Cups with Coriander: The Beans
Serial Short Story
Hospital coffee is perhaps one of the most repugnant liquids ever concocted. It makes no endeavor to soothe the nerves of waiting families and friends; nor does it offer succor in the form of smooth, flavorful warmth. Instead, it provides chilly alertness to the drinker, ensuring that a harrowing, sleepless night filled with horrible imaginings awaits its unhappy victim.
Such was the beverage that I sat clutching while Cori’s mother droned on in a small, sad voice all her disapproval of her daughter’s choices. Cori ‘marched to her own drummer’ and ‘was always difficult’ and she ‘certainly was not surprised that things had come to this’.
“Perhaps I could have been a more supportive mother.”
Coffee shot unvoluntarily from my mouth, as I stifled an unbidden chortle with a choke. Mrs. Snow leapt up from her chair and pounded frantically on my back, and the whole scene lent a bizarre levity to the depressing exchange. As we finished wiping off the table, Liam walked in. At the sight of his grey and distraught face, I collected myself, and went to hug him.
“She’s awake,” he murmured.
I patted his arm and looked up into his red-rimmed eyes. Always devastatingly handsome, Cori’s fiancé was still striking in his grief. He rubbed my shoulder and said,
“She’s asking for you.”
I nodded and hurried to the elevator.
When I reached the room, Cori was staring at her hands. Her eyebrows were knit together as she frowned down at her nails. With one hand, she was scraping the polish from the index finger of the other hand, and tiny shavings of light red were littering the stark white hospital sheets.
I tapped on the door jamb gently and she looked up. Her eyes blinked at me vacantly; no emotion registered on her face to guide my next move. I smiled and perched beside her on the bed. Her expression remained impassive.
“Ellen, can you get me some things?”
My eyes widened at the unfamiliar voice that had addressed me. It was soft, small and broken. However, I nodded immediately.
“Of course, what do you need?”
She took a small piece of paper from the tray in front of her and handed it to me.
“You have the key.”
She looked away, then, and stared out the window with an expression so chillingly serene that all I could do was whisper ‘yes’ and slink out.
Once the door was closed behind me, I looked down at the paper. Cori’s usual florid hand was now replaced by dark, block lettering. Her hairbrush, toothbrush, moisturizer and a half dozen other toiletriess were required, and, so, having no other choice at that point, I set off for her apartment to retrieve them.
The living room was immaculate as usual, with only the hint of a chill creeping on in her absence. I moved like a zombie through her hall; the pictures on her walls all displayed a regal, formidable woman and her adoring followers. What had happened to that woman?
I pulled a tote bag from her overflowing closet and began gathering the articles on the list. Habit and maternal instinct overcame me, and within minutes I found myself making up the bed, folding carelessly tossed sweatshirts and sorting laundry. As I picked up the last pink hoodie to add to the pile, I saw a tiny sparkle on the chair beneath it. I leaned closer; it was a speck of glitter, one of Cori’s favorite makeup staples. I noticed that the glitter was almost trailing up towards the drawer of the desk that owned said chair, and, without thinking, I opened it to find that, at the end of the trail, there was indeed a preponderance of glitter in the form of the cover of a silver notebook. I picked it up, and flipping to the first page, saw the bold, looping script of its owner. This was her journal.
I dropped it back into the drawer and stepped back. I had no right to snoop. However, I also had no answers, and looking down at the sparkling remnants on my palms, I decided to find those answers.
After all, there was already glitter on my hands.
previous: Cups with Coriander – Refill of Decaf
more by VK LYNNE
photograph by Michael Hull