The Girl Who Saw

This is the beginning of something. I’m not sure what it is yet, but I am going to keep chipping away at it to see where it wants to go, where it takes me. I know it’s not likely that many here will read this, the longer pieces often get overlooked, but I would really like some feedback on this. It’s the first piece I have ever really written from a woman’s point of view and I would really appreciate any feedback on it, how it sounds. I always feel so un-authentic when I write women and it would help to know if this works. Any and all thoughts will be welcomed.

Despite the feeble attempts of the air conditioner sweat was rolling down Abby’s brow, plastering her hair to her forehead as she moved between the tables. The place was crowded even for a Thursday evening, they were short staffed and the heat from outside kept stealing in through the nearly constant open door all of which just seemed to be piling on to an already shit day.
“five!!” Abby growled under her breath, slamming down her tray onto the counter and swiping at the sweat dripping into her eyes, the flush on her cheeks more from anger than the heat. “if he doesn’t learn to keep his fucking hands to himself…” her words trailed off in impotent frustration as she glared at Maggie behind the counter, surrounded in her usual cloud of steam as she worked the espresso machine. Maggie glanced over, giving Abby a commiserating look in between furiously filling cups and passing them down the line.
“You know, instead of just keeping a running count you should just tell Charlie, you know he’d back you up and fire the perv’s ass.” Abby just rolled her eyes. Yeah, as far as bosses went, Charlie was pretty good, but he was the owner and wasn’t around much. Not like it had made a whole bunch of difference the last time she had brought up Jacob’s habit of grabbing her ass. He had said he would talk to him and he probably had, but bottom line Jacob was a good manager and kept the customer’s and the cash flowing. If she made too much of a thing about it she knew it would always be easier to replace her than him.
“Never mind, I just need three large coffees, two espresso, a cap, three mocha lattes and one Earl Grey tea.” Maggie just nodded. You could see the little mental list just scrolling behind her eyes, ticking over almost like a computer as she whirled behind the counter, filling, tamping, steaming. Abby was always just a little impressed watching this little engine of a woman and couldn’t help but smile just a bit. There was no room in there for anything but the work and Abby kind of envied that. She somehow knew that Maggie never kept any of this place with her, none of the abusive customers, the bullshit, it was all just one order then the next until she hung up her apron at close. Abby always wished she could put things away that easy.
While she waited for her order, she turned back to the main room of the cafe, leaning back against the counter, her hands rising to her face, rubbing over her forehead and temples, smoothing back her hair, taking a deep breath and stretching. Her gaze wandered around the crowd, couples, groups huddled around their tables, the room filled with the chaos of mingled conversation, the complex interplays of social interaction. She always felt outside of it, moving among it all but never really a part of it, a near invisible cog that helped it all work. Sometimes she felt a little bitter about that, but most of the time she cherished the anonymity, the obscurity of being one more apron and smile with a pen. Her eyes marked her tables, making little mental ticks, coffees at three, espresso and cap at five, two lattes on one, the last latte to the guy sitting on the sofa in the corner and the tea…where was the tea guy?
“Fuck, another one!” Abby growled again, thinking she’d had another walkout. Not quite as bad as being stiffed on the bill, but if one more impatient asshole left because she didn’t instantly pull his drink out of her ass and then decided to leave a comment it could be her ass.
“Another what babe?” Maggie didn’t even look up as she was stacking the drinks onto Abby’s tray, somehow knowing automatically the order Abby would need to serve them and placing them just the right way.
“Nothing Mags” Abby carefully picked up her try and headed back out into the fray. Coffees, espressos, both without a hitch. Lattes, a lot of snark about how long it took, usual bullshit “did you have to like, grow the beans yourself” that had Abby’s hands itching to bash the posh cunt’s sneering face in, just a little shy smile from Mr. Single Latte and she was on, fixing the smile to her face as she tucked the tray under her arm, whipped out her pad and took the next round of orders. Polite chit chat, hi, how are ya hun, best sunny disposition, ignore the useless blather, get the details then back to the counter, taking the long way so she didn’t have to pass by Jacob and his lear and his fucking hands.
“Two more javas, one unleaded, two caps, one strawberry smoothy, three iced mochas Mags” the words just rattled out of her brain, it wasn’t even like thinking any more, her brain just dropped the words onto her tongue. She turned again, once more in that little island of calm, braced against the counter, feet aching, her top clinging clammy against her back. “fuck this place” she muttered under her breath as her eyes again did their little scan. Coffee couple, looking happy and disgustingly cute together, suits for the caps, workout bro with the smoothy, the kids at four with the ices, high school girls all giggles, bright and fresh. Her eyes lingered on them for a bit, thinking it hadn’t really been that long ago that that was her, right? When homework and boys had been the biggest worries. Only that wasn’t true either, not really. Abbey couldn’t remember a time when the fear and doubt hadn’t gnawed her insides, a hungry animal clawing it’s way through her. Her eyes slunk away from the girls, now almost ashamed she had even thought she had ever been one of them.
Then there was latte guy, nursing his coffee, notebook on his knee, wanting to write but just doodling. She knew his writing face and this wasn’t it. She also knew he fancied her more than a bit and that’s why he would spend her shift tucked away, trying to make his coffee last the night, stealing glances at her over his thick wire rim glasses. She kind of liked it, the quiet attention. She knew he would probably never say anything and that was fine, he wasn’t her type and besides, relationships were foreign, horrible things. No, this was safe and Abby liked safe and distance. At least his eyes didn’t cling to her the way so many others did, like they already had their clammy, sticky fingers all over her. She closed her eyes for a moment, letting the shudder roll through her, her breath stuttering, catching for a moment before going back to its regular rhythm. Her eyes opened again, and there he was.
It was like her eyes just drew him there as her lids flickered upward, a lean, dark figure leaning forward in a chair just beside latte guy, elbows resting on his knees, fingers steepled, all sharp angles. His black hair fell in loose waves around a narrow face and…and…and it was like something was willing her not to see more. Details kept coming into focus then sliding away, she could feel an ache building just behind her eyes as she tried to hold on to him, but the more she did, the less she saw. She could almost hear a voice whispering in her ear “look away, you aren’t looking at anything, see, it’s just an empty chair, maybe someone left their coat on it, it’s nothing, look away”. Then it hit her, enough to take her breath away and she staggered a little. Waves of aloneness crashed into her, this sense of tremendous distance and of being utterly and totally alone…not lonely, just alone, something close to complete and total desolation. She trembled, was almost in tears when his eyes found hers. His expression seemed surprised, almost alarmed and then…and then…
“On a break or something?” the voice poured like dirty oil over her and Abby kick started back to reality. Jacob was in front of her, hungry, coyote smile pinning his lips to his cheeks, breath reeking of smoke and cherry lifesavers. “We aren’t paying you just to look pretty here” The smile never met his eyes, they were always dead fish grey.
“I-I-I know Jacob, I just…I just needed a moment” Abby grabbed her now full tray and shouldered past him before he could make a grab, or say something that would make her want to rip his balls off…given half a chance she would too, had to bite near through her lip as he cat called “keep it shaking out there” his chuckle yapping at her heels.
“Fuck this place, and fuck you too” she pressed the words out through gritted teeth and spent the rest of the night seething, trying to push it all away, Jacob, the customers, everything. The strangeness of a moment before was already fading fast, just a melting shadow, nothing of it lingering, except for a pair of eyes and even these hid themselves carefully in the back of her mind.


2 Responses to “The Girl Who Saw”

  1. who knows Says:

    Always common ground in the human spirit. Gender-specific issues? Who can know? We move about propelled by our own director’s cut of life.
    Want inspiration? Watch Cory Henry play Amazing Grace. His artistic expression is prayer.
    The moment you stray away from the daily thematic diet, you run the risk of expressing ideas that have a broader appeal. After all, everyone benefits when sharing takes place; oh, and giving too!
    Remember the hugs you give? Bet they’re reflected right back.
    Knew this day held meaning. Lot’s to see in this little K6.

  2. gnome d'ploom Says:

    Good to be able to hold that much in your head then watch as fingers help trace the ideas as they pour out. Also good to know that a few seeds stay behind to start another crop. Even more exciting, perhaps, is the knowledge that an open fertile mind requires surprisingly little to keep producing over a lifetime; sometimes one kind or another or a stunning new hybrid.
    Name yourself for what you are – in part at least…
    a _ _ _ _ _ _

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