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  • Emma Cohan

Flash Fiction - A Winning Discovery

A Desire For Freedom


This Flash Fiction story was perviously published for a writing competition in 2021


“How the hell did I end up here? I had big dreams once!”

My name is Sarah and I’m stuck in a dead-end cubicle job. You know the type - a small, not private space where it’s the roll of a dice on whether or not you get along with the person next to you. Unlike the rest of the inmates working here. I didn't want to settle into this odd, cubicell of a lifestyle made up of tweed-covered hollow walls, cords spilling out from every direction, and an office chair that squeaked every time I swiveled to the right.

At exactly 10:30 am everyday, I would sneak out of the office to get a taste of freedom at the local Starbucks across the street. Today was one of those days I was getting a venti cappuccino with extra foam and I was going to sit in the armchair in the corner. I would watch the world drift by outside the window for twenty glorious minutes daydreaming of sipping a pina colada sunbathing on the beach in Maui.

I was frustrated it wasn't enough that every time I picked up the phone the entire office floor heard every conversation I had. It was also very obvious when I wasn’t at my desk. Today, I didn't care whether Judy, my boss, was upset that I wasn't at my desk and that I didn't read the latest company memo about adding a cover sheet to my reports.

For a brief moment, I had freedom as I pushed open the Starbucks door, the coffee shop swirled with the aromatic scent of espresso - deep, rich and complicated, just like my life right now. I sighed as the familiar sounds and sights washed over me like a calm Hawaiian sea lapping at the shore. The ambience of friendly chatter instantly relaxed me. As I looked around, I was slightly upset that nobody was wearing Hawaiian shirts, but it was winter in Chicago.

As I approached the counter, I was greeted by Josh the barista’s huge smile

“ The usual is it? Venti cappuccino with extra foam? How is your day going?

I faked a smile and said, “Great! Yes, please on the venti cappuccino.

I paid using the app on my iPhone, and saw that it wouldn't be long until I would earn a free drink. Things were starting to look up. I moved on down the line to where you wait for your order. As I waited, I watched and wondered how many of Josh’s customers went on to be better people throughout their day due to the friendly banter from him and his infectious Colgate smile.

I heard them call my name. I walked up to the counter and grabbed the white cup, turned and headed to my spot of solitude. The brown leather armchair next to a coffee table that was usually stacked up high with the day’s news. As I sat down, I was reminded that here I could have my own seat, gain the feeling of being social, yet, have the confidence that I could enjoy my own contemplations at leisure not being in my cubicell.

I put my nose close to the cup, and took a long deep inhale. Ah, the rich smell of ground espresso beans was warm and comforting. I took a sip and let the espresso flow from the front to the back of my tongue while gently swishing it around, and then I swallowed. I loved how this hot drink still gave me the flavors of the espresso, while the harshness notes were smoothed out by the sweetness of milk and sugar. The taste stayed with me for quite some time. I closed my eyes for a second then reopened them, enjoying the moment. Everything disappeared. It was just me, my thoughts and…...what’s that?

Something black was poking out from beneath a stack of abandoned newspapers on the nearby coffee table. As I picked up the mass of papers and moved them out the way. I came face to face with a little black notebook. From the outer cover, I immediately know it was a Moleskin. A legendary notebook like no other. These were the holy grails of creative people everywhere from artists and thinkers, to the dreamers and doers.

I looked around the busy coffee shop while sinking back down into my armchair. I waited a minute or two, gripping my cappuccino, slowly taking sips while staring at the notebook. I never took my eyes off of it. In the space of a second, I decided to wait to see if anyone would suddenly come running back to the table to claim it as theirs. Before I claimed it as mine. It was torture to not just grab it and open it to see what was inside this beautiful book.

Just by the look of it, I knew its pages were adorned with the calligraphy of dreams, beautiful lettering and daydream doodles scrawled across each page in pen and pencil.

Five minutes passed and I put my phone on the table, next to the notebook, so it looked like the notebook was mine. I looked around and grabbed it. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, “my precious.” I knew this was the key to unlocking my freedom and quite possibly my imagination. I could feel the energy within its pages. I opened it. There was no name on the inside. As I flipped through its pages, moments of the last year came to life. It was like taking a trip through time expressed through delicate and mesmerizing creations of watercolor and black and white doodles. Whomever the owner of this little black book was, I guessed them to be a curious soul, a knowledge gatherer. They were probably a lifelong learner always collecting ideas, dreams and planning for tomorrow's adventures all within the pages of this legendary black book.

As I turned the pages, in awe of the beauty and power of the penmanship, I found an orange Powerball lottery ticket nestled between the pages poking out like that of a hot Hawaiian sun. I stopped and looked at the date and saw it was from last night’s drawing. I wonder if I’ve won. I meant, I wondered if the person who owned the notebook won?

I gripped the Powerball ticket, grabbed my phone and opened Safari to google the lottery results. As I was waiting for the page to load, my hands started to get sweaty. I suddenly thought to myself - What if I was meant to find this notebook with a winning lottery ticket in it? The numbers loaded and I started reading them off. 2, 28, 31, 44, 55, 18. I looked down at the ticket: 2, Oh my god I have it, 28, I have it too, wait I have 31. I started to get excited and my pulse quickened. Holy moly, am I going to win the lottery sitting in Starbucks? 44 Yes, no 55 but I have the bonus ball too, 18. OH MY GOD I have 4 numbers plus the Powerball. I let out a shriek of excitement then looked around, but nobody seemed to be bothered. I scrolled down to the cash amount and looked for the four numbers plus Powerball and it read $20,000. OH MY GOD, I JUST WON $20,000!

There was an explosion in my brain. The good sort of course, the type that carries more possibilities than I could imagine. There was something coming. I didn't know what it was. I could feel it creeping over me. My chest began to rise and fall fast. A little whispered word escaped my lips. I said it over and over again under my breath. “Freedom.”

My eyes suddenly became keen and bright. My pulse beat fast and my coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of my body. My mind began visualizing all sorts of days ahead that would be my own. No more saying, yes, ma’am to my deadbeat boss, Judy. I would be my own boss!

I placed the lottery ticket back in between the pages and slam the notebook shut while I picked up my bag. With a triumph in my eyes, I carried myself up and out of the armchair like a goddess of victory. I grasped the little black book with the winning lottery ticket nestled safely inside and marched myself out of the coffee shop towards the parking lot where my shining knight of a silver BMW waited. I would speed away into the sunset of a new chapter in my life, one of freedom and adventure, thanks to a little black book.

I went there for the cappuccino, but I got so much more. I got freedom!

I would never be able to thank the person for all that they gave me by leaving their little black notebook in a coffee shop. I would figure out a way to repay the world somehow but, first I had phone calls to make.

“Hello, Judy? It’s Sarah, I’m not feeling well and I’m going home. Those reports? Hand them to Jimmy. I’m not sure when I’ll be back in the office. Gotta go, bye”

Click. Goodbye, cubicell.

As I fumbled for my keys to the car, I made the best phone call of my life..

“Hello, Blue Hawaii? I would like to book one plane ticket and a hotel somewhere on the beach in Maui. please. When can I go?

How about today?

Friday? That’s perfect. “

As we finalized my vacation plans. I realized this little notebook that I clutched so tightly in my hands freed me and began a new cycle of life letting my true self blossom. It showcased how far an imagination could go. First thing I’ was going to do before I left for the airport on Friday, was to purchase my very own little black notebook. I, too was going to start to sketch my thoughts, write my own new life story. One that doesn't include a cubicell and I would doodle the life of my dreams while sipping a pina colada on the beach in Maui. I knew the ideas would come, probably when I least expected it. I reached my car, opened the door and got in. I hit the ignition button and put my car into drive, with a new desire to dream big for courageous adventures and endless stories.

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