It was a bright, sunny, beautiful day outside, and Marcy was just glad to be alive. She woke up, stretched, and poked at the cat through the bed sheets with her feet. He gave her an evil, half asleep glare and curled up again, just out of reach of her toes. Marcy giggled a bit at their daily game, then pulled herself out of bed and threw the curtains open. Yes, today was a fantastic day, and she was looking forward to everything it would bring.

After a quick shower, Marcy walked down her apartment stairs in a bathrobe to retrieve the newspaper. For the first time in a long time, the delivery guy had actually hit the steps with his throw. Marcy was lucky; she’d forgotten to slip on a pair of sandals before heading down the stairs and wouldn’t have to walk on the muddy sidewalk to retrieve the paper.

She skimmed the headlines while she walked back up the stairs. Gloom this. Doom that. A typical Friday morning breakfast of contemporary news. She tried her best to shake off the dark mood reading the paper always put her in and instead donned a bright summer outfit for the office. It might only be a sunny day in winter, but no one ever seemed to mind when she dressed for warmer weather – particularly not her boss, Jason.

Marcy smiled as she thought of her too-flirty supervisor while she absentmindedly packed her bag. Typically, she’d pack a lunch, too. But today felt like such a good day, she wanted to splurge and treat herself to a lunch out with her coworkers. Diet be damned, she wanted to have fun.

The cat strolled lazily out of the bedroom and nuzzled up against her ankle, his morning frustrations forgotten as his stomach began to purr on its own. Marcy quickly poured him some breakfast and grabbed a yogurt out of the refrigerator for herself. If she was going to fall off the wagon at lunch, she might as well stick to the healthful plan for breakfast.

Ten minutes later found Marcy standing on the corner of her block, waiting for the light to change. It was early enough still that she could pick up coffee for her girlfriends in the office, and the best café in town was only a few blocks away. Happily, it was exactly halfway between her apartment and the office. Fantastically convenient!

She opened the door, closing her eyes as she was greeted by the simultaneous ring of the bell above the door and wafting smells of gourmet roasts emanating from within. The smell always took her back to Saturdays on her father’s lap reading the morning comics. Actually, that was the only reason she still paid for the newspaper – she had the comics folded neatly in her purse to peruse during her ritualistic solo cup.

“Good morning, Marcy!”

She was pulled from her momentary reverie by the barista’s greeting. She smiled from across the room and walked over to the counter.

“Sixteen ounce Winter Blend?” he asked?

“Morning, Chris. Actually, can I have one of those now and four more to go in about 30 minutes?”

“Treating the office again? You’re far too nice to them, you know. I never hear about them treating you.”

Marcy just smiled and shook her head. Chris was always trying to convince her not to treat her friends. He told her every week that they never returned the favor. That they’d go out as a group to ‘thank’ her and still make her pay for the group. A tiny voice in the back of her head agreed, but Marcy liked to think this was her way of brightening the world and tried not to let it get to her.

Chris splashed some cream in the coffee and added Marcy’s typical 2 sugars – actually, 2 Splendas – before passing it back across the counter. He was always doing little extras like that for her, if she didn’t know any better, she might suspect he had a little bit of a crush. Marcy smiled at the joke of a gay man being sweet on her and took her usual seat near the window.

From here she could watch the passers-by on the street, new-comers to the café, and the occasional hummingbird hovering by the sugar feeder outside the window. There was just enough sunshine to make her feel like she was outside, and just enough protection from the crisp winter air to convince her it was June, not February.

Marcy pulled her comics from her purse and started reading slowly through them, savoring each image and joke. Not wanting to reach the end of the page.

About halfway through Dilbert, another customer came through the door. He was wearing a heavy overcoat, as was just about everyone but Marcy these days. He looked familiar, but Marcy couldn’t place where she’d seen him before. He wasn’t a regular of the café, but still she felt she should know him for some reason.

He looked fleetingly around the café, acknowledging first Marcy, then the other café patron to her left before marching purposefully over to an empty table in the back. He grabbed a copy of the paper from the counter as he passed by.

“Would you like to order something,” Chris asked.

The man ignored his question and sat down, ripping furiously through the pages of the business section. Chris shrugged and started filling Marcy’s four to-go orders.

Suddenly a second man burst through the door waving a gun. He screamed something incoherent and started pointing the gun in every direction. Marcy panicked and fell to the floor. The patron to her right, though, calmly set his coffee down and waiting for the man to turn his back. Then the patron stood, drawing his own gun, yelling, “Police! Drop the weapon!”

The man turned in shock and raised his gun towards the officer. The officer didn’t hesitate and fired four shots directly at the man who fell dying to the ground.

“Is everyone OK,” he asked, holstering his weapon and looking around the room.

Marcy was shaking so hard she couldn’t stand back up. She stared at the man’s fallen body through a mist of her own frightened tears. Taking a deep breath, she wiped her eyes and now clearly saw the man’s own badge clipped to his belt.

Marcy gasped. The police officer followed her gaze and froze when he saw the badge as well.

“Wait a minute. If he … then what … “

He never had a chance to finish either question.

… to be continued …