Tina Kovac stared sadly at her hair in the picture. When she was younger, she had kept it cut precisely at her shoulders. It wasn’t until she turned twelve that she let it grow to the full, immaculate length in the picture. The black strands drifted behind her, rolling out like black ocean waves.
She reached up and felt her hair, now barely reaching the middle of her neck. She hadn’t wanted to cut it, but it had gotten in the way one too many times. Plus the time she saved on washing it had added up quickly this last year.
A voice called up the stairs. “Tina! I’m leaving for work! Make sure to lock up before you leave okay?”
Tina smiled. “Of course! Have I ever forgotten? I’ll see you tonight, mom!”
A chuckle drifted up the stairs and Tina heard the door close behind her mother. She checked the clock, 6:30; she had to be out the door ten minutes if she wanted to make it on time. She spared another glance at the photo before hurriedly stuffing her things into a backpack and heading out the door.
It was only a short walk to the coffee house, but Tina had been late to work more than enough when she couldn’t help it, she didn’t need to be late today too.
The walk today was, thankfully, uneventful, so, for the first time in weeks, Tina was early to work.
“Hello! Rachel! Janet!”
“Tina that you?” A muffled voice called out from the back. “Be out in a second, I need to get the next set of grounds out before the second rush comes in.”
“Okay, Rachel.” Tina wandered into the back and grabbed an apron. “Is Janet working today? I thought she was scheduled all week.”
The other woman appeared from behind the shelves, carrying a large box. “She’s been working herself too hard lately. I shoved her back into her apartment and told her to get some sleep.”
“Yes, because she was the one passed out in back yesterday.”
Rachel frowned. “I told you I had a busy night. And what about you? Didn’t you have to leave early because of some ‘important appointment?’ What would she say if she found out you left the second she walked out the door?”
“If I had to guess? ‘Good for you. Rachel shouldn’t be the only one sneaking out.’”
The two stared at each other for a moment. Tina broke first and started giggling, and Rachel soon joined in. A bell rang from the front and the two made their way back.
“So, is your brother going to stop by today? Or do you have him locked up again?”
“Mitch’ll probably wander in eventually.”
A cough sounded from the counter. Tina smiled happily at the customer, a business woman with light brown hair. “Sorry for the wait, what can I get for you?”
The woman nodded her head. “Just coffee please. Leave about an inch off the top.”
“Coming right up. Name?”
Rachel turned to get the coffee ready and the woman stepped to the side. “So what did you need to sneak out of here for?”
Tina waved her off as she helped the next customer. “Nothing too big, I have been going to this group thing to help out with my acting. The instructor meets us all for evaluations.”
“Oh? How’d you do?”
Tina hesitated. “It…it was not exactly what I wanted to hear, but I think it will help me out in the long run. I have been thinking of a way to add something new to the way I work. He told me about a few people who had done something like it before, mentioned how many of them ended up worse off because of it. He asked me what I wanted to be known for in the next hundred years.”
“Well, not that I would go for horror, but have you ever heard of Boris Karloff?”
Rachel gave her a flat look.
“Right. He was the original Frankenstein’s Monster, the movie one. He was actually in a lot of movies, but a couple years after that and suddenly all he was in was horror. Now nobody even remembers him for anything else.”
“So the point is?”
“He was just saying that some choices aren’t things you can go back on. Karloff managed to have things work out for him, but if I became a niche actress like that and it went wrong then I would be stuck.”
Rachel nodded. “Okay, I get it now. Hey, at least he compared you to that Frankenstein and not ol’ metal mouth. That guy musta been nuts to do that to himself.”
Tina looked away before she nodded. “Y-yeah.”
The next customer awkwardly scratched the back of his head as he pulled out a list. “Class project, sorry about this but we’ve been up all night already. Name’s George.”
Tina kept the look of frustration off her face as she carefully entered the order into the machine. “We have had worse. At least you cannot come back and complain about your own hair in the drink?”
Tina gestured to his crew cut. “He had blonde hair too.”
George nodded and stepped to the side. The next customer looked annoyed at his back.
“If you will just wait a moment, this will go faster if I help her with the previous order.”
The customer nodded silently and Tina walked over to Rachel.
“So is that all? Or is there a reason you haven’t looked me in the eye since you mentioned the meeting?”
Tina hesitated. “Well…he asked me about something else. He-he wanted to know why I decided to become an actress.”
“Well, I could not think of an answer for him. Or rather, I could not give him an answer that satisfied me. He told me to think on it.”
“If people needed a good reason for doing what they want to then everyone would be bored. If you want to be an actress then be an actress. I don’t know what he was looking for, but you don’t’ need a better reason than that.”
Tina tried to respond, but Rachel cut her off. “Nope. You’ll just argue yourself into a pit. Conversation’s over.”
Rachel smiled brightly at Tina. “Come on, we have to finish this order.”
The two had almost completed the order when Tina caught a glimpse of a head of hair sneaking past the counter. She stared at the open end until the redhead peeked around the edge. She waved cheerily at the boy and he nervously waved back. “Your brother’s here.”
Rachel nodded. “Just make sure he doesn’t wander in back. He knows not to interrupt now.”
The two finished up the order and Tina returned to the register.
The customer handed her a note with the order on it and gestured to his throat. She glanced down and called the order back to Rachel.
“Thank you for your patience. And I hope you feel better soon John.”
The customer nodded and spoke in a scratchy hollow voice. “Thank you.”
It was close to 10 when the rush stopped and the store almost emptied. Tina wandered from behind the counter and slumped into the closest chair. She glanced over at Mitchell and saw him playing on his phone with his ear buds in. She nodded and rested her head on her arms. She had two hours before the next rush came in, and she was going to milk it for all it was worth.
A loud clunk sounded from the table and she glared at Rachel. The other girl chuckled and took a drink from her own cup. “Don’t worry, its cold.”
“How did you two keep this place running by yourselves?”
Rachel shrugged. “You get used to it. Plus, the breaks tend to be longer in the school year, not so many kids wandering in.”
“I suppose. Speaking of which…” She nodded toward Mitchell. “is it okay for him to be staring at that thing all day? He barely even talks.”
Rachel shook her head. “He doesn’t use it so much at home. He’s just shy so he keeps his nose in it out here. Doesn’t like it when people look at his face.”
“Okay. I suppose I can handle that.”
Rachel looked out the window. “And speaking of shy, your boyfriend’s here again.”
Tina blushed and glared at her friend. “Shut up.” She hastily stood and put the counter between her and the taller blonde man walking in.
He smirked at her and she forcefully kept the smile off her face. “What do you want today? Seeing how far off the menu you can get again?”
His smirk deepened a little. “Well, maybe I’m just making sure you aren’t going to put brown M&M’s in my bowl. If I can’t trust you to make this stuff right, how am I gonna trust you when it’s actually important?”
Tina rolled her eyes and took his order. “Just make sure you never come in during the rush and we might care enough to keep it straight, Jack.”
“Oh? On a first name basis are we? And here I thought you didn’t care.”
“Yes because I’m going to go around calling you Mr. Rider, you’re barely older than I am.”
He smiled and she quickly turned away to make his order. “Here’s your super specific order. I hope it burns your tongue.”
He clasped his shirt. “Your words hurt me, Tinkerbell.”
Rachel coughed from across the room.
Tina stared him down. “What did you just call me.”
“You heard me, Tink. I’ll see you again tomorrow.”
He turned and walked out the door. Tina huffed and stomped back to the table. “Tinkerbell?”
Rachel smiled. “I thought it was clever.”
“Well I do not. I cannot believe he just called me that.”
Rachel grin grew wider. “If you hated it so much, why didn’t you tell him to stop?”
Tina didn’t respond.