It was the lunch rush hour and I was enjoying the last quiet moments before the crowd would pick up. Granted, I didn't mind interacting with people and doing the usual song and dance of what would you like and how's the day going.
I knew how a day was going for me. I didn't need to hear from other people when I struggled internally almost 24/7. The choking feeling of eyes on me when it was just some customers just trying to catch my attention.
I couldn't have gotten a job that involved me out of sight from people in my own enclosure. What a total dream that would be.
The boss wasn't in for the day but the one person I would consider a good friend, Corinne Booner was in charge for the day and I did adore her. Especially when I came into work and she had another chai latte hot and ready for me.
I'd give her a kiss if I wasn't shy.
"I think the rush is thankfully dying down early today."
"Perfect. Let me finish my chai."
"How many have you had?"
"...I lost count."
"Make it three." I roll my eyes but the smile did little to hide itself as I cleaned the counter of bread crumbs and ham and cheese scraps, dusting them into the bin. "How are you today?"
"I'm fine." I flashed her a smile, turning back to the cutting board in the sink as I scrubbed through thoroughly.
"I'll pretend to believe you." Corinne gave me wry smile and left me in the wash room to back to the front while I stared after her confused but felt a flutter of nerves. Shaking my head, I turned back to the sink, scrubbing the grease and grime from ham, cheese and salami's as if it would rid me of all bad thoughts. Since I gotten this job a couple years ago, Corinne in her subtle way made herself aware and too knowing. Humans were smarter than I used to give them credit for. She never asked or pushed and I only offered tidbits of myself to appease her and the others to keep her at bay. But genuinely enjoying her company made it difficult.
Don't ask questions Corinne. For your sake and mine. I can't involve anyone else anymore.
I lived in my happy little ignorant bubble that was thin as mist and could easily pop but so far this one hadn't been popped.
And I wanted to keep it that way. Live the rest of my days stressed but safe? Might not be great or fun but I'd have to deal with it for another several decades...maybe. This was the thought that followed me through for the rest of the day. A happy, placid smile and cheery work attitude as I had good laughs and an extra chai with a friend I could only keep at arms length.
Inside, I was kettle slowly boiling despite turning it off. I was dying more and more every day as the tension tore me within slowly and I had to keep it that way. Happy and silent.
Wake up. Shower.
Breakfast. Toast with strawberry jam and chai latte-Nope. All out of chai! God dammit! Bitter, black coffee it is. Maybe look a little nicer today. It's gonna be a nice day anyway.
No Mrs. Clutter awaiting in the hallway to scare some poor frightened soul. Just the paper. Kicking it back with my foot, I locked the door behind me and hurried out of the building to catch the bus to work.
Arrived at Warm and Sweets Café at 7:15AM like always.
A never-ending routine. Safe. No changes meant playing it careful. Nothing could surprise me and change everything.
"Tanya!" My heart jumped slightly but I relaxed slightly when Corinne greets me in the staff locker room. "You half asleep there?"
"Yep. You know it." Corinne frowns at me briefly before shaking it off and looking down at me with her formidable height. "Now, I'm gonna ask you a question and I want a good answer from you because I know you do nothing at all after work."
"The ladies and I are going to hit the bars and clubs after work on Saturday. You've never joined before. So..."
"Um, I don't know Corinne," The guilt was eating at me. A push for something more barely there but I needed safety. Home. Nest. "I might have something on-"
"No you don't." Corinne sighs and shrugs her shoulders. "At least think about it. It would be nice to hang out with you after work at least. I'd like to see the more wild side of Tanya Smith." She winks at me and I frown at the thought.
Wild? What world was she living in? I was not wild.
"I'll think about it." That was all she wanted and with a wide smile, she hugged me slightly, pretending not to notice the way I tensed up and gave me a slight apologetic smile as she let to go out front.
What world was I bloody living in then?
I took my tea break in the café I worked in. I didn't need to bother finding other places for a quick bite and drink when we had my favorites. I had a book to accompany me as I sipped my chai, relishing the warm, smooth sweetness that coated my mouth down my stomach, warming me up as sweetly as the café predicted. Corinne added some honey to it. She knew me too well. That was both nice and terrifying.
Not another person. Can't do it.
Maybe...maybe I have to think about moving soon. I've been in London for a few years and last I heard...
I should be okay. I am okay. I got time.
My eyes glanced up as the door to the café opened, letting out a soft tinkle thanks to the bell that was not too irritating on the ears and a couple of women sauntered in, chatting and laughing, the door closing but sunlight wafting through the glass and the windows that crossed the entire front of the café. A vibrant sunny atmosphere to a family-friendly café, with its sweet smelling bakery delights, strong coffee and cinnamon permeating the air. To me, the window that allowed me to watch passerby's made me feel safer.
I could see all who passed and I could ready the way someone moved. And behind a counter, no one would be idiotic to cause trouble. I mean, if there was trouble in my life. Stuck in my repetitive nature, I found myself often chanting words I had ingrained into my daily routine.
I am safe.
I am safe.
There is no danger.
Keeping my eye on the window looking out onto the streets I wasn't sure for how long but chai in my hand melted the tension through me. Shoulders dropping and a breath escaped me, I didn't realize I was holding. Another breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth, I forced a relieved smile on my face and straightened in my chair, opening my book to its bookmarked section and delved into a temporary distraction.
Deep in my book, my mind following the words and images it created in my imagination until someone cleared their throat in front of me. My knees hit the bottom of the table with a bang, book flapping in my hands and the chai swishing in its cup as I cursed inwardly for not focusing on my surroundings.
"Pardon me miss but is this seat taken?"
"No, it's not." I grumbled, wiping my the droplets of chai off my jeans with my napkin. "Have at it." I waved at them. I was relieved to find no splotches on my new book. The thrilling intrigue of a paranormal romance was starting to get to me like those kids these days, squealing over fictionable characters.
Not like you weren't one yourself- Shut up!
"Thanks." The person who startled at me spoke. I didn't bother answering. Until the chair slid across the floor and instead of taking it to another table, the person pulled the chair out enough and suddenly sat down on it scooching forward. Frowning, I glanced up over the top of my book, glaring at the man who had his head turned away, speaking to my co-worker who took his order.
"Um, excuse me but I was sitting here." I leaned over the table slightly and the man nodded slightly, turning part-way to me. My co-worker glanced oddly at me and the man sitting across from me now.
"I know that. That's why I am sitting here." The man finished his order, waving off my co-worker and I frown at the stranger who decided to intrude in my personal time.
"I was sitting here, sir. And there are other tables..."
"I know." He turned around once a plate with a slice of chocolate cake was placed in front of him along with the bitter aroma of coffee in a large, paper cup. "But doesn't mean I'm going to abide by the rules now is it." He sipped his coffee, looking at me over the rim of his cup, his incredibly sharp hazel eyes peering at me and my heart came to a stunned holt. Lowering his cup, his lips twisted into that crooked smirk, looking more twisted and dangerous by the jagged scar that ran down his jaw.
The world seemed to tilt on its axis around me, beneath my feet. I wanted to pass out. My head was floating in nothing and my heart...was not doing well right now. My hands were numb as they dug into the table edge, gripping on for dear life.
"Afterall, none of us ever played by the rules, right Tink?"
So much for no changes.