The slow, breezy French song that spilled out of the speaker to Annabelle's right didn't really match the energy of the rest of the shop. Or perhaps, it just didn't match the energy of Annabelle.
She had seven drink orders to fill and undoubtedly more on the way. And such a chaotic situation required a delicate balance— only six brew-pots, only one employee present, only so many minutes before tea became over-steeped, frothed creamer for iced lattes began to warm, and customers became irritated. A flurry of nervous activity that nonetheless demanded never-faltering grace. No spills, no broken pots, no burns. Or everything would be thrown into further chaos, not to mention if her boss found out. Lesa wasn't exactly a kindly woman.
And so, Annabelle performed an intricate dance that had become a part of her daily routine. Balancing on the balls of her feet, always light, always quick. Smile, and never forget to say "thank you." Admittedly, it was exhausting.
When the flow of customers finally ebbed around 4 pm, she retreated to the shop's large supply closet with a cup of tea she had re-steeped from a customer's order. Today's second cup of tea was Lemongrass Ginger Green. She slumped into a chair and breathed in the scent of a moment of rest. Today, rest smelled like lemongrass.
Closing an entire shop by yourself, even if the shop is small, is no easy feat. Annabelle was sweating and panting by the time she heaved the bag of that day's trash into the dumpster and sunk into the driver's seat of her nearby car. She blew a damp strand of hair out of her face with a frustrated gust of breath. She reeked of bleach. Rather than sit and lament her situation, she turned the key in the ignition and drove silently back to campus.
She avoided eye contact with the desk worker as she checked in to the lobby's fob system, hyper-aware of how she must look and smell after a long day's work. She was thankful that she managed to catch an empty elevator ride up to the sixteenth floor, and even more thankful that the showers were nearly empty when she trod in wearily, flip-flops punctuating her every step with a loud snap-snap. She let her long, dark hair fall from the neat little coil at the nape of her neck, and it swung down and tickled her back through her robe. She really hated communal showers, even though she was used to them by now. But a shower was a shower, and the water was warm, at least. Humming a tune, an old song from a black and white movie she had seen once, she let the warm water wash away the sharp, sterile smell of cleaning supplies and replace it with something softer.
After her shower, Annabelle sought the comfort of her bed. The achingly soft sheets and comforter formed an inky black void that swallowed her whole, and she was more than happy to accept the embrace. She gazed out the window as she wrapped herself up in the dark swathes of cloth. The only source of light besides her tiny desk lamp came in the form of the city lights, twinkling below the dorm that towered over much of the buildings nearby. She watched a few cars zip by, and searched for stars she knew she wouldn't find here. Through her window up high, she could nearly watch the whole city meander about its night life. She checked her phone, but it was devoid of any notifications. She set her alarms, and flicked out the light.