Her name was Julia.
She had just graduated from high school. Her favorite movie was Juno. She liked playing soccer and tennis, and was going to school to become a something-or-other. She didn’t really know yet.
Julia was the only person at the coffee shop that made Ariana feel like she belonged here.
Ariana and Julia had lived in West Bridgewater their whole lives. The difference between them was that at the end of the summer, Julia would be moving to Boston for college. Ariana was going to be staying behind, continuing to live with her parents.
Ariana desperately wanted to hang out with people, but she knew it wouldn’t work out even if she tried. She had been working there for a year, and many Julia’s had come and gone, but everyone still treated Ariana like the new girl.
No one ever invited Ariana to anything anyways. No one at the shop made an effort to talk to her, not that she actively put herself out there or anything.
Ariana and Julia didn’t talk very much. Maybe occasionally in the back room when their breaks happened to cross over, they would get to throw in a few words with each other. But never at the bar. At the bar it was all about work and making the customers feel at home. Even when no customers were there.
Can you go check the patio? one of the shift supervisors would ask her when there was a lull. And was it ever dirty? Not really. She knew that this was a part of her job, but just for once, she would love it if someone would use that dead space to ask her about her life.
Oh wait, they did.
How’s your day?
That’s what you were supposed to say though, right? It’s not like they cared about how she felt.
Everyone working at the shop seemed so happy and so upbeat. Occasionally, on their days off, the staff would stop by to say hello. Never alone though, always with a friend. One time Julia came to the coffee shop with a whole gaggle of friends and they all ordered frappucinos.
Julia was wearing a black tank top and this white denim jacket with these gorgeous earrings. She was so beautiful. Ariana couldn’t keep her eyes off her. And to think, this is what Julia looked like every day outside of work.
Sometimes customers would scream at Ariana, tell her she was worthless, that no wonder she was stuck working in a coffee shop. On the shifts Julia was there for her, Julia would squeeze her hand and say, Don’t worry about that, they’re wrong.
But they were right. She wasn’t going to college because she was petrified of her future. She didn’t know what she wanted to do and she felt guilty taking what little money her parents had so she could go on an aimless adventure. Or at least that’s what she told herself.
Truthfully, she didn’t know why she didn’t want to go to college. There were a lot of things about herself that she didn’t know, things she didn’t even dare to ask.
But she knew that Julia liked soccer and tennis. She only knew that because she overheard her tell other coworkers. Sometimes, people would leave Ariana alone to run the store while they ran off to chat it up with a customer, or maybe even just hang out in the break room. Even when Ariana dared to take that ten foot walk to the edge of the bar to hang out with the team, a customer would step in and she would have to go back to the register.
One time, Ariana found Julia in the break room crying. She wanted to walk over to her and hold her hand and ask her what was wrong, but instead she stayed there, hiding in a corner, just out of sight. Summoning all the courage she had, Ariana took a step forward.
But as she took that step, Julia got up and started wiping her tears away. It was over. Ariana retreated back to the corner, watching as Julia threw her uniform back on and forced a smile. Ariana, too embarrassed to allow Julia to find her hiding, clocked back in from her lunch break, even though she had only taken two minutes off.
The manager ended up screaming at her at the end of the day for not taking a full thirty minute break. Something about ethics and rules and regulations…anything was better than Julia seeing her in that broken moment though.
At the end of the summer, Julia left the store. When she took that apron and visor off for the last time, Ariana had an overwhelming urge to run up to her and hold her tight, whisper her phone number into her ear even. But that was too dramatic.
Instead, Julia simply waved at Ariana and said “Byeeeee!” just like she always did. But this time it was final.
That same night, Ariana cried herself to sleep. She quit the job a month later.
And she cursed herself for getting so worked up over something insignificant.