I spent the afternoon at my friend, Stella’s, shop. Located on the corner of 10th and Providence, the small, rustic-styed shop sat between two forty-feet tall Drooping Juniper, their needle-shaped leaves and dark purple berries spilling onto the patio throughout the day.
“Hey, Stella,” I greeted when I entered, the smell of coffee with hints of cinnamon and doughy pastries wafting.
“Hey girl, how are you doing today?” she sprayed whipped cream into two Life is Good mugs and then carried them to the couple seated in the corner, next to the bamboo plant towering towards the ceiling.
“You need help with anything?” I offered.
“No we’re good. Kara is in the back, and Brian is taking a break,” she smiled. “What can I get you? Chai latte?” she guessed.
“How did I get so predictable?” I laughed, sliding my card into the reader. “I’m going to find a seat outside.”
“I’ll bring it out to you,” she waited for my receipt to print and then handed it to me. “I’ve got some news.”
The customer behind me stepped forward, ready to order. I waved and headed outside where I found a table next to a waterfall made of rocks. The soft sound of water trickling was background to the chatter of patrons. I unzipped my backpack and pulled out my book, hoping I’d be able to get through the last fifty pages and finally learn the identity of the killer. Stella came out carrying a large chai latte, sitting across from me as she set the icy cold drink on the table.
“So you know how I told you I met with an investor a couple weeks ago…”
“Yeah,” I leaned forward.
“Well, it looks like we’re going to be opening another shop in East Orrin,” she put her hands together and squeezed them, hiding her excitement behind her knuckles.
“Wow! That’s awesome, Stella,” I followed her lead and cheered softly.
“That means I’m going to need a team for that shop,” she teased. “What do you think about possibly managing it?”
“Are you kidding?” I felt my shoulders rise.
“Think about it. This might help,” she put her hand on my arm. “I gotta get back inside…call me later.”
She was already through the door before I found my words. I played with the idea for a while, imagining myself at the East Orrin shop, wondering if it was close to the river, if it was near the walking paths, or if it was tucked inside the shopping center where people stood outside their shops with samples. In between thoughts I caught glimpses of customers’ faces as they bit into sweet and flaky deserts, as their lips met the side of their cups. I heard parts of their conversations about the awards their children received, gas prices, terrible bosses, sickly family members, back stabbing friends. And when their cups were empty, when there were only crumbs on their plates, they stood up and left, bidding their companions adieu. At first there was a steady influx of customers, but then things slowed, creating an opportunity for George and James to make their appearance.
Like best buds, they strolled in and found a spot in the sun to lay and lick their paws. They stretched their furry bodies, rolling back and forth on the ground, until something in the environment–a bird, a dog, a small animal–caught their attention and they raised their heads, prepared to attack or run. And then they were up again, making their way around the patio, atop the brick fence, under tables, and finally to me.
“Come here, George,” I held my fingers out for him to smell, James approaching but more skittish than George.
George’s hair flew into the air as I petted him, as he rubbed his face against my legs, twirling around and around until he flopped down next to me, while James hesitated. I thought again about Stella’s offer, how it would be good for me to get back to work, how this might help, as she suggested.
“What do you think, James?” I bent down, surprised when he allowed me to pet him.
Not only did he accept the belly rub, but he wrapped his paws around my hand, holding me tight.
“So that’s a yes?” I kept petting, George now looking for his share. “I think you’re right.”
When I looked up, Stella was standing at the window. I knew we were thinking the same thing: My daughter, Annie, would be happy to know that I had found a way to live again.