People Shaping


Elizabeth Morin '22, Co-Editor of Austin Authors

The bell jangled harshly as the coffee shop door flew open. A well-dressed, middle-aged man stormed in with an intense smile on his face and an expensive phone at his ear.

Brian: 45. Harvard Business School. CFO of a financial tech start-up but really wants to manage a hedge fund. Brian bought a summer house recently, but mostly to keep his wife, Lisa, happy. They often fight about when the company will IPO.

“Morning, Brian!” she stashes her journal and puts on one of her own big smiles, more authentic than his. “How’s the market looking today?” He always seemed angry to her, even when trying to look happy.

He adjusted the phone, so he wasn’t speaking directly into it. Probably on a conference call. “Down three hundred already in pre-market trading,” he whispered, “going to be rough. I hope you’re keeping an eye on your accounts.”

“Regular for you? Double espresso, cream and sugar?” Did he really think she had some massive investment account somewhere and worked in a coffee shop?

He snapped and pointed a finger gun at her. “You got it.”

Brian had ordered decaf the first time, last week, when he was a struggling poet saddled with wicked insomnia stressing over the massive college debt he’d accumulated pursuing a business degree he never wanted. She didn’t like that character for him. There’d been an intensity there, just under the surface, that needed a better outlet. A caffeine addiction fit nicely into the new picture she’d painted for Brian.

She handed him his espresso, assuring him that she would check on her non-existent account. As Brian left the shop, he held the door open for a young woman to enter, almost spilling his coffee as he dodged the monstrosity of a backpack she lugged behind her.

Abby: 23. Left college early to pursue her dream of traveling the world. Her parents, both still alive and happily married, are surprisingly supportive of this decision. Abby’s in a good place.

“Cappuccino to go!” She said, preparing it already.

“Right!” Abby almost shouted. “Sorry! I’m so excited!”

“Today’s the day?” she asked, as if she didn’t already know. “What time’s your train?” She handed over the cappuccino.

“Not soon enough,” Abby replied, sipping carefully. “Nothing personal but I can’t wait to get out of this town and start living life!”

“No offense, I understand completely.” Such a pleasant change from the despondent woman who’d wandered in to tell the story of her parents’ sudden passing. She’d inherited the house, which somehow made it worse.

Abby swung the giant backpack over her shoulder, almost knocking herself over in the process, and headed out the door.

Minutes later, the bell tinkled gingerly as the door creaked open. Not even a whole body, just a timid face poked in. One she’d never seen before. This was exciting! “Hello,” the new voice said, sounding desperate. “Please tell me you have breakfast here? I haven’t been able to find a good breakfast place.”

A new character!

She smiled her welcoming smile. “Mostly croissants and muffins, but they’re homemade. New in town? What’s your name?”

The new guest’s eyes skimmed the glass case between them. “Meredith,” she said into the glass, “I moved here last week for work. Can I get an iced caramel and a cheese croissant?”

“Of course,” she said, already behind the coffee machine. “What work do you do?”

“Just a receptionist, over at the gym. I kind of hate it. I want to be a physical therapist. That’s what I went to school for. But it’s a start, I guess.” She sighed heavily.

She handed Meredith her food and watched her sit down. Watched her face. This was not a happy young woman. Meredith hated much more than just her entry-level job.

She reached under the counter and found her book. She opened to a fresh page. Tapped her pencil a few times while she thought.

Meredith: 29 years old. Ph.D. in physical therapy, on staff at the local hospital. Goes running every morning. That’s where she met her boyfriend, Chris. They share a nice three-bedroom townhouse uptown with their dog, Oreo. Next year Chris is going to ask her to marry him.

She stopped writing as Meredith approached with her dirty plate and mug. “Thanks,” she said, “just what I needed.” She headed toward the door.

“Keep your chin up!” she called out after her. “Tomorrow’s going to be a better day!”