Chapter One – Understanding Kasey

“You’re late,” Chase scolded as the bell that hung on the front door jingled.

Kasey held the door open with her foot and she struggled to close her umbrella. She blew her bangs out of her face.

“I know, I know. Are you going to jump all over me too?!” she spoke harshly.

“Jeez, what’s your problem?” Chase growled.

“What do you think?” she said. She set her umbrella in the stand by the front door of Summer’s Coffee Shop, as the door banged closed behind her.

She walked behind the counter and set her purse down with a thud.

Chase had seen her in this mood before, too many times to count.

“Your mom?” he asked, with a little more compassion.

She didn’t answer, which let him know he was right. He reached in the front glass display case and grabbed two pastries, set them each on a plate and then onto his serving tray.

“You’d think if you had to ask ten times where your shoes were that they wouldn’t be on your feet, right?” Kasey said sarcastically.

“Did you find them?” he piped back.

“Very funny,” she said as she went about her business of setting up the coffee machine.

Chase tried to stay out of her way as best he could. She was in a mood, and he didn’t want to be another casualty.

“Well, she’s the adult daycare’s problem now. At least for a few hours,” she said.

“Why don’t you have a cup of coffee before we get too many customers? I think the croissants are fresh,” Chase said, feeling guilty for coming down on her. He knew she had her hands full with her mom.

Without a word, she started the coffee machine and went to the kitchen to get a croissant. She returned just in time to get the first drips out of the coffee machine. She held her cup under the spout as the black elixir filled her cup.

The bell on the front door rang as a customer walked in and made her way to a table.

“Oh, great…she’s here already?” Kasey grumbled.

“I got her. You eat,” Chase said as he walked out to the dining area.

“Morning, Willow. You want the regular?” Chase asked.

“Thank you, Chase. That would be lovely,” Willow said. Willow tied back her grey hair with a red ribbon, pulled out her notebook and began to write.

Chase went back behind the counter where Kasey had poured herself a full cup of coffee, and was in the process of drinking it down. He noticed Kasey kept her eyes on Willow.

“What does she write in that thing anyways?” Kasey whispered to Chase.

“Who knows? You know she’s an author, right?” Chase mentioned.

“Aren’t they all?”

“No, really. She’s published and everything,” he said.

“Yeah. I bet,” Kasey said. She was skeptical. It seemed every artsy-looking customer with a notebook or a laptop thought they were a writer.

“I think she writes novels,” he continued, ignoring her attitude.

“Just what the world needs. Another writer.”

“Look, you better change you attitude before any more customers come in,” Chase suggested. He knew he was poking the bear, but someone had to tell her to get a grip.

He waited for the rage, but was surprised when she only sighed and rested her head in her hands on the counter. She didn’t want Chase to know that she really was concerned about her mom. You can’t live with someone with Alzheimer’s and not worry about them. But it just got so tiring, day in and day out. She didn’t want Chase to know that she was barely making ends meet. Between the coffee shop and the night job at the Rusty Anchor, she hoped they would be better off than they were. But her mom’s disability barely paid for her daycare, forget about daily expenses. Some days she felt horrible about the way she treated her mom and the things she wished on her. If anyone knew her deepest thoughts they’d have her thrown in jail. But no 25-year-old should have to take care of their aging parent. It wasn’t fair, but such was life. At least her life.

 

Kasey took a cup of coffee to the two moms at the table near the window. She smiled at the toddlers that were dropping their toys on the floor and laughing. The moms were not amused.

“Cute, aren’t they?” Willow said to Kasey as she walked by.

“Huh?” Kasey asked. She wasn’t sure that Willow was talking to her. “I guess.”

“Do you have any kids?” Willow asked.

Why did she want to talk? Couldn’t she tell Kasey was working? She tried her best to be polite. “No, no kids.”

Kasey cleared the table beside Willow.

“Do you want kids?” Willow asked.

“Pardon me?” Kasey asked. “I’m sorry, but isn’t that kind of a personal question?”

“Oh, dear. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. I was just making conversation. I won’t bother you again,” Willow apologized.

“Yeah, well…it’s okay,” Kasey said, and got away from there as quickly as she could.

“What’s wrong with that woman?” Kasey asked Chase.

“What? Who? Willow? She’s harmless,” Chase said.

“Harmless, maybe. But she’s a little pushy.”

“Pushy?” Chase asked, baffled.

“Yes. She was asking me if I had kids. That’s not any of her business!” Kasey complained.

“Oh, I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it. She’s just a little, well, eccentric, that’s all,” Chase defended.

“I know, I know…she’s a writer. What should I expect, right?” Kasey said, and cracked a smile.

Chase smiled back. He took the coffee pot out to refill Willow’s cup.

“Refill?” he asked Willow.

Willow looked up from her journal.

“Oh, thanks, Chase. I think I offended your friend,” she said.

“She’ll be fine. She’s tough. Trust me, she’s done her share of offending too,” Chase said.

“Still, please tell her I’m sorry.”

“Will do,” Chase said.

 

After a busy morning, they got a break in customers. Chase brought a box of books out from the back room and set it on one of the tables. Summer’s Coffee Shop was an old building, originally a shoe shine business in the 1920s. The walls were lined with mementos from an era long gone. It had gone through several owners since then, and had been several different kinds of businesses. It had been a barber shop, a pawn shop, and a book store. When the current owner took over, he’d found an old shoe shine chair in the back room. He restored it, and installed it in the front window. It was a conversation piece for sure, and kids would climb on it and pretend to shine each other’s shoes. The parents always thought it was cute, but Chase and Kasey found it annoying, especially when they’d have to clean up the sticky fingerprints or crumbs.

The built-in book shelves had survived the many changes, and now Summer’s used them to their advantage. The shelves were filled with all sorts of books, from children’s books and classic reads, to modern sci-fi and romance. Chase had a box full of books that someone had donated. He pulled them out one by one and found space on the shelves for them.

“Anything good?” Kasey asked.

“Eh, not much. I didn’t know you read,” he teased.

“Of course I read!” she said and threw her towel at him. “When I get the time,” she mumbled.

“In that case, here’s a nice book for you,” he said and handed her a book.

She took it and looked at the cover. There was a photo of a couple standing on the beach silhouetted by the sunset. “What the…?” she tossed it back at him, and he laughed.

“What’s the matter? Isn’t ‘A Walk Along the Shore’ your kind of book?” he laughed.

She glared at him.

“Then how about this one?” he said and tossed her another.

“Buddy’s First Day at School? Very funny! Closer, but no!” she said and tossed it back.

He laughed so hard he nearly fell off the ladder. He was more amused at his comment than Kasey was.

Kasey laughed when he stumbled. “Serves you right!” she taunted. “Are you sure you can you handle that by yourself? My shift is about over, but I’d hate to leave you crashed on the floor,” Kasey said, and laughed again.

“It’s that time already?” he asked.

“Yep. Time to go pick up Mom and straighten out any problems she caused at daycare,” Kasey said, and exhaled slowly.

“Good luck with that. See you tomorrow!” Chase called, but she was already out the door.

“That girl has got a lot on her shoulders. Hope she’s okay,” he said quietly to himself.

 

Kasey pulled into the parking lot at Cornerstone Adult Daycare. She sat for a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet before she picked up her mom. When she started to get suspicious looks from other people coming and going, she decided it was time to go in.

Helen was working at the front desk.

“Afternoon, Miss Kasey,” Helen said in her syrupy southern accent. Kasey wasn’t sure where she was from, but that accent…some days it was the best sound she’d ever heard, and other days it grated on her last nerve. Today was somewhere in between.

“Hi, Helen. Is my mom ready?” Kasey asked as she signed in on the clipboard.

“Let me check,” Helen said and picked up the phone. She called back to the nurses’ station and mumbled something that Kasey didn’t quite hear.

“They almost have her cleaned up. Why don’t you go on back? She’s in the TV room,” Helen said and smiled a toothy smile.

“Thanks.” Clean her up? What had she gotten into now?

Kasey walked down the long sterile hallway to the activity room. She pushed the buzzer and the nurse buzzed her in to the room. She pushed on the heavy door. Clarence sat playing checkers with Mr. Hall. Kasey wondered how long their games took and if they ever finished one. She never saw them speak to one another. Her mom sat at the table on the patio. The nurse waved Kasey over.

“Look who’s here, Naomi. It’s your daughter,” the nurse said.

“Hi, Mom,” Kasey said, and kissed her mom on the top of the head.

Her mom smiled. “Well, hello sweetie. Aren’t you a lovely girl.”

Kasey turned to the nurse. “Everything okay? Helen said you had to clean her up. She wasn’t any trouble, was she?”

“No, not today. Just spilled a little juice on her sweater. I tried to get it cleaned off as much as she would let me. You may have to use some spot cleaner on it though,” the nurse said apologetically.

Kasey looked at the 3-inch round, purple spot right on the front of the lapel. It didn’t look like she had tried to clean it up at all. But, then again, her mom could be cantankerous at times. Maybe she didn’t want the spot cleaned.

“Thanks. I’ll see what I can do. Ready to go, Mom?” Kasey asked.

The nurse helped her mom stand, and Kasey took her hand. Her mom smiled, and went willingly with Kasey. Kasey often wondered how easy it would be for a stranger to take her mom with them. She would go with just about anyone, at least on her good days.

Kasey eyed Clarence and Mr. Hall on the way out. Nothing had been moved on the chessboard.

Naomi hummed to the radio on the way home. She didn’t know the song, but that didn’t stop her from trying to hum along. At least she was on key.

When they got home, Kasey helped Naomi into the house and reminded her to use the bathroom. She’d made the mistake of not reminding her once, and there was still a spot on the carpet as a reminder. She fluffed up the pillows on Naomi’s chair and turned on the TV to the Shopping Network. She wasn’t sure why, but Naomi could watch that channel for hours, and so long as she was safely occupied, Kasey could make dinner and get ready for the evening shift at the Rusty Anchor.

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