Part four -- Spring
As the icy cold faded and a watery sun glistened across the horizon much changed in my life. The diner I had worked in for ages, and had grown to love as if it were a second home was completely lost to the fire. The owner didn't have the funds to rebuild, so I was out of a job, as were all my colleagues. Jonah was able to take up a position as a cook for a diner even closer to my home, but they weren't hiring waitresses. I had searched endlessly for another nighttime job but it seemed everyone in the city suddenly wanted to work at night, rather than during the day. I was able to take up a job in a small cafe, spending the days pouring coffee for hasty business men and middle aged women getting together for 'a day out with the girls'. I didn't mind the job, but it was nothing like my old job. Like the long nights with Jonah and Matthew.
I hadn't seen him since before the fire. I had no way to contact him and before long he was all but a figment of my imagination. Haunting my nightmares in an eerie reconstruction of the diner. It started out nice just like it had been only weeks before, but it always ended up in flames. I tried to cross the flames every night but ended up with only ashes. Ashes, of what could have been? I forced myself not to linger on it, on my melodramatic behavior. I needed to move on, for my own sake.
'Miss, the cup. It's overflowing. Miss? Stop!'
I woke up from my reverie in a shock, nearly letting the coffee pot slip from my hands. The cup had overflown and the dark liquid was all over the table, and the paper the man was reading.
'I'm so sorry, I'll clean it up right away.'
'Alright, alright. Just hurry will you?'
I all but flew towards the kitchen and started piling up napkins and towels. Trying my best to get my head out of the clouds and focus. This was the fourth slip-up I'd had this week and I doubted my boss would be so kind as she had been the first three times. I rushed back to the man, and started cleaning the table while apologizing yet again.
'I'm so sorry. Can I get you a new paper? The coffee is on me.'
The man grunted so I cleaned up quickly and got him a fresh cup of coffee and another copy of today's paper. I could only hope Darla hadn't seen it. Darla was a somewhat plump, middle aged woman with her hair always in a firm knot and neon pink glasses gracing her small nose. I knew she wasn't the kindest when tested more than once. I returned to serving other customers but before long Darla called out for me. Shit. I rushed through the kitchen and into the small room that Darla called her office. While it wasn't yet summer, the heat from outside had already mixed itself with the heat from the kitchen in the tiny space. I felt my shirt cling to my back and my face turn red. This was uncomfortable, and that was an understatement.
'Eve. This is the fourth time you've messed up this week. And last week it was the same. I can't condone this kind of negligence from my workers.'
Ugh. How I hated her way of speaking. It always seemed like she wanted to place herself above everybody else. In this cafe, she was of course above everybody else but that didn't make her tone any more pleasant. I rubbed the back of my neck, already drenched in sweat.
'I'm sorry. I've just been feeling out of it these past few weeks. I know that isn't an excuse but...'
'It seems like you've been feeling out of it ever since you started this job.'
Ouch. That stung. The fire had really taken a toll on me, I knew that better than Darla did. Or anyone really. But it still hurt to have someone point out so blatantly that you couldn't even handle a job in a small cafe. Even when being a waitress was all I had done for the past five years.
'I'm sorry, Eve. I have to let you go. Your incompetence disrupts the whole system I so carefully built. I know you're going through a rough time with the fire and all but I've given you several chances already.'
I did. Even if I didn't want to in my anger. I did understand. I wasn't working to my full competence, my head was in the clouds day after day and I couldn't focus on anything. Not work, not my hobbies. Nothing. I cursed myself for it. The whole moving on thing was a total bust. Why was it so difficult? Why couldn't I let go? I knew damn well why. My whole life had revolved around the diner and now it was gone. Leaving me lost.
'Eve? Are you listening?'
'Like I said, you can pick up your last paycheck next week and you can leave early today.'
In a daze I took off my apron and got my jacket and bag. Before long I was standing on the sidewalk again, blinking against the bright sunlight. I stuffed my jacket in my bag -it was warm enough anyway- and looked around. What now? It was only just four in the afternoon and I hardly felt like trudging back to my apartment to sulk in the shadows there. Instead I took a right and started walking away from the bustling city. Many people passed me in a hurry and I searched their faces out of habit, maybe Matthew was among them. I shook it off, and focused on the ground. There was no use in wasting any more time on chasing dreams. Matthew could be anywhere, and he certainly wasn't here. I needed to let go. Move on, focus. I needed to do all of those things and more, but maybe not today. Tomorrow would be fine. The thick crowd faded and I didn't cross as many people anymore as I got further and further away from the city center. The wind picked up and I knew I was nearing the seaside. The sun had lowered considerably and I knew I would probably have to take a bus back, or I'd spend another hour getting back to my apartment. I took a left and before me the broad ocean spread out like a fan, the waves rolling in and the wind playing with my hair. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a second before starting to trudge through the sand. I settled down a little ways away from the waves, not wanting to get my feet wet. While the weather had took a turn for the better the ocean was still cold and the wind chilly. I tried to clear my head as I watched the waves and listened to the seagulls. I had hardly come here lately, before I would go at least three times a week, now I hadn't been here for almost a year. I tried to recall my state of mind from back then. Perhaps I was more relaxed then, more grounded. Or less.
My head whipped around, searching. As if not believing the voice I heard. As if it was just another figment of my imagination. But no, there he was, Matthew.
His black curls whipped around his head, and his glasses where standing somewhat askew. I could hardly believe he was just standing there. After weeks, we just happened to be in the same place at the same time. I had so many questions to ask, so many things to say but instead I just looked at him, smiling like an idiot. His eyes glistened in the sunlight and he smiled before speaking up.
'I never thought I'd see you again.'