Chapter One - Bitter Poems

The phone alarm chimed its obnoxious, repetitive rhythm, signalling that it was time to get up. The occupant of the bed threw the sheets over her head, wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep. She extended a small, chubby arm and went to pawed for her phone, only to knock it off the bed onto the floor. In frustrated defeat the young woman hoisted herself up and huffed. She reached over to phone swiping the notification, silencing its tune.

She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and scrambled out of her thick, warm covers, deciding to get dressed for another day at work. The moment her feet touched the cold, wooden floor of her bedroom she cringed, her entire body shivering all over. Her room was much colder than she would have liked. She supposed that was the price to pay for leaving her window cracked open though the night when winter seemed to be rearing it's frozen head. She skipped over to her fluffy rabbit slippers, finding solace in their soft interior, and went to the bathroom she shared with her roommate, who was knocked out in her own room.

When she reached the bathroom she looked herself up in the mirror that she was just tall enough to see without her little foot stool. Her hair was as a soft, sandy blonde, and her skin was a light peach in colour. Her cheeks were always tinted a rosy red ever since she was a child, and her face was round and her cheeks full, having never really lost their baby fat. Though she was twenty-three years of age, she still had been mistaken for a teen, her squeaky voice did little to help. Her figure bared her no graces either. Wide hips, small breasts, flat behind, whatever curves she had were gained by the slight cellulite in her chubby physique. Sometimes, she would look at the combination of faded scars along her arms, and the stretch marks that were sprawled along her body, and she would feel a bitter hollowness in her stomach.

"I hate you." She groaned to her own reflection, her brown eyes stared back at her in scorn. After she had finished her self-loathing, she went to brush her teeth, and take a quick shower. Time had escaped her, and she was going to be late to work. Again. After her shower she quickly donned her uniform, as well as a thick coat, and dashed out of the door with her damp hair smacking against her back in a thick plat.

She had been working as a barista at a small café since she dropped out of high school, she was among the oldest employees there. It was a nice place to work. A little hole in the wall that few people visited, which she loved. She loved the seclusion, people frightened her, they always have. This job however, required her to talk to only her co-workers and occasionally a customer or wanderer with a question or two. It was never too exhausting for her, it was a nice, safe space. Upon arrival to the café, she was immediately grabbed by a co-worker of her's and shaken in a furious manor.

"Ava Ire!" That was her name, "He's back! And Prudith wants me to give him his damn coffee!" Her co-worker was non-other than Magnolia Lacivi, or Maggie for short. Maggie and Ava had become closer in the short time they have worked at the café, than they have had been the twelve years they had known one another. Maggie was the closest thing Ava had to a true best friend, and though Ava knew the feeling wasn't mutual, she still appreciated her friendship nonetheless.

"Ava, if you love me, you'll clock in right now and give that creep his drink! If I go over there, I'll tip it over his stupid head!" Maggie wrinkled her nose and chin in disgust, her mint-green painted lips curved downwards forming an upside down 'U'.

Ava turned her head to see the man Maggie had referred to, she knew where he was, it was where he always was when he came.

The strange man had claimed the corner booth as his own, and whenever someone else was sat there he took his coffee to go. Ava had never seen him past the variety of dark coloured hoodies that he wore, hood up as always. His hands and half his face were the only part of him Ava had seen completely, his skin was pale, fair even.

Ava turned back to Maggie who was pulling a relentless 'puppy dog' face. Ava sighed with a smile and hurriedly dashed to clock in for her shift. She wrapped an apron around her waist and took the coffee she knew was his. It was the one he always ordered. Coffee black with an extra espresso shot, no sugar, no sweetener, just the coffee. Ava balanced the tray one handed and walked over to the stranger, who was scrawling away in some book, he didn't even notice Ava as she handed him his coffee.

"Your drink, Sir." Ava said quietly, however he gave her no reply. He turned his head slightly, as though just registering what had happened. He grabbed his drink and sipped at it, making sure it was how he liked. He placed the mug down and gave Ava a nod of the head before he resumed whatever it was he was doing in that book. "You're welcome." Ava muttered, her tone was a bitter as his coffee. He did not reply, he never did. The only time Ava had heard his voice was when he was ordering, and even then, he spoke just above a whisper. Ava returned to Maggie's side and let out a slightly annoyed huff, which Maggie heard.

"I honestly think that guy was born to be infuriating. His sheer presence gets me mad!" Maggie fumed, she forced her voice low. "He did that this where he told me to look at him when I'm talking to him! I swear if Prudith wasn't right there I would have punched him!"

"He's just so rude," Ava whispered to her, "He doesn't even say 'Thank you', or 'Thanks', or anything like that, he just sort of... Sends you off, how self-important can you be?!" Ava's cheeks started to flush crimson as she ranted. Maggie sighed and leaned on Ava.

"Why can't nice, handsome, princely men come here? Why does this this place attract only weirdoes, creeps, and the elderly!" Maggie rested the back of her hand on her forehead dramatically.

"Ava, Magnolia, you two look awfully busy," Sarcasm seeped through every word this new voice spoke, "But, the bathrooms need cleaning, and so does the dining area, so HUSSLE, HUSSLE, HUSSLE!" Their manager Prudith was not a sympathetic woman. You did as she told you or your job was gone before you knew it, Ava had seen many employees come and go like seasons.

"Dining room!" Chimed Ava as she went to grab a clean, wet cloth. She heard a faint "Damn You, Ava!" which she knew came from Maggie.

The rest of her shift went faster than she thought it would, in no time at all five hours had passed and she was almost set to leave, in that time however that strange man remained seated. When Prudith allowed Ava to leave that man was getting his stuff together as well.

"Oh, Ava," Prudith's voice called, "Just clear that one corner booth before you go for me okay." Ava had no time to reply as Prudith turned her back on her. Pouting, Ava went to the corner booth where that man had been seated and cleared his mug, placing it on a tray. The man always left a decent tip for whoever came across it, but this time there was what looked to be a scrunched up piece of paper teetering on the edge of the table.

'He must have left it there by accident.' He usually gathered all of his belongings when he left. Ava picked it up and unfolded it.

"I woke up this morning and realised

That I could not remember the sound

Of her voice

Her laugh echoes in my head when I

Try hard enough to imagine it

But it's nothing more than an empty,

Weightless, reflection of reality

Teetering on the cusp of my memory.

And it only brings me pain to try and

Remember it

But my fear of forgetting her is much

More powerful and so I must remember

And I end up at the same question,

Of everyone in the universe

What did we do wrong to

Deserve this

Why me?"

It was... A poem? Ava's brows knitted together, the writing evoked an odd emotion in her. It was like a mixture between pain and mourning for someone she didn't know.

'He must have lost someone close to him.' She thought as she read over it again. Her lips formed a guilt-ridden frown. 'Maybe he acts like that 'cause he lost someone he loved.' She pocketed the poem, and finished clearing up

The walk home was quiet, Ava always felt calmer in the evenings. The warm tones of the sunset always put her mind at ease, however the September sky was grey, growing a dark blue in colour as the evening went on. She could just about see her breath against the cold air. Though there were moments during the walk where her mind would flicker back to the poem and her heart felt heavy.

'It would be nice if it snowed.' She thought trying to distract herself. Though the winters were cold it never snowed where she lived. She wishes it did. Ava loved the thought of going into the snow, throwing snowballs, making snowmen and snow angels, just like in those Christmas movies she had seen when she was younger; when she and Maggie lived in the orphanage. When Ava had made it home Wrathia had woken, and was sitting on a bed of purple cushions, painting her nails whilst wearing nothing but a laced bra and pants to match. Ava's cheeks went hot at the sight.

"WRATHIA!" The older woman looked over to Ava expressionless. "WHERE ARE YOUR CLOTHES?!" So many times it had gone down this way, Ava felt like a mother scolding her teenaged daughter. Wrathia's lips curved in a mischievous grin.

"Oh, look whose home. Have fun waiting tables and getting coffee like a servant." Wrathia always thought to highly of herself. Wrathia was born in the Philippines, with flawless sun-blessed skin, and had long luscious hair which she had died from black to a beautiful wine red. "How was your day, Honey-buns?" She purred as she got up from her spot.

"My day was fine, not that it's any of your concern." Ava shucked off her coat, hanging it on the coat rack. She gracelessly kicked off her shoes, and grabbed both her phone and the poem. She unfurled the paper and read over it again. 'Who did you lose?' She thought to herself. In the blink of an eye the paper was snatched from her hands.

"What's this?" Said Wrathia scanning over the paper.

"Hey! Give that back!" Ava made a grab for the poem, but the older woman evaded her.

"What is this Ava? Since when did you write poetry?" Wrathia quipped as Ava finally managed to snatch the paper out of her hand.

"I don't! Some guy left it at the café, and I thought it was pretty."

"Pretty depressing. No wonder you like it." Ava let out a huff.

"You have no taste!" The blonde stomped off to her room.

"Have you seen your wardrobe?!" Ava slammed her door, shutting out Wrathia's voice. Sighing, she dragged herself to her bedroom and flopped face first into the thick covers. She had work again tomorrow, and the day after that, and Ava knew that, that same hooded man would probably be there. Just sitting, sipping away at his black, bitter coffee, scrawling in one of his books.

'I wonder if he has anymore poems.' She mused.

Ava her eyes, and before she knew it, it was morning once again, and she was there, lying in her uniform in the same position she flopped on the bed the night before.