Sitting quietly in her reading corner surrounded by books and embraced comfortably in her soft familiar chair, a pensive Emma closed her eyes and remembered sixteen.
For the last two years, mornings before school was the time of day when it was quiet. In the cramped kitchen she carefully slid past the tattered kitchen chair, with the torn vinyl that scratched and dug the back of your leg. She hated that chair. Etched in her brain, is the memory, like a photo that never fades, of her dead mother sitting in it, head slumped, and a needle wobbling in the crook of her elbow like one of those creepy bobble head toys. “Don’t touch it….” she told herself.
Dad was sleeping off the vodka from the night before. Waking him was like unleashing a nuclear weapon; it opened a floodgate of fury and violence she wanted to avoid so she crept out through the kitchen whose door didn’t screech. She carefully chose the spot for each step on each stair to preserve the hushed silence necessary for a quiet escape. She released the breath held to stifle fear and noise as the sidewalk is reached which leads square by square to Brewster’s Coffeehouse.
The new barrista was short on service and long on gab and the line was fittingly strung out, long and lackadaisical. Emma approached it dismayed at the necessity of waiting with others. The lean, respectable looking boy in front of her wore a navy blazer and pants, crisply pressed white shirt and red/yellow plaid tie; the uniform of Aquinas Academy.
Edgily he muttered “If I would have known this was going to take so long I would have brought a book.”
Perturbed because she was careful to keep her head down and stand sideways in line to avoid this sort of exchange, yet intrigued and skeptical by his statement. The suit boys are mostly empty, spider webby shells.
Smirking she asked “What are you reading?”
“Hemingway. For Who the Bell Tolls”
Pulling the book out of the stack he carried under his arm, he held it up and said, “Naw; If I didn’t read I’d lose my mind.”
“Wow. Pretty intense for casual reading.”
Lowering his head he chuckled “I’m reading my way through the school library. Lots of free time. Mom and dad work so I’m home alone a lot.” His brow furrowed when he said “Friends come and go, but my books, well they are always there when I need them.”
She was looking in his eyes. Dammit! People are suppose to think she’s a walking porcupine. Looking away
“Books that is.
“Hemingway is good. Finished him last summer. I’ve been working on Tolstoy. “
She glanced at him and the up turn on the corner of his mouth meant he knew her because she was like him. She felt the quills falling away as she felt a deep connection with this strange, stranger boy. She could feel her rough hooks zipping up in the soft loop side of his velcro. Different but they went together.
“Oh hey AA! Are you old enough to drink coffee? What do you think Sue? Is he old enough? What can I getcha kid?”
“Um, dry cappucino. No sugar.” Turning to ask Emma “What do you….?” but she was gone.
With the barista’s interruption, came a realization: Love and Emma are like sweet cream and spoiled milk; opposites. Ripping the velcro loose she quietly left.
Heart broken, it was time to find a new coffee shop.
“We all remember our first love – and our first heartbreak.
Your assignment this week was to write a piece where you explore the first broken heart for your character – or for you.”