Marianne's Last Day

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300 readings

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Jury Selection

The sun didn’t shine on Marianne’s last day. In fact, it looked like rain. And so, she donned her blue rain coat with the yellow polka dots and carried her bright red umbrella, just in case, as she set off for work.
Outside, the air hung thick and wet all around her.
Fog blocked her vision so that she could only see one house at a time as she made her way down the block, across the street, and around the corner to the coffee shop.
After today, she would work in an office downtown. She would drive to work rather than walk. Smiling, she moved a little faster as fat drops descended upon her.

Despite her umbrella, she was soaked through when she got to work. It was loud and crowded inside.
People filled every table and milled about along every wall. The buzz of conversation underscored the loud counter where baristas took orders, made drinks, and served impatient customers that stood around them waiting on coffees and teas.
“You’ve spelled my name wrong again!”
“This isn’t what I ordered. I wanted a grande, not a tall!”
“Do you have any idea how vital actual coffee is for me in the morning? A cup of flavor and creamer isn’t going to work. Fix this!”
The complaints were always the same. It was part of the reason she wanted to leave.
Hanging her things in the back, she put on her green apron and secured her hair at the base of her neck before stepping up to the second register beside her coworker and friend, Jenny.
“It’s about time you got here.” Jenny jammed her fingers against the screen, her actions belying the smile pasted on her face. “That’ll be $6.24.”
“For coffee?” the customer grumbled, and handed his card across before moving on to play the waiting game.
And so it went for most of the morning, until a quiet little old man stepped up to Marianne’s register. “Two coffees, please.” He pointed to a table across the room where an even smaller old woman sat, her hair blue and permed, a big yellow purse on her lap. “One with cream and sugar, the other with just the cream.”
Marianne nodded and typed the order into her register. “Anything else?”
He paused long enough that Marianne was going to repeat herself.
But finally, he put both shaky hands on the counter, leaned close, and whispered, “I want to pay for this whole line behind me.” Then he stood tall and nodded once, a look of determination on his face.
Marianne glanced behind him and saw at least ten people waiting, looking at watches and phones, sighing, tapping a foot. “Are you sure? That’s a lot of people.”
The old man took his wallet from his pocket and produced a worn $100 bill. He laid it on the counter and slid it across to her. “This should be enough for everyone behind me. Now what’s my total?”
Marianne took the bill silently and laid it on the edge of her register as the man produced more money for his own coffee order and moved aside quietly.
“Ahem.” Marianne turned back to face the customer now waiting to place his order. “I need a grande latte with coconut milk. I’m allergic to the regular, so don’t screw it up.”
He pulled a credit card from his wallet, but Marianne shook her head. “It’s paid for.”
“Paid for?” the man repeated, kinder this time. “Well, thank you.”
Marianne shook her head again. “It wasn’t me. Another customer ahead of you paid.” She glanced around the coffee shop, prepared to point out the good Samaritan, but he and his wife had vanished.
Every customer after that responded the same way. They came to the register grumpy and rushed but left happy and surprised, so that when she got to the end of the available money, the complaints had died down.
Customers stood calmly chatting with each other as they waited for their drinks, smiling at the baristas who delivered them. And Marianne found herself wishing every day was like today.
But it didn’t really matter, she realized, because today was her last day.

When her shift came to an end, Marianne gathered her things and said goodbye to the other baristas. She hugged Jenny, promising to come in for coffee soon.
Outside, the rain had stopped but there were puddles everywhere. Marianne didn’t care. She was free. Turning her face to the sky, she smiled and took a deep breath, breathing in the scent of stale rain.
She walked to the corner, her mind on the old man from the coffee shop.
Why had he done it and where had he gone? Who was he? Would she ever see him again?
These were the things swirling through her mind as she stepped, unaware, in front of the bus hurtling around the corner.

“And so we say goodbye on this most fitting day,” droned the priest, the sound of steady rain vying for auditory attention. “A day without sun and full of rain, just like Marianne’s last day.”


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Image of Cindi Haines
Cindi Haines · ago
So good. I didn’t see the surprise ending coming.
Image of Meg
Meg · ago
Wow! You are extremely talented
Thank you for sharing with us

Image of Laura Reigle
Laura Reigle · ago
Seriously tears at the end!!! You are so talented
Image of Peggy
Peggy · ago