Sail Forth – Bronwyn Hughes

I rushed through the shower without waiting for the water to get hot. Sifting through the dresses in my closet, I searched for something nice to wear for today’s events. Not too dressy, but a step up from my usual black jeans. In my hurry, I jabbed myself in the eye with my liquid eyeliner brush, making one of my blue eyes secrete thick black tears. 

* * *

I began punching in the café’s alarm code before I discovered it wasn’t armed. The oily aroma of flavored coffees—hazelnut, French vanilla and Irish cream—had seeped into the old wooden floors and beams of the Slack Tide Café in the short time since our grand opening. As I moved around the room counterclockwise to turn on the lamps, I detected a cigarette burning in the back room. 

“Another fight with your girlfriend?” I called Sylvia from behind the register, where I saw she had already completed the crossword puzzle. 

She pushed open the wooden swing door with her hip, holding the stray cat I had told her to stop feeding. “Nah. Full moon.” When Sylvia was upset, she would sometimes paint all night at her easel under the high-wattage fluorescent lighting in the back room of the café. She put the cat down, turned on the vacuum, and began running it around the seating area. 

I started making coffee and filling the milk containers, hollering over the noise of the vacuum and the coffee grinder. “You could’ve come over to my place—I was awake most of the night too.” 

She yanked the vacuum cord out of the wall to kill the noise and flopped in one of the overstuffed armchairs. “Claire, you’re gonna be really pissed at me this time.”

I dropped the bean scoop and wiped the coffee grinds on my apron. Sylvia was my best friend, but she could be unpredictable and impulsive. Like last fall. When we arrived at the Mobjack Invitational Regatta, she insisted that the blonde standing next to my husband was the woman she had seen him having an affair with. A little drunk on mimosas after a gallery opening, Sylvia dismissed my protests and made a scene in front of all the other parents. As it turned out, the woman was just a client. I could have killed Sylvia, but her good heart and deep loyalty always made me forgive her. Dwight Jr. was having an affair—but not with that woman. 

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