She watched Lee race away -- he really did walk faster than anyone she'd ever met -- and she looked at the coffee from the donut place. It was fine but what Jodie did to French roast beans was art. She ground the coffee for 20 seconds. She knew what the exact measurement should be for their pot and she put in just a smidge more. When she had a day off, she and Lee tried to duplicate Jodie's efforts, going so far as to stand there and watch her do it, attempting to listen to her coffee tutorial, but Lee started thinking about how busy his day was going to be and she thought about how Jodie pronounced place names -- Bonus Airies, Sayo Pa-oolo, Bellow Horontay for Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and Belo Horizonte, respectively -- and how the timbre of her voice was like nails on a chalkboard. She took another sip and decided the donut shop coffee was perfectly serviceable for today but what was that smell?
He didn't seem very big under his two coats, knit hat (color indeterminable), baggy pants, and lace-up boots that were probably two sizes too large. He had a large wheeled suitcase that had once been black. He'd not washed in a while because he smelled of all the things that dwelled in that back building entrance and more. He was staring at her.
"Ma'am," he said, his voice beautifully clear and lilting, almost like music, "you're at my table."
Apparently there was a seating heirarchy in the food court of which she knew nothing. There were people who came here regularly who liked their own routines and this round table was his. She would have felt bad but he'd called her "Ma'am," and she hated that.
"Did you just call me "Ma'am," sir?" she asked.
"Don't get all crusty in your undershorts," he answered. "I'm from the South and we're just polite down there."
"You sound as Midwest as me," she shot back.
"I was in the military," he said, eyeing the table.
"Should have led with that one," she replied, and got up.
"Yeah, I was in the ..." he started to say but she cut him off.
"I don't care. I'm moving. I don't care."
He started to add something else but she cut him off.
"I don't care," she said slowly, each word getting equal weight, and as she was gathering her things, she heard a familiar voice.
"This lady works in the building. Why are you bothering her?"
John King was the second in charge of building security. He was her age but he had been in the military and he could recognize bullshit from 100 yards away.
"It's okay, Mr. King," she said. "I'll just move."
"This lady works in this building and never sits down here," he told the man. "She will probably never sit down here again."
He had noticed but then Mr. King noticed everything.
"Well, I am sorry but she's at my table," said the man, almost exasperated.
"She didn't know. You couldn't sit at another table for one day?" asked Mr. King.
The man shuffled back and forth, back and forth in his oversized boots, thinking, concentrating. He looked at Mr. King and he looked at her for a long time.
"No," he finally said. "I just can't."
She and Mr. King looked at each other. She opened her eyes wide and Mr. King shrugged.
"You're lucky she's a nice lady. She could have asked to have you thrown out of here and I'd do the throwing and I'd be smiling while I was doing it," said Mr. King. "And try to clean up in the restroom a little."
The man smiled a mostly rotten-toothed grin.
"Thank you, sir. Thank you, Ma'am," he said, then added hastily, "I was in the military."
"No, you weren't," said Mr. King. "Stop lying."
"I'm from the South?" he asked.
"Be quiet and just sit down," said Mr. King to the man and to me, "Come on."
He led me away by my elbow.