“Where are we going, sweetie?” Naomi asked Kasey for the third time in twenty minutes. She looked out the car window as if she was trying to recognize the landscape.
“To visit your friends,” Kasey answered abruptly.
Kasey had spent the morning fighting with her mom about getting dressed. Naomi wanted to wear her purple floral jumpsuit that Kasey hadn’t seen in the past ten years. They finally settled on the green pants and a yellow blouse. It was sort of floral-like. Then Naomi had fought her while Kasey tried to brush her hair. She’d screamed at Kasey and complained that she was pulling too hard on the brush. Kasey finally gave up and left her hair half-brushed. Thank goodness that the daycare was right around the next corner.
Kasey checked in with Helen at the front desk, and a nurse met her mom and took her back to the activity room. Kasey heard her mom ask the nurse who that woman was that brought her there. Kasey mumbled, “It’s your daughter, remember?” No one heard the hurt in her voice.
She filed the hurt away in the recess of her mind while she drove to the coffee shop.
“Morning,” Kasey said to Chase as she walked in the door to the coffee shop. After some loud music on the car ride to work, she’d managed to get her blood pressure back to a reasonable level, and was able to conjure a semi-friendly greeting.
Chase was arranging the pastries in the front counter window.
“Hey…anything good in there today?” Kasey asked.
“Just the same old stuff. Were you hoping for something different?” Chase asked.
“It would be nice to have a little variety every now and then.”
Kasey ground some coffee beans. She shouted over the grinder, “Guess who I saw last night?”
“Willow,” she yelled back.
“Where? At the Anchor?” Chase asked, surprised.
“Yeah. Weird, huh?”
“I didn’t know she was a drinker,” Chase commented.
“Me neither. Honestly, I don’t think she is. She said she was there because she had writer’s block,” Kasey said and rolled her eyes.
“What? Don’t you believe her?”
“I guess. It seems sort of a silly reason to run to a bar though,” Kasey said.
“I don’t know. Have you ever tried to write anything? Seems like it would be hard to keep coming up with ideas. Especially if you have the added pressure of being a well-known author,” Chase said.
Kasey poured the grinds into the machine. Did Chase know Willow’s pen name? She wanted to tell him, but she had been sworn to secrecy. And even though she didn’t consider Willow a friend, she did want to keep her word.
“She doesn’t seem like the type that would have a drinking problem, or anything. Probably just needed to let off some steam,” Chase added.
“Maybe,” Kasey eyed Chase suspiciously. “How well do you know her? You two seem awfully chummy some days.”
“What? Why? Not very well. Just from short conversations here and there,” Chase said defensively.
“Okay, okay. I was just asking.”
Kasey was sure he knew more. He answered too quickly. She’d have to keep her eye on him.
“Speak of the devil,” Kasey said, as Willow walked in the front door. She looked more tired than usual. Her gray hair was frazzled, and Kasey could see the dark circles under her eyes from where she stood behind the counter.
Chase grimaced at Kasey. “I got her,” he said.
“Morning, Willow. The usual?” Chase asked.
“Morning, Chase. Better make it extra strong today. Late night last night,” she said, and forced a smile.
“You got it,” Chase said, and walked away. He met Kasey’s glance and mouthed the word ‘wow’ to her.
Kasey whispered back, “I told you.”
Chase brought her coffee to her, and she already had her journal out, but Chase noticed the page was blank. She picked up her pen and began to write:
Missy reached for his hand, but he quickly pulled away. It had been too long since they had been together. She’d forgotten his touch and it felt so foreign to her. He was confused and searched her eyes for an explanation. Only a single tear fell down her cheek.
Willow quickly scribbled through the few sentences. It sounded cheesy to her, contrived, forced. Her head pounded. The aspirin had already begun to wear off. She tried again:
She walked on the shore and felt the sand between her toes. A gull flew overhead and cried out. She watched as it flew towards the sun. She looked back towards the rocks and saw a figure silhouetted by the sunset. Was it him? Had he found her after all these years? No, her eyes must be playing tricks on her. But there he was, waiting for her.
Again, she crossed out her words. What was wrong with her? Had she lost her muse? Was she done? She took a drink of coffee, hoping it would help her think. But it didn’t.
Chase came back with the coffee pot.
“Refill?” he asked.
“You know…could you make this ‘to go’ for me? I’m not feeling so well. I think I’ll get more work done at home,” Willow said.
“You sure? Anything I can help with?” Chase asked.
“No, thanks. I wish you could,” Willow said.
“No problem. I’ll be right back.”
“Wow, she’s worse off than I thought,” Chase said to Kasey.
“I told you. Why do you care, anyways?” Kasey questioned.
“Because we see her every day. She’s practically family,” Chase said.
“Seriously? Family?” Kasey said. Chase was far too friendly for Kasey’s taste.
Chase poured Willow’s coffee in a ‘to go’ cup and gave Kasey a look of disgust.
He gave Willow her coffee.
“Feel free to come back if you feel any better,” Chase offered.
“Thanks, Chase. You’re sweet,” she said.
They watched as Willow made her way slowly out the door, and head up the street. They knew she lived around the corner. Chase felt compelled to follow her to make sure she got home okay, but didn’t want to be intrusive. Kasey watched the concern on his face and wondered what the connection was. Nobody was that nice.
Vinny was asleep on the windowsill when Willow opened the door. He jumped down and paced around her feet wanting attention. She gently nudged him out of the way, and he meowed. She closed the door behind her. Her head throbbed and his meow sounded like a roar. She set her coffee down and got an aspirin out of the cabinet, then poured some water in a glass and took several aspirin. It was going to take more than one to get rid of this headache.
She sat down at her desk, Vinny still following her, and turned on her computer. The cursor flashed on the white page, taunting her to write something of value. She spun her chair around and looked at her wall of books for inspiration. So many other authors had fought through their writer’s block, why couldn’t she? The small picture of a shoreline caught her eye. A fan had painted it for her after reading “A Walk Along the Shore.” She’d been so flattered that someone was inspired by her work that she framed it and gave it prominence on her shelf. A fan…she wondered if she had any left. Did they think she’d gone into seclusion, or worse, that she’d met her demise? Would they still be there if she ever wrote something of value again?
Writing was never supposed to be a career choice for Willow, at least not in the eyes of her family. They expected her to follow in the family accounting business, but she hated numbers, absolutely hated them. During college, she secretly joined writing groups, something her father thought was a complete waste of time. She wanted to prove them wrong. She wanted to show them that she could make it as a writer, but they insisted she was being foolish, and that writing was a waste of time, a road to nowhere.
Her parents never knew that she’d made a name for herself. By the time her first novel made the New York Best Seller list, her parents had already passed away. She had no one to celebrate with, except her agent, Silvie Rose. But it wasn’t the same. And she realized too late that proving her parents wrong had been a waste of her time. She’d rather be loved than be right. But time heals all, right? She wasn’t sure that wound would ever heal.
Back to the cursor…Michael called her name but she couldn’t hear him for the crowd. He tried to push through the people, but he was against traffic. He watched as she stepped onto the train, and the doors closed behind her. He was too late this time. He’d missed his opportunity.
Willow read what she’d written out loud. Vinny meowed.
“Yeah. I think it’s awful too,” she said to him, and hit the backspace button until the words were gone.