by Shelley Burbank
She shouldn’t be smelling coffee. It was morning. She liked coffee. But she lived alone, and up until ten seconds ago, she’d been asleep. Unless she’d developed a sudden and mysterious sleep-walking-coffee-maker-operating syndrome, someone had broken into her apartment . . .
And made coffee?
Wide awake now, Emmy pushed aside the heavy sleeping bag and blankets she’d thrown over her bed at the beginning of this long, cold winter and pulled on a sweater over her Victoria’s Secret pajamas–the silky ones with the polka dots her mother had sent her for Christmas when Emmy broke the news she wouldn’t be coming home to Maryland for the holidays–and tiptoed across the scarred floorboards of her room. Easing the door open a crack, she peeked out.
The aroma of arabica beans was stronger now. Her heart-rate sped up, thudding in her chest so hard that it almost hurt. She couldn’t see anyone from this angle, just the living room with its beige walls and beige couch, the throw pillows in her favorite bright colors: turquoise, plum, ruby red. Then, she blinked. A sheer glass vase filled with red tulips had been placed on the old steamer chest she used as a table. A spray of fashion magazines fanned out neatly where she’d left them haphazardly stacked the night before.
She considered her options. Grab her cell and call the police or go out to the kitchen and see who was there. She could also lock the door to her bedroom and yell out for whoever it was to reveal themselves, but that just seemed embarrassing. If someone wanted to hurt her–or steal from her–they wouldn’t have made coffee, brought flowers, and decluttered her reading material. Would they?
She eased herself out of the bedroom, padded silently across the living room, stepped into the kitchen.
Emmy’s head spun with relief and happiness to see her mother standing at the kitchen window and sipping from a mug. Not a burglar. Not a psychopath with a coffee fetish.
She’d forgotten. She’d given her parents a spare key, telling them to use it if they ever came up to Maine to visit. Outside the windows chickadees poked at the birdfeeder Emmy had stuck there last fall when she moved to Portland.
Emmy was happy, so she grinned and yelled, “Mom? What are you doing here!”
“Oh!” The mug flew out of her mother’s hand. Coffee arched through the air, splattered against the window. The birds flew away.
Her mother looked down at the shattered pottery and then at Emmy. One hand pressed against her chest, and her face went pale as cream.
“You SCARED me!” she said.
January 29, 2014