basically more than my mom’s mortgage. But if the cool factor of our neighborhood keeps rising, it will double in no time. Still, things aren’t as expensive here as I thought they would be. They’re not cheap, by any means, but those rumors of a gallon of milk costing ten dollars in New York City aren’t true . . . for the most part. The Russian guy who owns the corner store below my apartment does like to hike his prices, but I suppose I’m paying extra for the convenience of being able to get down there in under a minute. I could always walk two more minutes and find another. One of the best things about the city is the endless options. From corner stores, to restaurants, to people, there’s always another option.

Chapter Ten

WHEN I GET TO GRIND, Posey is behind the counter pouring a bucket of ice into the bin. Jane, the shop’s oldest employee, who sometimes likes to call herself the “elder statesman” in a corny little voice, is cleaning the stained wood floors. She dips the mop into the bucket and soapy water overflows. A little girl gets up from a table near the back and walks over to watch Jane as she swipes the mop over the mess, soaking up the water. I look around the various tables for her parents, but the shop is pretty empty. Out of the ten tables, only two are occupied. Two girls with their laptops and textbooks filling the table and a guy with four empty espresso cups are the only people I see.

Noticing me, Posey greets me with a silent smile.

The little girl, who looks to be about four, sits down on the floor and pulls something out of her pocket. A small red car wheels across the puddle and I watch her eyes light up. Jane says something to her that I can’t make out.

“Lila, please don’t do that.” Posey lifts the partition and steps out from behind the counter. Approaching the girl, she bends down to her level.

The little girl grabs the red car before Posey can reach it. She hugs it to her chest and shakes her head furiously. “Want car,” her little voice chimes.

Posey reaches her hand out and cups the little girl’s cheek. Her thumb caresses the child’s skin and turns her panic into comfort. She must be familiar with Posey.

Her sister, of course. This little brown-haired girl must be the sister she’s mentioned a few times.

“You can keep the car, but please don’t put it in the water.” Posey’s voice is different when she talks to the girl. Softer. “Okay?”

Posey taps the little girl on the nose and she giggles. She’s cute.

“ ’Kay.” Her little voice is even cuter.

I walk toward them and sit down at a nearby table. Jane finishes with one more swipe of her mop and says hi before she excuses herself to go to the stock room to finish inventory. Posey looks around to assess how busy the store is, politely checks in on the two tables, then walks back over to the girl and me.

“Please don’t tell Jacob that I brought her to work with me.” Posey slides into the chair in front of me.

“I would never,” I tell her with a smile.

Jacob can be an ass. He’s just a little too young to be a manager and is the type of guy that when given just a taste of power, he runs with it. He’s a little too bossy and a little bit of a douchebag.

“My grandma had an appointment and I couldn’t call in.” Posey nervously justifies herself.

“Well, lucky for you, then; you get to hang out with your sister all day.”

Posey smiles and nods in agreement, relief clear on her face.

Little Lila doesn’t turn to look toward my voice. The bell on the door chimes, alerting Posey of a customer. She looks at Lila and I nod, telling her I can sit with the girl. Going back behind the counter, Posey greets two men in suits and I turn to watch the little girl play with her toy. She’s not paying any attention to me. That car is fascinating her and she’s awfully cute while she rolls the little Camaro along the uneven floor. She crawls behind it, despite being clearly old enough to walk. Her little sneakers light up when her toes hit the floor, and her little fingers wrap around the body of the car, which she flips over and spins upside down, smiling all the while.

“That’s an awfully cool car you’ve got yourself,” I tell her.

She doesn’t look up at me, but she speaks. “Car,” she says.

Posey looks over as she pours soy milk from a carton into the blender. I smile at her and her shoulders relax. She purses her lips into a modest smile and gets back to work. Her fingernails are dark with little yellow dots painted on them. I watch her hands as she pours premade green tea from a pitcher into the cup full of soymilk and ice. She blends the concoction and sways her head back and forth to the Coldplay song playing on our speakers. I look back over to the little girl staring adoringly at her little plastic Camaro.

“Zoom,” Lila says softly. She lifts the car into the air and gazes off into the distance after it.

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