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“Cindy, I’ve… well, this is really hard to say, but I think we’re both in an abusive relationship, and... we need to end it.”

Slowly, Cindy put down her cup. It seemed to titter and the Starbucks, usually so quiet up there in the front, where four cute, bucket seats were grouped around a low, oaken coffee table, was filled with a faint clatter, a porcelain crescendo.

The mermaid clock on the wall did not move.

She opened her mouth to say… something, but the words would not form, or perhaps they did, but she was too afraid to let them out. Cindy swallowed, but then, not knowing what else to do, put her hands into her lap.

Jennifer took another noisy sip.  

Cindy’s face felt brittle, as fragile as the maple candy they had used to make when she was just a little girl, pouring out the boiled goo onto parchment paper, only to pop it free, an eternity of time later and with infinite care, thin, thin, thin, one side as flat and smooth as glass. She could still remember her sepia reflection.

“How long… have you been thinking... this?” she managed, her slender jaw showing a new line Jennifer had never seen before. It sounded as though she were speaking around an obstruction, as if her tongue had swollen.

Jennifer shrugged.

“A while; I guess,” she said. “Do you want another cup? I’ve got a ton of points saved up that I won't be using now.”

“So, you won't even be coming here, anymore?” said Cindy, her eyes skittering around the room. The baristas seemed too close, and suspiciously quiet, the shushing sound from the drive-up window like a toy guillotine.

“Welcome to Starbucks; what can I get started for you,” said a girl, the tall one with the red hair. The other baristas, all on open mic, be-bopped along to the cadence of the seasoned orderer.

“Think I’d just, better not,” sighed Jennifer wistfully. “I’m not sure I’ll have the… what do you call it, resolve? Revolve...alution?”


“Yeah, that thing. I don’t think I'll have the resolution if I keep coming in and seeing you here, and I’m just tired, tired of the dependency. It has nothing to do with you; it's me. I’m so weak it’s ridiculous, like I have no will power what-so-ever. It almost feels like we’re dating, and I won’t be strong enough if I don’t make a clean break now.”

“Almost feels... but we’ve been… This used to be our special place.”

“Yeah, well, it’s too damn expensive and the longer I let it go on, the harder it’ll be to end it… in the end. Want another cup; I’ve got all these points on the app...”

Cindy looked down into her cup as though into the top of an open hourglass. The cinnamon even looked like swirling sand and she let out a wet gulp. Snatching up a fistful of napkins, she twisted away, coughing, afraid that she really might vomit, wanting so much to be strong.

“Okay, okay; take it easy, tough guy,” said Jennifer. “Do you remember when we first met? It was right here. I had just been dumped by that asshole, Mike...”

“Of course, I remember,” said Cindy, quietly, turning back by degrees, her eyes on her hands, afraid of the message they might look, the horrible vulnerability, afraid of everything.  

“God, I was a dependent mess, even then. You must’a seen it, ‘cus you bought me my first grande caramel macchiato; with cinnamon and mocha drizzle.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” whispered Cindy.

“Don’t worry, you didn’t, grumpy gus,” chirped Jennifer. “‘Cept maybe on my fat butt... Geez, you’re taking this hard. I didn’t know it meant that much to you! Tell you what, you can have all my old Starbucks cups- I’d feel kinda like a hypocrite if I kept using them afterwards anyway- and, of course, you can have all my points. I’ve got, like, a billion, enough to keep you in foam and espresso for as long as you need while I detox from this... relationship.”

Jennifer laughed, a bright, cheery sound which seemed to soothe the ruffled ambiance.

“I’m going to go get a refill of brewed,” she said, stage whispering. “I’ll still be able to get that out there in the real world. Besides, it’s free with the app. You sure you don’t want anything; chocolate dipped madeleines? Biscotte?”

“God you’re a bitch,” Cindy spat suddenly. Her red eyes quivered, like planets seen at twilight.

“You can just, do this, like… this,” she hissed. “Without any warning, without giving me a sign. Like it doesn’t, doesn’t mean anything. Like I don’t. You never said, ‘Hey, there are things we need to change,’ or, ‘Hey, this isn’t working out.’ You just… just, spring it on me, here, right here, now, in our special place. And you don’t even care, that’s the thing, it means nothing to you. I guess I didn’t know you as well as I thought I did. I guess, I never knew you at all!”

“God, look at you!” laughed Jennifer. “What, do you own stock in this place? Oh, that’s right, you do, you used to work here… Well, don’t worry, your ol’ bean bucks are just as safe without me darkening the door. Look, I’m sorry- I mean, not sorry; when something is unhealthy you have to just quit it, chop it right off. But, I mean, I’ve been coming here forever now… and so have you, obviously. Geez, this stupid machiatto- which isn’t even coffee, by the way- cost me seven dollars. Seven dollars! Do you know how much money I spend here every week? You must; you come with me every time. And we get the salads. And we buy for the grinder at home. And we have a whole dusty shelf full of, ‘Been There,’ mugs. It’s ridiculous, especially for you, ‘cus you’re too stubborn to get the app.”  

“Anyway, I’m not, I’m not sorry, I’m just giving up on it… but, I am sorry for you- a little bit- I’m sorry that you’re upset, but... common Cindy. Do you remember when we went to Cancun last year on summer break? The very first thing we did, before we hit the beach or anything, even our hotel, was search up a Starbucks for that stupid, ‘Been There.’ And when we flew out to East Nowhere, North Dakota to let your stick-in-the-mud folks have the pleasure of meeting my dubious ass, we stopped at that Starbucks between the airport and Podunk 'ville. I think it was, like, in a barn... or something. Remember that barista; she was so horsey faced! We called her Secretariat for the whole rest of the day!”

“Of course I remember, I remember everything,” said Cindy, every word separate and distinct.  

She had put her hands back on the table, calm now, as quiet as a corpse. Her face was the color of ash.

“So… decaf quad con panna for the road?” said Jennifer, standing.

“Where are you going, now? What are you going to do?” said Cindy quietly. “I do still… care, you know. I want you to be safe.”

“That’s good, since you’re driving,” yawned Jennifer, twisting elaborately. A deep click sounded from somewhere inside her person and she sighed.

“God, that’s good; these chairs are a torture. I know you love ‘em, but honestly, I’ve been lying this whole time. I really can’t stand ‘em. Never would have sat down here in the first place, if Mike hadn’t left me just wanting to be miserable.”

“Well, you are a good liar, aren't you,” said Cindy.

“That’s what Mike said,'' sighed Jennifer. “But then, he used to sneak banana peels back out of the garbage to have sex with them when I wasn't around, so I don’t think he had much call to cast stones.”

Cindy attempted to suppress a giggle, tuning it into a wet snort.

“You never told me that?” she gasped.

“Told you what, that I was jilted for Senorita Chiquita? Gosh, wonder why I would want to keep that a secret… Now common’ fat ass, you’re driving; let's get this over with.”

The smile drained from Cindy’s face. She rose slowly to her feet.

“You wanna’ finish that?” said Jennifer, nodding at the half full cup. “There’s like, three dollars worth of slurry in there.”

Cindy shook her head. She didn’t feel as if she would ever eat again.

“Suit yourself, but if we get a joint account, I’m going to rule with an iron fist.”

The girls threaded their way out of the restaurant, into the bright, cold, April day, the sun gleaming down like a wet jewel, and stood beneath the green awnings. 

“Wish I’d brought my cute galoshes,” sighed Jennifer, raising a damp foot. “I never get to wear them.”

Cindy stood in her puddle. She could not look up.  

Jennifer took her hand.

“Come on; are you doing this with me, or do I have to, go it alone?” she said.

“You’re so cruel,” whispered Cindy.

“Pish posh,” said Jennifer. “Oh, by the way, are we still going to Rachel’s coffee and cake soiree after we do this- or whatever she calls those little piggy parties of hers- or do you think it'd be too gauche?”

“Why, would we… I don’t… understand,” said Cindy.

Because, she has them catered by the big, green, mermaid monster company. You can’t have missed it; she puts their stupid merch all over the damn place; napkins and the stirrers and, yuch, it’s like a… a, well, I don’t know what like, but I am sure it’s tacky.”``

Cindy shook her head, crinkling her eyebrows.

“Well, I guess we’ll talk later,” said Jennifer sweetly. “When some of us are a little less befuddled in the brain. So, together or not?”

“Together, I suppose. I’ll be better if we do it together, in the end,” said Cindy. 

“Ahh, excellent Watson,” intoned Jennifer, taking Cindy's hand.  

“Remember, never again… but we will stop for ice cream on the way home; for moral support. So, here we go- I’m so nervous- face the big mermaid sign and repeat after me; ‘Starbucks, I- should we say, ‘we?’ or does that sound too codependent? Let’s stick with I, but, ‘I,’ together, right? Cindy and Jennifer, together to the end; ready-”  

“Starbucks, I am never going out with you again!


July 28, 2021 01:20

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00:02 Aug 06, 2021

Hi Ben, this was hilarious and so clever! And I don't even need you to explain it to me :) Well done!!


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Mustang Patty
12:19 Aug 01, 2021

LOL - so, at first I was going to read some LBGQT fiction, and then it wasn't and then I thought I was reading about a friendship coming to an end - but it was the relationship with Starbucks - so costly, and so uncomfortable. Great job. You used the prompt in a witty way and entertained. I think your writing would be a great addition to my other works. I'm not only a Judge here on Reedsy, but I also curate an Anthology. Would you please check out my website www.mustangpatty1029.com and check out the 2021 Mystery/Crime Anthology to see how...


Ben Rounds
22:44 Aug 01, 2021

Hello Mustang (Patty?), Thank you for reading, I am flattered that you enjoyed my work and would consider including me in your compilation. With the anthology; are there any royalties? What incentive do submitting authors have, other than seeing their name on a cover? Also, you have a very specific website, but do you, or have you ever, considered publishing novels? I have been writing for, gosh, since forever, but have never been published. I have a few complete novels, including a classically styled murder mystery and a horror, which...


Mustang Patty
10:27 Aug 03, 2021

Hi, Ben, There ARE royalties paid on the Anthology. The first Anthology published in 2020 has already paid each Author over $30 for their share. (I don't have any figures for the 2021 Edition yet.) I AM interested in publishing novels, and I would be happy to look at your synopsis and first few chapters. We can then work out the details - sound fair? Send your work to me - patty@mustangpatty1029.com - and the same if you would like to have a short story submitted for the upcoming Anthology. ~MP~


Ben Rounds
08:52 Aug 05, 2021

Hi MP, Cool Beans! I will do some touch-up on a story I've been working on and submit. I will also put together a package for the other stuff. Btw, my art email is, kikinlivi@yahoo.com, if you need to communicate directly. Cheers, Ben


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