Unknown Comforts

“Cora?” A disenchanted barista called the name while holding up a cup.

“Right here,” Cora replied with a half-raised hand. The young woman stepped forward with a smile. The barista, “Frankie”, looked at Cora with suspicion, even though he was the one that took her order. She was used to it and handed him the receipt in exchange for the coffee. Confusion clouded his eyes when he noticed his name on the receipt, then he turned around. Cora left the coffee shop then around the corner to another shop in the strip mall.

“Good morning, can I help you?” an older woman with long salt and pepper hair smiled at Cora from behind the glass counter. Handmade jewelry and other knickknacks decorated the interior of the display case. Cora shook her head.

“Sorry, this might sound odd… Do you want this coffee?” Cora placed the cup on the counter. “I got an extra one for free but one’s my limit. If I don’t give it away it’s going to go to waste. Honestly, you’re my last chance to keep it out of the trash,” she gave a practiced shrug. “No one seems to like it black with a shot of peppermint.”

“Oh my goodness, are you sure? I adore black with peppermint,” the woman replied. Her hand inched toward the cup on the counter.  “And I haven’t had my morning cup yet.”

“Then it’s yours!” Cora smiled at the woman and pushed the cup closer to her hand. “Thanks for taking it off my hands.”

“Cora? That’s a beautiful name, “the older woman said as she eyed the cup. Then, she picked it up off the counter. “You know, it’s always nice to meet another peppermint fan.” Cora smiled as she moved toward the exit.

“Yeah, it is. My mother taught me how delicious it was, especially in coffee.” She stepped through the door and gave her mother a melancholy wave as she left. Cora walked to her car, got in, then wondered what to do next.

Normally she dropped off an “extra” breakfast plate for her dad, but he was out of town for a conference. She did not have a job, but she never wanted for money. She had a regular, rotating set of victims that she mugged every week to get by whenever she needed cash.

“Breakfast it is,” she decided to get something for herself. She reached for her phone and dialed her favorite restaurant. She learned long ago that trying to eat in a restaurant resulted in her never even getting to order. She placed her order, left her name, then took the scenic route to the restaurant. Cora left her car and walked to the entrance, but she was stopped by a hand on her shoulder.

“Cora? It IS you.” A woman with a high-pitched voice hugged Cora and kissed her cheek. “How’re you doing?” Cora fought the urge to shove the woman off her to avoid appearing rude, but she took a step back. The woman let her arms fall away and gave Cora a curious look. “You don’t remember me?” She sounded offended, but then she slapped her own forehead. “Of course you don’t remember me. You were so young, and you’ve grown a lot since then.”

Cora looked the stranger over. She was a tall, wispy woman with short red hair. She was dressed in a black tank top and a long, green flowing skirt. Cora did not think she recognized the woman, but a name popped in her head as soon as she saw the thin lady.

“Mundo?” The woman smiled and nodded.

“You do remember!” Mundo grabbed Cora’s arm and pulled her into the restaurant. “I hope you’re not in a hurry, we’ve got some catching up to do.”

“Wait!” Cora planted her feet and pulled her arm out of Mundo’s hands. “You remember me?” she asked. Mundo gave her a curious look.

“Of course, dear. You used to come over and play with my nieces every day after school. Then one day you stopped coming but no one would tell me why.” Mundo shrugged with sad eyes. “Any time I asked about you, the girls ignored the question.” Cora nodded. She forgot most of her school days. The only vivid memory she had was the first day everyone forgot her. Her friends wanted to play hide and seek on the way home, but no one ever looked for her.

“How do you remember me though?” Cora asked. “No one remembers me.” Mundo laughed in disbelief at first, but then she caught herself.

“Are you serious?”

“Yes,” Cora nodded.

“Oh dear,” Mundo stepped forward and hugged Cora again. This time the hug seemed more consoling. Cora did not mind it as much. “I’m so sorry, Cora. I should have talked to you a long time ago.”

“You know what I can do?” Cora asked with wide eyes. Mundo nodded, but then she paused and shook her head.

“It’s complicated. I don’t know what you can do exactly, but I knew you were special,” Mundo looked Cora over as if she was looking for something.  “You don’t have a tattoo, do you?”

“No, why?”

“The short version is, if you get a tattoo with the number 27 on it, people should start remembering you again,” Mundo said. Then, she tilted her head toward the restaurant’s interior. “Let’s go sit down and I’ll explain everything.” Cora nodded and took a step forward, but then she paused again.

“But,… I don’t have to, right? I mean, I don’t have to get the tattoo?”

“Well, no. I suppose you don’t have to. You want to keep living with no one remembering you?” Cora shrugged but nodded.

“Maybe? It’s not so bad once you get the hang of it.”

“What about your family?”

“I think after 15 years, the guilt might be too much for them. And I still remember them even if they don’t remember me. They’re happy and I have a good life. Why disturb it?”

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