No one would believe that she got up this early on a daily basis.
Throughout elementary school, she was lucky if her mother got her up, dressed, and fed before the bell rang. In junior high her tardiness was no longer blamed on her mother but on herself. Home room was optional, and it stayed that way until the last day of her senior year. Sometimes showing up at lunch to grab some tater tots before 5th period seemed fine. Her friends would shake their heads as she approached them in the halls, missing pop quiz after pop quiz. She'd shrug it off; she would have Saturday school anyway so why not just make it up then? Seeing her friends and surprising her teachers with a 91% on a test that she never prepared for were the only reasons to show up.
Money was a priority now and she'd wake up with the dawn to get some. This morning was no different. Her sheets were crumpled on the bottom of her bed and the DVD menu for Over the Top flickered on her small television. Her hair took up most of the mirror in front of her, her eyes squeezed shut retreating from the harsh light of the bathroom. This part of her day was always a bit hazy. She was almost certain she did all the regular morning activities, hair and teeth brushing, deodorant, breakfast, acceptable wardrobe... but she could never be sure.
The weight in her back pocket let her know she didn't forget her wallet as she waited for the bus. When she boarded, she gave a nod to Ed, her favorite bus driver. Rosie smelled and would miss her stop most of the time, while Bob was a creep. Most mornings the bus was empty and this was no exception. However today gave her the rare treat of the appearance of Jeremy, a 13 year old boy who planted eggs in bus seats that would result in some one's start to a horrible day. She would just grin as she watched him unfold his many pranks.
She was always early, a feat that would probably cause Ms. Briggs to have a stroke. She sat on the curb outside of the door and tapped her foot to the music coming from her headphones. She texted Freddie to wake him up, not that he had to be woken up, but it was fun to make some one wake up this early who didn't need to. When the time read 6:00AM or a little bit after, Luke approached the door and opened it. They mumbled pleasantries and Luke opened the door the for both of them and they quickly set to work on the motions of opening Mr. Bean Coffee.
The small shop smelled of coffee, the smell becoming stronger as Luke scooped beans and grinned them. He disappeared as the huge coffee machines made their familiar clicking and bubbling noises signaling that coffee was being brewed as normal. She heard the beeping of the safe being opened and Luke was humming as he counted money for the cash register.
"Sam?" Luke's voice echoed in the empty shop. Sam stopped wiping tables and walked towards the back room.
"Can you turn on the music? Also, Ryan texted me this morning, he's not coming in but I think we can handle it." He turned around to give her an encouraging smile that also said "I fucking hate this place."
Sam rolled her eyes and turned on her heel. She flicked the stereo on causing a disturbance in the organized silence. Minutes ticked on as she prepared for the first customers of the day, her body acting like a trained dancer reciting a number she had done millions of times. She heard the cash register spring to life with the accompaniment of Luke's whistling. As if it was her cue, she unlocked the door with a click as the sidewalk started to darken one dot at a time.
She grabbed a mug off of the tallest shelf and placed it under the spout of the coffee maker. She decided to support Carly today, the red Stanford S on the mug making her miss her friend. The use of the mug (along with Freddie's MIT beaver one) gave her the feeling of them being near. She took a sip and placed the cup down as she grabbed a magazine from the side of the register. She flattened it on the counter and propped her elbows on either side of it, her chin resting on her palm.
After she casually flipped through a couple pages, the jingle of the door stirred her from an article about the best ribs in Washington. She mustered up a pleasant smile and shifted her eyes upwards.
"Sam? I didn't know you worked here. I thought you moved away or something." His smile was wide, his voice laced with surprise.
"Uh," she swallowed. "No. I mean, yeah, kinda." She shook her head and tried again. "Yes, Spencer, I work here."
He hated ties.
A small basket full of different patterns and colors of ties sat on his bed. From the time his sister was born she had given him a tie for his birthday. As she got older, other gifts were added along with them, but there was always a tie. He wasn't sure if it was some kind of brainwashing exercise put on by his grandfather to get him to think "suits = law school, law school = success" or if she just never knew better. He glanced at the clock and instantly his palms began to sweat; he had to pick one. He closed his eyes and dug into the pool of silk and polyester.
He kept fidgeting with his tie as he searched the quiet living room for his dress shoes. His belongings had now taken over the entire apartment, making it harder for him to find anything. He finally found them in the fridge and cursed himself for leaving them there as his feet were pushed into them. He shivered and grabbed his keys and helmet and sprinted down the stairs, not remembering or caring if he locked the door.
He thought about his sister's warnings and stern face as he dodged through traffic, weaving in and out of lanes too carelessly even by his own standards. When he reached the Rolling Hills Retirement Center he took a deep sigh, his muscles finally relaxed. He was 15 minutes early, he had done it. He may just make that $1,000 for teaching a drawing class after all. He remembered the last time he was early to the center. Rose and Olga had told him about their extensive loneliness and how great it was to have a "younger man" around. He cringed as he spotted a small coffee shop across the street.
He approached the door and looked inside. He had seen his place a few times when driving around town or taking a woman he met at a bar for a ride on his motorcycle. There were all kinds of different coffee shops in Seattle and everyone had "their" place but he had never known anyone to claim Mr. Bean Coffee as "theirs." Still, this shop looked inviting and would be a sanctuary from pinching cheeks inside Rolling Hills and the rain outside.
The bell jingled above him. The smell of coffee engulfed him as he put his helmet down on the nearest table before glancing up at the menu. He knew he would be getting a coffee but always looked at a coffee shop's menu. The handwritten ones were his favorite, drawings of monsters or dinosaurs earned extra points.
He glanced down at the girl behind the counter. She didn't greet him, engrossed in the magazine in front of her. Her body swayed back and forth slowly. Her tongue was poking through her lips as she concentrated on the glossed pages. Her hair cascaded down her shoulders and almost touched the counter below, their gold tinge sparking memories in his mind. Her mouth formed into a smile and her blue eyes flicked up at him. His heart skipped a beat.
"Sam? I didn't know you worked here. I thought you moved away or something." He sounded desperately excited but he didn't care.
She fumbled her words and stood up from the counter. She finally got out, "Yes, Spencer, I work here."
He took two long strides up to her. "Awesome," he said. He beamed down at her and took her in.
He hadn't seen her in months. Carly had never really said what Sam was up to in their weekly phone calls and periodic emails. He assumed she moved away when his fridge started to stay stocked. She was still Sam, the same Sam that was at his house months earlier saying goodbye to Carly. Freddie had left already and it was just the three of them. When Carly, tears streaking down her face, sat in the cab and disappeared, he stood with Sam on the sidewalk for ten minutes, not wanting to move. He had his arm around her, Sam felt stiff under it. She finally looked up at him and with a "see ya later" she walked down the street and he hadn't seen her since.
She was like a breath of fresh air, a part of his past that was lost had come back to him again. He remembered her laughing with him at Cheesecake Warehouse with straws up their noses as they celebrated Carly's birthday. He thought of his stack of Kung Fu DVDs that she watched with him while Carly and Freddie studied. He saw her frosting covered face after she found the stash of cupcakes in the fridge for the trio's graduation party.
"Wow, look at you," he shoved her shoulder. "Workin'. I'm surprised they let you so close to the pastries." He nodded towards the glass case full of croissants, donuts, and danishes.
Sam's blank face made him think she was just as surprised as he was that they were standing together. Her silence confirmed it.
"Uh, anyway," Spencer cleared his throat and looked behind her. "I will take a small coffee."
Sam blinked, the familiar order putting her into auto pilot. She gave him the cup and he stuck a five dollar bill back at her.
"Oh, don't worry about it."
Spencer retreated the bill, then stuck it in the tip cup in front of her.
"Good man," she pointed at him.
He shrugged with a smile. He took a few steps backwards still looking at her. He held her gaze until he bumped into a chair.
"I knew that was there," he assured her along with the invisible patrons as he grabbed his helmet.
She nodded at him with a thumbs up as he tipped his cup at her and exited through the door.
Spencer was two minutes late to his first class. His mood was in an upswing so it didn't matter.
He was known as a crazy guy, a little clumsy, a bit out there and often called a spazz. His sculptures were reflective of his unique personality and behavior. However, they weren't just random objects placed haphazardly together in a creation that had no purpose. His drawings, his sculptures and paintings all held a significance to him and this class was just as important to him. He oozed passion for art, his hands flailing in the air as he talked to the dozen old men and women in the gray room. Spencer could always find something good in what his students drew, never a tone of feign in his voice as he circled the room.
Art was his existence, and since Carly left it had taken over him in a new way. He was proud to be the caretaker for his sister but it split his brain 50/50; Carly/art. His sister was now gone, starting her adult life, hopefully making good decisions as she frequented college parties and crammed for exams. She was always in his mind, tucked away. The Carly part of his mind expanded when he hadn't heard from her in a week or two or when she didn't get back to one of his texts until the morning. For the most part, however, it stayed small and controlled, allowing the rest of his mind and soul to be taken over by his passion.
At this moment, he was putting his all into this class. The residents of Rolling Hills were always a proud bunch, their faces shining at their completed works. Their smiles were infectious, his cheek muscles throbbing by the end of the second session.
"Thanks everyone, I hope you had fun today. I'll see you in a few weeks." Spencer's farewells were followed by sporadic clapping from his less enthused second group of students. He gathered materials and placed them in the cupboards marked with his name, the title "art instructor" below it. He tossed his empty coffee cup in the trash as he strode out of the building.
He fiddled with his helmet straps as he took a glance up at the sky. Clouds were still overruling the sky but water didn't spray his face. His eye caught the familiar red letters against the blanket of gray. He retraced his steps from this morning and entered the coffee shop, no longer empty. An old woman sat in a chair in the corner, reading a newspaper that he recognized from a few days earlier.
Sam was still behind the counter, as if she hadn't moved since he saw her three hours ago. Her fingers tapped on her PearPhone that lay below her, her body swaying just like it did before.
"The coffee was good."
"That's impossible, the shit is disgusting." Sam darted her eyes up at him and then back down at her phone.
"Yeah, it was terrible."
Sam nodded. She shoved her PearPhone in her pocket and stood up straight with a loud sigh. "I can make you a drink. Luke is my boss but he doesn't know how to make anything." This sounded like more of a challenge rather than a nice gesture.
"K," he pivoted and took a seat nearest the big window, the source of the even, white glow that filled the room. Sam was behind a taller counter lined with machines, only the crown of her head showing above it. Her activities were causing a disturbance of the ambient music that played softly throughout the store. He craned his neck to see if he could catch what she was making for him but soon gave up, averting his eyes to a shelf of game boards. They all reminded him of his childhood; Clue being Carly's favorite, Battleship his, and Trivial Pursuit reminding him of dinner parties his parents had while he was stuck entertaining Carly in the play room. He slid out of his seat and grabbed Connect Four.
"Luke! I'm on my lunch!" Sam yelled towards the back room and he caught her walking his way with his drink in one hand and a croissant in the other.
"Cappuccino," she took a seat opposite him.
She nodded. She watched him as he blew on his drink, then took a sip.
"S'good," he put the cup down and started to open the game box. "Granddad bought me one of those fancy espresso machines with the steamy milk spout on it but I never got the hang of it." He assembled the vertical board and pushed the black tokens towards Sam who took a bite from her pastry. Half of it vanished. "I ended up burning my face on the steamy spout thing and took it apart and now some of it's parts hold up Yippie Yi Yo Yo."
Sam dropped her circle in first. "It's not so bad. This girl, Trina, trained me how to make drinks. She could make crazy designs in the foam and all that." Spencer dropped his first token in. "I can't really do that, or I don't really care, take your pick."
"When did you start working here?" Spencer blocked a potential win for Sam.
"A few months ago. I am not their most 'productive' employee but they keep me around because I'm the only one who comes in to work and takes anyone's shifts." Sam rubbed two coins together as her eyes danced across the board.
"I teach art lessons at the retirement place across the street." Spencer shared.
"A lot of the staff come in here. They complain about me to my manager." Sam didn't seem annoyed or upset by this.
"My pleasant attitude and upbeat personality." Sam dropped a circle into a column creating a win in her favor.
"Aw, what," Spencer put his hands up in frustration. "But I was winning."
Sam flicked the switch and the circles crashed onto the table, the sound bouncing off the walls. She separated the colors and placed a circle into the board. Their game went on in silence, the clicking of pieces joining the soft music.
"How did you burn your face with your espresso machine?" Sam broke the quiet.
"I wanted to make sure it was hot enough."
"With your face?" Sam sat back in her chair and looked up at him.
His eyes widened and his voice became higher. "It's the closest to my lips, where my delicious beverage would be!" This wasn't the first time he had answered this question.
Sam laughed, shaking her head.
"Sam! Your lunch was over 10 minutes ago." Luke shouted at her from across the room, stuffing cash back into the register.
"Cool your chizz," she concentrated on the board and finally dropped her last black dot. "I win."
Spencer stared at the rows of black and red in disbelief. It wasn't until he heard her chair scratch the floor that he looked at her.
"If I don't go, Luke will take it out of my check." She sighed and pushed her chair back into the table. After she tied her apron, she grabbed his empty cup.
"Do you need a ride home?" Spencer didn't remember his brain coming up with that question.
"Uh," she raised an eyebrow at him. "I don't get off until 1."
Spencer checked his PearPhone. 11:15.
"That's fine, I can just come pick you up, take you home."
"Bob does usually drive in the afternoons on Mondays." She mumbled to herself.
"Nothing," she shook her head. "See ya at 1."
A/N: Thanks for reading. This is my first attempt at a Spam fic and it looks like it will be a multi-chapter story. Please review! Also, I'm looking for a potential beta for this story, as you can tell this chapter wasn't beta'd. :P Let me know if you're interested. Thanks for reading.