Chapter 1: Living the Dream
It was closing time. As it hit 6:00pm on the nose, I pressed the door shut and locked it and turned off the electric OPEN sign. Not too many people got coffee after six anyway. At least Monday was over. Perhaps the rest of the week would fly by, perhaps not.
I cleared the cups from the tables and took them back to the kitchen, setting them in the sink. Grandpa was in his office tallying up the money we made for the day. Which wasn't much. Hardly anyone came to Stone's Coffee and Pastries anymore.
That was because the city decided to build another and widely more popular coffee shop, The Lucky Bean. And then, the business we had began to dwindle more and more. We always had our regulars and a scant few newcomers but that was it. But then they built another coffee shop down the street, The Cuppa Jo'. These wealthy coffee conglomerates had sucked the life out of this little ship. Way to stick it to the middlemen. I grew up around this coffee shop. It was all I really knew. My grandma died ten years ago so it was just grandpa and I now. He was my whole world. He was all I had and I always dreaded the day he would pass away. I wasn't religious but I prayed that day wouldn't come for a long time.
But my prayers were never answered.
Still, I knew how to survive and I knew how to suffer in silence and I did both of those quite well.
“Emily?" Grandpa called. “Could you come in here, please?"
“Be right there," I said. I finished wiping the counter, the Point of Sale system and the display case then headed to the back. He had set down his glasses and was rubbing his eyes when I walked in. The poor guy was pushing seventy. He should have retired years ago. He had enough pension and money from the VA to retire and live comfortably years ago. But for the sake of my family's legacy, he kept working and it had more than taken its toll on him.
I smiled and rubbed his shoulders. “Tired, big guy?" I asked.
He laughed. “Tired isn't the word I would use."
He put his glasses back on and picked up an envelope. I caught a glimpse of the name of who it was from: The Law Offices of Verde and Hall. Grandpa had a friend who headed the office; both of them had served in the military together once upon a time.
“What is it?" I asked. But I already knew the answer. He had talked about it on and off for the past few years now. He looked at me with a polite but tired expression. I could feel anxiety grow in the pit of my stomach.
He gestured to the seat next to his desk. Then he averted his eyes, taking a moment as if to gather his wits. Whenever he had something troubling to tell me, or he knew that it might upset me, he always looked away. The last time he had done that, I was a young girl and he just told me that both of my parents died in a car accident.
“I've decided to sell the coffee shop," he said.
I knew it. I had known for a long time. And yet, it still hit me hard. It felt like I had been hit with a giant stone.
“I'm sorry," he said. “But it's time."
“But, Grandpa, this is our family's legacy. You and your father opened this shop ages ago."
“Yes, and a lot of things have changed since then. We're not as popular as we used to be and we're not making nearly enough money to keep it open. I can't dip into my pension just for a dying dream. For the past five years, our net earnings for the year have dwindled lower and lower and when tax season comes, it will have dwindled some more."
He handed me the envelope.
“I spoke with Jerry and he spoke with the City reps. They made an offer and I told him to accept. Take a look."
I did. I read the letter and saw the offer. It was a lot of money. Grandpa would have to move out and find some place else to live.
“Where would you go?" I asked. “You'd have to move out, Grandpa."
“I know. I have a plan. I've already found a place down the street from where you live." I lived in the cheap Clover Street Apartments. It was as close to the shop as it could be. I could afford the rent, but the complex was a shamble and the landlord was lazy. My heater didn't work so well during the winter, and I always had to call a plumber to fix the pipes.
“We could live together," I said.
“No," he replied, a bit too abruptly for my liking.
“I could take over when you—"
“NO," he said, more loudly.
“But, what—" I tried to protest further but he slammed a big fist on the desk.
I sighed, remaining quiet. I knew better than to piss him off. He's hardly ever been angry with me. But when I did anger him, it was like waking up a bear in the middle of hibernation.
“I'm selling the shop and that's that," he said, glaring at me.
“I'm old and I'm tired and I won't have you wasting your f*cking life by taking care of me and I will not have you spending your working your fingers to the bone, trying to keep this place open, instead of doing something you want to do and deserve to do."
He wasn't wrong. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life here. I wanted to do more. I wanted to write and I wanted a life where I was happy, perhaps off on some adventures with a handsome fellow who would treat me right and not just use me for s*x.
I had become so used to this life that I didn't stop to think about anything else besides writing and working.
“I wouldn't waste my life," I said, a tear falling down my cheek. “Because you are my life, Grandpa. You're all I have."
That seemed to deflate him. He sighed and smiled at me. He stood up and pulled me into a soft bear hug. He kissed my forehead. “I know, my little ladybug, and you are mine. But you have your whole life ahead of you and I want you to be happy. You won't find it here. Don't think I haven't noticed those days where you were miserable but you tried to hide it for my sake."
I laughed. I couldn't get anything past him. I never lied to him and I never would and as much as I hated to admit it. He kissed my cheek. “Go home. We'll figure it all out during the week, okay?"
“What about you?" I asked.
“Emily," he chuckled. “Go home. I will be fine."
I laughed. “I love you, Papa."
“Love you," he replied.
I put on my jacket and backpack and left. I was feeling a little wigwacked as I hopped on my moped and turned the key. It was as if someone had sucked the soul right out of me. I had a lot to think about. I would need to find another job. It was all overwhelming and I could feel my anxiety begin to grasp my neck with its invisible hands. This was so sudden and I knew that everything would change soon. I hated change! I was never prepared for it. Things like this always spun my head out of control, and I felt so overwhelmed at that moment when I noticed headlights of a truck to my right growing brighter and brighter. And it was only seconds away from hitting me!