Laura woke ten minutes before her alarm went off. She lay there, considering whether she should try to fall asleep again, but the to-do list of her manager job at the coffee shop was piling up, and she forced herself out of bed.
She didn’t dawdle and readied herself quickly for work, exiting the door of her apartment ahead of schedule. If she got to the shop early, she could maybe check off a couple of items before the rush began.
She rode the elevator down, and as she stepped off, she nearly collided with a woman cradling a small terrier in her arms.
“Excuse me,” the woman snapped. She was as charming as a carnivorous flower injected with radioactive poison.
“I’m sorry. I apologize—” Laura replied, but the elevator doors shut, cutting her off.
“Don’t mind her, Ms. Coolidge,” a deep voice said behind her. She turned to find a middle-aged man with a grey streak through his hair standing at the door. “It’s such a pleasure to see you.”
“Uh, okay,” she said, not recognizing him. “Have we met before?”
“Not formally. I’m Hans. I’m the night shift doorman.”
“Wait, this building has a doorman?”
“Well, I do nights, and then Gary takes the next shift.”
“We have one for days too?”
“Two actually. Gary swaps at four with Brad.”
“Three of you?! How did I not know this?”
“It’s the overlap. You always seemed to come down just as we were switching over.” Hans looked conspiratorially around the lobby. “To tell you the truth, for the longest time, we thought you didn’t exist.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we’d never seen you, so you were just a name on a piece of paper. We tried different things to meet up with, like coming a little earlier or later, but it never seemed to work out. “
“Why not just stay on until I came down?”
“We tried that, but always some small emergency drew us away. It wasn’t until Markus checked the surveillance cameras that we actually knew you existed.”
“Who the hell is Markus?”
“We have a—?!” she spluttered before stopping herself. Every detail was more ludicrous than the last. This had to be someone messing with her.
“Absolutely not. We’d never do that to a tenant. Especially one such as yourself.”
Laura’s breathing felt constrained, and she didn’t realize Hans was asking her a question.
“I don’t suppose I could get a picture with you. Just to show the guys and prove I met you.
“Sure. Fine…” she answered, trying to take deep breaths.
He pulled out his phone and leaned in close to take a quick selfie. He tapped the shutter, then studied his phone. “Something’s wrong with it.” He scrolled through the settings hoping to locate the problem. “Maybe—”
But the tightness had grown in her chest and she needed some air. “Maybe another time—“
“I promise, Hans, I’ll see you again—”
She stepped outside onto the street by the park, grateful to be out of the claustrophobic prison the lobby had become.
She needed to get to work—and maybe drink a couple of shots of espresso to sharpen her mind.
As she walked, she already started to doubt what had happened. It was preposterous to think that she’d lived for years in a building and somehow slipped through the lobby multiple times a day and never ran into the doormen. It had to be some elaborate hidden camera prank show.
She stepped into her coffee shop but realized she’d accidentally walked into the wrong place. Trendy artisan sponges and dishwashing tools were stacked everywhere. She stumbled out, embarrassed, retracing her steps, trying to figure out where she went wrong.
But this was the right building and entrance and when she re-entered, she realized that behind all the shelves full of organic cleaning supplies was her coffee shop.
She rushed to the counter where a tall shaggy-haired kid stood. He looked more like a housepainter high on his fumes than an actual employee, but she demanded, “Who the hell are you people? Why are you in my coffee shop?”
He checked his watch. “Hey, I still have another ten minutes.”
And that’s when Laura vowed never to wake up early again.
This ending is so bad that I decided to share some writing notes to explain why.
The main reason is that it never really formed into something until the final hour. Originally, it was that Laura woke up ten minutes early and discovered a whole undiscovered world she’d never known about.
But then breaks started to form and create story problems. For example, the woman with the dog wasn’t supposed to be allowed to have a pet in the building, and the doorman was by himself and just confusing (and no lengthy conversation). I eventually got stuck at the coffee shop, and that’s when I went back and rewrote the doorman and all that silliness came out.
However, as I was writing towards the coffee shop again, I wasn’t sure what the ending was, and I had a whole conversation with the shop clerk who ended up getting cut as well.
In the end, I was falling asleep as I was writing it, so I forced an ending, so I could wrap it up. That’s how we got here.
I actually want to celebrate this loss. I needed to fail so that I was reminded that not every attempt is going to be a success.