• Burnt Breakfast

Ladies in Waiting | By Chella Courington

Aline stood alone with her manilla folder. Tonight the sun slipped into the Pacific at 5:30 as she walked into the Handlebar. No hipster coffee bar. A clean, well-lighted place with high ceilings, picture windows, and one long mahogany table in the center. Watercolors of the ocean and palms hung on the brick.

She sat at the table near the front door. Every night she came when most couples would be sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir, talking about their day on zoom—teaching students how to write essays or presenting marketing plans. But Aline had no one to pop the cork or toss the sweet butter lettuce while she cut the sourdough and sliced chicken paper thin. All she could do was imagine, envision a tall woman with her hair pulled back and chiseled cheeks like Cate Blanchett. Aline’s last two lovers had been charming. Maria wore camouflage pants and Doc Martens, and Lynn eased into the day drinking cappuccinos and eating croissants.

Yet they didn’t stay.

Maria turned into a lizard, a coastal whiptail to be exact. Her throat was pale and her tail, luminously blue. A nocturnal creature, she moved with abrupt starts and stops. Her tongue flicking. While Aline also loved the dark hours and being aroused from sleep, she was not used to constant activity and became disturbed by Maria’s rapid digging and bringing spiders to bed. Finally, she left for the dry heat of Santa Ynez.

Lynn became a ladybug. But she still liked to ease into the day with her Cappuccinos and croissants. Aline couldn’t resist her touch. Her shiny, red and black body sliding over Aline’s skin, tickling each nerve until Aline gushed like a river—morning, noon, and evening. Lynn was the woman Aline longed for. Unfortunately, Lynn wanted someone smaller and crawled off.

Along with these darlings, there’d been others who thrilled Aline, turning her into their one-and-only. And she was always sad, crying for days, wondering if she’d ever find true love, when they left. She opened her folder and browsed through the sketches of her ladies, caught between Aline and their transformation.

Looking up from her drawings, she saw Elle slink through the front door as she had every night for the last week. Long legs in beige jeans with a leopard Covid mask. Aline smiled. She’d wanted a cat and offered her a seat.


Chella Courington is a writer and teacher whose poetry and fiction appear in anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quarterly and New World Writing. A 2020 Pushcart and Best Small Fictions Nominee, Courington (she/her) lives in California.

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