Gone

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“I guess I’m just trying to say that it isn’t working.”

Laurie blinked, then cut her gaze to the barista. He didn’t seem to be having any problems with the coffee grinder. As if on cue, he slammed the lid of the grinder shut and pressed a button. The machine spun to life with a loud squeal. “It’s working fine,” she said, taking another bite from her quiche. “And anyway, you already have your order.” She nodded to Scott’s carefully crafted latte which he’d barely sipped since they sat down. Perhaps it was too hot?

“Not the coffee grinder, El. Us.”

The quiche she’d been chewing went stale in her mouth. Their gazes locked and she could feel her stomach clenching with fear and uncertainty. She felt the fork she’d been using clatter to her plate as all of the blood in her body rushed to her ears, making them suddenly hot and heavy. Laurie could her the thumping of her own heartbeat, feel the sting of tears behind her eyelids. Her breathing felt labored. Could she speak? “I-” she stopped, again aware that her mouth was full. Looking around for a napkin, she spotted a stack near the various sugars and creamers by the front counter. Holding up a finger, she pushed herself from the table and raced away.

As Laurie spit out the ham and cheese quiche, the barista paused mid pour and gazed at her with concern. His shirt and pants were both black, his hair dyed dark, and his eyeliner had been caked on with relish – possibly over the span of several days from the look of it, smeared as it was. “Everything alright, Miss? Does the quiche need to be reheated?”

“No, no, it’s fine. Everything is fine,” Lauren promised, tossing the napkin into the garbage bin and straightening her blouse. With a deep, determined breath, she hurried back over to the table she was sharing with her boyfriend – her ex-boyfriend? Surely she’d misheard. She felt her heart crack just the tiniest bit, already feeling the strain of it all.

When she returned to her seat, Scott was eyeing her with that worried, cagey look he sometimes got right before he claimed she was making a scene. “Could you stop being so dramatic?” he hissed.

“Dramatic?” Laurie cried, leaning as far forward as she could without brushing his forehead with her own. “You’re breaking up with me in the most emo coffee shop in the city and I’m the one being dramatic?” They both took pause to glance at the barista who, by now, was listening intently to their conversation. He glared back at them, no longer sympathetic now that he’d been referred to as “emo.”

“It’s centrally located,” Scott assured her, as they turned back to face one another. “Plus, you’ve always loved their quiche. It’s your favorite, right?”

Laurie angrily stabbed at the food with her fork, no longer hungry. So now he was ruining her favorite breakfast spot. Intentionally, of course, as he knew she liked it there. The jerk. “Is there someone else?”

“What? Of course not. Jesus.” Scott leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, avoiding her eyes. His ears began to burn bright pink against his floppy blonde hair – a sure tell sign that he was lying. After three years together, Laurie at least knew that much. Granted, she never told him so – she’d lose her advantage if she did that. Knowing Scott, as soon as he discovered she was aware of this quirk, he’d just grow his hair long enough to cover his ears.

“Who is she?”

“I told you, there isn’t anyone else.” He cleared his throat, but still refused to meet her eyes.

“You’re lying.” Her voice was low and thick as she struggled to hold in a barrage of tears. She hated that she was becoming crazy and hysterical. Even worse, she hated that Scott was making her feel crazy and hysterical – why couldn’t he just tell the truth? You weren’t crazy if someone made you feel crazy when you were right about something they’d lied to you about – right? Laurie shook her head, trying to make sense of her logic.

“Look,” Scott sighed after a few moments. He stood and pulled a crumpled bill from his pocket, dropping on the table to cover their tip. “I just wanted to let you know that I’d be by your place while you’re at work today so that I can get my stuff. I’ll lock up and leave the spare key under the mat.”

Laurie blinked, suddenly aware that he really was going to walk away from her. This was actually happening. Right here. Right now. She felt her heart crack open further, even as it continued to beat. “You can’t leave,” she whispered as he began to step away from the table. “You have to tell me why.”

Scott stopped and sighed. “Come on, El. Don’t make it hard. It’s over. I just – I don’t have feelings for you anymore.”

“You told me you loved me. Just this morning.” She could hold in the tears until he walked away. She had to.

“I-” he faltered and looked at his shoes.

“You lied,” she finished, sadly.

“Goodbye, Laurie.” And with that, he was gone.

Her heart shattered.

Her tears fell like rain.

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One More Drink

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“One more drink.” The thought came to him clear as day, the voice in his head not nearly as sloshed as the voice which was coming from his mouth. He hesitated. Glancing at his glass, he observed the oversized ice cubes melting and molding together, as though they were playing a game of Tetris.

A bartender walked past. She glanced at his glass, but didn’t pause to ask if he wanted another. “Bitch,” he thought silently to himself. She had been ignoring him all night. Thank God there were two of them working.

Brian’s memories wandered to the week before. It had been his first time in this place. His other “usual” spot needed some air – a brief separation period. He’d heckled the patrons one too many times they said as they carried him out the front door, leaving him cold and alone in the gravel lot. They’d change their minds. He was just having fun – livening things up a bit. Everyone around here was so uptight.

It was just after that, stumbling home on the long, dark stretch of highway, that he found this bar. He caught the eye of the female bartender right away and she’d smiled. He’d felt his heart stop briefly in his chest before it hammered back to life. His mouth felt dry. She was gorgeous with a full face, brown eyes, and a low-cut shirt showing just the right amount of her ample bosom.

As he sat on a barstool that night, he’d slurred his way though an order. She’d only brought him water saying it was on the house. He’d thrown it at her.

They’d dragged him out quickly, but this time he had waited. He was sorry. He hadn’t meant to throw the water at her it was an accident. Sometimes, he just got so angry when people treated him like a drunk. He wasn’t a drunk. He just enjoyed having fun – and there was a difference.

When she came out, likely to drive herself home, he’d tried to apologize but she began to scream. Afraid someone would call the cops, he’d run away.

He snapped back to the present. He’d shaved his beard and cut his hair so he wouldn’t be recognized tonight. He could tell that he still gave her an uneasy feeling, but one that she couldn’t quite place. She’d know soon enough. This time, he wouldn’t give her time to scream. This time, he’d be ready. After all, if they were going to call the police and have him thrown into jail, he may as well make it well worth the time.

First, however, he needed one last drink. He signaled with his index finger. The male bartender, who had been leaning against the counter simply nodded, reached for a small glass, tossed in some ice and began to pour.