“It looks like everything is going smoothly,” Connie said. The morning crowd had thinned, but the Starlight café was still pumping with life. Connie stood next to a plump, gray-haired man in a short-sleeved button down shirt and slacks. She looked around like she’d never been in the place before. Lisa had made a few changes since she bought the café. She cleared a small area at the far end that acted as a stage for monthly poetry readings. “I heard the open mic nights you’re doing here are a real hit.”
Lisa wiped her wet hand on the dish cloth she had over her shoulder. “Yeah. I never thought I’d read my work in front of people. It was Jamila’s idea, and it’s worked out. I start off the evening with a couple of poems. Then it’s an open mic from there. We get a good crowd out. Plenty people read. Other than that I haven’t changed much. You already had this place in ship shape.”
“I did my best,” Connie said. “It’s time to move on though. I’ve known that for awhile. I’m glad you’re making it your own.” She looked at the man next to her. “Have you met Lenny?”
“No. I haven’t.”
Connie grabbed hold of the man’s arm and smiled. “Lisa this is my new beau, Lenny. We’re going on a cruise around the world. It’s been a dream of mine, and Lenny’s too.”
Lenny looked at her and smiled and then back at Lisa. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Connie has only good things to say about you.”
Lisa flushed. “Thanks. Good to meet you too.”
“I wanted to stop in and see the place one last time before we left.” Connie looked into Lenny’s eyes dreamily. “I wanted you to meet Lenny too. He’s been a savior. After Marty, I swore off men altogether, but when the psychic told me that I’d meet the love of my life soon, I thought she didn’t know what she was talking about.”
“She was brilliant, obviously,” Lenny said. “She knew you were going to meet me. We should track her down and find out what else she can predict.”
“Wait,” Lisa said. “You saw a psychic?” Connie was so practical that she didn’t seem like the type who would seek out the predictions of a fortune teller.
“When you were gone we let one do readings in the back corner.” Connie pointed to the back of the café. “The customers liked it, but she was kind of flaky. You know how those sorts can be. I asked her to move along. I couldn’t technically fire her because I wasn’t paying her, but she started trying to get free coffee and pastries. That wasn’t part of our deal.”
Lisa couldn’t fathom how a psychic managed to talk Connie into letting her do readings in the Starlight. It seemed so out of character. “Maybe I should hire a psychic for the place now. I mean if it was a hit with the customers it might be worth the trouble.”
Connie laughed. “I didn’t think that would be your thing.”
“It isn’t.” Lisa was always looking for a way to make Starlight better. “I was just kicking the idea around.” She looked over at the line forming at the register. The staff was good at keeping up with business, but Lisa didn’t like to stand around socializing while everyone else was working.
“It’s busy,” Connie said, noticing Lisa watching the customers. “We should let you get back to work. I just wanted to say goodbye before we set sail.”
“Enjoy your cruise. You’ve earned it,” Lisa said as the left.
Owning the Starlight Café was a lot harder than working in it, but Lisa loved the work. While she wasn’t making millions, she was doing all right for herself. That was a relief because she used to wonder if she would be able to find a job that paid well and was enjoyable. Now that she’d found the perfect combination, things were looking up in life. No matter how good life got, she couldn’t get Damon off her mind. She wondered if he was still with his girlfriend or if they had broken up. She dared not call him, but she always wondered.
It was after eight o’clock when Lisa got home. Jamila was sitting on the sofa watching television and eating a bowl of popcorn. “You’re later than usual,” Jamila said.
“Yeah, I had some things to take care of at the café.” Lisa dropped her purse on the floor next to the front door and fell into the sofa. Her feet ached from standing up all day. Sliding out of her shoes provided much-needed relief.
“You didn’t realize it would be this hard, did you?” Jamila popped a few pieces of popcorn into her mouth.
“I kind of did. Imagining something and actually doing it is different though.”
“I’m glad your parents helped you get the place. It’s been so good to have you back. I couldn’t stand seeing you wasting your time with Richard.”
“No one could.” A few boxes had arrived in the mail the previous week full of clothes and photos and knickknacks.
Lisa was surprised that Richard sent them and didn’t just burn them in a giant bonfire on the street. Maybe he was a better person than she thought. She still hadn’t gotten everything back, but that didn’t matter. She had enough stuff and was trying to start over.
“Soon you’ll be on the market for somebody better, or maybe you’ll look up that artist of yours.”
Lisa sighed. “I stopped by his house ages ago. He has a girlfriend.”
“You didn’t tell me that. What did she look like?” Jamila asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter anyway.” Lisa knew it was time to move on, but her heart said something completely different. Sometimes when she slept, she dreamt about him.
“It matters. I can hear it in your voice.” Jamila turned down the volume on the television. “You can’t be fatalistic about this. Don’t give up yet. Most girlfriends are temporary. Chances are the one that you met is gone already.”
“That’s terrible.” Lisa smirked.
“You’re smiling because you know it’s true. You should call him and tell them you’re in town.”
Lisa thought about calling him countless times since she’d been back. She hoped that he would wander into the café one day and see her working there but there was no sign of him. She wondered if he was all right. She thought about calling him just to see if he was still alive and hanging up when he answered. She didn’t do any of these things because she knew they were crazy. “I can’t do that. I’ve done enough damage already. He’s moved on, and I need to let him live his life.” She knew that was the sensible thing to say. She told herself that every day and saying it out loud made her feel responsible.
“Suit yourself, but I’m on record saying that I think it is a mistake.” Jamila turned up the volume on the television again and turned her attention back to the show she was watching. Canned laughter rose into the air.
It was late. Lisa sat at her desk and pulled the notebook from the drawer. She only wrote when she felt inspired and lately inspiration hit her every night before bed. She opened it to a blank page. There was nothing more promising than a crisp sheet of white paper waiting for words. She had so much to write about now, but one thing stood out. She had written more about the mistake she had made with Damon than any other subject in the past few months. She had so much to say.
She picked up her pen, and the words exploded from her. They came to her mind even faster than she could write them. This poem was raw and honest in full of regret. Once she finished the first draft, she reworked it two times before finally going to bed.
As she lay in bed, Lisa turned the words in her mind over and over again trying to make them right, the syllables revealing the shape of her heart. It was hard for her to believe that she had gone so long without writing. Since coming back to Florida, words had been what fed her. She always went to bed thinking about a poem. The words kept her sane. They held her soul together and kept her insides from twisting up into knots. They gave her a clear vision. As she worked on the poem in her head, she drifted off to sleep, knowing that this new work would be the one she would perform at the reading tomorrow night.