Fiction Friday; Generosity

This is an incomplete piece for the prompt "Unusual Joy," but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with it yet. What do you guys think?


The smooth jazz music playing over the speakers didn't match the black mood that had overtaken her on the subway, moving too quickly even for the morning express to outpace. Or maybe it had clung to her from earlier, and had only become visible as it sank in, like a grease stain on a new blouse.

Sliding into the queue behind a man wearing too much aftershave, Tiana tried not to breathe too deeply, or think too much, or take too much notice of the building headache behind her eyes. None of this was going to improve her day.

Think about positive things. Meditate on the morning's reading. Generosity had been their topic - she was already a pretty generous person. But why did people feel the need to drown themselves in scented chemicals every morning? Tiana's headache was getting worse. The queue moved forward, and she stepped into a cloud of commercialized manliness.

A sax soloist took over the jazz number masking the buzz of morning conversation in the coffee shop, crooning its way through notes too high to be comfortable over this particular sound system. Tiana winced, but no one noticed. No one turned it down. No one pulled down the blinds against the bright sunshine, either.

This was just her mood souring everything else, which would be perfectly pleasant if she just... let... go. Tiana took a deep breath, and immediately began to cough. The man in front of her in line glanced back, and she waved him off. Generous. Don't say anything about his aftershave. Or cologne, or whatever it was. It was none of her business, and saying anything about it might very well make him upset and ruin his perfectly good day. The sun was shining, the coffee was brewing...

"I'm sorry." The man gave her an apologetic smile.

Tiana hesitated, guilt surging to the front of her mind. "It's alright." Was it, though? What if she were allergic to the scent he'd chosen for the day? She wasn't (at least, she didn't think so) but even if he hadn't done it on purpose... No. She was thinking too much about this. "It's been a sort of rough morning. Not your fault I can't handle my own mood." With a self-deprecating laugh, she was willing to let it drop at that. That was a sort of generosity, right?

"What's made the morning rough for you? I mean, other than me smelling like an Old Spice factory?" The queue moved forward again, and he turned sideways so he could place his order, but still listen to Tiana's answer. That was... startling. He was actually invested in listening to her.

The guilt intensified, but also an appreciation for his willingness to reach out to her. She didn't even know his name and this man was being more friendly than most of the friends that actually knew her.

"I had a sort of argument with my sister this morning. It wasn't anything big, but I guess it stuck with me. I kept thinking about it on the subway, and... well, you know how that goes."

He nodded his agreement. "Yeah, I know how that goes. Here, why don't you order your coffee? I'll pay for it, and you can pay it forward later, when your day gets better." He smiled at her in an utterly disarming way, and Tiana found herself blushing. He wasn't bad-looking, really.

"You don't have to do that."

"I know I don't. But it's a nice thing to do for someone."

Generosity. Well... how ironic. Tiana placed her order, then offered the man her hand. "Thank you. This has already made things a little better. My name's Tiana, by the way."

He clasped her hand in a firm, friendly way. "Jeremy. It's nice to meet you."

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