She stands impatiently at the end of the bar. Her pink claw like fingers tapping on the hard marble surface. I try desperately to avoid her gaze. Maybe if I don’t make eye contact…she won’t see me. I hear the bagel slowly heating in the oven, the slight hum of the machine seeming to anger the lady that stands before me, tall and thin, Her face reminiscent of an old crone from a fairy-tale…or a troll.
Finally, I finish her drink, sliding her soy, no foam latte towards her, jumping back as her skeletal fingers reach for the cup and snatch it away. Now that she sees movement, her purple powdered eyes focus on me, narrowing as her fat painted lips form a snarl; more lipstick clinging to her yellowing fangs that jut from her gums than to her actual lips. She makes a sound resembling a hiss as her bagel continues to cook. It’s been a whole thirty seconds.
“I ordered food as well!” She roars, her dull eyes narrowing as her already orange skin begins to take on a shade of red. I feel myself start to shake, fear clawing at my chest as she raises her chin, stray bits of hair falling from the tight bun atop her head. A bun so tight, it pulls the sagging skin tauter against her withered cheekbones. Reminiscent of a woman seeming to cling to a youth that was lost decades ago, a fact known to everyone but herself.
“It’s coming ma’am.” I say, her eyes narrow even more and a low grumble resonates from her chest. I believe she wants to eat me. Before she can ponce, the shrill beeping of the oven distracts her and suddenly, my saviour appears. A hero in the form of a small Porto-Rican woman. She holds out a bag containing the woman’s food and the woman snatches it away, fleeing to a corner of the room to feed.
I let the breath I didn’t know I was holding go. My heart-rate slowing down to an acceptable level.
The beast had been sated.
Frappuccino families. They have existed since the beginning of time, much longer than my short twenty something years spent on this earth.
They skulk through the door, their mad eyes searching the room before resting on me, I sigh. Once they have your scent, that’s it. You’re fucked.
In an instant, they’re standing in front of me, their litter of younglings fixated on my every movement. I try not to make eye contact.
The adults make noises in my general direction, a series of whimpers and grunts as they point bony fingers towards the brightly coloured boards. It takes me a while to realise they are trying to communicate. I feverishly type their demands into the ancient computer in front of me, a computer that holds the last living remains of a long forgotten era. Windows XP.
If I get it wrong, there will be hell to pay.
After a while, they seem to lose interest, their eyes drawn across the bar towards my comrade. I shiver slightly as they slowly skulk towards them. I can’t help but think ‘better them than me.’
I survive another day.
“Excuse me” I hear the shrill voice call from behind me. I turn from cleaning the bar for what seems like the hundredth time that day, coming face to face with a woman with a sour expression. Her lips are fat…too fat for her leathery thin face. Her eyes are slanted in my direction as she approaches me, a half empty cup held in her hands. Her nails are long and jagged, like the painted pink nails of some long forgotten creature.
“Do you think someone could clean my table…it’s filthy.” She says, pointing to the table in the corner, I noticed the minute stains of a coffee mug. Her voice is so high it hurts my ears. I sigh as she slams the paper cup down on the bar, white droplets of milk escaping from the vessel and onto the surface I had just cleaned. I feel myself die a little more inside. “And this coffee is cold.” She continues. “I want another.”
I remember her from the morning rush, I would remember the bright pink yoga pants and tight pony tail anywhere. In fact, her ponytail is so tight, the skin around her forehead seems moments away from ripping away from her skull. I force a smile, willing my eye to stop twitching.
“I will make you another Ma’am”
She doesn’t even look at me as I turn and head towards the bar.
I give her decaf.