What They Took From Us

A man and a woman bump into each other in a coffee shop. But their relationship may be far different than it appears to be.

What They Took From Us (pdf)

The morning was blue. Not in any profound emotional sense—she’d barely been awake long enough to have doleful thoughts about the day. It was blue the way the mountains look blue from faraway. Perhaps some of that mysterious morning air found on mountaintops had migrated to ensconce the city streets. Sarah did not stop to admire it, but she breathed it in with the voracity of first life.

Her destination was a small, local-run coffee shop and the caffeine and solace it provided. A network of soggy, half-frozen puddles barricaded the door, testing her dedication and ingenuity. She growled at the inconvenience, blaming the world for this most recent attack on her peace of mind. But safe inside the door the small battle was already forgotten and a smile slipped back on her face.

“Your usual today, Sarah?” the barista greeted her.

“Make it a triple, Gino.”

“Long week?”

“You have no idea,” she confirmed while fishing in her purse for her wallet, “I’ve been vomited on three times. And I don’t know what it is, but all my parents have been on edge.”

“It’s the winter.”

“It’s been winter for eight weeks now.”

“Exactly. Christmas vacation is over, but winter is still here. Everybody’s getting cabin fever.”

“Well, I guess I’m their favorite punching bag right now.”

“Don’t let it get to you. They’re lucky to have you.”

“I know. I guess I’m just tired. I haven’t been sleeping well.”

“How’re the folks?”
“I mentioned to my mom that I’m thinking about moving out and she went completely pale. Mom, I’m twenty-six not sixteen. I mean I’m grateful they let me live with them through school but it’s like I got stuck in this rut and I don’t understand it. I want to move forward.”

“That’s how it is with the baby,” Gino replied confidently, “We won’t let Joseph move out until after we’re dead, eh Joey?” he playfully ruffled the hair of the ten-year-old boy sitting on a stool to his left. Sarah smiled.

“Joey, don’t let him bully you,” she responded good naturedly, “you call me if you need an advocate.” Gino was handing over her coffee. “Thank you.”

“Have a good weekend, Sarah.”

“If I can survive today, I will.” She had dragged herself out of bed early in order to guarantee some quiet time with her coffee before work so she made her way to a quiet little corner.

The bell above the door vibrated ferociously, heralding the entrance of another customer. Sarah’s eyes gravitated toward the movement out of habit, but the face she saw was not one she had been expecting. He paused in the doorway, his eyes fastened purposefully on her face. She felt her ivory skin turn ghostly white before being brushed with a telltale stroke of red. Her eyes dropped to the table in front of her. This must have been why she had been so tense all week. But how could she have known he would be here?….

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What They Took From Us