Sarah put down the stack of dirty mugs and plates, and began pushing the muffin and scone leavings into the trash can. It was getting late in the morning, and the mad caffeine-crazed crowd was leaving for the day, getting their highly paid, over-cologned asses out to theri jobs, while she emptied their leavings. Ick.

One day, she thought, I’m gonna be one of those over paid assholes. Goddess knows I deserve it, with all this karma debt.

She finished the trash can crumb routine and switched to what she thought of as the run-the scalding-ass-water-over-the-plates-so-lame-o-boss-lady-wouldn’t-complain routine. Jez wasn’t such a bad sort, just prone to over sharing her complaints about whatever happened to not be working at the moment. Kind of a drippy faucett of lukewarm water that spilled out into as many professional interactions int eh coffee shop that she had. Oh, in front of customers, she was all business. But get her in the back room, and Jez would fill your ear full of the whiney stuff.

Pete, over in the corner, eyed Sarah with his nervous little stare. She was going to have to confront him one of these days, she thought, just as soon as she grew a spine. He’d been looking at her for the past two months, ever since he had been hired. Nice enough guy, she supposed, but kind of creepy and low-affect.

She scratched at the month-old tattoo on her left shoulder and grimaced. She knew she had to get the damn dishes into the washer before she could go home, and it was getting to be that time.

Fifteen minutes later, Sarah stepped out the door and pulled on her coat. It was cold, but she liked it that way in the first few minutes of leaving the cafe. It was leaving the coffee beany smell behind and exchanging it for the cold crisp air of Anchorage that made the biting chill worthwhile. It wasn’t till her nose finished being shocked at such a temperature change and began to smell the car exhaust that she remembered that she had to bus it home. Her eyes took in the filthy road-dirt encrusted snow on the sidewalk, she sighed heavily and made her way to the bus stop to head home.

The ride home was pretty uneventful. Even if the crazy guy in the back of the bus muttered just a little too loudly today about his twelve cats and the CIA implanted nano-ticks they carried in their purple fur. Even if the bus driver’s leering eyes looked her up and down as if he could see through her heavy coat, carhart jeans, and big clunky army surplus bunny boots. The ride seemed to fly by, though she’d be hard pressed to say what she thought about. It was almost as if she was in another world all the way home. Not that she stressed too much about it. For one thing, any way the bus ride was shorter was a good thing. For another thing, the spacing out had been happening more and more lately, so she was kind of getting used to it. Not like the bus ride was even voyeuristically fun anymore.

She walked the four blocks from the bus stop to her complex, through the security (yeah, right) gate, and up the stairs to her third floor apartment. Stairs smelled like cat piss and cigarette smoke again, but at least the fish and the booze smell were gone. She grabbed her mail and was halfheartedly sorting through it when she realized that she was standing at her door.

Her half open door. With someone in her apartment. Making noise.

“Shit,” she half-thought, half said.

Movement in the apartment stopped for a second, then the noises abruptly terminated with a large crash. She was frozen in place, but for some reason knew the sound of her television hitting the floor. She’d look back on it later and wonder how the hell she knew what that sounded like.

“Fuck.” This last from inside the apartment, accompanied by the sound of the window being opened (Again, she’d wonder later at the clarity of her hearing).

Somehow, Sarah pushed the door fully open just in time to see a pair of hands dangling from the window. More like fingers, really. With a strange kind of clarity, she ran toward the window, whether to grab the fingers or what, she didn’t know.

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