Chapter 37

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Six years later


The coffee shop smells like heaven compared to the streets outside, the quiet comforting in a way I could never really put a name to. Maybe it's the aesthetic. Maybe it's the decor. Maybe it's Maybelline.

"Hey Tee," the barista, Sofia, calls as I enter and I smile.

"Hey Fee, you seem cheerful."

"Yeah, we got a new recruit today. Mama deserves some free time, baby!"she hoots, eyes shining. "You want your regular?"

"Yes please. And when can I meet the newbie?" I ask, her excitement bleeding into me. It's been a while since I got to hang out with her, now that I think about it.

"He's here right now. Here, I'll call him. Tyson!"


My whole body stiffens at the name, memories flooding in like a broken dam. This isn't how I imagined it would go.

Tyson's a common name, right? It could be anyone.

The door to the back room opens and, to my dread, familiar grey eyes find mine. I watch in shame as his body stiffens, his hands frozen on the door. My hands shake and I grip my shirt to make it stop.

"Tiana," he says softly and a lump forms in my throat. It wasn't a question. When was the last time I heard that voice?

I can't breathe.

"You two seem to know each other," Sofia says cautiously. Thankfully, it's a week day so there isn't anyone here watching this unfold. I take one step back unconsciously and I see Tyson's eyes twist in hurt.

"Yeah," he says, eyes locked on mine, "You could say that."

"Okay... if you're both gonna make a scene then I suggest you do it in the back room," Fee, ever the manager, says and I shake my head.

"No! Uh, no. I'm... I'm leaving. It's ok."

I turn around, fully intent on walking away when someone grips my hand. I don't look back. I'm too scared.

"Tiana," Tyson says, his voice wobbly and worn. "Please, stay."

I turn towards his voice, closer than it has ever been in five years. I can't bring myself to look him in the eye so I settle for his nose. I can see his eyes turn wet. The world is nothing but liquid seeping through my skin. My hands shake where they're held in his.

"Please. Please," he says, voice desperate and I nod. What else can I do but agree?

"Okay. Okay, I'll stay."

"Would you look at that!" Sofia exclaims suddenly, breaking the tension, and our heads shoot towards her. "I need something very very important. And oh! Would you also look at that! It's all the way in the back room! Well, I'm going to be leaving. And it might take quite a while for me to come out. And there'll be no customers at this time of day so that's incredibly convenient, isn't it? I'm going to be going now."

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