The wristwatch hits the floor with a loud clang. “Dangit!” Everyone in the coffee house stops to stare at me. Ignoring them, I stoop and pick up the watch. I tap the glass on it like that will somehow fix the large crack across the face.
A tall man wearing jeans, a green apron and a wrinkled black t-shirt stands next to my table. He smells like peppermints.
“You look pissed off at the world,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s been one of those days.”
He laughs again. “Can I bring you somethin’?”
“Comin’ right up.”
He walks away, and I look back at the watch. It’s made of sterling silver, and small diamonds encircle the face. It’s the only thing I have left.
The waiter brings back the cup of coffee and sets it in front of me. “Thanks.”
“You sure you’re all right?”
“I busted my watch.”
“I know a guy who can fix it.”
“It’s fine.” I didn’t want to tell him that I didn’t have the money. I barely had enough to buy this cup of coffee.
He sits in the empty booth in front of me and says, “Obviously it isn’t. You’re cryin’.” I touch the corner of my eye and wipe away a tear.
“What do you care anyway?”
“I can’t see a pretty girl like you cry and walk away.” He smiles at me radiantly, and I can’t help but smile back. “Let me help.”
“Please?” I’m stupid for considering it. He doesn’t need to help me. I shake my head no.
“If you’re certain.”
“I am.” I want my watch fixed, but I can’t take this money from him. I don’t want him to think I’m some charity case.
“All right. Well, coffee’s on the house.”
“No. I can’t –”
He scoots out of the booth and walks back behind the counter before I can finish.
I carry the broken watch in my pocket as I walk down the sidewalk searching for help wanted signs. Most employers don’t want to hire a high school dropout. They don’t care why I didn’t finish school. They don’t even ask. All they think is that I’m some emotional high school kid running away from home. I stick my hand in my pocket and feel the cold metal in my hand. The cracked glass is rough against my thumb.
The outside air is humid and thick, and breathing in the cool air of the diner is refreshing. It’s nice to be inside instead of wandering around the streets. I find an empty booth and sit. My feet ache so I prop them on the booth in front of me.
While I stare at the menu pretending like I’m going to buy some food, a mug of steaming coffee is set in front of me. “Decaf.”
I look up to see the waiter smiling back at me. “Thank you.”
“What can I do for ya?”
“Can you help me get a job?”
He smiles and says, “I’ll be right back.”
Three weeks later, I’ve made enough money to rent a small apartment. It’s not fancy, but it beats the basement of a church by far. The waiter, Bobby, has been great in helping me get situated. I have explained my situation to him, and he’s been so understanding and helpful. He’s even loaned me some money to buy furniture. I don’t think I could’ve made it without him.
“Whatcha doin’ tonight?” Bobby asks as we wipe down the counters for the night.
“About the same.”
I laugh, and we finish cleaning the diner before we head home for the night. I hug him tightly outside before we part ways. His hands find their way to my lower back, and I know he’s misread my intentions. I pull away fast, and he shoves me. I stumble back and run home, trying not to think about the awful look in his eyes.
About two in the morning, I finally crawl into bed. Sleep finds me soon, and I dream about my mom. I scream as she’s repeatedly beat by my step-dad. I wake from the dream and find myself sitting in a chair, hands duct taped behind my back. I scream, hoping to wake myself from the nightmare I must be in, but I’m still here. I scream again and a door opens. The light blinds me and all I see is the shadow of a man. He walks closer to me, and I smell the distinct scent of peppermint.