It’s been almost two years since I started this blog and simultaneously began my journey to become a writer. I’ve dabbled in book reviews, I’ve spun around the ideas of travel blogs, I’ve shared a few stories. All in all, I’ve held up my promise to make absolutely no sense.

I am now mere weeks, quite possibly days, from upholding another promise. The completion of my debut novel. The finished painting for words is so close I can envision all of it’s entirety. I absolutely cannot wait to share it with all of you.

Because patience is not a virtue I posses, I have included the first chapter of the novel in it’s raw, unedited form. You may recognize a bit of “The Day My Coffee Consumed Me.” Please share your thoughts and opinions. image-Megan Groff

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**Chapter One**

Monday Afternoon, October 24th

Samantha Approached the front counter of Aromatic after hearing the bells on the front door chime from movement. She’d discovered the cozy little coffee shop several months after moving to Chambana, and found herself very sorry she hadn’t come across it sooner.

It was an adorable little shop located downtown with two beautiful window nooks, one on either side of the front door. Both windows were printed with Aromatic in blue cursive. The shop served lunch and soup as well as coffee and had a fireplace toward the back with tables all around.

Samantha moved to Chambana to get her degree in social work at the state funded Midwestern University. She’d transferred down as a server, but hoped to get a secretarial job part time at the university or another state facility. If she managed that, the state’s upward mobility program would cover her schooling. This would allow her to achieve the career change she so desperately wanted, without the life crushing debt.

Samantha had given seven years of her life to a steakhouse near her hometown. She spent five years there as a server and bartender. Then they promoted her to manager.

The stress and sexism of the business drove her crazy. When the place shut down at her seven year mark, Samantha was desperate for a career change. She took a job as a server at a similar concept up north while she went back to school for her Gen. Eds. at the local community college.

Once she’d finished her Gen. Eds. she looked into transfer prospects and chose Chambana. She hadn’t taken the states financial problems into account when she made that decision.

Government funding promises were all shut down two weeks into Samantha’s business class semester. She knew she couldn’t afford to pursue a degree on her own, so that semester proved most difficult. She enjoyed the challenge of her classes, but was unmotivated by the knowledge she wouldn’t be able to bring it past that semester. Samantha had no clue how much would change in so little time.

Laurell and Samantha had been waiting for the sound of those seven bells to ring since 11:30 that morning. They hadn’t had a guest since the last of the morning rush. The shop had been struggling to regain clientele since it’s brief close during ownership change. Each day was a new endeavor.

“Hello, welcome to Aromatic,” called Laurell, to the familiar face walking in, from one of the tables she’d been sanitizing. Laurell was hired back on at Aromatic as a Barista shortly after Samantha took over. The previous barista remained jobless.

Samantha saw the woman walking through the front door every Monday for the past six months. She wrongly assumed the woman with the long brown hair and the large leather strapped satchel had been a regular for the previous owner as well. Seeing the woman once again made her think back to her corporate restaurant days. Samantha’s bosses had always said the bills were paid by loyal guests.

Only once did the woman ever come in with anyone else. It was a gentleman from her own age group, and Samantha assumed they were together. He’d held the door for her when they walked in. He got distracted by the bookshelf along the wall which displayed every flavor soda you could imagine, and even a few you wouldn’t want to. She ordered for them and they took their drinks out to the patio.

They came back inside rather quickly that afternoon. She asked for two togo cups which they transferred their coffees into. They set their empty cups on the coffee bar and left. It was the shortest visit the Monday regular ever made, and she’s never been back in with anyone else since.

The guy she’d brought that day had come back a few times since as well, but never again with her. He’d developed a love for the strangely flavored sodas Samantha picked up once a month from The Fizz Shop in Indianapolis. The last bottle he bought was sweat flavored. Samantha had no desire to see if the soda really tasted like sweat, but he seemed excited to find out.

Samantha was beyond thankful for the beautiful brown haired lady with the oversized khaki bag. “The usual?” Samantha asked the woman as she approached the counter. The woman came in every Monday afternoon and she always ordered a large of whatever the feature happened to be. She fell in love with the shop because of their giant blue coffee mugs.

“Yes, please,” said the long brunette haired woman as she set down a paper she’d picked up from the display rack on her way in. “This too please.”

Samantha began packing the espresso for the woman’s drink. That Monday’s feature was a raspberry white chocolate late. The beautiful woman with the long brown hair was excited to sip the hot sugary goodness from a ridiculously large blue mug.

Laurell came over to help when she heard the leather strap with the seven bells chime a second and a third time. It was as if that wonderful Monday regular had directed traffic to follow her in. Samantha connected the espresso grounds to the machine and pushed the button. Then she began adding the mocha and raspberry syrups to the bottom of the ginormous blue coffee cup.

The woman pulled a twenty from her wallet and held it out to Laurell while Laurell rang up the prices of the paper and the daily feature. Samantha starred at her while she steamed the milk in an aluminum cup.

The woman smiled from ear to ear as she watched Samantha top her oversized mug off with the frothed milk, giving it a decorative leaf design. The woman with the long brown hair refused the change Laurell attempted to hand her, but took the ginormous blue coffee cup from Samantha. She walked outside with it and her paper, then had a seat at the second patio table table from the door and to the left.

Laurell continued taking orders for the guests standing in line. Samantha continued to wonder about the beautiful woman with the long brown hair while she made everyone’s drinks. She was thankful for the distraction from her previous thoughts. Neither girl could have prepared themselves for what happened next.

The silent homeless man who collected remnants of cigarettes from the ground and rolled them into brand new smokes was sitting at his usual table, the second from the door and to the right. He was known to everyone as the old man in the bright yellow sneaker. Samantha had watched that man wander the alley everyday the weather made the outdoors tolerable. Samantha only ever heard the old man in the bright yellow sneakers say one word before that particular Monday. On that particular Monday a sedative was required to restore silence to the old man in the bright yellow sneakers.

It was sixty-seven degrees that day which was unusually warm for October, but not unheard of for the midwest. The wind was ferocious enough to keep most people inside despite the unexpected sun and warmth. The wind sent the woman’s hair flying in every direction, so she didn’t notice the man in the yellow sneakers at first.

She folded her newspaper in half and secured it between her teeth while she wrangled the wild strands of her hair flying every which way. Once she’d captured them all she pulled them to the left side of her neck and secured them a black hair tie she kept on her wrist. She was rubbing the circulation back into the indentation the hair tie had left when she spotted him hunched over cigarette carcasses at the table across from hers.

Once the itching caused by the bands indentation ceased she held the paper out against the wind and said hello to the man in the yellow sneakers just like she had every Monday in the past. She didn’t wait for a response before allowing the newspaper’s image of the mangled black SUV to consume her attention because she knew there wouldn’t be one.

The woman with the long brown hair and the large leather strapped satchel was reading an article about a Guatemalan man who fled the scene of a drunk driving accident where he’d murdered a woman from her neighboring town. There was a picture of a vehicle ripped to shreds below a bold print headline asking, “How did DUI driver walk free?”

She began contemplating the headline as she tilted her head back and swallowed steady gulps of the warm raspberry white chocolate late. The warm, caffeinated, surgery syrup passed so easily down her throat it was impossible to resist the urge to tilt the cup back just a hair more. She was wondering how someone could just get up and walk away from the inside of a shredded sardine can of a vehicle while the old man in the bright yellow sneakers watched the cup tilt back just far enough to consume her head.

The old man in the yellow sneakers had been watching her out of the corner of his eye since she’d said hello to him. He enjoyed watching the beautiful woman with the long brown hair sip her coffee on Mondays. On this particular Monday he watched her coffee sip her. It slipped right over her head as it fell to the floor. All the while erasing her, or swallowing her, as it went. Or, at least, that’s what he said he saw.

Samantha was the one to call the cops after Laurell’s failed attempts to soothe the familiar old face who was appearing to have another of the episodes that must have set him on the path to the present course of events. He came flying in through the back door waving one of their ginormous blue coffee cups back and forth over his head like a surrender flag on the loosing side of a war. His face was pale and frantic and his movements were as erratic as an epileptic’s during a seizure. Samantha had a history with the old man in the bright yellow sneakers, and she was ready to put it all behind them. Or, at least bury it under a thousand feet of dirt and pray no one every tripped over it.

Samantha inspected the old man in the bright yellow sneakers. She knew they hadn’t served him anything he’d been able to pay for in months. Today Samantha increased her focus on profits and decided the charity handouts had to stop. She saw his cup possession as a form of betrayal against her previous generosity. This emotion swirled in with all of the confusion and disgust she’d been battling since the night before. All of that compiled on top of the memory of the yellow sneakers themselves and created a landslide of rage. Samantha wanted to know how the old man could disregard all of her previous gifts to him and have the balls to take even more. She attempted to use the anger to help her hide from the fear that she’d done all of those things for her own personal gain.

Laurell tried to understand what the man was saying and attempted to interpret for Samantha. He wasn’t in possession of the cup by deceit. The cup belonged to the Monday regular who’d ordered the feature and headed out to the patio with it and her paper a mere fifteen minutes prior to the old man’s crazed behavior. The old man in the white painters overalls and bright yellow sneakers only came into possession of the cup after he’d picked it up off the ground. The cup had plummeted onto the brick patio after completely consuming the woman with the long brown hair. It survived the fall without so much as a chip in the ceramic.

She empathized with the man’s concern and explained his story to Samantha with every bit of conviction expressed by the old man with the olive skin and long white hair, plus every ounce of her own understanding. Samantha couldn’t comprehend how one person could contain as much compassion as Laurell. She secretly hated Laurell for it and openly disregarded her explanations as she shouted at her to,”get that psycho out of my shop and away from our guests!” They had just gotten a rush of people, and now they were all being traumatized by this crazed lunatics screams.

The old man in the yellow sneakers was shrieking, “The cup didn’t break, she might be inside!” over and over again like a skipping record. He tripped over two of the smaller tables along the wall on his way to the barista counter. One of them stabilized while the other toppled to it’s side. Two mugs flipped from the table and went flying into the air before smashing against the ceiling. Samantha’s blood began to boil as she started calculating the expense the white haired old man’s destruction was going to create.

Glass shards rained down from the ceiling as the man in the yellow sneakers stood with one hand on the counter. One of the cups landed on a woman’s laptop seconds after Samantha thought she’d tallied the worst of it. Coffee exploded from her keyboard at the same time a piece of the mug bounced up and shattered the screen.

The man in the bright yellow sneakers and white painters pants lifted himself high enough on the counter to stretch the hand with the cup over it and into Samantha’s face. He wasn’t violent about it. It was more like a plea for her to look inside. Laurell stood an arms length from his left side. She reached out to him like you might a bear or a tiger if you were stupid enough to take its dinner.

Laurell attempted to calm the old man for ten minutes while his bleating record continued to skip. Finally she waved the white flag and asked Samantha to make the call. When the Police arrived the old man begged them to look into the cup until they managed to pry it from his clenched white knuckles. That’s when his skipping record shattered and he became a banshee. “EEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHH,” expelled from his mouth in a continuous rhythm everyone felt would never end. Samantha glanced to the front windows with the fear they may shatter under the stress of his pitch.

One of the officers radioed for an ambulance which arrived another ten agonizing minutes later. That’s when the EMT’s strapped the screaming man in the yellow sneakers onto a stretcher and injected him with a fast acting sedative. That’s also when Samantha and Laurell decided they were going to get drunk at Gwierdo’s after work. Samantha had no idea how much that decision would change her life. image-Megan Groff

 

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