The following is the true story of the night a customer attacked one of my baristas, and I intervened and backed him down. However, a recent writing assignment had me turn the antagonist into an amalgamation of several different people from my life. The prompt was called "The Composite Character."
The knife sparkled in the light from the windows behind me. Shimmering and shining like a gem.
How dare he? How dare he pull a knife on me and trap me into the one place I’d always felt at home? I hated him in that moment. The fear disappearing as the adrenaline kicked in. My heart began to race, and my hands shook.
But not from fear.
I’ve known abject terror before, many times. I’ve known the cold sweats that break out as the darkness seeps into the corners of my vision. I’ve known the voice in my head that screams at me to run. It was not the same voice that screamed at me from the walls of my mind that night. It was a much less kind voice. A much darker and more evil voice.
“Kill him,” it told me with malice. “Grab the knife and stick it in his precious area.”
I clenched my fists at my side, pressing my fingers so tightly into my palm that I can still remember the tension. I hated him before that day, but I’d also pitied him. I’d wanted him gone from my life but not gone from the world. But that night, under the stars and lights from the Starbucks patio, with the cool glass of the lit up window pressing against my back, I hated him. I loathed him. I wanted him dead. I wanted him to pay.
I glowered at him, my jaw flexing, but my tone steady and icy as I quietly spoke.
“You have a knife in my face. I don’t know what happened with Tyler before I walked onto this patio, but what I do know is that there is a knife in my face, and you’re the one holding it.”
His hand remained, but the knife trembled slightly as realization struck him. His eyes flicking sideways to where Tyler stood, he chewed on his thoughts. His mouth worked once more, his lips twisting into a sneer that I’d seen too many times before.
“But he’s the one who—” he started, the excuse quick on his lips.
“I don’t care who started what! You have a knife in my face!”
The tremble in his hand quickened as his anger shifted toward me. Squaring his shoulders firmly against me, he sneered with contempt, and I knew he was only amping up. I flicked my wrist gently, waving the phone in front of him with my arm still at my shoulder level.
"I already called the cops. They can hear you. They’re on their way.”
I shifted my gaze to the familial mob he had with him, my eyes meeting each one of their deer-eyed mugs with warning and contempt shining outward.
“YOU all see who has the knife. You’re all witnesses. And you stand there doing nothing. Shame on you.”
One-by-one, they diverted their eyes, dismissing the blame to the person next to them, and around the group it continued. I rested my glower upon the eldest, and he did not turn away. I could feel his shame as well as I felt the wind on my face. I held his gaze, staring with intent as I spoke one last time.
“They are already coming. This is already a bad situation.”
I shifted my focus back to him, standing in front of me with his knife slightly lowered and a look of fear and confusion forming on his face.
“Get him out of here. Get in your cars and leave before this gets any worse.”
The knife lowered another inch, and I allowed a breath of mild relief to escape my lips. The anger still hung upon me like a second skin, however, and I felt the adrenaline building within me as my confidence grew. I looked at the knife in his hand, wanting to take it from him and smash it into his hand. I could see his face twisting with agony and surprise, and I almost laughed as I imagined it.
All those years. All of the fear I’d known. So many nights without sleep, without peace. I wanted him to finally know what it was like. I wanted him to feel the pain I’d felt. I wanted him to know what it was like to live every moment in absolute terror, the anxiety becoming your constant companion until it feels like you’re not actually alive without it.
He looked up at me with a childlike regret that I’d learned long before was his defense mechanism when he knew he was caught. There was no real shame. No real regret.
I felt a sneer much like his own cross my face as the pure contempt rose within me like vomit that I wanted to expel on him. Every ounce of my fear had vanished. He held no power over me anymore. I made out the sirens in the distance, growing louder by the second, and I grinned down at him.
"I have witnesses this time, old man."
A repulsive but entirely satisfyingly pathetic look took over his face as he quickly closed the knife and pocketed it. I heard Tyler let out his breath in a sudden and sharp exhale. The small crowd to my left began to move like the dirt beneath a hive of ants, and I turned my sneer back toward them.
“Get him out of here. Don’t let this get worse.”
They stared back at me like sheep waiting for their signal before they all jumped into action as one, rushing suddenly to my side and ushering the old man down the steps and into the truck. He shuffled away like a petulant child, his hand tucked inside his pocket, fidgeting with the knife.
I turned my back on him and looked at Tyler for the first time since I’d joined them on the patio. He held the metal trashcan in front of him like a shield, his face twisted with worry and confusion.
“What the F*&* was that?!” he exclaimed as he let the trashcan fall to the ground.
I simply shrugged as the cops pulled into the parking lot, and as I looked back at Tyler, like automatic gunfire, hysterical laughter burst forth from me.
"This is SO not funny, Lena!"
Tears formed at the corner of my eyes, and I snorted softly as my chuckling died out. He had not learned to laugh at life's ridiculous moments yet.
Maybe he would never have to. I hoped he didn't.
I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, hoping the tears of laughter would not trigger a full on cry session and walked to the parking lot to meet the officers.
As the first cop stepped out of his car and reached for his pen, a new wave of anger and hatred washed over me. Not only had the bastard pulled a knife on me and my barista, but I’d be stuck there for hours filling out paperwork.
It was going to be a long night.
About the Creator
Alaskan Grown Freelance Writer 🤍 Lover of Prose
Former Deckhand & Barista 🤍 Always a Pleaser & Eggshell-Walker
Lifelong Animal Lover & Whisperer 🤍 Ever the Student & Seeker
Traveler 🤍 Dreamer 🤍 Wanderer
Happily Lost 🤍 Luckily in Love
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Original narrative & well developed characters
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme