The Simple Life
Author: Isabel Rod

Chapter 1

Coffee is the best smell on earth, Kendall thought, inhaling deeply. An idle smile played on her lips, and she brushed back a loose hair that had fallen out of its messy bun. She never really worried about what her hair looked like. As long she approved, who else did she have to impress? Nobody. That's who.

"Hello Mr. Riley, you're looking very young and spry today." She told one of the usual customers. He was an elderly man, with a white combover and sparkling green eyes. He was a comical character, always wearing bow ties and suspenders, claiming it drives the ladies crazy. Looking up from the worn-out novel he was reading, he grinned.

"Ah, of course, Kendall! Have to look nice for any beautiful women looking my way," he replied then proceeded to straighten his bow tie. "Now shoo, I don't want you scaring them off!"

Ken laughed and went on her way.

Overhead, soothing music played over the quiet background noise of people chatting. Sometimes she wished could join them. Just sit down and catch up with an old friend like the two at the table in the corner, quietly laughing. Or read a life-questioning book like the man by the window. Maybe even go on a romantic date like the couple in the booth. Ken heard the ringing of a bell, and glanced up to see an older couple walk through the door. Their wrinkled hands were clasped together, their fingers molding around their wedding bands. She smiled at them. Old couples were just plain cute. The fact that they could find love in their relationship at their age was endearing.


    She turned toward the person calling her, and a bigger smile spread over her face when she saw who it was. Mrs. James stood by the kitchen door, looking exasperated. The beaming smile faltered and turned into wariness.

    Making her way over, Kendall inquired, "Yeah?" Mrs. James gestured behind her to the open door that led to the ally outside the cafe. With a quizzical expression, Ken leaned to the side to see behind the older woman and spotted a large, shaggy mass of wet, panting dog. Upon seeing the animal, Kendall's face lit up and she crooned in mock discipline, "Rocky! You can't be here. I told you."
      Seeing Mrs. James' look of disapproval she explained quickly, sincerity written across the crease of her furrowed brow,"He usually stays in the alley behind my apartment, but...Oh! I completely forgot to feed him this morning! I was in such a rush to work that I forgot the poor little fella." She ruffled the shaggy mutt's ears affectionately.

"He's not that little, Kendall," Mrs. James said. She cocked a hip, planting a well-worked hand upon it. Her hands had callasus on them from hard labor. Mrs. James had once told Kendall that it was from her job as a kid. She'd helped her father--a carpenter-- with his job, so she was always cut up and full of splinters, but it made her tougher. She'd told Kendall one day, when the younger girl was feeling down, "'Do not pray for an easy life. Rather, pray for the the strength to endure a difficult one.' Quote from Bruce Lee. Remember it, hun." She'd then patted Ken's shoulder and left her to ponder what she'd said.

Kendall replied defensively,crossing her arms over her chest, "He's little enough."

 Sighing defeatedly, Mrs. James walked off, muttering about kids being more trouble than they're worth. Ken turned back to the stray dog that she fed every morning--except today--named Rocky. She tried to channel some sternness, but couldn't muster any with the big oaf looking at her with that big dopey smile. Knowing Mrs. James wouldn't be mad if she ran Rocky back home quickly. Walking down the street quickly, the dog on her heels, she looked around her. New York City was prettiest at night but the morning was equally enchanting. The shoes she was wearing were simple, and sensible. They also matched the dress she wore. Kendall almost always wore a dress. They were just more attractive than pants in her opinion. She reached her apartment that she rented every month. The price of her rent was moderate, and Ken worked as hard as she could every day to make sure she could afford it. She worked at the cafe down the street from her apartment, La Rouge Cafe. It was a very charming little restaurant, and she loved working there. It paid more than most cafes would. That might have something to do with the owner. Mrs. James was also the owner of Kendall's apartment, and when she met Ken, she instantly adored her. Kendall was quirky, polite, and friendly all-around. Mrs. James often likes to joke that Kendall is her long-lost granddaughter, though they look nothing alike. Mrs. James is a short, wide, black woman, full of maternal care and overprotective instincts. Kendall was a tall, grey-eyed, stick of a girl.

Making sure Rocky stayed in the alley behind the apartment building, she left and went on her way to the cafe. Humming quietly, Kendall was lost in thoughts of all the people that came through her workplace. Her eyes tracking a lone grey morning dove, she slowed her steps. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a fash-approaching smear of yellow and her heart burst into a flurry of panicked beats. Half a second or less later, a taxi slammed on its breaks with a loud squeal, causing the car behind it to bump the back of it. With a hand over her mouth in silent surprise, Kendall watched as the cab driver got out and went to check on the people in the other car--a sleek, black Jaguar with gleaming rims and tinted windows-- where the air bags had gone off. She noticed the taxi man arguing heatedly with the driver of the other car, and behind them, a dark-haired man getting out of the backseat of the Jag, completely fine and looking more than slightly irritated. He spotted Kendall in the middle of the street and stalked over. His hair was a dark brown, almost black, with stormy, dark eyes to complement it. He wore expensive-looking clothing, but not too expensive. Ken could probably buy them if she saved up for a few weeks. His shoes were the same way. This assessment took merely a few moments. Gesturing to the accident, he asked, "Did you cause this?" 

 A flurry of thoughts flew through her mind. Oh crap. Do I lie? No. He already knows. Crap. Say something! Kendall, you dunce.

"Er," --she cleared her throat-- "Me?"

"Yes, you!" the man replied.

"No need to be snippy..." She retorted.

"I'm pretty sure I can be snippy. Did you, or did you not cause this?"

"Yeah! I caused the damn wreck. I got distracted--"

"Oh,really?" he muttered under his breath sarcastically.

"--And I didn't see the cab," Kendall finished talking over him.

He sighed loudly and opened his mouth, no doubt to lecture her--and really, he had no place lecturing because he looked only a few years older then her--but the driver of the Jaguar had called him over and he left her, walking away briskly. Before the cab driver could get notice her, Kendall all but ran away. She wasn't the one in the accident so she couldn't get in trouble legally--she hoped. When she got back to the cafe, she settled back into her usual routine of waiting tables and taking orders. Mrs. James was relieved that the dog had gotten back, even though she'd never admit it, but Kendall knew what a softie Mrs. James was at heart. As the day wore on, Ken forgot all about the accident, and the guilt she felt over causing it.


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