Tania had no business working in a coffee shop. I was second in line adjusting my necklace when I heard her.
“You’re going to have to be patient with me sweetheart, it’s my first day and my nerves are shot. I never saw so many fancy coffees.”
I peeked at her as she handed the caramel macchiato to the grandmother looking lady who held Tania’s hands and blessed her for going through such a hard time. Tania had big tears rolling down her cheeks, taking a trail of foundation with them.
Grandmotherly lady took her drink and walked away, shaking her head, revealing me as next in line.
“Oh Bets, I’m so glad you’re here. Don’t I make this apron look hot?”
Tania let out a hearty laugh and twirled in the brownish uniform. I cleared my throat.
“I see you’re working hard. Ok sis, give me a triple venti soy white mocha.”
Her brown eyes widened and her orange tinted glossed lips trembled.
“That’s not fair Betsy, it’s my first day. You’re being mean.”
I inhaled, noting the table to the right watching the exchange between the barista and the duly unimpressed older sister checking up on Tania’s latest career move.
“Fine. Give me a black coffee.”
Tania clapped her hands in victory and pivoted over to the coffee urns. She hesitated looking at the different brews.
“Tania, just pour a small cup of French roast and hand it to me.”
She sighed but obediently prepared my order. I threw down a five dollar bill.
“Make sure you make it to mom’s tonight. With the cake.”
I picked up the coffee and started out the door. Her bellow followed me out.
“You don’t trust me do you Bets? I will be there, you just watch!”
Mom tried to be nonchalant about checking her watch, but her entire party knew the celebration couldn’t start until Tania graced the wooden doors.
“I’m sure she’s on her way.”
I forced the words out, trying to keep my seethe at bay. Aunt Celia started to speak when the chocolate brown doors flew open. Tania burst in with a revealing tank top and tight jeans. No one could see her face with a plethora of Mylar balloons dancing around her. Her voice sang octaves higher than needed.
“Happy birthday mommy!”
Tania thrust the balloons in mom’s face and dodged them to give her a kiss. A smatter of giggles filled the room. My own sigh burst the laughter.
“Mom, you wait right here. I went shopping today. You deserve to be spoiled rotten, so I got you a new wardrobe. I’ll be right back.”
Like a gush of wind, she was gone. Mom looked at me with pleading eyes.
“Please Betsy. Just let it go.”
I looked to the door, shut my eyes, and prayed. It wasn’t fair. Not to Mom, Tania, or me.
“Woo hoo, here I am! Look mom, three bags of clothes, just for you.”
The guests circled around mom, looking at the bag contents. Tania threw her purse my way. The front lip opened, revealing a full bottle of medication that for our family’s well being, needed to be empty.
“Bets, come look at the shorts I got mom. I told her she’s going to look like Loni Anderson in them.”
Tania gave a fleeting moment of normalcy with her words.
“I guess that’s a good thing.”
I smiled, closing the purse and sitting it upright. Tania went back to throwing the clothes out, showering mom with sequins and plaids, polka dots and solids. Everyone oohed and ahhed with mom until Uncle Fred came in from the kitchen.
“Hey girls, where’s your mother’s cake? It’s late and I’m starvin’.”
Tania whipped around to Uncle Frank, and then looked at me, then mom.
Tears reigned once more.
“I’m such a failure! I knew I forgot something. I’ll go right now mom, promise.”
“Now sweetheart, who needs cake this late anyway?”
Mom took Tania’s hands, just like the first customer did at the coffee shop.
“I don’t deserve you.”
Tania cried and buried her face on mom’s shoulder.
Mom held Tania tight and stroked Tania’s recently colored red hair.
I made my way to the kitchen and opened the cupboard where I hid the just in case cake. While Uncle Frank followed me, I swept off my own tears.
The manic life wasn’t fair. For anyone.
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