By: Karla Kale
Song: Between the Lines
Artist: Sara Bareilles
Album: Between the Lines: Sara Bareilles live at Fillmore
(Picture taken from http://christopherbpearman.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/i-am-at-the-crossroad-what-the-hell-do-i-do-now-part-2/)
Maddie adjusted the curls of blonde hair that caught in the corners of her glasses. She pressed her painted lips together and checked to make sure there weren’t any chips in her nail polish.
She was a regular but the familiar seat just didn’t seem to fit her right. Maybe it was the skirt. Normally she only wore stone-washed and tattered jeans. Maybe it was the fact that she’d forgotten lengthening mascara was the worst idea ever when you wore glasses. Every time she blinked there was an uncomfortable tickling.
She was embarrassingly early and spent her time practicing how she wanted to look. She tried to look collected and successful and confident, but every time she stopped concentrating her knee started vibrating like a coin operated massage chair while her pencil left incomplete fractals on the table top.
It was her favourite table, at the back by the washrooms. Her hands strayed over the battered table top where someone had carved a lop-sided heart. There were initials inside nearly worn away from years of scrubbing. When the coffee shop was next to empty she sat wondering who J.H. and A.D. had been.
Maddie frequently traced the J.H. within the imperfect heart with her fingertip. Her mother’s name was Jamie Hewett. She had imagined any number of different possibilities for who A.D. might be though she knew her mother would never—at any age—have condoned defacing public property. Maddie spent most of her childhood wondering without the benefit of initials to direct her thoughts.
The daydreams rarely became more than the thin plots of bad tween romance novels. Maddie considered herself an alien observer when it came to the intricacies of love.
She usually spent the afternoon watching with her hair in a messy pony-tail and her legs curled underneath her. The table inspired her with its view because she didn’t stare out the window but at the other patrons wondering…
There was a boy who always came in with friends. He was classically good looking and he friends sat debating the philosophies of life with an assured understanding only teenagers could have.
The girl only came sometimes but always when he was around. She would slink in and pull out a book to read but she would play with her hair and never turned a page. Instead her gaze strayed over the edge of her text to the boy and his friends.
He waved at her once and she seemed to float out of her seat for an instant before he went back to talking to his friends. She returned to her seat with a crash. It hadn’t been an invitation, but it had been a start.
You had to pay attention or you missed it…
Katie had been working at the shop as long as Maddie could remember. Erin had started three months ago and fell into an easy friendship with everyone in spite of preconceived notions about her spiked hair and errant tattoos.
Today something seemed off.
Katie asked for orders two and three times. Erin served without her usual coquettish smile. They worked around one another, avoiding eye contact. There had been a moment after close the night before when they’d been alone, a touch… a kiss that Katie didn’t know how she was going to explain to her boyfriend.
Erin refused to push because she knew who she was and she knew what she wanted and she could only be with someone who felt the same.
You had to be willing to give things up…
David came in once a week. Maddie watched him slide the wedding band off his finger and she watched the woman he met pretend not to notice the pale mark of skin where it used to be.
They’d fought the last time, hissing whispers with fervor unlike their usual sweet nothings.
He was sitting alone today, still waiting. He glanced at the door every few minutes between small sips of coffee.
Sometimes you had to decide what was more important…
There was an older pair who only came in maybe once a month. The woman used a cane so her companion always carried their drinks. She showed him pictures and spoke of grandchildren. He simply listened.
She blushed when he set his hand over hers but pulled her fingers back.
It never stopped being complicated…
As a child Maddie watched her mother and never felt unloved. She’d never felt neglected but she watched her friends at school swept into strong arms and wondered if there was more. As she got older she became curious if there was a reason she didn’t understand that kind of love. She’d never seen it up close, never examined it in intimate detail.
She’d been called aloof and distant, unreadable. She held everyone at arms-length.
Now she sat tapping her pencil, her whole being vibrating wondering if a single embrace would be enough to show what the value of being held in strong arms might be… She wondered if she would even want the embrace she kept imagining. Perhaps in the moment of seeing him the sixteen year old who’d started painting her fingernails black after the first boy she ever liked called her a robot… perhaps it would only be the abandonment that came raging out.
There had been a fair share of angry poetry that had been handed in to her high school English teachers. It had been a way to keep it from her mother.
But after University, it was the embrace that Maddie’s imagination always returned to.
Her mother had set it up when Maddie finally had the courage to ask. Her mother admitted that he’d been willing all along, simply waiting for Maddie to choose to want to know him.
So Maddie sat watching the doorway wondering just what he would look like, wondered what his initials would be. She wondered what it would mean to examine what had been but was broken. Wondering if she would want to start something new…
Karla has run away to join the circus but is looking forward to returning to her historical village after many droll days as a carnie. As ever, she can be reached at email@example.com.