The snow made more of a sigh than a crunch as she gingerly set a booted foot out of her car. Hesitantly, she trusted her weight to the ice and got out, lugging a large, ripping book bag with her. The car made its swishing click as she locked it and cautiously made her way across the parking lot. It hadn’t been snowing long, but already everything was lightly dusted with white, as if the heavens had daintily sneezed all over the city. The fresh powder sighed with every step she took, but the soft sound was drowned out by the whirr of cars and spraying of dirty slush on the street beside her. The cold snatched at her red nose and played with her hair as she made her way up a block. A neon sign glowed through the grey haze. “Coffee” was all it read.
The lightweight wooden door creaked and a vacuum of air whooshed through her ears when she opened it. After pressing it shut against the cold behind her, she took a lungful of warm air and felt her body relax. The hushed tones of several people’s chatter filled the air before the startling grinding of the espresso machine sprang to life. It was followed by the wheezing of air rapidly running through milk as it was steamed, and all other sounds dulled into numbness. She did not need to contemplate the menu before she ordered a soy latté.
“Can I get a name with that?” The barista, at the ready with her pen, politely asked.
She glanced her way and smiled before returning her attention to finding her wallet. “Marcia.”
After the short blonde girl broke her five and handed back the change, she dumped all of it into the tip jar. The coins hit the glass bottom, nearly empty, with their own sound of thanks. When her drink was ready, she breezed by and snatched it off of the bar without looking. The door let in another puff of freezing air as she passed by it on her way upstairs to her favorite corner. The upstairs was smaller, warmer, and quieter. Only the abrupt grind of the espresso machine could be heard from downstairs. Snuggled in the corner was an old leather armchair with a small table beside it. She settled herself there, sighing and relaxing into the fabric as if she were saying hello to a friend. The ratty book bag tipped over on the floor, allowing books and pens to peak out, but it was the soy latté that she reached for. She held it tightly, cold fingers wrapped around the logo-less cardboard, and took a sip. The liquid melted in her mouth and soon flowed through her like a small river of warm gold. The book bag lay forgotten at her feet.