This is an unedited free write for NaNoWriMo ’18
**I did three writing sessions, random parts of story**
“There she is! I was wondering if you were going to have time for tea today.” said Ms. Annie.
“I always make time for tea! Anything to get me out of that house.” replied Millie.
She worked part-time at the local bookstore, noon to 4pm, Monday through Friday. Not being a fan of borrowing her mom’s car, Millie was restricted to working at businesses within walking distance. She only needed the car when the weather was awful. Her job was to put up the books that had been delivered that morning and then help the after-school crowd. Her short shifts gave her time after work to wander around the small craft shoppe. Almost every penny she earned went to that shoppe. She lived to create things and she loved to try out all sorts of new ways to do it. She did yarn crafts, and she sewed. She painted and sculpted. She did mosaics and decoupage and even tried making jewelry.
She would stop at Ms. Annie’s house on her way home to tell her all about the new ideas she had, and then scurry home so as to not be late for dinner. It was important that she follow the rules if they were going to let her live there while she “got her act together”. She followed them, but only just barely. She wasn’t going to go out of her way to participate in family things if they were going to keep treating her like a problem child. She did her required chores, she showed up to things on time, and kept her head down.
Millie and Ms. Annie talked and laughed that morning, like any other morning. Millie sensed something was off, but ignored it. It wasn’t quite chilly enough for an afghan on your lap and Ms. Annie seemed oddly tired and distracted. They were so lost in their conversation that Millie didn’t even notice it was a quarter to twelve. The walk to work was at least 25 minutes long! She thanked Ms. Annie, grabbed her bag, and ran off, praying she could get there on time.
“It’s only 12:05! What is the big deal? It’s FIVE minutes?” argued Millie.
“I don’t care,” Mr. Matthews said, “You are late constantly, and then you waste time reading all the books you are supposed to be putting on the shelves. I need someone who can be here on time and work hard. You just come and go as you please as if there are no consequences. I’m sorry, but you need to get your things and just go home Millie.”
How was she supposed to explain this? She had already lost her job at the animal shelter, the mini mart, and the hardware store. The bookstore and the craft shoppe were the only options left, other than the diner. She had a hard enough time walking around without tripping with her hands empty; the last thing she needed to do was try to walk with a tray of food. She knew better than to work at the craft shoppe, talk about distractions!
The bell jingled as she opened the door to leave the bookstore. She wanted to be angry, but she knew Mr. Matthews was right. She was not a stellar employee. Her job there was just a way to appease her parents and earn a few dollars to fund her art.
“Maybe I could offer art classes to local kids.” Millie thought.
“That’s what you went to college for, remember?” Millie’s mother’s voice was thick in her head. “It’s your fault you dropped out. The schools can’t hire an art teacher that never finished college!”
Millie adjusted her backpack, which suddenly felt very heavy, and shuffled down Main Street toward the craft shoppe. She could hide out there for a spell, then wander over to the diner and have a cup of coffee.
Tucked away in southwest Virginia, the small town of Columbus began as nothing more than a handful of small farms, a Main Street, and the Miller House. Main Street was not more than a couple blocks long and included the Post Office, the Town Office, the Sheriff’s Office, a general store and the bar.
Outside of these blocks, the street was simply known as Highway 40. Crossing through the middle of town was Rocky Bottom Road, a bumpy and rocky dirt road that connected the smaller farms on the south side of town to the Miller House and property on the north side. No one really knew why Old Mr. Miller had bought all that property, or why he built the large farmhouse. He wasn’t a farmer, by any stretch of the imagination. The story is told that he came from Richmond and that he had purchased the bulk of the property sight unseen, with no house even on it. Every few months, an adjacent piece of property would be purchased by this out-of-town stranger. It didn’t take long before Mr. Miller owned the entire north side of town.
While the town isn’t a bustling metropolis, it has seen some drastic upgrades since the days of the mysterious Mr. Miller. Shortly after he officially moved his family to Columbus, the town was blessed with the addition of a train station. The train brought with it a sudden burst of growth. A lumber yard sprang up, and a furniture factory, both on the far west edge of town. During the War, a clothing factory popped up between the lumber yard and school-house. Many of the town’s womenfolk worked there while their kids attending class. Mr. Miller, having all that property just sitting there making no profit, was forced to sell it off, to keep his house. Developers were quick to come in and give Columbus what it so desperately needed: small town suburbia. Cookie cutter houses were quickly built until they filled the entire north side.
Right in the middle, situated on a corner lot with more yard than any other house, sat Mr. Miller’s original farmhouse. A white picket fence surrounded the property, purely for aesthetics as Mr. Miller’s great-great-granddaughter Annie Ruth Baker never bothered to lock the gates. She had yet to meet a stranger.
Millie fumbled about the craft shoppe, looking at everything but looking at nothing.
“Need any help, Millie?” Susan asked.
Trying to avoid her, Millie just shook her head and whipped around into the next row of shelves.
“You’re here awful early.” Susan’s question was cloaked as a statement.
Millie sighed, “Yeah, they…uh…didn’t need me today.”
With that, she nodded politely and quickly scooted out the door. She didn’t need craft supplies anyway, especially if she had to play 20 questions to get them.
On the corner Main Street and Old Rocky Bottom Road there was a small coffee shop. Columbus’ attempt to have their own version of a Starbucks. It didn’t have nearly the selection as a real Starbucks, but the coffee never tasted burnt, the knickknacks were reasonably priced and made by locals, and the whole place smelled like Grandpa. Before it was a coffee shop, it had served as the town cigar shop. It was odd, to have a fancy cigar and tobacco shop in the middle of no where, but the old guys loved to hang out on the park bench out front and puff their pipes and cigars, far from where their wives could fuss at them. Years of storing pipe tobacco and cigar boxes left an aroma baked into the walls. When Josh and his wife Clara decided to open the coffee shop, they decided to leave the walls original. They said something about the smell of the tobacco and the coffee just felt right.
Millie loved that first step in the door. Where the aroma of the java, and the remnants of English Cavendish, fill her nostrils and remind her of easier days. She suddenly missed her Grandpa, more than ever. He had loved her so unconditionally and supported even her wildest of aspirations. He was why she still did her art with reckless abandon. She felt certain he would have understood why she quit school. Surely he would understand how her very creative soul was being choked out with every syllabus she read.
“Small coffee, cream and sugar, please Josh.” she asked.
“Always a simple order, Millie.” he replied. Turning to grab a carafe, he added, “it always surprises me that the most colorful girl in town orders a basic coffee. No pumps, no half-caff, no whip.”
Millie grinned, shrugged, and replied, “Guess I save all my colorfulness for better things. And what exactly is the purpose of decaffeinated coffee?”
She laid her dollar on the counter and headed back out the door before he had a chance to notice she had come in a few hours earlier than usual. That’s the problem with small towns, they know all your business and everyone’s schedule. Heck, her mom probably already knew she was fired. She would prolong that confrontation as long as she could. She ambled across the street and turned north on Old Rocky Bottom Road.
“Maybe Ms. Annie will still be on her front porch,” she thought.
She paused by the diner window, to put in her ear buds. She spotted her high school boyfriend sitting with his new wife and baby. So much for the long distance relationship thing. Just as he was about to wave at her through the window, her 80s playlist started blaring through the tiny speakers in her ears and she walked away. Hungry Like A Wolf was so loud that she didn’t hear Tommy Michelson speeding up behind her on his bike, his best friend Jacob Williams by his side. The two of them swerved and whizzed by her, flanking both sides. She froze so fast that her coffee cup stopped before the coffee inside could and her very basic cuppa joe came flying out the over-sized hole in the lid, landing directly on her favorite Scooby Doo T-shirt.
“SERIOUSLY!” she screamed at no one. “Today just sucks.”
As she pulled out her ear buds, attempting to prevent another sneak attack, she heard the sirens.