Eve Hart had been walking for what seemed hours when she spotted the dim lights seeping to the top of the stairway leading to the underground subway system. Grateful, she followed the inviting glow, the alluring ambiance, knowing that it would help to clear her head to sit and think. The late hour didn’t matter to her. Her husband was in New York City for another day, the kids away at college. She was free to wallow in her pity.
Free. Funny expression to Eve.
Down under the streets of the D. C. neighborhood, she felt uneasiness, a fear of being alone in a dungeon at such an ungodly hour. She knew that the trains ran all night, but didn’t hear any sounds of hope. She saw a ladies room, and certain that she must look terrible, decided to freshen up. Surely, she would hear the train in time.
Inside the little room, she looked at her reflection only to confirm her thoughts, she was a mess. She applied some lip stick and played with her blonde curls before hearing the sound of chatter outside the door. Good, she thought. The train, the friendly sounds were inviting. But when she opened the door, the shock made her freeze in her steps.
She felt as if she was peeking through a window, but what she saw couldn’t be real. She braved it by stepping into the room, inside the warm confines of a coffee house. She stared, an obscure observer standing at the back of the room. It was a sight like none she’d ever experienced before. Am I dreaming? Eve slowly walked deeper into the setting and found a booth to rest her aching body.
She looked up to see plants hanging over the beams. Above them was a glass rooftop that gave an open appearance, presenting a wonderful view of bouncing raindrops. I must be dreaming. It’s so beautiful.
The place was ancient, it had a wonderful old feeling to it, and made her smile in spite of herself. There was a long counter that ran along the depth of the south wall, complete with stools like she’d seen in old movies. What did they call it, a fountain? The booth was surprisingly comfortable. Each table had an old machine sitting at its far side, a machine full of labels for music. Eve wasn’t sure what to make of that so she let her eyes continue to wander.
The inner guts of the room took on a caverness shape. The walls were made of concrete with graffiti subtly sprayed over the back portion of its chamber. There were several carved out archways opening into smaller sections of the expanse, the space giving the illusion of what Eve perceived as a cove of den-like fragments. Taking a closer look, there were exposed bricks that provided the impression of age. Or was the timeworn apparition real? At the back of the room’s cavity was a delightful wall with a large, maybe 15 foot tall painting displayed with tiny white lights that hung perfectly to give the delusion of an arch over the image. It was masterful trickery, an enchanting vision.
Next, she noticed an old tree trunk that crawled against an inner wall, as if it had tentacle arms reaching to dominate its space. The tree delighted her, it made her laugh. However, Its smell disturbed her nose slightly, the faint scent of mildew forcing her to rub her face. The dim lighting completed the old-style look, making Eve feel as though she’d gone back in time inside the restraints of its old walls. There was a magical feel, a mystical flavor to the scene.
The perfect setting for Eve to reflect.
She heard an unexpected amount of background chatter for such a late hour. Sighing, she thought back on the events of her day with a feeling of contentment, a foreign, but welcome sensation.
“Penny for your thoughts,” the waitress looked down on Eve with a warm smile. She wore a wonderful old fashioned apron over her plain dress. Again, right out of the old movies. They hadn’t missed a beat. She was old and wore too much makeup, her lips were painted bright red, her dyed blonde hair tied in a bun that sat clumsily on the top of her head. Her thin, lengthy body stood tall over Eve.
“Oh, I know I look terrible.” Eve played with her hair, managing to rearrange the few misplaced curls. “Could you bring me a cup of espresso?”
“Lady, I’ll bring whatever you like. As far as your looks go, you’re a stunning beauty.” She turned to pan the room of patrons, showing Eve the impression she’d made on the other coffee consumers.
Taken aback by gazing eyes, Eve fumbled in her purse for sunglasses, anything to hide herself. She needed to be invisible, yearned for obscurity. Then she pointed to a nearby wall and said, “So many old photos. I especially like that one.” Eve singled out an old Mustang convertible. “I remember those as a kid, they were so popular.”
The waitress laughed at her. “Honey, that picture was taken just last year. You just don’t get it, do you?” The woman placed her hand on the name tag pinned over her heart, “My name’s Donna so you just let me know if you want anything more.” She left Eve alone, and went to fetch her order.
Penny for my thoughts? When does anyone talk of pennies anymore? Eve hadn’t heard that saying in over twenty years. And that photo? The lady was playing with her. Her mind wandered again. She had traveled to the D.C. area for anonymity, knowing that she would be a stranger to all. She remembered the doctor’s horrid words he’d said earlier that evening, “Mrs. Hart. I have good news, you are pregnant.”
“God, no!” It just came out. Startled, Eve searched the room and was thankful that the people had gone back to their conversations, allowing her to think. She needed a plan. This news could potentially be the end of her if she couldn’t take care of it. But how?
The little bells above the front door rang, interrupting her thoughts. Eve looked up to see two distinguished women enter the room. Following their movements, she saw them take the booth in front of where she was sitting. She was in hearing distance. Good, she thought. This might help me overcome my distress. Sure, eavesdrop on others, just what I need to get my mind off my troubles.
The apron lady returned, and laid a small plate in front of her, enticing Eve with a homemade scone. “Honey, you don’t look very happy. This is on the house, best scones in the city always promise to pick up down spirits.” Then she put a cup in front of Eve and tipping the coffee urn, Eve watched the liquid fall from above. But it was slow, like molasses, taking on the appearance of a beautiful water fall. Before Eve could speak, the waitress winked at her and went back to her work.
Eve took off the sun glasses, amused at herself. She sipped from the cup, delighted with its taste. She hadn’t experienced such a rich flavor in years, maybe never.
The two ladies in the booth next to her began their talk. Eve listened, hoping to get lost in their exchange.
“Senator, I mean, Claire. As you probably know, I’m more of a cocktail fan, but this place…” The woman looked around. “This place is something else.” It was apparent that the talking lady was taken with the ambiance of the coffee house.
Claire responded to her confidant, “Rachel, this is where I meet with women who are in trouble. I give them options, places to go for help. That sort of thing.”
The woman called Rachel leaned into the table, and said softly, “Claire, I am sorry for the loss you endured as a young woman. But I’m also deeply grateful for your work in this cause. My show can help, so please. Call on me whenever you want.”
Claire reached into her purse and pulled out a silver case with her initials embossed over the top. She opened it and pulled out her business card. Then she reached for a pen to scribble her personal phone number on the back. “Rachel, please don’t share this with anyone else, but I would like to use your TV show if I may.” Then she added, “I have your number, and I’ll use it when I need you.”
Smiling, Rachel took the card, and placed it on the table to her side.
Eve continued to listen to their conversation, entranced with the work that Claire did for women. She heard Claire tell Rachel how she helped those who needed abortions, she talked about working with battered women. Women this, women that. Mostly, however, Eve was struck with the knowledge that Claire was a Senator. What did that mean? She’d never heard of a woman holding such a position. Sadly, she saw their conversation come to an abrupt end, Claire evidently needing to leave because of an early morning meeting.
Raising her hand to the waitress, Eve asked for her bill, knowing that it would take at least an hour for her to get home. Donna obeyed her request by laying a receipt on the table that simply said, Thank you, and please come back again. First time is free. Eve thanked her for the generosity and stood to make her exit.
When she walked by the table where the ladies had been, she saw the business card sitting on the table. The Rachel lady had forgotten it. How lucky. It was as if she’d left it for Eve. Looking around, it appeared that no one was aware of her anymore. She slowly reached for the card. Her fingers made contact, yes. She had it in her grasp. Snatching it up, she placed it in her purse and left the warm setting where she’d spent her last hour. This Claire woman who answered to the name of Senator. It made no sense, but a tingle of serenity flowed through Eve’s insides. I might try calling her. What harm could it do?
Eve started for the front exit when she felt a hand grasp for her arm.
“Honey.” The waitress pointed to the door in the back of the room. “You may want to freshen up first.” She winked again.
Staring in the direction where the woman had motioned, Eve complied with her orders. Slowly, slowly, she walked, keeping her eyes focused on the door’s shiny brass handle. The tentacles of an old tree had grown over much of the entry since Eve’s arrival, but she still sauntered toward it. She hadn’t seen this tree before, only the one growing on the inner wall. How strange. Slowly, slowly. When she was in reach, she put her hand out for the brass knob. The overgrown limbs were strangling the exit, but still, she forced her hand to make contact. Her senses became dizzy, eyesight blurred. She could see the extremities of the ancient tree shrivel, allowing the portal to open with ease.
The other side of the entryway coaxed her to travel across the threshold. And when she did, the subway was waiting for her. Its doors slid to the side allowing her to enter where she found a comfortable seat. There, she closed her eyes, permitting the hum of the train to tickle her brain. Eve sensed safety and let the coach take command, something telling her that everything would be ok. She couldn’t begin to understand what she had witnessed in the coffee house, but for now, she was tired, she felt slightly drunk. The movement of the car felt smooth, the sound was mesmerizing as she felt herself slipping away.
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