An Ordinary Café

A waitress at an outdoor cafe’ carefully refills a man’s coffee at the next table as the sun breaks through the clouds, catching its rays in the long coils of her deep red hair. It tangles itself in her mane, sending copper-orange sparks dancing. The woman turns her head and those same rays light up the porcelain skin framing her pale green eyes. Her mouth, unremarkable yet somehow perfect, opens up ever so slightly and flashes a bashful smile at me.

The waitress turns away and walks inside, returning a moment later with a fresh pot. The man at the next table takes a sip from his cup, then pulls a worn out black briefcase from beside his chair and slides it onto the table in front of him. The man’s ill-fitting grey suit, old briefcase, thinning brown hair, and far from memorable face all pull together to form the image of an average man; one who undoubtedly wastes away each day in an unobtrusive cubicle somewhere.

The waitress darts cheerfully from table to table, refilling cups and taking orders. The man clicks open his briefcase and pulls out a file with a small red label. He deftly opens the file, and with unusually long fingers, begins flipping through its contents until he finds a paper with a photo of the waitress clipped to the front. The man glances up at the waitress, then quickly down to the photo. He closes the file and places it back inside his briefcase, which he snaps closed.

The man raises his hand to his ear, says something to nobody, then drops his hand back down. He stands, picks up his case, places a few bills on the table, and walks away unnoticed. The striking young waitress with the unremarkable smile continues to dart from table to table, oblivious of everything but coffee, bagels, scones, and omelets.

Without warning, three unmarked white vans pull up to the curb, and as the doors slide open, men in bullet proof vests, black uniforms, and caps spill out with guns drawn. Similar men appear from either side of the cafe’, and within a few short seconds they are everywhere, swarming like ants on a piece of cheese.

Customers duck, cover their heads, and slide under tables. The waitress turns, plants her feet, and slightly cocks a hip. She points her chin down just a bit and raises an eyebrow, as her mouth twists into a smirk. She slowly begins to raise her hands into the air as her smirk widens into a grin. As her hands near her shoulders, she drops the coffee pot, sending it crashing to the pavement. The noise momentarily silences everyone, and it seems that time stands still for the space of three heartbeats.

Noise and movement return. Someone shouts at the waitress. Someone handcuffs her. Someone reads her rights. Suddenly there is a small explosion. Smoke strangles the air. A moment later a second explosion shakes the cafe’, this time accompanied by screams and flying debris. People are injured, some are dead. Limbs are strewn about between fragments of tables and shattered glass. Shadowy figures undulate on the pavement as sirens approach. Emergency personnel appear and set to work on the possibly living, averting their eyes from the clearly dead.

I look around for the waitress, feeling dazed and strangely concerned for her safety. She is gone. The next morning the headline reads “Gas Line Explodes at Local Cafe’.” The story is short, the explanations evasive. There is no mention of a waitress with fiery curls, or of men with their guns spilling out from white vans. There is no mention of an average man with a briefcase, walking away. A freak accident, they say. Five dead and eight wounded. No one is to blame. No one is responsible. An extraordinary accident at an ordinary cafe’.


Mary and Robert

“We need eggs,” Mary hissed at Robert, as the cart Robert pushed creaked along down the over-bright pet aisle, “you’re going the wrong way.”

“Oh hush, woman!” Robert whispered back, then he chuckled and dodged, nearly toppling a perfectly stacked pyramid of cat food tins with the cart, as Mary smacked him with her purse.

“Good God, man, do you really want to get the whole store’s attention? We’re too old to do this the hard way, you’ll throw out your back again trying to get out the damn door! Did you see the size of that door greeter?”

“Oh he’s big alright, but I’m faster.” Robert said, and sped up just a tad.

“It’s not your speed I’m worried about, Robbie, it’s what’s going to happen when that man lands in your way.” She scolded, then she sped up and passed him with a gentle jab to the side.

“You never let me have any fun anymore.” Robert grumbled, slowing down as Mary turned them towards those eggs.

“If you think fun is a jail cell at our age, you’re out of your mind.” Mary retorted. She sped up a bit and then grew quiet.

“You missed the eggs, woman!” Robert whispered loudly, then he ducked before Mary had a chance to land another blow with the purse, but she didn’t swing. She turned around and grabbed the first carton of eggs she saw and set them right on the bread without looking.

“Mary, you squashed the bread.” Robert said softly. He abandoned the cart and gently took Mary by the arm. “What is it? What are you thinking about?” Mary glanced at him, then turned and moved the eggs. She carefully tried to right the bread as she spoke.

“I want to go back to Dublin, to that little tavern where we met.” She said.

“Mary, we’ve been over it a hundred times. How can we afford a trip to Europe? It would wipe out our savings.”

“You promised, Robert.”

“That was 50 years ago. We were 20 and thought the game would make us rich by 30.” Robert laughed. Mary scowled. “Ah come on, Mary, cheer up.”

“And you’re the one complaining that I never let you have any fun.” Mary turned down another aisle and quickly palmed a tube of lipstick, then deposited it in her purse.

“Getting caught shoplifting might get us a few nights in jail, Mary, but spending every dime we have to get to Dublin would wipe us out, and for what? What if one of us needs a stay in the hospital? At our age, it’s just a matter of time.” Mary sighed as they turned down the baking aisle. She stuck a jar of turmeric in her pocket and paused at the nuts.

“I know Robbie. Everything just seems stale these days. I feel like we’d somehow come to life again if we went back. It’s stupid, I know.” She grabbed a large bag of pecans and turned to Robert “Pecan pie?” He nodded. She tossed them in the cart and continued towards the front to check out.

“It’s not stupid. I understand what you mean, and I feel the same way, but it wasn’t Dublin that made us feel so alive back then, Mary.” Robert paused for a moment and stroked his chin. Suddenly the corner of his mouth shot up into a smirk, and Mary saw the old mischievous spark in his eye. “I know just what you need, my love.” Mary gave Robert a quizzical look. Robert laughed.

“Robbie, what are you thinking?”

“You know.”

“But you’ll…”

“So what.”

“We can’t just…”

“And why not?”

“They’ll catch us…”

“We’re old, they’ll go easy on us.”

“I don’t know. It’s been so long…”

“You know what to do.”


“On three.”


“Just like the good old days.”

“You’re crazy, old man.” Mary started to smile, despite herself.


“Oh Christ, you’re serious.” Mary chuckled quietly.


“We’re really going to do this?”

“Three.” Mary pulled a small gun from her purse as Robert pulled a slightly larger gun from the inside pocket of his jacket. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Robert announced loudly as they approached the line at the register, “this is a robbery.”





The Vine

Once upon a time, not so long ago and not so far away, there lived a beautiful but common vine in a perfectly respectable terra cotta pot in the corner of a perfectly respectable little greenhouse at the edge of a small yard, behind an old run down house. This little vine started her life in the greenhouse in the usual way. She was planted there by a kind old woman who cared for her very well for three months before the old woman died.

It was hard for the little vine after her caretaker died. For months no one came to water her or tend to her in any way. The little vine almost died, and she probably should have by all rights of nature, but somehow she managed to hold on to her little life in her little pot in that little greenhouse.

Then one day the door slowly creaked open, and in stepped a woman with long, faded red hair streaked with gray, pale gray eyes, and deep lines carved into the fine, bird-like features of a face that must have once charmed everyone who looked upon her.

Something happened to the little vine when this strange woman walked in that day. She became aware, or at least, she finally realized that she was aware. The little vine looked out from her foliage and wondered who this strange woman might be. The woman picked up a watering pail and filled it from a faucet with a hand pump in the corner. She then began to make her rounds, watering all the little plants in the greenhouse that looked as if they might have survived.

When the woman came to the little vine she paused, then gently reached her hand out and caressed a leaf. The woman’s hand was soft and the vine was very grateful to feel so gentle a touch after having been left alone and forgotten for so long. She longed to thank the woman, to show her appreciation in some way, but she was just a little vine, and could do nothing. Soon the little vine felt cool water spilling into her little pot, seeping down through the parched soil and slowly wetting her poor neglected roots. It felt wonderful.

Over the next week, the woman came into the little greenhouse each day to care for the plants that had survived, and to plant new ones to replace the ones that had been lost. Now most would have taken those lost plants and tossed them carelessly into a can with the rest of the garbage, but not her. She gently carried each one out of the greenhouse and placed them with great care beneath the thickly tangled branches of some scrub oak at the edge of the yard. The little vine noticed this kindness.

Over time the little vine, her fondness growing for this woman every day, learned the woman’s name was Layla, and that she had bought the old house in an auction after the old woman had died. She learned many more things about this woman as well. Her favorite flowers were lilac, her favorite color was yellow, and she loved peppermint tea, especially when made from fresh leaves. The vine felt sure that her neighbor, a peppermint plant, was very grateful for this, for instead of discarding the leaves Layla picked to encourage new growth, she transformed them into a delightful smelling tea. Layla also loved to sing, the little vine discovered, and she enjoyed listening to Layla’s sad melodies about love and loss and sometimes hope.

As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, the little vine’s affection for Layla continued to grow. She no longer merely enjoyed the time she spent with her caretaker, she felt she needed it, needed more than just a quick watering and goodbye. She felt she needed Layla every day, and usually Layla did come every day, if only to sit in the shade and sip her tea. Those other days though, those days when Layla never came, well, those became dark days for the little vine. She would grow angry with Layla and would mourn her inability to cry tears as Layla did when she was sad, for it always seemed to help her. She bitterly resented whatever it was that was keeping Layla away, and she couldn’t understand what could possibly be so important that it would keep Layla from her. On days like this the little vine would experiment with her long, soft stems. She learned that they were good climbers, and that if she focused real hard, she could move them at will; she could reach out ever so much, away from the little wooden frame they liked to climb.

This new ability she was learning to develop gave the little vine some comfort on those dark days, for she truly believed that if she could just caress Layla’s face one time, the way Layla had caressed her leaf on the day they met, that Layla would understand; she would know how important she was to the little vine, and she would realize that the little vine was important to her too, too important to ever miss a visit. And so she practiced. At first only on the dark days when Layla missed a visit, but later she began to practice at night too. Soon she was practicing constantly when Layla wasn’t there. Oh what a surprise it will be, thought the vine, when Layla sees that I can reach out to her the way she reaches out to me.

As she practiced, her coordination improved every day, and like most normal vines she grew longer and stronger as well. Soon she felt she was too large for her respectable little pot. Layla would need to transplant her soon, thought the little vine, and she noted that her poor roots were getting very cramped in that pot. As the days rolled by, and Layla neglected to transplant her, the vine, not so little anymore, grew angry. How could Layla be so uncaring as to let her sit so long in a pot that was clearly too small for her? Why wouldn’t she transplant her dear vine right away, to a larger, more appropriate pot?

The vine began to notice the other plants more and more, and her bitterness and jealousy grew and grew. The rosemary, sage, and thyme had a pot that was much larger than hers, and the orchids had an elevated position with a grand view of the old house. The little lemon tree had a fine, large pot carved around the edge with beautiful fruit and, to add insult to injury, vines. The nerve. The vine knew she should have that pot, not the lemon tree. It had vines on it! The vine grew angrier and angrier each day, but felt it all melt away, if only for a while, whenever Layla opened the door to the little greenhouse. The vine would remind herself that on that first day Layla had stroked her leaf, and had not done so to any other plant. She would convince herself that she was special to Layla, and that the others had such fine pots and elevated positions only so they wouldn’t feel jealous about Layla’s clear preference for the vine.

By the end of the first year, the vine could move her long green arms in almost any direction at will. She had learned to grab and lift things by practicing with whatever garden tool happened to be nearby. Soon, she thought to herself, soon I will show Layla how much I love her, and how important I must be to her. Then she’ll never miss a visit, she’ll give me the lemon tree’s pot, and maybe, just maybe, she’ll never leave again. And why should she? Thought the vine. What could Layla possibly need that she couldn’t find in the greenhouse? There was water there, there was sunlight, there were bags and bags of nutrient rich soil, there was her little tea cup and plenty of peppermint leaves. No, thought the vine, there is no reason for her to ever leave me. The little vine wanted to grow just a bit bigger though, so that she could embrace Layla, this caretaker she had come to love, instead of merely caressing her face. Layla deserved at least that.

One day Layla came early, and she brought in with her a much larger pot; better by far than the lemon tree’s pot. She heaved and grunted as she tugged this new pot in through the door, and the vine knew that her time to reach out for her Layla was drawing near. But then, to the vine’s great shock, Layla turned and walked back out of the greenhouse and didn’t come back for some time. When she finally returned, she was not alone.

She gently tugged a small lime tree through the door, then filled the new pot with fresh, moist soil. She planted the lime tree in that pot. A sharp pain shot through the vine as she thought of all the hours she’d spent thinking of, and loving her dear Layla, and her new understanding that Layla didn’t care. She had worked so hard to learn to reach and to grab, and though of course Layla couldn’t have known that, the vine felt she must have. How could the vine have poured forth such love and effort for this woman without her ever knowing? It was impossible, the vine thought. Anger flooded through the vine, and without a thought, she snapped one of her long tendrils out and wrapped it around Layla’s waist, pulling her near. Layla screamed, and that made the vine even angrier. She should be happy that the vine had worked so hard just to touch her, yet here was Layla, screaming away, fighting her off, completely ungrateful for all the vine’s hard work to show her love.

She tossed out another tendril, catching Layla around the shoulders, and another, pinning Layla’s arms to her side. She was so angry, but she loved Layla still. She thought maybe if she held her tight Layla would understand, would calm down and see the vine for who she was, but Layla kept on screaming, kept on struggling. The vine couldn’t stand the sound, it hurt her leaves and her stems, so she threw out another tendril, covering her mouth, then another around her chest, and at last, one around Layla’s neck. She pulled them all as tightly as she could.

After only a little while the thrashing stopped and Layla calmed down, growing perfectly still. Finally, thought the vine, finally she understands. She gently loosened her tendrils and they fell away one by one, as the vine sat her dear Layla gently on the ground beside her. Layla slumped against the clear wall and slid close to the vine, her long faded red hair falling like a shroud over her face. The vine was happy again. Everything was just as the vine had hoped it would be. Layla would never leave her again.




Mark Drissel hadn’t left his apartment since attending his wife Clara’s funeral almost 20 years before. Then one day he did. It was a brisk October Saturday afternoon and he was excited to begin a monthly ritual that had started right after their honeymoon. For 38 years he had sat with Clara (physically or, in the years since her death, in his thoughts) and read to her the monthly letter that her little brother sent from their home in England, and that he continued to send after his sister’s death.

Mark solemnly sat out two mugs, a pot of coffee, and Clara’s old cream and sugar set on the little card table that Clara had dubbed their “Official Geoffrey’s Exploits Table.” The table had a wobble to it, and as usual, it annoyed him. Mark moved to reach down and adjust a folded index card he had placed under the offending leg some time ago, but just as he lifted his hand off the letter on the table to make the adjustment, a gust of wind raced through the small window next to the table and tossed Geoffrey’s latest exploits into the air.

Mark jumped up and tried to catch it, leaping and clasping his way through the apartment, but it was too late. The wind spat the letter out of another window on the opposite side of the room. Mark rushed to the window and leaned out as far as he could. He craned his neck and watched as the letter spun and bucked in the wind. After a few agonizing moments, the letter fluttered down and slipped into the entrance of an alleyway. He watched as it drifted, spun, then settled down next to a pile of garbage. Mark didn’t know what to do, so for a while he just stared. He curled his fingers painfully around the outside ledge as his mind raced in search of a solution that did not entail going out. He couldn’t think of a single reasonable one.

His therapist was out of town, and he wasn’t about to invite an on-call therapist he didn’t know into his sanctuary. Liam was always just a phone call away, of course. He was like a nephew to Mark, who’d known him his whole life. Liam brought Mark his groceries and took out his garbage and such, but it was a Saturday, and the poor kid was a med student. He never slept. Mark had given him specific instructions: if he had time to come by when he wasn’t scheduled to, then he had time to sleep, and he’d damn well better use it to do so. Liam was already stopping by three times a week. He couldn’t call the kid over a letter, however important it was to him.

He couldn’t call Liam’s parents either, his oldest friends who owned the diner, Jimmy’s, across the street. The building it was in made up one wall of the alley the letter had landed in. Tina, whose father, Jimmy, had opened the place, ran the front while her husband, Simon, ran the kitchen. He could see from the window the growing crowd up front; Jimmy’s was swamped. It was a Saturday afternoon, and Simon made the best burgers, fries, and coleslaw in the city. He still brought Mark dinner a couple of times a week when he got off. What was he supposed to do though, call Tina when she was already wrangling a crowd of hangry customers and ask her to send up an employee? Sure, she’d do it without a thought, but he’d feel like a jackass for weeks, and it would just be one more thing his therapist would try to convince him not to feel guilty about, that he knew he should feel guilty about. He was a burden, simple as that.

Mark ducked back in the apartment. He glanced at the hallway leading to the coat closet and the door. He could feel his breath coming fast and shallow. He needed to think. Mark pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket and lit it as he pondered his dilemma. He paced and smoked, and smoked and paced, until the bitter smoke from his burning filter assaulted his tongue, and he crushed it out.

Mark made his way down the hall, grabbed his jacket from the closet, slipped one arm in, and caught sight of the door. He froze. How could he go out that door? And it wasn’t just the one, either. After this door he’d have the elevator doors to contend with. Then after the lobby, the large glass doors of the exit. He’d never been comfortable outside his own space, but Clara had made it easier, had coaxed him out into the world and then kept him out for the rest of her life. His wife. But she was gone, and the last time he’d walked through any of those doors, he’d just buried her. The memories came back in a flood and Mark sank to the floor.

He remembered what came next, or bits of it, at least. The first few weeks were lost to drinking and hours spent with his head in the toilet. People called, people knocked, but after a while they drifted away. Only Tina and Simon were allowed in, but there had been nothing they could really do. Then the letter arrived, and despite his hangover, he’d sat down to read it. He was stunned. It hadn’t occurred to him that Geoffrey would continue to write, but he guessed it made sense. He missed his sister. He couldn’t stop writing her, and maybe he couldn’t abandon her widowed husband either, who so completely understood who he’d lost in loosing his sister.

Mark read the letter out loud, and he could almost hear Clara affectionately scolding her spirited brother, who was so much like her, or laughing at some inside joke the two shared, that they’d allowed Mark to join in on. He’d continued reading those letters ever since. But Mark had never been able to walk back out that door after Clara, and those who knew him well had understood.

Mark stared at the door as the memories played out in his mind, and soon another memory came. He saw himself carrying Clara over the threshold, while she teased that she was shocked he’d made it so far without dropping her. The two had collapsed just inside the door, right where he now sat, in a pile of laughter.

Mark stood and brushed himself off. He finished putting on his jacket and turned to face the door again. He grabbed the knob and the door slid open without a sound. The hallway was empty and seemed much longer than he remembered. Too long. It felt like the world had somehow tilted, and he couldn’t quite regain his footing. Mark focused on the two small silver squares of the elevators at the end of the hall, then he stepped out. He could hear the blood rushing in his ears. He reached behind himself and gently pulled his door closed with a click.

Mark took first one step, and then another, as he slowly made his way down the hallway. Standing at the elevators, his mind flew back to his last awkward ride down. It had been full of well-meaning neighbors who didn’t know him well enough to know what to say, but couldn’t seem to avoid saying something, so they’d peppered him with all those platitudes that mean absolutely nothing, but feel like the right things to say when there are no right things to say. He’d wanted to tell them to shut up, to leave him the hell alone, but he just nodded and gave them a weak smile or two. When the doors opened he’d fled their pity and their platitudes, only to face her grave.

Instead of turning away from such thoughts, Mark made himself continue to look, continue to remember. After a while, he remembered other trips on those elevators. He remembered Clara with her nose in a Jane Austin novel as he spouted nonsense to see if she was listening.

“I rode a donkey all the way up Michigan Avenue today,” he’d once said.

“That’s nice.” She’d said, and turned the page.

It had annoyed him so much back then, but Clara wouldn’t have been Clara without her books. Mark pushed the button, stepped inside, and remembered the trip up the elevator with his new bride, as he headed down to the lobby. He recalled his wandering hands while he tried not to drop her, and Clara telling him to behave himself, while she laughed and half-heartedly batted at his hands. Soon the doors opened, he stepped through, then he looked up and was hit by the bustle of the lobby.

The noise and the lights and the blur of people rushing disoriented him, and he quickly found a seat on a bench next to the wall. Mark had forgotten how loud the world was. It was full of life and light and movement, and he felt very small, and very alone. He wanted to go back up to his apartment and wait for Simon and Tina to get off work, but he couldn’t. The letter might have been long gone by then.

Mark stood up off the bench and began to cross the lobby. His hands shook and his heart was racing so fast he feared it would escape his chest. He put one hand on his chest, willing his heart to slow down, and with the other, he reached out and steadied himself on a post nearby. He scanned the lobby and spotted a mirror on the wall, about five feet to his left. He could picture Clara checking her lipstick there, and he let go of the post. He felt that if he could just focus on that mirror he could keep going, and he took a few steps, then a few more. He paused at the mirror and took another look up.

He could picture her by the machines, grabbing her morning soda and chips, and calling one machine a “damn glorified toaster” when her chips got hung up. They were near the front, and he moved towards them. He could see her laughing at him and yelling “paybacks, baby, paybacks!” as he tried to lug all their Christmas shopping through the front doors, while she stood there on crutches with a busted ankle from an ice skating collision earlier that week. In Mark’s defense, it was his first time ice skating and Clara was a great instructor, but he couldn’t stop, and had unceremoniously plowed down his wife. What a pair they had made. He took his last few steps across the lobby floor. As Mark let the images roll through his mind, his brave Clara seemed to gently tease and prod him from his seclusion, just as she had in life. That’s how they’d met, he remembered with a smile. He was working as a stagehand and all-around handyman for a little local theater right out of trade school, where he met a beautiful young actress from England, who promptly decided the shy young man needed to get out more, and that she was going to see to it that he did.

Mark chuckled and wondered if Clara had sent the wind from beyond, just to get him out of that apartment. He didn’t doubt she could. Mark continued through the lobby, and soon found himself looking out the big glass doors of the entrance, at Jimmy’s across the street. That diner had been the first restaurant he and Clara had tried when they moved into the neighborhood, and they had quickly befriended Tina, who was the night manager at the time, and Simon, who was still just her boyfriend back then, and was already proving to be a talented cook. They were good people, and Clara loved people. Mark did too, in his way, he just had never really learned how to talk to them, or to be comfortable around them. Somehow Clara had cushioned his blunders around people, and helped him let people see him.

It was different with Tina and Simon though, right from the start. Tina was tiny, barely five feet tall and rail thin no matter what she ate, but she felt like a force of nature. She had a mouth like a sailor and already commanded the authority of a neighborhood street-mom, despite still being young herself, when they met. Simon was this great big, scary-looking bearded teddy bear, who gave a few too many hugs, and got emotional when he listened to Nina Simone. They adored Clara, and were instinctively protective of Mark. Mark stared at Jimmy’s and knew if he could just get to the alley and the letter, he’d be fine. The door to the kitchen was right there, if he needed them.

Mark held his breath and pushed open one of the doors. He squinted as the afternoon sun hit his eyes, and he quickly moved back against the wall of his building, as he tried to make some sense of the wall of people moving along the sidewalk and the roar of cars flying past on the other side of them. He watched the flow of people, and soon found a large enough gap to join the procession of city dwellers out and about on a Saturday afternoon. It felt strange to join this anonymous parade. Like he was intruding. He stared at the cement as he walked, avoiding the gaze of strangers, and only looked up to gage his progress or take in a comforting glimpse of Jimmy’s, standing still on the other side of this sea of movement, like a lighthouse leading him towards the safety of friends.

Mark stood trembling at the edge of the crosswalk, and stepped out onto the street when the lights changed as if he was stepping on ice, afraid it would crack and swallow him up. When he reached the other side, Mark quickly moved to the front wall of the little market in the building that made up the other wall to the alley, and edged along it, keeping his eyes on the alley, and Jimmy’s. He gasped and almost cried out as a teenage girl came bursting out the front of the store, swinging her bag to whatever music was pumping through her headphones, and nearly collided with him. She giggled an apology and soon vanished into the crowd.

Mark continued on and slipped into the alleyway. His throat tightened up as he grabbed the letter, then he sank down onto the steps of Jimmy’s kitchen by the dumpster and tried to catch his breath, but he couldn’t. It came in big, ragged, gulps, and tears began to stream down Mark’s face, as he realized what he’d done, and that he’d have to do it all over again going back. Just then the door behind him swung open, and there was Simon in his apron, hauling a bag of garbage out to the dumpster.

“Jesus, Mark!” He gasped, and dropped the bag. He stuck his head back inside and hollered at an employee. “Get Tina out here, now! It’s Mark… no, he’s on the freaking steps, go get her!” Simon knelt down next to Mark. “What happened, are you hurt? How did you get down here?” He asked Mark gently, placing his hand on Mark’s back. Mark handed Simon the letter.

“The wind,” Mark managed, his voice shaky, “threw it out the window… I think maybe it was Clara.” Mark added, half laughing, half crying. Simon saw what letter it was and nodded, then hugged Mark fiercely as Tina stepped outside, her face creased with worry. She rushed to help Simon get Mark up, and the two led him inside and settled him down at a small table on the side of the kitchen where the employees ate. Simon slapped a patty on the grill for him while Tina had someone fetch him some coffee. He was to stay until they could take him home themselves. Mark’s breath slowly returned to normal. It was going to be okay.

Summer 2016

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