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A Jump
Liv avoided the steam that would burn her arm like it was second nature. She'd had enough over the last few months. Her wrist and forearm were proof of that. Daddy had offered her a place at the flower shop. And she'd thought about it.

But the truth was she needed to do this on her own. Daddy loved her. So did mom. They were trying to help her. Mom didn't jump all over her after her last information science test. She had been scared. Like she would let her down. Mom was just trying to help her find a place

But just like that afternoon in the coffeshop- what was it, eight or nine years ago?- mom smiled at her and her heart exploded with love and appreciation. Just as when she had, so scared and terrified, told her that she liked girls, and mom hadn't batted an eyelash, had said she was there for her and loved her and wanted her to be happy, even now mom wasn't angry if she really wasn't feeling it. Had told her to follow her heart

Liv knew her family loved her. Mom, daddy and her brother. And yeah, she was adrift and unsure and alone. But she realized how lucky she was. Laila didn't define her. Didn't get to have a say anymore. Fuck her. She knew love.

And so now Liv was working in the coffeeshop. She knew she could do other things. Would do other things. But she was content. Finally, she felt ready to live. It had started last night. Lost and alone she wondered along the river. The moon shone overhead, sky a cold black blue cobalt, and she felt the vast emptiness. And once again she sat before god, begged her for help, asked her for something, anything, for meaning. She ignored the pain of the gravel at her knees.

God answered her. She- only a woman could know, could understand, could make her feel alive and known- had come to her. The Angel's wings brushed her cheek and tears and the world came alive in a way she couldn't begin to imagine. Breathing was like an orgasm. She wept at the overwhelming beauty of it.

And in that moment, she saw herself smiling, face radiant with a joy she ached to know its source. God left her then. But she did not feel disappointed. She had seen something. She had life ahead of her.

And so now, in the coffeeshop, she felt alive. Hopeful. Ready. God had promised it, hadn't she?
When Nika returned to Moscow following the season break, the first thing she did was scout around for a decent place to get coffee.  Being Italian as well as Russian, she took this matter seriously.  In fact, she would not finish coffee if it didn’t meet her standards.  Snobbish perhaps but life was way too short to drink ashtray coffee.  At least that’s what it tasted like to her.

The best place was two blocks from her condo.  A quaint little establishment that clearly cleaned the pots daily.  How hard was that really?

The old-fashioned bell over the door rang when she opened the door.  No clue as to why but Nika loved that sound and her face morphed into a satisfied smile.  Not enough to show off the dimples but more an upward curve of her lips.

It was Saturday night and her training sessions were over and done.  Which meant it was time for relaxing with a cup of coffee.  Or two.  Normally she took her cup to go but this time, she’d sit and zen.  It was time for zen.  Plus the place was cozy, it had a feel of familiarity to it.  

She stepped into line and looked around until it was her turn.  Princess Charlotte and her new baby graced the cover of a magazine on a table nearby, there was some stupid headline about Brandon she didn’t care about splashed all over a news circ and a new drone model was debuting for ASCazon.  That was as far as she got with the news.  

Her turn.  She flashed a smile to the barista.  The manager was nearby but preoccupied with another customer.  More often than not it was she who helped Nika. The other woman had a smile that lit up the room.  Super personable too.  Nika caught her eye, smiled and gave a little wave. The guy at the counter looked over his shoulder briefly with an odd expression on his face before asking for her order.  “Hello.  May I bother you for a cappuccino, please?  For here.”  He looked relieved then, about what she didn’t know.  Nika booped her wallet on the pay tab and it dinged in success.  He handed her a numbered topper and indicated they’d bring her coffee to her table.  She thanked the guy and made her way to a table for two on the back wall.

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