Frieda began her yoga practice back in the early 90's. For a time she had her own studio in Providence but had recently divorced and moved to Middletown. While there was stiff competition on the island, the demand for yoga and meditation appeared to be quite high. Rather than open her own business, she decided to join Inner Light Studios as a teacher. She had also agreed to take over writing posts and articles for the Studio's website known as the Downward Facing Blog. She had joked with Chet, a gray ponytailed man of indeterminate age who owned Inner Light, that she should write it under the pseudonym Chakra Kahn. Chet didn't find this funny.
Frieda did most of her writing these days at The Coffee Shop. She liked the ambient murmur of customers coming and going and found the occasional interruptions even helpful. She had a place at the bar and an alternate spot over in a corner by the window. Her days generally started between 6:00 and 6:30 with twenty minutes of meditation followed by forty five minutes of hatha yoga. Yoga had become second nature to her, keeping her fit and calm particularly through the separation and divorce. She enjoyed her job, teaching 5 times a week, and her classes were popular. Chet commented recently that more men seemed to sign up for her classes than women, which was highly unusual. That hadn’t been Frieda’s experience. In her early 40’s, she wore her yoga pants well. Which is not to say that women didn’t like her. She had many regulars who’d stuck with her since her arrival. There were even a few women who came all the way in from Providence just to practice with her.
Frieda was working on a piece for the Downward Facing Blog on the Heart Chakra, or Anahata in sanskrit. She had just begun writing about how this, the fourth of the seven chakras, focuses on finding and making deep connections to others through love and compassion, when she realized that something was going on. It was barely 8 o’clock and three of the baristas, seeing a break in the line of customers, were huddled in their black uniforms by the back room in intense conversation. Frieda thought of a line of crows cackling on a telephone wire. From her spot at the far end of the bar, where customers picked up their drinks, she was unable to make out what all the fuss was about. Zoe, the barista filling drink orders, watched the others in conversation warily, apparently frustrated that she couldn’t hear what was going on either. Continuing on her post, Frieda noted how a blockage to this particular chakra could lead to loneliness, a sense of deep isolation, even alienation when an “OMIGOD!” burst unexpectedly from the flock of baristas.
“Zoe, what’s going on?” Frieda asked, tempering her voice so as not to sound too curious.
“Something about Summer,” Zoe said, swirling caramel on a Macchiato and reaching for a lid. “I’m not sure, I got in at seven and they put me on the bar right away.”
Janis, who was on loan from the Portsmouth store, Nathan, and the manager Kevin, dispersed as the 8 o’clock rush began. Nathan took over for Zoe at the bar. Zoe went to the back room returning with fresh ice and a half gallon of milk.
“Hey Frieda,” Nathan said, slipping a tall white cup under the espresso machine and pushing a button. “What’s going on?”
“You tell me,” Frieda replied, without looking up from her screen. She was noting how Anahata loosely translated as “unstuck,” and how through practice and focus on this particular chakra one could improve their relationships with others.
“Well, I’m not sure I should say anything,“ Nathan said, quietly capping off the coffee and sliding it across the bar, “tall red eye for Jim.”
“Zoe said something about Summer. She’s usually here in the morning?”
“Well, she had a bit of rough night is all.”
“That girl does like to party.” Frieda didn’t feel bad for saying this. It was common knowledge, and Summer wasn’t above sharing her exploits with her favorite customers. But Frieda could tell by the serious look on Nathan’s drawn face that this was something more than just too many pink martinis. “What happened? You look like you had a bit of a rough night yourself.”
“Actually, I did. Summer called me as soon as it happened.”
Frieda couldn’t help but hear a sense of pride in his voice as he said this. “When what happened?”
“One sec,” Nathan said taking two cups from Kevin with multiple boxes checked off on their sides. Zoe and Kevin were at the registers taking orders from a line that reached to the far entrance of the shop. Ted Fournier took the stool next to Frieda.
“Did you hear what happened?” Ted asked slipping past her to grab the half and half for his coffee.
“No,” said Frieda now unable to hide her interest.
“Apparently someone broke into Summer’s apartment late yesterday afternoon and killed her dog. Slit it's throat.”
“OMIGOD you’ve got to be kidding,” Frieda said, slamming her laptop shut and nearly jumping off her stool.
“No joke,” Ted said, stirring his coffee calmly.
“Oh that poor girl. Does she know who did it?”
“No idea. The Middletown cops were there, that’s about all I know really.”
“Oh the poor thing, she loved Alfie. She's always talking about that dog. What kind of lunatic would do something like that, Christ and why?”
“I don’t know. One of my guys lives next door to her, Terry Dugan. He found her and Nathan up talking about it last night when he got home. Of course she’s pretty upset about it. I can’t imagine she got much sleep. Is she here?”
“No, can you blame her.”
“No, but the police will find out who did it. This is a small island. They'll catch the son-of-a-bitch,” Ted said pushing aside the stool and stepping back toward the door. “You have a good day Frieda.”
“You too,” Frieda said, waving with one hand and opening her laptop with the other.
Nathan was filling a large drink order for an Asian woman dressed in a tight fitting gray business suit, black spike heels and dark sunglasses. Unflustered, he methodically jammed drinks of various sizes into two cardboard trays. A small crowd looked on. Frieda grabbed her coffee and headed over to her alternate spot by the window. There was no need to trouble Nathan with this now.
Frieda thought of poor Summer with her sultry good looks and inviting smile. While she may have a reputation as a party girl, anyone who knew her knew she was responsible and reliable. Frieda had seen Summer step in many times to help a new barista overwhelmed by the complicated juggling act or the unending crowds. Customers loved her too, and Summer knew just how to handle them. If someone got fresh she’d play it cool, all business, making it clear without a word that she wasn’t buying it. Frieda had seen guys back right down. If she liked you, you felt special. You could see the pleasure on a customer’s face when she noticed them in line and nodding, took their cup to get their drink started. Nobody wanted Summer to be unhappy with them, and everyone knew that Summer could not be compromised.
Frieda thought of herself in her 20’s, out most nights with her girlfriends, drinking and looking for trouble. She remembered a night when she and three other girls drove to New York City for the hell of it after seeing “When Harry Met Sally”. She was pretty embarrassed the next day calling her boss at the studio and trying to explain how she’d never been to Central Park and how they just absolutely had to go. How could he understand that she just wanted what Meg Ryan was having? Isn’t that what being in your 20’s is all about, finding yourself by losing yourself? It’s the last chance to have real fun, before the responsibilities of jobs, relationships, children and divorce. They drove back the next day. Luckily Frieda didn’t get fired.
No, Summer was the heart of this place, everyone loved her. She’s honest, compassionate and funny. Whoever was responsible for this horrible act would be caught, Frieda was sure of it.
If you missed the previous installment of Success Through Failure click here: