Beneath the Void
“It’s a damn shame what happened to that girl. A damn shame what happened to all of you.”
I bit down on the inside of my lip and lifted my tray off the counter. If I didn’t get away from Moe before he started in, things would get awkward fast. “Heading out,” I called over my shoulder as I rounded the counter. The last thing I wanted to do was talk about the shooting. I’d lived, breathed, ate, and drank nothing but the shooting for months on end. I had funeral music burned into my brain and had cried myself into a stupor more times than I could count. I was done crying. It didn’t help. It didn’t change what had happened, and it didn’t make anything better. Moving forward and staying busy were the only things that made life bearable. Well, that and spending quality time with Hayden. The memorial project I was heading up at Atwood High was the only shooting related activity I involved myself in anymore. It was positive. It had meaning. It was my way of paying respect to poor Tara Chung.
And everyone else.
A loud boom sounded in the not too far distance.
My body reacted on instinct. My heart leaped inside my chest. The tray full of drinks I’d been carrying crashed against the black and white checkered tile. My knees buckled, and with a frightened scream, I dropped like a stone to the floor and covered my head with my arms. Not again. Not again. This can’t be happening again.
The people in the booths next to me weren’t moving. Were they insane? There was a shooter in the building! I rose up onto my knees and lurched sideways, grabbing onto the jean-clad knee of the older man sitting at the edge of the booth. “Get down! Quick!”
The man gaped at me like I was insane.
A hand clamped down onto my shoulder, and I shot up off the floor with a shriek.
“Sadie!” Moe’s voice sounded above the pounding of my heart, and I zeroed in on his calm face as I struggled to catch my breath.
He stepped forward and placed his hands on my shoulders. “Honey, it’s okay. Everyone in the diner is fine. A car backfired out in the lot. That’s what you heard.”
My mouth felt dry and pasty and the room swayed beneath my feet. I opened my mouth to speak and glanced over my shoulder toward the front window when words failed me. I glanced back at Moe. “A-a car?”
Moe’s expression was gentle, but filled with pity and my stomach immediately soured. “Everyone’s fine, sweetheart,” he said with a nod. He motioned toward the back of the diner. “Why don’t you take your break now and … ”
He continued to watch me with concern as his words trailed off and I nodded, more than happy to get the hell away from everyone and everything. I knew what he couldn’t bring himself to say: Take your break, girl, and hide your crazy away before you drive away my business.
Too embarrassed to look back, I left my fallen tray and drinks where they lay shattered and spilled on the floor and sprinted out the back door of the diner.