Spring Frost by Nicole Hahn
Dawn Plaster could still feel the water from yesterday’s amazing moment. Baptized! Born again! All words foreign to her before she began attending Singing Springs Christian Church. Yesterday she took her vow to follow Christ as she nodded to the pastor’s words. Today the excitement felt more like the drips coming off of her hair onto the floor than a spiritual moment, especially as the customer with the bad skin stood in line, indecisive and glowering at Dawn as if it’s somehow her fault.
The customer rubbed his gray and black goatee. “What’s the soup taste like?”
“You mean, the Southwest Roasted Red Pepper?”
“Yeah, that one.” He put both hands on the counter.
Dawn could see the dirt crusted beneath his chipped nails. “I hear it’s good.”
The man cocked his head. “You mean you haven’t tried it yet?”
And he was just the first customer! The other customers were also brisk. As the lunch crowd dissipated Dawn took a damp, warm rag and went to wipe the tables in the dining area. Another customer had left a clutter of dishes on one of the tables. There’s a bin by the front door for dishes. How inconsiderate! This is a coffee shop. We don't buss tables like a restaurant! Dawn picked up the dishes as she muttered to herself and brought them to the kitchen, slamming them into the sink. Matt continued chopping vegetables. His knife thudded against the cutting board, and he kept his eyes averted.
Dawn rinsed her rag and went back out to the tables and scrubbed until each table shined in the dining room. She paused by the front window. The sun shone through the smudges. There were buds on the trees. The last frost of winter would freeze those buds like it did last year. To the left in the street, she could see the fringes of a farmer’s market that had been set up earlier. Dawn tried to resurrect that feeling of peace and excitement again. I’m a Christian! I’m a child of God! I’m special. It failed to rise within her and that glow didn’t return.
Her boss, Carol walked up beside her and smiled. “The tree is going to be beautiful if the frost doesn’t kill it.”
Dawn gathered the rag and stood up straight. “I should clean those windows.”
“Didn’t you have some sort of baptism or something yesterday?” Carol followed Dawn into the kitchen. “I seem to remember you talking about it last week.”
Dawn rinsed the rag and carefully spread it out to dry on the counter. “Yeah. It was great.”
Carol shrugged. “Well, good for you. You know, you need to learn to hurry along those customers. I got a few complaints.”
Dawn nodded. She picked up a wooden spoon and stirred the soup simmering on the stove.
Matt kept chopping. His eyes were watering. Dawn noticed a pile of onions nearby. He hadn't said much today.
“A group of women are coming in.” Carol pointed as she headed towards the stairs that led to the upstairs office.
“I’ll get it.” Dawn put the spoon aside and walked over to the cash register.
There were three of them, all senior citizens and giggling like school girls. The short gray and black haired woman with the blue eyes smiled at Dawn.
“The soup and a half of the ham and swiss with it. Please no mayo. Just mustard, and a tea—make it an English breakfast.”
Dawn stabbed the keys of the cash register. The others gave their orders, too. They were talking about Singing Springs Christian Church. Dawn listened in as some of their faces looked familiar. She didn’t know everyone at church yet.
“I can’t believe the pastor asked for everyone’s testimony.” The woman with a halo of white hair drew a line through the tip section and signed, 'Isabelle Jollie.' Isabelle dug into her purse and put a couple of dollars into the tip jar.
“Like we would know what to say as the microphone is being passed when we’re all sitting and listening.” The blue-eyed woman drew a line through the tip section and signed her name, 'Jessica Freeload.' Jessica handed the receipt back to Dawn.
“It went on too long,” the third complained. She signed the receipt, 'Sonny Smith,' and dropped a small tip into the tip jar.
“Where will you be sitting?” Dawn put the receipts together and tucked them under the drawer.
“Over there.” Jessica nodded, the fine lines in her face deepening.
The three women found a seat and continued their complaints. Dawn went to the kitchen and began preparing their order with Carol’s help. Fifteen minutes later, Dawn balanced a tray of food on her hand and carried it out to the women’s table. Carol rang up more orders. The front door squeaked and slammed repeatedly as the pre-dinner afternoon crowd entered and began to line up. As Dawn handed the ladies their food and drinks she listened.
“That baptism was great.” Jessica moved her purse out of the way of her dish. “So sweet. But I would have rather heard Mr. Boyer sing another song. I mean, it was only one baptism. Not like we’ve really had a whole lot of baptisms. Plus, Mr. Boyer has such an amazing voice!”
Dawn dropped Sonny's silverware. “Sorry. I’ll get you a new one.”
Sonny frowned and silently shook her head at Dawn.
A little later, Dawn watched as Jessica gathered her and her friend's dishes and moved them to a nearby empty table. The bin with the sign above it that said, 'Place Empty Dishes Here' sat empty near the front door not more than a couple feet away from the three ladies. Dawn's shoulders tensed.
Jessica went up to the counter and ordered a dessert to share. “Three forks and three extra small plates, please. Dawn, right?” She made a point to look at Dawn's name tag. “You look familiar.”
Dawn carefully scooped a large slice of pie out of the pie dish and slid it on one plate. She kept her eyes fixed on the plate. Don't ask what church I go to, Oh Lord, please don't let them ask! “I get that all the time.” Faking a smile, Dawn gathered three forks, plates and extra napkins. Then, she handed them to Jessica.
Jessica paused before going back to her table. “I'm sure I've seen you someplace.”
You did...yesterday. I was the one being baptized. You don't really care about me. Dawn didn't have the courage to say those words out loud and instead smiled. “I do work two jobs.”
“We are a small town.” Jessica went to sit with her friends.
Another family entered the coffee house. The husband saw the dishes on the table and picked them up to bring them to the bin by the door. Jessica glanced up, but did nothing. The ladies continued their conversations.
These are Christians? Dawn went over to the bin and pointedly picked it up walking past the three ladies. Dawn even gave the bin a shake causing the silverware and dishes to clank together, but the ladies ladled compliments about the dessert to each other, pulling the pieces of pie from the fork between their teeth as if it was a first kiss, and ignored Dawn. A little while later, the three ladies left. Dawn stood over their table, her mouth forming a frown as she saw the dishes abandoned there. The new bin by the door was still empty.
Carol walked over and patted her on the back. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Dawn took the dishes to the kitchen.
Carol followed her to the kitchen. “I thought being Christian meant you were happy now. Anyway, I know it’s been a tough day, but your day is nearly over. I hope the tree out front blooms in spite of the last frost. Not like last year, when half of it looked bald.” Carol left the room.
Matt was wiping off the work stations. He threw the rag into the sink and walked over to Dawn. “You know, I was baptized five years ago as a teenager.”
Dawn blinked. She used her fingers to carefully wipe the tears from her eyes without smudging her make-up. “I didn’t know you were a Christian.”
“I stopped going to church for a few years. I didn’t feel like I mattered until last year when my friend got into an accident. For the first time, I prayed. She got well. Her bones healed, and she came to know Christ. What’s more I returned to church and realized how much I had kept to myself and didn’t get involved in fellowship.” Matt shrugged. He pointed towards the tree. “There are going to be bad seasons.”
Author Bio: Nikole Hahn is a recovering perfectionist blogging and living 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. She reviews books, writes short stories, and blogs on living the transparent Christian life at www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com. Nikole has been published in small presses and is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers.
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