The coffee shop staff holds a video conference meeting every morning, before opening. The owners use the time to offer reminders about the rules for cleanliness, new information from the health department, and pep talks.
Kassandra joins every day, even her off days. It comforts her, seeing those faces in their squares on the black screen.
She has more off days than on days, now. The coffee shop never had to close completely, kept its drive-through and takeout open, but business slowed dramatically. Reopening at half capacity means fewer servers needed even for indoor service. And Kassandra has her art to keep her busy, so she let the owners know to give shifts to coworkers who needed them more.
It’s not like her bank account is robust. But she can manage. No kids, no debts. The coffee shop owners are generous with food left at end of day, and coffee, too. Her landlord is compassionate, and if push comes to shove, she can live in the garage Douglas and Louise let her use as a studio.
Kassandra can manage.
At least, she can manage the money, the frugality, the adjustment to having less.
There are moments – whole hours, at times – when she cannot manage the grief. It’s a wave that washes over her, triggered by anything: a fragment of news caught on a passing car radio, an overheard conversation in the coffee shop. A gust of the wind that does not seem to stop, this early summer. The barking of a lonely dog down the street.
At these moments, Kassandra folds. If she is at home, she curls up and sobs. If she is at work, she excuses herself to the ladies’ room.
If she is in her art studio, she pours her grief into the pieces she creates.
Once a week or so, she destroys a piece that has become overburdened with grief, smashing it to shards, sharp and jagged. Later, when her spirit finds its legs again, she sweeps them up and adds them to her collection.
At some point, she knows, she will make something new from them.
But not now, not yet. It’s all too raw.
One stormy afternoon, when it should be summer but it feels like March, there is a tap on the studio door. Kassandra pauses, then answers.
Louise is there.
“Douglas?” Kassandra asks, heart pounding louder than a freight train.
Louise shakes her head. “Penelope,” she says.