Shut up, kid.

“Heather, you’re late…again.” My boss, Adam, rolled his eyes as I sprinted behind the counter to the back room. I turned to face him, equipped with a rebuttal.

“I didn’t sleep last night, because I forgot about a paper that was due today. Kevin forgot to pick me up this morning so I had to wake up my Dad to take me to school. Do you know how long it takes to wake him up? Then, I walked into my class and realized my teacher wasn’t even there and I had to suffer through the rest of the day with no shower, no lunch, and now I have to come here and work when I should be out doing teenager things like hanging out with my boyfriend and going out to eat and—“

As I stepped into the doorway of the backroom, I maintained eye contact with my boss. I was throwing a fit, this I realized, but I couldn’t seem to stop the words from spilling out of my mouth. I continued my tirade of all that was unfair as I took a step into the back room. My foot met the wet ground and in a quick motion, my feet slipped from beneath me. The cook dropped his mop as he heard my body slam onto the ground in the most painful back bend I had ever attempted.

My boss’s laughter filled my ears as he proceeded to look down at my mangled body. “Well,” he said. “God sure shut you up, huh?”

An Actor’s Bill

Her smile grew tense as I asked how she was doing.

“Tyler couldn’t sleep last night,” she sighed and reached for the sanitizer bucket.

We were the only ones left in the store, cleaning away the chaos of the day. She bent at her knees to retrieve the soiled cloth from the water and exhaled as she stood.

Her honey colored hair stuck to the sweat on her forehead and she bit the inside of her cheek, and blush crept up her cheeks. It was in this motion that I noticed how the breath seemed to be escaping her body, leaving her depleted and empty.

 

“I think he misses his dad again.”

She wrung the towel over the liner of the bucket, letting the warm water cascade down her wrists. She did not look up to meet my gaze, directing her focus to the microfiber cloth, coated in coffee grounds. She studied her frail fingers, speckled with flecks of wheat.

 

“Asshole is on a beach somewhere in Florida and I am 20 years old with his kid.”

 

She shook her head and whipped the towel onto the counter.

We were both quiet for several minutes.

Her only sounds came from the heavy sighs exploding from her rib cage. I found her looking out into the café, drinking in the silence of the empty room. She was beautiful, but not in precious form.

She gained beauty from the pressure on her shoulders. She welcomed stress with grace, where others would cripple under the intensity. She ran her dirty hands through her messy bun and shifted her weight to her right foot, then the left, and then the right again. The music was playing around us, but I think she was creating her own.

She closed her eyes and opened her arms to the open air in front of her and took a deep bow to an unknown audience.

When she stood upright, she smiled and finally looked my direction.

“Remember when I wanted to be an actress?”