This month we are all creating a piece around the picture above. So many thoughts, so many ideas Hopefully, you’ll like what I did.
Shattered glass. The screams of men. The scent of blood and burning rubber. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t scream. Blood choked him as he attempted to gasp in a breath.
Gabriel jerked himself awake and frantically searched the room. Dream. It had been a dream. Pain shot through his left knee, it was a dream now. What he dreamed was real or had been real. Fuck, he wasn’t sure anymore. He scrubbed a shaky hand over his sweaty face and tried to slow his breathing.
Eight months. He’d been stateside for eight months. And, for almost every night of those eight months, he had the same dream. The same memory. Roadside IED punching a hole through his transport. Blood, screaming, bodies. He’d been one of the lucky ones. He’d lived. He had all his fingers and toes, if not his sanity.
Rising, he limped to the bathroom and turned on the shower. He needed to wash away the sweat and the lingering unease the dream always brought on. He braced his hands on the wall and let the hot water pour down over his body. Slowly, his muscles unknotted and, though, he was more relaxed, he knew he wouldn’t go back to sleep.
He turned the water off and grabbed a towel. The clock on the wall read five-thirty. He didn’t have PT until almost ten and he certainly didn’t want to hang around the apartment. If anyone could call the tiny four hundred square foot space by anything so grand. It was a box, he knew that, but he hadn’t been looking for much. All he’d been focused on was finding a place to sleep and store some of his stuff. That was it.
His cousin, Callan, had offered to let him crash at his place, but there was no way. The man’s bed was a revolving door and Gabriel didn’t want to stay in someplace he didn’t feel was secure. So, he’d taken the first place he looked at. It wasn’t much, but it certainly beat most of his past accommodations.
After he dressed, he grabbed up his laptop bag and slowly made his way out of the building. Turning right, he moved down the sidewalk. He was aware of everything and everyone around him as he made his way to the coffee bar that was becoming his second home. The place opened at six and, more often than not, Gabriel was in his regular seat with a drink by six-ten.
He stepped in the door and paused to quickly survey the space. The only person in the entire space, was the lady behind the counter. She looked up and smiled at him.
“Good morning,” she called.
“Morning.” He stepped up to the counter.
“So, what can I get you this morning? Are you sticking with what you normally order or are you going to branch out?”
“I’ll stick with the regular.”
She poured plain black coffee into a cup and handed it to him. He paid her and moved to the table he always occupied. It was situated in the corner with a wide-open view of the entire place. He pulled out his laptop and booted it up. While he waited, he sipped from his cup. He didn’t know what she did, but her coffee was damn good. That’s why he came every day, well that and the fact that, he didn’t make her nervous.
He knew he made people nervous, between his size and the fact that he wasn’t much of a people person, okay, he wasn’t a people person period. He’d had his fill of people so didn’t feel the need to socialize. Claire, though, didn’t seem to mind. He knew that was her name since she owned the coffee bar and the place was called Coffee by Claire.
So different. His life was nothing as it had been. Wouldn’t be again. And IED and shattered glass made sure of that. Gabriel glanced up as Claire slid a warm cinnamon muffin on his table.
“I didn’t order this.”
“I know,” she said, with a smile. “I figured my most loyal customer deserved a muffin.”
She moved away, her long tail of blonde hair a stream down her back. He picked up the muffin and bit into cinnamon, butter, and warmth. His life may be totally different than what he’d planned, but he’d take it and figure it out. It certainly beat the alternative.