The next morning, I knocked on the door of the café fifteen minutes before it opened. Emily came and unlocked it, then locked it behind me.
“I can never thank you enough for taking care of things for me today, Walter.”
“I’m more than happy to help you and Ema any day, and you know that.”
“Even so, every time you do anything for us it overwhelms me.”
“Anything new I need to be aware of today?” I asked.
“Quiches are ten cents more this week. We’ve been pinched lately and everywhere else in town sells them for at least a quarter more.”
“Oh, and the main coffee maker is broken, so I’ve been using the backup all the time.”
“Want me to see if I can fix it?”
“If you have the chance. You’re already doing so much.”
“I’ll see what I can do. If I can’t fix it, I’m sure Jerome can. There’s not much that man can’t do.”
Emily pulled a few trays of muffins out of the oven and arranged them in the display. “There should be enough food to last while I’m gone. We don’t usually run out but I sometimes have to make another batch of something before lunch time.”
“I’ll make it work, don’t worry. Please don’t feel in any rush to get back here. This is your day with Ema.”
Emily nodded. “Is it alright if I go for a walk to think before Ema and I leave? She won’t be up for another hour.”
“Of course. Think of yourself as being free from any responsibility here today.”
Emily bundled up and departed into the cold, grey morning, leaving me alone in the café. My thoughts turned to God and prayer once more, and I found myself asking God to give Emily wisdom and comfort. Then I started brewing coffee and heating water for tea, helping myself to a hot muffin along the way. I wrote it down on a slip of paper so I would remember what I’d eaten so I could pay before I left.
A few businessmen came in for cups of coffee but had no time to sit on their way to work. I opened the broken coffee machine and fiddled with it between customers, but grew more and more doubtful that I could do anything for it as the morning wore on. The innards of coffee makers were completely foreign to me.
Emily came back and a little while later she and Ema went out.
The morning dragged on. Everyone seemed in a hurry and I was getting nowhere with the broken machine. The bell above the door jingled and I looked up to see a familiar face, though perhaps not a welcome one. It was Jake, Kate’s old boyfriend.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Can I get you anything?”
“Is Emily here?”
“Oh. I wanted to talk with her.”
“Do you want me to relay a message to her?”
“Maybe you know. I want to know what she’s done to Kate.”
“What do you mean?”
“Kate’s not listening to anything I’m telling her.”
“You want my honest opinion?”
“You left her alone and pregnant. Why should she listen to you? And if you’ve removed yourself from her life, then why are you upset that she won’t listen?”
I looked at him for a moment without saying anything, wondering what Emily would tell him. “But I think perhaps you’re right that you should be involved. The baby isn’t just Kate’s.”
“Which is why she should listen to me when I tell her to get rid of it!”
“That baby has your DNA in it, Jake.”
“It’s not a baby yet.”
“Then when will it be?”
“I dunno. When it’s born, I guess.”
My phone rang and I glanced at it. It was a number I didn’t recognize, so I ignored it. “That baby already has a heartbeat. Do you want something more than that?”
Jake stared at the counter, but still seemed like he didn’t care. “Whatever. I just don’t want to deal with it.”
I sighed and looked back at the coffee maker. I wanted to keep talking with Jake, but wanted to do it with him calm. “Are you any good at fixing coffee makers?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“This one’s broken and I told Emily I’d try to fix it.”
Jake shrugged. “I’m not bad with gadgets; I’ll take a look.”
He fiddled with the machine and I tried to think of what to say to him, but also remembered what I had told Emily about some people being already gone.
“What good is an abortion going to do?” I asked after a while.
“You want me to fix this or not?” Jake said.
“I want you to fix both things, Jake. And by fix I don’t mean ‘get rid of,’ but ‘make right.’ You don’t fix a broken machine by throwing it out. You fix it by making it do what it’s supposed to do.”
“Is that why you asked me to fix this thing? So you could push your views on me?”
I shook my head. “No, that’s not why I asked you to fix it… it just fits with what we were talking about. But I’ll let you concentrate now.”
After a few minutes of silence Jake swore and turned around. “I can’t concentrate with your words rolling around in my head. So in your mind, if Kate goes through with the abortion, it’s throwing a problem away. If she doesn’t then it’s ‘fixed?’ I’m sorry, man, but a baby’s gonna make more problems than no baby.”
“I didn’t say fixing it means no other problems. I said fixing is making it right.”
“So what’s the difference? I fix a coffee maker, there’s no more problems. Kate has the baby, there’s lots of problems. Kate doesn’t have the baby, poof, no more problems.”
“I don’t think that’s quite how it works. It may be no more problems for you, Jake, but you have to think about Kate, too. You have to care for her.”
“But I don’t care about her any more. I just know if she has the baby, she’s gonna want me to help take care of it, and I’m not having any of that. We broke up, remember?”
“You may have ended the relationship but that doesn’t mean you’re free of responsibility.”
Jake turned back to the coffee maker. A few minutes later he turned it on and shrugged again. “Should work now. Bye.”
The bell jingled again and he was gone.
He was listening enough that it bothered him, I thought as I watched him walk down the street. And the good news is that Kate doesn’t seem so willing to get the abortion any more. And the coffee maker is fixed.
But I don’t understand, God. Why is it that Javi, who wanted to be a father, couldn’t stick around, but Jake, who’s trying to get out of it, is alive and well?
My phone rang again and I glanced at it. Same number as before.
“Hello, this is Walter Elliot.”
“Hi Walter. This is Clara.”
“Hi, Clara! Thanks for calling! Sorry I missed your first call; I was in another conversation.”
“That’s fine. I wanted to let you know that I’m available and interested in playing at the New Year’s concert.”
I grinned. “Emily will be so excited when I tell her!” But not as excited as I am! “I’m at the café all day today, if you want to stop by and we can talk through ideas in person and maybe even get some practicing in.”
“I can’t come today, but I’ll let you know sometime when I can. My father will come to the concert but won’t be accompanying me.”
“Okay. Thank you so much for letting me know, and keep me updated about when you can come.”
“I will. Goodbye.”
I hung up and slipped the phone back into my pocket, but I felt like dancing.
When Emily and Ema returned early in the afternoon, I told her all that had happened with Jake and Clara.
“Well, I’m glad the coffee maker’s fixed,” she said, inspecting it. “And like you said, it seems Kate is strongly considering not aborting the baby. And I’m even glad you got to talk to Jake. Maybe some of it will go through.” As she spoke, a look of pain shot across her face, and I wondered if she was thinking the same thing I had earlier: why did Javi, the eager father, have to be taken while Jake ignored his child?
Sorry this is late! We were staying in a hotel for 3 weeks and the Internet was terrible and apricotpie wouldn't work for some odd reason. I did get a lot of writing done, though!