Waking up took Maya more effort that morning. Maybe it was the cold outside. Through a window by the bedside, she could see neighbouring rooftops covered in snow. The sun casted a dark shade of orange in attempt to warm up the world and the hues of pink and lilac were painted on the sky. Maybe it was age catching up on her. Maybe it was the pasta she had last night, the pesto might have expired. Maybe it’s a symptom for an incurable disease. She invited many possibilities as the answer to the depressing heaviness that roused her from sleep. Her gaze fell on her clenched fist resting just above her heart. Then she pushed herself up with all her might and got out of the bed.

It was after all just 8am on a cold Saturday morning. Everything was still outside and only occasional sounds of care driving by on the other side of the large trees could be heard. A soft click of the door followed by Maya’s light and quick footsteps were not loud enough to wake her neighbours. There was a loud bang and somebody trampled across the hallway of the apartment above her. Maya walked on quietly, sticking close to the wall because the railing was rattling as the thunderous footsteps came closer behind her. All she noticed was the long black hair of a woman whipping across who hurried down the last flight of stairs and out the main door, slamming it close.

A sudden cold wind greeted Maya as she stepped into the white surrounding. Inhaling deeply, she first took in the sky, the bald trees and the snow lined branches, and finally, the beauty of everything marred by the footprints of the other woman. She sighed and walked towards the bus stop. A cup of coffee would uplift her spirit and leave the shroud of unexplainable sadness crumpled on the ground. Then, she would make the trip much needed to an old village nearby.

The bus would arrive in 10 minutes and the last thing she had in mind was to wait in the cold for the next one. Maya hurried along on the snow covered pavement, accompanied by a very dark raven flying above her.

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“Maya! You’re early!” exclaimed Theodora, the owner of Meraki, a cafe nestled in a cosy corner of the busy town. There were many who frequented this 40-year-old cafe she started at a young age of 18. Out of the frequent customers, there were a handful she considers to be special as they have bonded over the years. Then, there’s Maya. The 75-year-old woman, now standing at the door of the cafe, was still very attractive. Her big, black eyes shine brightly when she speaks and her smile is very genuine and warm. She didn’t dress like women her age, with their large hats and lipsticks in a shade too bright. Theodora had wondered, more than once, how Maya might have looked like in her early 20s. There were definitely many broken hearts along the course of time. Their friendship could be traced back to the new opening of the cafe.

Young and fearless Theodora was chatting with her new customers while serving them coffee, tea and cakes. Closing time approached quickly and she put up the CLOSED sign on the glass door. “Do you plan keep me in here all day?” asked a woman. Startled, she turned around to see a very elegant woman in a burgundy dress with matching lipstick. A grin was plastered across her face and an eyebrow was raised. “Maya. Lovely place,” said the woman, who had Theodora’s full attention. “Umm.. Theodora. Thank you. Sorry, I didn’t mean to lock you in here,” Theodora apologised profusely while shaking Maya’s hand. She unlocked the door when Maya asked, “Why did you name your cafe Paradise?” The stranger does not have to know how she had opened a book at random and chose the first word she saw. “Well.. I..- ,” Theodora was cut off by Maya’s next question. “You have always liked baking. It’s your passion. Meraki would be nice. You need a Greek-English dictionary to learn the meaning. Thank you for the coffee. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Maya pecked her cheek, a gesture normally made between friends, not strangers. Maya left the speechless Theodora and visited her almost everyday for the next 40 years.

Cold hands clasped around her own, bringing her back to the present. Maya had aged over the night and Theodora was now concerned. “You have to close for the day, please. Send the waitress home. We need to talk,” Maya pleaded. Never in those 40 years had Theodora seen Maya looking vulnerable and fragile. Her instinct told her to follow Maya’s advise. Reaching for the CLOSED sign, Theodora asked, “What’s wrong Maya? What is it? Come sit down. I’ll get you a cup of coffee.” The women sat at the same spot they met 40 years ago. Again, Theodora tried to analyse Maya. “It’s about your mother,” said the older woman. Now, Theodora is confused. She was an orphan from birth after all. “She’s dead,” Maya said. Their eyes met; Theodora’s full of question, Maya’s spilling secrets they had kept until this day.