This Can’t Be Happening to Me
FINAL TENANT NOTICE: EVACUATE THE PREMISES BY NOON
THE BLACK AND BOLD words in front of my face said it all, but I was still having a hard time accepting the truth. As Seattle’s soft morning rain fell over me, I traced my fingers around the words “Tenant Notice,” trying not to remember how excited I once was when I first signed the lease.
Months ago, my coffee and wine bar was open and thriving—serving tourists and locals alike whenever they ventured downtown. But now, the only thing I had to show for all the hopes, sweat, and tears I’d poured into every cup of coffee was a soaking wet pink notice of failure.
Sighing, I peeled the paper off the front door and unlocked the building one last time. The only things left inside were the massive glass pantry cases that lined the back wall, a few wooden chairs, and the shop’s namesake and motto etched in chalk above the menu board.
Wildest Dreams Coffee & Wine Café: Where Impossible Never Ends...
“Hey, Miss!” A police officer stepped inside, waving a flashlight. “Are you one of the owners?”
I nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Oh, well—” He glanced at his watch. “You’ve got about fifteen minutes before I’ll have to change the lock on this place.” He walked over to the bar and ran his hand against the mahogany tabletop I installed months ago. “This shop had some of the best cupcake and coffee pairings I’ve ever had,” he said. “Some of my colleagues and I came here after hours a few times. Well, until Starbucks opened across the street. Can’t beat Starbucks, especially in this city.”
He laughed, and I gave him a blank stare.
“Thank you so much, Officer.”
“No problem!” He smiled. “I mean, if my daughter ever told me she wanted to open a place like this, I’d tell her she should open it anywhere except this city.”
I rolled my eyes. “Can you excuse me for a few minutes, please?”
“Thirteen minutes to be exact.” He tapped his watch and toyed with the spouts behind the counter. “Oh, wow. You even named each of the beer spouts after a cupcake.”
Ugh! I resisted the urge to scream, “Let me put my business to death in peace, please!”
Walking away, I snapped a few last pictures of the hand-painted murals in the hallway. There was one of the Memphis “M” bridge glittering against the night, one of me and my best “non-friend” and business partner Kelly standing in front of Seattle’s Space Needle, and of course, one of the secret founder of this business. The man who thought he was giving me tuition for business school every six months while I sank every dime into this dream. My older brother, Jonathan.
With five minutes to spare, I pulled a bobby pin from my hair and etched a final message into the wall.
Thanks for the memories and the dream while it lasted...
Wildest Dreams Coffee & Wine Café was once here.
—Hayley and Kelly
PS—FUCK YOU, STARBUCKS.
“Are you damaging the property, Miss?” The officer cleared his throat from the other side of the room. “That’s an additional five hundred dollars if you are.”
“Not at all.” I returned the bobby pin to my hair. “I was just saying goodbye.” I walked out of the place with him at my heels—ignoring whatever final memory he wanted to share. I pulled my hoodie over my head and stepped into the city’s falling rain, heading straight for Pike Place Market.
I took my time walking past the vendors and farmers who were setting their wares and fruits out for a new day. Past the giant, white Ferris wheel that spun slowly in the distance.
I wanted to soak up every mundane sight I’d taken for granted while living here, wanted to cling to my last sense of independence before having to come clean and tell the truth.
Unless I can come up with a Plan B...
When I made it to my apartment, a cramped walk-up in the middle of an alley, I noticed that the door was already unlocked.
What the hell?
I pushed the door open and saw a man with salt and pepper-colored hair tossing things from my kitchen into a pile. I grabbed an umbrella so I could beat him over the head, but he turned around, and I realized he was my landlord.
“Mr. Everett?” I dropped the umbrella and crossed my arms. “What the hell are you doing?”
“What I should’ve done six months ago.” He turned around and narrowed his eyes at me. “Putting your ass out. You and your smart-mouthed roommate, Kelsey.”
“It’s irrelevant because she’s just as broke and incompetent as you are.”
“Is this because we’re always a few weeks late with the rent?” I pulled my checkbook out of my purse, knowing damn well anything over twenty dollars would bounce today. “I can pay you back right now.”
“I doubt it.” He held up his hand. “I called your bank when the last check bounced. They said your balance is rarely above eighty-five dollars these days, so the chances of me getting my money for the last few months and this month are slim to none. Are they lying?”
“They’re breaking the law,” I said. “They can’t disclose my information like that. But for the record, I try to keep it at ninety-five dollars. Not eighty-five.”
“That’s what I thought.” He shrugged and tossed my favorite romance books onto the pile. “You’ve got forty-eight hours to get all of your shit out, and I won’t file a lawsuit against you for back-rent.”
“Mr. Everett, please give us one last chance to pay what we owe. We had a few unexpected expenses with our shop three months ago, so—”
“Forty-eight hours.” He cut me off. “Period.” He pulled an envelope from his pocket and handed it to me. “Your boyfriend dropped this off for you an hour ago. I was tempted to open it, but since it didn’t feel like a wad of cash, I left it alone.”
“You’re welcome.” He smiled and pointed to a stack of flattened boxes in the corner. “Get busy packing, young lady. I’ll be right back with some duct tape.”