The Pink Coffee Shop by Ellie Barker
Monday 7th May
4.30am & 0 seconds
Open eyes. Check
Take deep breath. Check.
Reach for list. Check.
Sit up and prepare for twenty-seven glorious seconds of reading list. Yes, please, check.
There was, frankly, no better way to start the day. So, what if she knew the rules off by heart? Nothing could ever beat that first morning look. The squiggly handwriting, the musty smell, the tatty sides showing how useful it had been. It really did make the next step of putting her feet on the floor all the easier.
Cold shower. Check.
Pull on black shorts, t-shirt and trainers. Check.
Tie hair in ponytail and leave house at 4.46am & 26 seconds. Check.
Excellent work, Rosie Nash, she told herself. She’d earned a whole thirty-four seconds for a bonus read.
But just as she took the list out of her pocket, a gust of wind snatched it away. She counted three seconds as she watched it and she felt her breath stop too. There it went, dancing around like a leaf caught in the wind.
But it wasn’t a leaf, was it?
It was her life.
What was she doing? She grabbed it and put it back in her pocket, her hands shaking as she pulled up the zip. She really must stop this bonus read, outside like this. She should know better by now.
She looked at her watch and started to jog. Thirteen minutes and fifty-two seconds left to get to work. She was cutting it fine now, thanks to the seconds lost on the list-dance.
Rosie was quite aware, as she ran along the path, if a normal person could somehow hear her second-counting in her head he or she would suspect she was being ridiculous. But with all due respect to this normal person, they no doubt also had a normal job, maybe even in one of those offices where you have a whole hour off for lunch and finished at five. But it wasn’t like that in the land of television, was it? Oh no. Every single second counts.
When their daily television show went on air in eight hours, fifty-eight minutes and thirty-seven seconds’ time, Max Marlow the presenter could hardly say to their very nice and loyal viewers, ‘Can you just hold on for forty-four seconds while we just finish off?’
Well, of course not.
Besides, Colin would be waiting for her and Colin’s eyes were like those of a hawk. One hint of a fluster, a second too early or late, and it was bound to trigger him. Colin was a Question Asker, and while she hated questions about herself just about more than anything else in life, she could just about forgive Colin. The Security Guard-slash-Odd Job Man-slash Receptionist had a top place in her Good Person Box and besides, it wasn’t his fault he was a Question Asker. It was just the way he was designed, maybe it was in his genes? But still, whatever the reason, it was best all round not to set him off.
She looked down at her hands, which were clammy and clenched. She flapped them around in the air, waving heartily at him, hoping the breeze would cool them.
There he was beaming back as he waved back through the glass.
It’s up to you (and only you) to find the joy in your life.
Well, coming to work here and seeing Colin six days a week really was a joy, she thought as she walked through the door.
“Rosie love, everything okay?” His eyes were straight on her hands.
She attempted to lounge in a leisurely way next to the pile of newspapers sat on the counter between her and Colin, but his eyes were narrowing. “Yes, all good. More importantly, how did it go?” she asked, wishing her red cheeks would stop burning.
This weekend had been Colin’s wife’s 60th birthday. She hadn’t wanted anything fancy, just fish and chips down on the coast in Cornwall. When Colin had announced this in front of their colleagues at their end of the week meeting on Friday he had been met by a rare silence.
“It was bliss Rosie love, and the sun shone down on us in Padstow. What lovely weather we are having. It’s a bit warm out there this morning, you’re a little flushed. Extra strong as you like it.” He put a mug down in front of her, then frowned. “Would you rather a cold water? Are you sure you’re okay?”
There it was.
Colin wasn’t just a Question Asker, he was a Multiple Question Asker, the very worst kind. He was the only one of her colleagues who was, which, although unexpected, given the number of journalists she worked with, suited her perfectly. She watched his brow furrow further, and she told herself to stop shuffling.
“Of course, I am Colin, never better.”
He nodded but looked unconvinced.
Think positively and the magic will come.
“I am so pleased you had a lovely time, right, must crack on… thank you.” She picked up the pile of newspapers and her cup. Colin was also the only colleague who made her coffee and he had done so every morning since her first day here three years, three weeks, two minutes and ten seconds ago.
“You’ll need it with that lot,” he said as he did every day. Colin was a stickler for routine. “Now don’t let them boss you around.”
“I never do,” she called over her shoulder in a rather unusual high pitch which she hoped Colin wouldn’t notice. She balanced the papers and coffee to press number 4 on the lift. She felt slightly encouraged when she turned around to see Colin had moved on from question asking to his usual morning stretches.
Rosie sat down at her desk and allowed herself three seconds to rest her head in her hands. Really, what had become of her? Nearly losing her list and not telling the truth to Colin.
This behaviour had to stop instantly, or else she was at risk of ruining everything. She decided to send a text instead, in an attempt to change the track of the day.
Hope you are feeling better today x
She then remembered the time.
Hope this does not wake you x
Both texts were as ridiculous as the other, and she was never going to answer them anyway.
It’s up to you (and only you) to discover the joy in your life.
Focus, she told herself. But her mind felt as if it had been filled with heavy fog. She took a gulp of Colin’s coffee.
Think positively and the magic will come.
The warm liquid ran down her throat. She looked around the office, even though she knew she was all alone, before pulling the list out of her pocket. It was still there, she told herself and breathed out.
She began to place the different newspapers accordingly on her colleagues’ desks. The front page of one of the tabloids caught her eyes as she lay it down. A beautiful woman Rosie recognised as a model, her hands in her hair, her face crumpled with pain. The headline read ‘Because She’s Not Worth It?’ Rosie didn’t bother to carry on reading.
One person’s unfortunate moment but still delicious fodder for the miserable eye.
Stop it, Rosie, not now.
She pushed the thought away, along with the newspaper and the nausea which came with it. She unzipped her pocket and felt her list in her hand. Just touching it helped calm her breathing for now, but it didn’t take away the thought.
What would the headline be on the front of that paper if her own secret ever came out?