I established a routine after that. I woke up, made myself breakfast, and got ready for work. At exactly 7:30 AM, I walked through the door of the coffee shop and sat down at the same table every day. Ethan was usually there, and he smiled as he slid my chocolate latte over the counter. After about a week, he made it before I got there. We would talk for a while, and sometimes he sat down with me, if there were no costumers.
When I finished my latte, I would look at my pocket watch, sigh regretfully, and start for the office. I tried not to think about work much. I did my job honestly and well, biting my tongue as my boss found fault with everything I did, my silence irritating him more than if I’d talked back.
In the evenings as I walked home, I passed the closed coffee shop. In the apartment above it, one window was always bright. The vines of a houseplant trailing out onto the sill. And many times music drifted out of the open window.
I ignored the fact that I was lonely. My cozy one bedroom house fulfilled all my needs, and I did love the house, but it was so empty, especially in the evenings. I had considered getting a cat, but I didn’t have time to take care of it properly, and I’d never really liked cats anyway; I needed human company. My heart was telling me it was a husband I wanted, but I’d never found anyone that seemed right. I’d given up thinking about it a couple years ago, focusing on being content, and cultivating a healthy relationship with the Lord. I thought I’d learned the secret of being content, and here discontent had popped up again without warning. This discontent seemed different, though. Almost as if God was telling me it was time for a change. The trouble was, I didn’t know where to start; so I carried on with my routine as the weather became cooler, and the leaves left the trees completely. Pretty soon, my walks were requiring a thick coat and a scarf as tiny flakes of ice floated down on me. The thought of winter mornings alone spurred me on to the coffee shop, even when it wasn’t exactly wise to walk so far in the cold and on the icy sidewalks.
There was one morning that I will never forget, when my desire for company drove me to start on my walk while it was snowing heavily. Two blocks from my house I slipped on ice and sprained my ankle. The sprain was painful, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk much further. Slowly, I limped back toward home, hot tears of disappointment rolling down my cheeks and freezing on my scarf. My boss was looking for an excuse to fire me, and this would be just what he wanted. I didn’t own a car, I walked everywhere, and my only mode of transportation was gone with my ankle like it was. I couldn’t get to work today.
It took an eternity to get halfway home, and I sat down on someone’s porch steps to rest, ignoring the snow that had not been swept off, and that was seeping through my thick pants. My ankle throbbed, and the cold air whistling around me as shot sharp pains up and down my leg.
“Emma!” The voice was not quite clear, and I didn’t think at first that it was actually someone calling to me. When my name was called again, I looked up.
Ethan was treading carefully on the slick sidewalk, wrapped in a large coat with his hat pulled low over his forehead.
I momentarily forgot about my ankle and stood up, happy to see him. Then I remembered, and yelped as the ankle wobbled under my weight, and the ache swelled. I sat back down quickly. “What are you doing here?” I asked Ethan, curiously. I’d never seen him anywhere but the coffee shop.
“Are you alright?” He didn’t answer my question at first. “You didn’t come to the shop, and I got worried.”
I felt awkward. Explaining that I was foolish enough to go for a walk in a snow storm, and had sprained my ankle as a consequence was embarrassing, the concern on Ethan’s face made me feel a little better. “I slipped and sprained my ankle. I couldn’t make it to the coffee shop. I won’t make it to work on time, and my boss…is not going to be happy.” I finished the bit about my boss hastily, refusing to give in to the desire to criticize him soundly.
Ethan considered for a moment. “How far is it to your house?” I knew what he was thinking; she could give me the keys to her car, then I can drive back, and pick her up so she could go to work.
I shook my head apologetically. “About a block, but I don’t have a car.”
Ethan frowned. “Can you walk the rest of the way if I help you?”
I nodded. Since Ethan found me, I felt like I could do anything; somehow, the snow didn’t seem so heavy, and the wind wasn’t as cold as before.
I got up and balanced on one foot. Ethan pulled my arm over his shoulders and I took a limping step forward.