I’m happy to get out of the cold and into my favorite coffee shop. I’m pretty sure the cute woman behind the counter has a little crush on me, which is a nice bonus to the perfect cup of coffee and blueberry muffin she usually has waiting when I arrive. The attention feels nice and I don’t mind admitting that I flirt back a little. It’s all harmless and makes us both feel good. No big deal.
The place is empty and Roxanne is smiling at me when I stand in front of her at the counter. “Good morning,” she says brightly. “The usual today?”
“That sounds great, yes. Not busy this morning, huh?” I ask while she’s putting my muffin into a small bag. She already had the coffee ready for me. I love it when she does that. Like she knows just when I’ll be coming in and what I’ll want. It’s been a long while since anyone took the time to notice my habits. I wonder if she’s single. I bet she’d be an attentive lover.
“No, it’s been sort of slow. I think there are lots of people taking today off to extend the long weekend.”
“Right! I forgot about Monday being a holiday. Well that just made my day a little brighter. Do you have off, too?”
“Yep. I’m only here for a few more minutes and then I’m off through next week. I was only working in case there was an early rush. Charlotte can handle it by herself now. I’ve got some vacation time saved up and I’ve decided it’s time to use it.”
She hands me the muffin and slides the coffee over so I can reach it. I take my wallet out of my bag and offer payment and a nice tip. “Doing anything special?”
She looks me squarely in the eye and the intensity of it straightens my spine. “Oh yes, very special. Something I’ve been planning for a long time. It’s going to be fantastic.”
She holds me with her steady gaze. “Well, I hope you have a great time.” I pick up the coffee, offer a smile, and turn to go. “See you later,” I call over my shoulder.
I hear her say, “Yes you will” but I don’t turn around. I feel better once I’m out the door. I take several large sips of coffee and tell myself that Roxanne is sweet and harmless. And she makes a fantastic cup of coffee. She’s just excited about her time off.
I’m nearly to the end of the block when I feel lightheaded and stumble. I’m vaguely aware of the coffee falling from my hand as I hit the sidewalk, flat on my face. I try to push myself up but can’t make my body move.
“I’ve got you, baby.” I recognize the voice through my mental fog. Roxanne gathers me into her arms and kisses the hair just above my ear. “Roxie’s got you now.”