Sitting down at a small table in a corner of the mall coffee shop, Victoria let out a sigh of relief. She breathed in the tantalizing aroma of her caramel macchiato and welcomed this moment of seclusion. Life had felt strangely shallow of late; her friends and family seemed more distant than ever, and no one really understood her any more. Yet, she felt that she had no right to complain; after all, Victoria’s life was not a bad one. She had never gone through anything truly traumatizing, and, even if she couldn’t afford her college of choice, she wasn’t exactly bad off in the way of money. Still, she longed for simpler days when friends had time to “hang out”; when family matters were childishly joyful; and when depression didn’t overcome her so easily.
Glad to remove her focus from her own fading life, Victoria lapsed into her favorite pastime: coffee-drinking and people-watching. So many faces, she thought as the café bustled around her, what they doing? Where are they going? Do they even know, or are they lost like me?
“Eww! Coffee is gross!” little Toby complained to his mom as they entered the aromatic shop. He wrinkled his nose with disgust. “There’s an ice cream shop across the mall,” he said hopefully, looking up at his mother with pleading eyes.
“But it’s so cold today,” came her response, “you’d get all chilly. Besides, I could really use some caffeine.”
Disappointed, Toby tried holding his breath to block the unpleasant scents. Unable to keep it up for long, he was forced to inhale the noxious fumes. Coughing and spluttering as if his very life was being choked, he began to plead with his mom to have mercy on him. Before he could utter the words, his mom broke in.
“They have hot cocoa and cookies here,” she said hastily.
His ailment suddenly disappearing, Toby exclaimed, “Oh, they do?! Can I have some? A great big cup of cocoa—with marshmallows on top!”
“I suppose,” his mom smirked, “if you’re sure you’d rather not have coffee …”
“Blech, blech!” he gagged. Stretching his arms out, he said slowly, “Zombie Toby no want coffee. Zombie Toby want… cookies!”
His eyes lighting up, Toby ran to the covered display and flattened his face against the glass, blissfully unaware of the attention he drew from those around him. The little-boy heart filled with joy as he viewed the many choices.
“They’re all so yummy-looking!” he sighed. How could life get any better?
Oh gosh, why do there have to be so many people? Jennifer moaned to herself as she pushed through the crowd into the café. After a long day of stressful work, being around more people was the last thing she wanted. A little boy ran past her, unsettling her nerves. She scowled after him, watching in disgust as he dirtied up the display-case glass. Ugh, such nuisances children are. So loud and messy…and why does this old woman have to move so slow?!
An elderly lady standing in line in front of Jennifer eased her way up to the counter, causing the younger woman much aggravation by her lack of haste. Pressing her fingers against her temples, Jennifer took deep breaths in and out, telling herself that all this misery would end as soon as she ordered her coffee and walked out.
As her turn came, she tartly demanded her large mocha. Walking to the other end of the counter to wait impatiently for her drink, she squirmed under the observant gaze of another young woman who sat nearby. What is she staring at? Jennifer asked herself, feeling as if the other girl was trying to see right through her. One of those nosy types, I guess, she grunted, as she grabbed the mocha that had been placed on the counter and hurried out.
Grandmotherly Agnes made her way through the busy mall café full of young, vibrant people. While her daughter and grandchildren busied themselves in a shop next door, Agnes had decided to buy a little treat for her dear ones. She reviewed her grandchildren’s preferences while she stood in line, Now, Abby likes those fancy doughnuts with sprinkles, but Neal would rather have something spicy, like gingerbread. Ash is too young to have much of an opinion, but I suppose he’ll be content with a simple sugar cookie.
Agnes grinned with understanding as a young mother and little boy caught her attention. She remembered her own days as a first-time mother, and felt blessed that she could relive it so many years later through her precious grandchildren.
Turning her thoughts to her daughter, she tried to recall what coffee drink she liked best. Was it mocha-something? Or peppermint? Ah, no, it’s vanilla! Agnes’ eyes twinkled; vanilla certainly embodied Charlotte: warm, sweet, and exciting, all at the same time. Sort of like what that girl in the corner should look like, she thought as she observed the young lady, if only she didn’t seem so… scared. Their eyes met and both smiled as the two people-watchers saw in each other one of their own kind. There now, Agnes felt satisfied with the girl’s brightened face, that’s much better.