The start of my NaNoWriMo story…
Early in the dinner, the little girl blew bubbles in her chocolate milk. Emma watched the girl every morning with her strawberry blonde curls and too short legs dangling from the vinyl clad booth. Emma saw the girl because that’s where she ate her breakfast too; if crude black coffee can be called breakfast. Emma sat in the same booth every morning. She always faced the glass storefront but the girl was clearly visible in the mirrored wall that lined the booths. The diner was old, but it hadn’t reached the age of electic charm. It was just old. Emma spent her mornings here because of its location; not menu or atmosphere. It was close enough to her work and the transit stop without being directly between to the two, hence, limiting the chance she might run into someone she worked with.
Emma wasn’t a fugitive or leading some secret double life. Her life wasn’t nearly that interesting. No the reason she spent $2.37 on weak coffee and burnt toast was her carefully planned and strictly adhered to schedule. Her alarm sounded at 5:45 AM. She showered and dressed in clothes deliberately laid out the previous night. She left her dark apartment at 6:20. It was a three block walk to the transit stop. Her train came at 6:43. If luck was on her side she arrived at her stop at 7:03. Most mornings were closer to 7:10. She wasn’t due to work until 7:30. That left twenty whole free minutes and Emma was not going to spend them in the company of her boss.
If she arrived early, there would be no friendly commrodary around the coffee pot, no retelling of weekends past. No from the moment her sensible shoe crossed Mr. Dean Wartburg’s threshold, she was on the clock. So Emma ensured she arrived precisely at 7:59. A minute to spare, but not giving Wartburg more than the eight hours he was due.
The little girl drinking chocolate milk shared none of her concerns. She was content with watching people eat in grumpy silence, watching the waitress navigate the cramped diner with seasoned confidence and blowing bubble in her glass.
Emma tossed a five on the scratched formica. She abandoned her coffee but pocketed the toast crust in a napkin. She ignored the girl smiling at her over the tall glass and left for another day of the life she didn’t want.