Susannah left work and headed for the warm and melancholy comfort of the coffee shop. It had been a long day, but no more demanding than any other. A few trades at the last minute had created a minor flurry of activity in the office, capped with a round of the big men exchanging high-fives and backslaps, typical of the thick Westerners. The more important brokers had retired to an executive bar on one of the upper floors of the glass and steel concrete tower that housed their workplace, leaving the documentation and clerical cleanup to the ladies.

If Susannah had been the type of person who considered their place in the world, she might have given a rueful grin once she realized that she had spent most of her life cleaning up after men. When her father had left a few weeks after her sixth birthday, she had become the caretaker of the ruined mess of a family that he’d abandoned: his handicapped son and terminally ill wife. She had never questioned her new role, merely shrugged on the cloak of responsibility, and borne its heavy weight as she had all the other trials of her life.

Again, if she had been the type of person who questioned their reality, she may have seen the survival of that experience as one of her greatest strengths, and in doing so gained an insight into the nature of the other human beings around her, how those who had never had to take on more than they could handle were weaker for not knowing their limits. How troublesome such people were with their incessant whining and complaining at the slightest sign of work—real work, the kind that tested a person’s abilities to the point of improving them.

Yet Susannah was not the introspective type. To most she seemed almost simple in her ways: a mousy and conservative woman of indeterminate age, neither youthful nor beyond the capacity for romance, but lacking the outward appearance of passion and thereby attracting little to no attention from the opposite sex. There had been some fumbling attempts with the same sex, but Susannah had found no taste for it. It had never been confusing for her, merely tiring and frustrating, dealing with the vagaries and tempests of another person’s heart.

Content would be an excellent word to describe the state of Susannah’s life. She was comfortable in her place, despite the hardships she had endured, for they were only hard when compared with the experiences of others. To her it had only been her life, and everything else was relative.

The coffee shop was another piece in that puzzle of contentment. She had frequented the place every weekday evening since her company had moved into the tower some ten years before, and she had become a customer of such regularity that she had become a fixture. She almost always took a seat in one of the soft high-backed chairs that sat to either side of the artificial hearth, and in the rare occasion that someone had occupied them she had no problem sitting anywhere else, with only mild irritation at the interruption of her routine.

2014.12.21 – 2023.07.23

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