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Trent walked into the starbucks and ordered his usual cup of coffee. It was a regular routine for him every Monday morning to bring a book, order a venti Verona, and spend about an hour just sitting there reading. He had recently graduated from college and now had a full time job at a small game shop. His work stretched from late morning through the evening, Monday through Saturday. Coming to starbucks for reading and a good cup of coffee seemed to smooth out the rest of his week. He'd gotten to know everyone there who also had a Monday routine, and all the workers; but that day he couldn't help but notice someone new. It was a young girl who had to have been in her early teen years. He hadn't seen her right away because she was sitting at a small table in the corner by the window. Her arms were folded and she was staring out the window. Her eyes didn't move. Trent had never seen her before, but he could tell something was wrong. He tried to ignore her, but he couldn't. Finally, he picked up his book and cup, and went to sit at her table. She didn't move.
"Mind if I sit here?" he asked. Nothing. Trent looked out the window to see what she might be looking at. Nothing interesting, so he looked at her eyes again. They didn't seem to see anything. Through her honey-colored bangs he saw her big blue-green eyes move ever so slightly. She knew he was there. "Are you waiting for someone?" Her eyes slowly turned to him, and Trent felt like they were cutting into him.
"Got no one to wait for." she answered quietly, still studying him. Trent figured her friends were in school. But why wasn't she?
"Why aren't you in school?" he asked her.
"Got expelled." was her response.
"For what?" It was out of his mouth before he could stop himself. She looked away. Yet another question popped out, "Do your parents know?"
She shrugged, "They did."
"Don't think they remember."
How could they forget?, he thought. "Do they know you're here?"
"They might by now." she said it so simply, like there was nothing wrong with it. Now Trent knew something was wrong.
"I'm Trent." he figured introductions would break the ice.
"Good for you." no such luck. He studied her eyes for a moment and, sure enough, there was an obvious wall.
"Actually, that's usually the part where you say your name," he teased. She looked at him again. A reaction. "Just a thought," he muttered. The corners of her mouth moved so slightly he almost missed it, and a piece of the wall fell down. "At least you didn't respond the way I did as a kid when my neighbor introduced himself," he had her attention, so he continued, "I don't remember what his name was, but I said 'ew'." more of the wall fell, and her mouth moved again.
"One of my teachers had the last name Stencher." Trent laughed. She was opening up.
"What school did you go to?" wrong question. She closed up again. He tried talking to her some more, but she hardly responded. His hour was eventually over, and he had to go. But he hated to leave. "I have to go get ready for work," he said, "Are you gonna be okay?" She shrugged. "Will you be here next Monday?" another shrug. "Well, I hope so."
She was there the next Monday. Still behind a wall, but there. She was there every Monday for the next two months. Trent brought her some books on history or science for her to read, since she wasn't in school. He found himself looking forward even more to Mondays, because he knew she'd be there. She'd never open up. Sometimes she would very little, then he'd say the wrong thing and she'd close up again. He got used to it, and it didn't really bother him anymore. The young girl was a part of Trent's Monday routine in no time. But one day, she wasn't there. He stayed a little longer, causing him to be late for work, but she never showed up. Trent continued his old routine, but now he always sat at the small table where he would sit with the girl, waiting for her.
Years passed and Trent had almost forgotten about the young girl and her wall at starbucks. Almost, but not quite. He was on the computer while his wife was asleep on the couch, taking advantage of the time their kids were napping. He had gotten a link from his friend to a bunch of stories about people who had a really hard young life, and lived through it. Suddenly, one title caught his eye. It was short, but familiar. Quietly he read it:
I was thirteen years old when I stopped going to school. I was expelled because there was a knife found in my locker. I told my parents when I got home, but they ignored me so often, they soon forgot. I was so hurt by them ignoring me that I had decided to take my own life one day instead of going home. The knife I was going to use was the one that was found in my locker. One day, with no one to stop me, I left home with a new knife in my pocket, ready to die. I found a starbucks that was practically empty, and decided to spend my last hour there. I was sitting at a small table in the corner, just taking in my plan, preparing myself, when he walked up. A man came and sat at my table with his coffee and a book. He just started talking to me. I kept my distance, but he wouldn't go away. Later, knife in hand, I couldn't do it. I kept thinking about the man at starbucks. I started going every Monday. I never said much to him, so he did most of the talking. He knew I was out of school and brought me books on science and history. We met at that table for about two months. Then my parents decided to move. I never had the chance to tell him. He may never know this, but he saved my life. Today I am in college and doing well. Especially in anything having to do with science or history. If it hadn't been for him, I would have died that day. Thank you, Starbucks Angel.
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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.