The early morning January sky was dark. The only sound Astor could hear in the biting cold was the sleet as it slapped against the icy parking lot, the frozen husks of cars, and the top of her head. Why did she have to be out here now? Why did she have to work a job that made her get up at this ungodly hour?
When she tried to open the door of her old rusty, red Jeep she was met with resistance. The door wouldn’t budge. Typical. Sighing, Astor walked around and yanked on the passenger door. It too, was frozen shut.
Astor shoved her freezing hands into the folds of her overcoat and stamped the numbness from her feet. It was no use. Even if she went back inside to get hot water to pour over the door, the damn thing probably wouldn’t budge for at least fifteen minutes. She could walk to work, and be there in the same amount of time. It was shaping up to be yet another fun fun day.
As she crossed the street outside her apartment complex, Astor’s foot caught on a patch of ice. She felt her legs slip from under her, but managed to catch herself before hitting the ground. There weren’t any cars on the road, and she made it to the other side without another incident. The wind tore at her exposed face, and within minutes she was sniffing back snot. She kept her head down, focused on her feet, and did nothing else but will them to continue walking.
This is crazy. Even if I do make it on time, there’s no way anyone will come in for coffee in this mess.
Astor turned onto the rail trail that ran across town. It was her usual shortcut to work, but she preferred taking it in the summer time, when the leaves bristled from the welcome, cooling breeze. Currently, the trail was covered in four inches of snow and slush that had already soaked through Astor’s boots and socks. She tried to think of how welcome a nice hot latte would be once she got to work, but it did little to comfort her in the moment.
The trail led Astor through a field, across from which were several abandoned warehouses. There was a light in one of them, coming from the third floor. Astor glanced at it curiously, and felt her legs give out once again as she slipped on a patch of ice. this time she hit the ground hard, scraping her bare hands on the slush.
There was little pain, but Astor felt the tears coming anyway. Those warehouses were only a five minute walk from her place, but it’d easily taken her twice that long to get this far. The palms of her hands were red and raw, her toes numb and distant, and even the tears she was crying hurt as they froze halfway down her cheeks. Still, she had to get to work. So, wiping away the icicle tears, Astor picked herself up, and kept walking.
After another ten minutes of trudging through the thick slush, the sleet turned to a thick curtain of snow. Astor’s world was filled with static and grainy, white noise. Her thin frame rocked with each new gust of wind, but she pressed on.
Up ahead, Astor could just make out the faint outline of the Midtown Cafe. There weren’t any lights on, but that was usual at this time. They wouldn’t be opening for another hour. She only hoped that Pete or Melissa were there to let her in, as she didn’t have a key. The numbness was spreading to her legs now, and she couldn’t feel her hands.
As she approached the door, she noticed a little sign on the window. It read: Closed due to weather. Will open tomorrow at regular business hours. No. Astor pulled at the locked door to no avail. Then her legs gave out, and she sunk to her knees in the wet snow. It was going to be a long walk back.