Coffee & Cigarettes

Chapter One


"No warning sign, no alibi

We faded faster than the speed of light

Took a chance, crashed and burned

No, we'll never ever learn"

The song drifted out across the patio, mingling with the steam from a hot cup of coffee and a lit cigarette resting in a thick glass ashtray. The wind blew off the beach, cool and moist against my face.

It was strange how a song could remind you of everything you lost, how the melody could rake the scabs off your wounds and make them bleed as if they were brand new.

I wrapped my arms around myself and stared out at the ocean. Even though six months had passed sometimes the pain felt as real as it had the moment I walked in to find Aiden and Bridget deep in the throes of passion, or some kind of random animal lust, on the couch in the living room of the house that he and I had shared.

Somehow I made it out of the house that afternoon and to my parent's house without breaking down in tears or driving my car off one of the many cliffs that lined the highway. My parents weren't happy to see me moving back in, but considering the circumstances, they remained quiet and left me to my misery.

For the first few days, my cell phone rang non-stop. Calls from Aiden, text messages from Aiden, voicemails from Aiden, it was just too much. The day I shut my phone off, he showed up in my parent's kitchen.

I stared at him from my position across the kitchen. He sat at the table, his hands folded as if in prayer. "Lee-lee, please, let me explain-"

"No," I hissed at him. "You don't get to "explain." I-you-everything we had, it's all screwed up now. There's no coming back from that."

Aiden sighed, hunching his shoulders up and opened his mouth to say something. I cut him off before he had the chance to utter a word. "No," I snapped at him. "You know what, no. Why did you do it, huh Aiden, why?

Aiden looked up at me and unfolded his hands. He laid them flat on the table and took a deep breath, his eyes while not flat, held no emotion. The look on his face told me that this was just something he wanted to be over and done with. "I just..." he sighed, his voice trailing off. "I just don't love you anymore."

Stunned, I fought back the tears that flooded my eyes and threatened to spill. There was no way I was going to let him see just how terribly he hurt me. "Well then, I guess that's that. You can leave now." I turned around and busied myself with the canisters on the counter. Behind me, the chair scraped the floor and Aiden's heavy footsteps echoed across the floor. In the other room, the front door opened and closed and just like that, he was gone and I was alone. I turned away from the counter, wiped the tears from my eyes. Life carries on, I told myself. Some way, somehow, life marches on. That night I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, at the posters of boy bands from the 90's, smiling and happy, stared back at me.

The next morning, I quit my job, packed my things and then drove until I ran out of gas. As I laid, cramps making my calf muscles twitch, across the backseat, I told myself that what I had done was stupid and clich├ęd - the woman scorned running away from all her problems instead of facing them head on.

It's only for a little while, my subconscious had responded. At least until your heart isn't so broken. Then you can go back to Seattle.

In the early morning darkness, the flashing lights and groaning engine of a tow truck woke me. I opened my eyes and groggily blinked against the beam of the flashlight being shined in my eyes.

I sat and climbed out of the car. "I ran out of gas," I sheepishly told the driver.

He nodded wordlessly. "Have a seat in the truck. I'll get you hooked up and tow you into town. There's a gas station where you can fill up."

Through the murky fog, a small town appeared. A weathered sign welcomed me to Capeside, Oregon. At the gas station, I paid the tow fee and refueled my car. As the gas pump chugged along, I considered continuing south towards the unknown, but something about Capeside, and the fact that I ran out of gas here, made my decision to stay that much easier.

I checked into a picturesque little bed and breakfast and spent the day wandering around Capeside. With each step I took, it seemed like I was destined to be here. I found a job in a local boutique, working for an eccentric woman who wore dried roses pinned to her massive up-do, and a small bungalow overlooking the ocean. Days passed slowly, each one melting easily into the next.

Most days I could say I was happy, working in the boutique and coming home to my cozy little seaside bungalow, most days I could go on as if Aiden never existed, but then the night would come and that nagging pain would settle deep down in the chambers of my heart.

In the ashtray, the last bit of tobacco burned down the cigarette smoke dissipating on the wind. I picked up the newspaper and cold cup of coffee and turned to head back inside.

The scent of hazelnut coffee still permeated the kitchen. I dropped the newspaper into the recycling bin and flicked off the coffeepot. I pulled back the curtain as I set the coffee cup in the sink. A moving van was parked in the driveway of the house next door.

New neighbors, I thought. Probably a ridiculously happy family with their two point five kids and perfectly groomed pup which will, no doubt, bark at all hours of the goddamn day and night.

I dropped the curtain. I had no desire to get to know the new neighbors or be a part of their happy beachfront existence. Glancing at the clock on the stove, I frowned, not realizing the hour. Hurrying toward the bathroom, I grabbed a towel from the hall closet and stopped at the radio playing in the bedroom.

30 Seconds to Mars had given way to Coldplay and Chris Martin whining about it being a shame for us to part, no one said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard. Well no crap, you pompous British a-hole, I thought, angrily sending the cd skipping forward to the next track.

It went from bad to worse with the singer on the next track crooning about how he would never leave her, about always wanting to be with her. This day, I decided, was officially starting to suck. Hard.

I shut the radio off before it had the chance to drive me even deeper into my rising depression. I grabbed my towel and headed into the bathroom to shower. As I washed my hair I forced myself to clear my mind, to not think about Aiden. The more I tried not to think about him the more vividly I remember him. His smile, the way his eyes crinkled when he laughed, the god awful music he listened to when he worked on his car, the way he would hold me tight against his chest when we slept.

The spray of cold water shocked me out of my reverie, also signaling the end of the hot water. I jumped out of the way of the icy spray and silently cursed the small water heater. Shutting of the water I pulled the curtain back and wrapped my towel around me. The clock on the night stand read 8:30. "Crap," I muttered and hurried into the bedroom looking in the closet for something to wear to work.

Fifteen minutes later, in a semi-wrinkled pair of black slacks and a lightweight sweater, I dashed out of the house, already late for work. As I tossed my purse onto the passenger seat, a man unloading the moving van caught my eyes. Tall and lean, the muscles in his back rippled as he hefted a box out of the truck, the waist of track pants hanging low on his hips. I stood there, keys in hand, transfixed until he disappeared around the van.

A dog, albeit not a small yappy one, bounded across the lawn headed right for me, a slobbery tennis ball poking out of the dog's jowls. Skidding to a stop, the Lab dropped the ball at my feet and eyed me expectantly. I glanced from the ball, to the dog, back to the ball. The dog dipped his head as if to say, "go on and throw it, if you don't I'm not going away."

I sighed and kicked the ball. It flew past the massive dog and bounced across the yard. As the ball began its descent, the animal turned and gave chase. Quickly I got into the car and shut the door before he came back and wanted me to make a game of it.

As I reversed down the drive way, Track Pants appeared at the back of the moving truck, looking around for what I assumed was his dog. Too busy paying attention to him, I almost crashed into the mailbox. Face flushing red, I put the car in drive and steered it in the direction of the boutique.

The doors to Little Bits of Magic were open and the sea breeze set the wind chimes jingling on their hooks outside the shop. Petals, Rosaline Everson's seriously obese Calico cat, slept the morning away on a vintage velvet chaise in the shop window.

"Good Morning!" she bellowed dramatically as I stuffed my purse in the drawer under the cash register. "The sun is shining, summer is upon us, we have new merchandise, let the tourist's come and spend their hard earned out of town money."

I smiled at her flair for the dramatic and headed into the store room to scope out the new merchandise. Perk number one of working here, I got first dibs and a discount. My entire home was furnished with pieces I'd collected since starting here.

A stack of boxes greeted me as I opened the door. I pulled one down and opened it. It looked like clothing from first glance. As I began pulling the items out, I realized I was right. Dresses that looked like they were from the late 40's and 50's filled the box. Lovely, but definitely not my cup of tea, I placed them back in the box and set it aside, they would need to go to the dry cleaners before going on the racks in the shop.

The next box was mostly accessories, hair clips, and necklaces, Bakelite bangles in a variety of colors, shapes and designs. That could go out now. I set that box away from the first one and started in on the third.

As I opened and sorted the boxes, I found myself wondering about the new neighbors. Was it just Track Pants and Dogzilla, or was there the quaint little family? Not that it mattered, so many people came and went here, I'd had seven sets of neighbors in the almost seven months I'd been in Capeside. This place was like the consoler of the lonely, a breeding ground of people with broken hearts and shattered dreams. Take crazy Rosaline for example. The love of her life was burned to a crisp in a house fire fifteen Christmases ago. She came to Capeside after his death, set up shop, never got over her love and never left.

Mrs. Jefferson who owned the bakery across the street, her husband got pulled in by a riptide and drowned in the ocean down in California. Brokenhearted, she fled here as well. Perhaps it was something in the air, or the fact that misery loves company. Hell, maybe Capeside was the secret location of the devil's playground. He liked to collect the souls of brokenhearted lovers and watch us suffer. Either way, it just seemed as if everyone here had some kind of story.

At six that night, after the last box had been emptied and the jewelry and accessories put on display, I loaded the box of stuff for the dry cleaner into my car and said good night Rosaline and Petals.

The night was cool as I drove down Main Street heading toward home the content feeling from day fading with the sun. The sadness began creeping back in as night pulled her starry cloak across the sky.

When I pulled into my driveway, the moving van was gone; a muddy ford F-150 was in its place. I shut the engine off and grabbed my purse from the passenger seat. The lights were on in the house next door and faint music was playing, drifting out the open windows. As I got closer to my own house, the music grew louder - a rocking bluesy song, and the gritty voice of a man singing about a full moon.

I smiled, wishing my life could be that simple, that happy, and let myself into the house. The day was long, I was tired. I wanted a cup of coffee and a cigarette.

Dropping my keys into the bowl on the sideboard and hanging my purse on the coatrack, I kicked my shoes off and wandered into the kitchen, eyeing the coffeepot. No, I decided. I need something a little bit stronger than coffee and opened the fridge for the half empty bottle of Merlot in the back.

Grabbing a glass from the cabinet, I opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the patio, the sea breeze ruffling my hair. I sat down in my favorite chair, the one that looked out over the ocean, and poured myself a glass of wine.

A rustling in the bushes along the fence caught my attention and dogzilla came bounding across my yarn with that slobbery tennis ball gripped tightly between his teeth.

"Zeus!" a man's voice called out, cutting through the music. "Zeus, where the hell did you run off to?"

"He's over here," I called back, setting the glass down.

Track Pants appeared at the edge of the bushes, his face twisted into a mask of irritation and embarrassment. "I'm sorry," he said. "He got out before I had a chance to put a leash on him. I hope he wasn't bothering you."

"Oh no," I said with a smile. "Don't worry about it, he's just a dog. He didn't know what he was doing."

"It won't happen again," Track Pants said, eyeing the dog. Zeus dropped his head and wiggled under the bushes back to his own yard.

"No worries. I think he just wanted to introduce himself. I'm Leah, by the way."

"Zeus," he said, pointing behind him. "I'm Gabe. We just moved in this morning."

"Yeah I saw that. Well, welcome to Capeside."

"Thanks. Well, sorry my dog interrupted your evening. Like I said, it won't happen again. Have a good night."

"You too," I replied and picked up my glass. Track Pants, I mean Gabe, turned and headed back toward his own patio. Thank you, I thought. Now please leave me alone so I can enjoy my misery in private. I sipped the wine and reached for the pack of cigarettes on the table beside the chaise.

Night had fully settled on the beach. I closed my eyes and lit the cigarette, inhaling deeply. The waves crashed along the shore, drowning out the other sounds of the night. As I listened to the pounding, one of the last lines from the first song I heard this morning played in my head:

So here we are, witching hour, the quickest turn to divide and devour. Divide and devour.

Starting line came from the 30 Seconds To Mars song, Alibi.