wanted to be.

***

It didn’t take long for me to settle in after the first day I was at the new apartment. The smells of fresh bakery in the morning always made me want to get moving. I used to hate mornings, until I moved here. Now every morning Sally would greet me outside her door and we would walk to work together. She worked down the road from where I did as a hair stylist. I was at the building where I would be writing up legal briefs for a local law firm dealing with real estate issues. The work was interesting but it just didn’t seem to make me excited to be doing it. I wanted more and I envied Sally because she had the freedom to be what she wanted.

The work day ended quickly that Monday and Sally had a short list of clients so we met early outside the law firm.

“How was your day?” I asked as we walked down the sidewalk.

“It was okay. There was this woman that just was never satisfied with what I did with her hair.” Sally sighed,

I looked at her sympathetically. I never understood how anyone could be mean to her. She looked at me and smiled. Just for an instance I saw a red sparkle in her eyes. I closed and opened my eyes real quick thinking I was just having issues with the sun being in my eyes.

“Zoey, did you ever think about if you had a different life?” Sally asked as we approached our favorite café.

I looked down at my shoes that were expensive enough to buy me at least twenty dinners and looked at her.

“I never know what I want half the time.” My reply was hesitant.

I opened the door to the café and looked for the corner booth we always sat in. Sally walked over and sat down. I followed her. Looking around, it was obvious the place could use a redo. Many of the decorations were outdated, the booths falling apart and chipping in the walls, however, even at its worst, we loved it.

“I’ve been thinking about doing something different,” Sally said interrupting my thoughts.

“Doing what different?” I asked as I took the paper menu off the table and scanned it.

“Just this, you know where I am right now.”

I looked up from the menu. I was going to get the same thing I always did and something in her tone made me pay attention.

“I’m not sure I understand. Sally you have everything, why change it?”

Sally drank a sip the waiter had brought us when we were talking. She looked over at the window, people walking outside and put the glass down.

“I feel lost at times. I know it’s hard to explain, but I do. It’s like I am just doing the motions.”

The waiter came back to the table. I waved him away for now. I knew something was wrong with Sally.

“You think changing careers might help?” I asked.

Sally looked down at the table, tears forming in her eyes.

“I don’t know if that will do it. Listen, don’t want to be rude. I think I’m just going back to the apartment. I’m feeling tired and really not in the mood to be out.” Sally got out of the booth.

I stood up after her.

“Okay, sure you don’t want some company,” I said hoping she would say yes.

“No, I’ll be okay. I just need sometime to be by myself.”

I nodded and watched her walk out of the café.

***

The next day, I woke up tired. I worried all night about Sally and I couldn’t get her out of my mind. The morning smell of the bakeries filled my open window and into my living room. Today, however, it did not bring me the same joy. Getting out of bed, I looked out the window. It was an overcast day and raining slightly. I sighed. These days in the city were more common than not.

I made a choice to go to the café for breakfast and clear my head. I didn’t want to pry with Sally’s problems, but I wanted to help. After I got dressed in my jeans, sweater and black vinyl jacket, I was out the door. The street outside my apartment was quieter than normal for a Saturday morning. Shrugging my shoulders, I made my walk to the café. I passed an old couple sitting on their apartment steps and smiled. They looked at me like I was a dog that got loose. I frowned. Some people were just strange.

The café was lit up as the holidays were approaching. I walked in, taking my jacket off and placing it on the hook by the door. Looking up and then around, the place looked different from yesterday. Maybe the place had finally done something. Looking at the room, I shook my head. No, not just something, everything was different. There were no more booths, but tables with blue chairs and the room was painted a light green. I went up to the counter to talk to one of the waiters.

“You guys really changed this place eh?” I asked looking around at the room and back to the young girl wiping off the counter.

She looked up at me.

“Ms. I’m not sure what you are talking about. We have had this place looking like this for years. The owners just won’t change anything. They feel it gives customers a sense of peace while they are enjoying their drinks or meals.” She went back to wiping off the counter.

I looked around again and tried to remember if I was mistaken or maybe even went into the wrong place. I walked over to my jacket, grabbed it and put it on. When I got outside I looked up at the name of the place. The name was the same I remembered. Shaking my head, I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach. I turned and walked back to the apartment. Sally might know what is going on with the café. I also, hoped I could find out how she was doing since yesterday.

I got to her apartment door and knocked gently. She had hated pounding noises. It took awhile, but a man about the age of fifty opened the door.

“Can I help up you?” He asked gently.

I was confused. I didn’t remember Sally saying anyone was visiting.

“Sally, is she here?” I asked and looked as far as I could into the apartment.

The man’s eyes looked sad. He took a deep breath.

“Sally, my Sally passed away a long time ago.”

I squinted. There was no way that Sally had died.

“I’m not sure what you are talking about sir, but I just saw her yesterday.”

He stepped back and suddenly was angry.

“What are you talking about? This isn’t funny. You need to leave.” He slammed his door shut.

I was stunned. I grabbed my stomach. The feeling was just unbearable. I walked back into my apartment and sat down. There was certainly something wrong here. I got off my couch and walked to grab my phone. There were no messages, and no texts from anyone except Sally. I looked at the date. It was yesterday that I remembered. I looked at my phone and the date said something different. It said tens years later. I dropped the phone and almost screamed, but I was having a hard time catching my breath.

I ran around the house in panic. What was going on? I started freaking out more. I went to the couch opened the laptop, turned it on and started searching for Sally’s name. It was true. She died many years ago. My fingers were shaking as I read the funeral page. I coughed, still trying to catch my breath. My heart was pounding so hard.

Fine, I thought. I decided to look up our café. It was showing the picture I remember. However, it was dated several years in the past. As I read further down about the history, the panic grew. The website was an honorary page dedicated to the owner. It started to discuss why it was no more. It read:

It became a horrible day that Friday when a bomb had hit the café. Many people’s lives were lost as a terrorist made a choice to target the beloved establishment.

I kept reading, my breath becoming more labored. It then listed the names of the people who had their lives taken away from them in seconds. None of them I recognized except the last one:

Zoey Strener age 22

October 30, 2019 15:04

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1 comment

Barbara Eustace
16:28 Nov 09, 2019

I like the flow of this story, and the snappy language used. It works well and paints the picture of the time of the action and the age of the narrator. I like the contrast with the narrator, who has a good steady job, but seemingly no particular ambition, and Sally, a dreamer, an artist. And I like the way that the two opposites attract and become friends. At the end, I’m not altogether sure if Sally was responsible for the bomb, or if she just got a feeling, walked out and died/was killed later. But that’s okay, it leaves the reader won...

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