Monday, 20 May 2019

Café au Lait


by L.P.

café au Lait

 

I watch the trees outside my window. Their branches spread to the sky, toward the sun. Their leaves flutter and dance with the wind, capturing bounties of precious nourishment. Cardinals, clothed in their brilliant red coats, dart about the trees. Somewhere above them, a Woodpecker drills for food.  
                  He suddenly appears—not from the sky—but from around the corner of my house. It startles me. He looks around as he approaches my back door. He can’t see through my windows, I know that; but he turns to face me anyway, with his dark and intense gaze, and peers into my soul. I push away from my desk. He turns away and knocks on the door. I scurry to answer it.
                  “Hi,” I say. 
He smiles. It’s nothing less than mesmerizing. His teeth are the brightest white, which pleasantly highlights his deep onyx skin. It absorbs the sunlight that peeks through the cracks in my porch’s ceiling. He wears the collared shirt and khaki shorts of a delivery man.
                  “Sorry. I knocked on the front door, but there was no answer. I decided to take a chance and go around back.”
                    I tear my gaze away from his body to meet his gaze. There is a tiny twinkle of amusement floating around in the dark depths of his mahogany eyes that tells me he knows just how mesmerizing his physique is.
                  “It’s fine. I’m sorry, I was brainstorming—and well, I tend not to pay so much attention to anything else.”
He just smiles; a warm and inviting smile. I shudder. 
                  “Just sign here,” he says, handing me an electronic writing pad. 
                 I take it, scribbling my name down. It’s a wonder signatures were ever required. I hardly ever made mine legible enough to make a difference. 
                  “So, brainstorming huh. About what?”
                  I shrug. “Just about writing.”
His eyes widen a bit and his eyebrows quirk toward his hairline. “You’re a writer?”
                    I nod and hand him back the device. He hands me the small package in return. 
                  “Don’t forget that.”
                 His eyes are endless pools of raw cathexis. I avert my eyes, aware that my eyebrows furrow in the slightest because of my confusion. 
                  “Oh,” I say, “I won’t.”
                  A light chuckle flows from my mouth. He shifts his weight to lean against my door frame, which draws my gaze back to him. He pins me to this spot with his unfathomable eyes; I glance away. 
                  “Have a nice a nice day. Remember to open the package,” he says with a wink. 
                 I nod, watching his giant figure recede from view. When his body disappears around the corner, I step back inside and shut the door. I sink to my knees with a sigh. The cracks in my linoleum floor have a chaotic pattern. They stretch from the bottom of the door and into the rest of my home; some branch off into the kitchen, forming an unbroken chain of hairline cracks.  
                  My cellphone rings. With a wistful sigh, I return to my desk. It sits in a corner, adjacent to the window. Papers are strewn everywhere. A blank word document glares from my laptop screen. My phone sits next to it. 
                  “Hello?”
                  “Katie, sweetie.” My mom’s smooth, vanilla voice fills my head. “How are you?”
                    A sharp pain burns my chest. I take a deep breath, and then another.  
                  “I’m ok. Doing well. How’s everything at home? How’s dad?”
                  “Good, darling. Have you been taking--”
                  “Yes. Mom. Don’t worry.”
                  “Ok. Well—” 
                  “I’m actually a little late for lunch with Molly.”
                  “With who?”
                  “A friend. Gotta go, though. I’ll see you for dinner?”
                  “Sounds good. Bye, sweetie.”
                  “Bye.”
                  A little ‘beep’ alerts me that she hung up. I frown at the phone. It takes a few moments to pack up my things and head toward Mike’s Cafe. The cafe’s sign stands out in a sea of other restaurant signs. At night, it glows with neon colors bright enough to blind anyone who drives past. Maybe they secretly hope people would crash, and then forlornly enter into the restaurant with the sole intent to buy food. Whatever the case, the sign is hard to miss, even during the day. I pull into the parking lot, eyeballing a space between two neatly parked cars. The white paint has long faded. No one cares anymore. 

Molly sits in the corner of the restaurant. The black booth swallows up her tiny, pale frame. She wears a wrinkled, black hoodie and pink shorts. The hood sits halfway way on her head, forgotten. 
                  “Hey.”
Molly jerks at the sound. Her shoulders slouch at my approach.
                  “Hey Katie,” she mumbles.
I slip into the opposite side of the booth with about as much grace as a newborn calf. 
                  “Order anything?” I ask, flipping through a menu that sits on the table between us. 
                  “They have a five-dollar margarita special with loaded nachos. You should try it,” she replies. “Treat yourself.”
                  With a sigh, I wave a waitress over. It isn’t often that I allow myself to indulge and enjoying one five-dollar margarita is far from indulgence, anyway. The waitress skips toward the table with the brightest smile I’ve seen in a while. It’s strange that they give these cheery smiles in an attempt to make their customers feel more welcome, but the actual effect is the complete opposite. 
                  “What can I do for you, Katie?” she asks.
                  “I’d like a house margarita with nachos. Thanks.”
                  “No problem. Will get that in right away. Would you like anything else?”
I shake my head. 
                  “So, what’s wrong?” I ask. 
                  Molly’s face crumples. Her eyebrows point downward, and her nose scrunches. Her lips tighten against her teeth; and then it’s just me and Molly, standing toe-to-toe in an empty room with dull reflections everywhere. Her tightly shut eyes ooze gigantic streams of hot tears and her nose drips. She trembles and this time, I can see the tiny, hairline cracks that make up each individual piece of her. Some cracks are bigger, and others are barely noticeable. It’s only a matter of time before she shatters.
                  “It’s him,” she chokes out. 
               “But I thought you moved beyond this?” I whisper, “We locked him away. He can’t do anything anymore.”
                  “It doesn’t—that makes no difference, Katie!”  
                  Her fists are clenched, and her teeth are bared. Her breath comes out in quick, shallow bursts. Her rage pins me down. 
                  “I’m sorry,” I reply. 
                  She sneers. She paces, swinging her arms wildly back and forth. After a moment, she stops and pins me with her enraged glare. She wants to hurt him; she wants to dig her heel into his wounds until he hurts just as badly. But she can’t. She steps closer to me.   
                  “You should be,” she replies, “I mean, where were you anyway? I thought that you were the one who was supposed to have your head on right. I thought you knew how much to drink. I thought you knew how much to smoke. I thought you made sure you always stayed aware! Youfailedus.”
                  Molly’s face inflates until her enraged gaze is all I can see.  
                  “I’m sorry,” I whisper again. 
                  “Sorry can’t change what happened, Katie. Sorry just makeseverythingworse. You thought you knewhim. You thought you knew your limits. You were wrong.”
                  The sound of glass sliding against polished wood startles me. The waitress with the bright smile apologetically places my nachos in front of me. 
                  “Let me know if you need anything,” she says, before floating away. 
                  Molly is gone. It doesn’t surprise me, though. She’s elusive. I sit in contemplative silence, as I shovel the food into my mouth. The margarita and nachos hardly seem like a treat now. The nachos are stale, and the margarita, too sour. 

The sounds of nature are faint in the kitchen. The space in the kitchen is usually small, but today it’s bigger. The ceiling is miles above my body. I left all the lights off; and even though it’s day time, natural light doesn’t reach here. There are several tiny streams of light that filter in through the blinds in the living room. 
                  A knife lays flat on the counter in front of me, away from those of its kind. One stream of light touches it, which makes a part of it glitter and gleam. If knives had mating calls, then the glittering could be it. 
                  “Is today the day?” Molly’s voice rings clear through my head. 
                  “What are you doing here? You left me.”
                  She saunters over and stands in front of me. She still wears the same hoody, halfway over her head. Her clothes are wrinkled, but they always are. Her pink shorts are dirty and bloody. A stream of blood trickles down her leg. 
                  “What happened to you?” 
                  “You know.”
                  I lower my gaze, ashamed to look at her. I close my eyes and I see that night. The images are fuzzy and distorted now, with shadows and demonic faces infused in them. I see myself sprawled out on his sofa. I remember how heavy my limbs felt—like 5-ton weights. My eyes fluttered in pitiful attempts to remain open. The memory always fades to black after. 
                  “I can’t do this. Not anymore, Molly.”
                  “Then don’t,” she replies. 
                  A flash of light catches my eye. The package sits off to the side, about a foot away from the knife. I reach for the package. It’s a small cardboard box with clear tape keeping it sealed. I tear at it with the knife, and peer into it. In it, is just a small card with an address and a name: 
Grant Johnson     
4564 Kindlewood Drive
Jennings, MO 63136

On the back of the card is one word:
Justice.
 
 

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