Writers (in order): Annie, M.S., Maddie Cheung, Alyssa Tang, Sadie Hicks, S.A, Rebekah Sung, Reign Clement, Christina Ding, Amann Mahajan. Editor: Ms. Ja.

*wrote more than once

“It’s not a big deal. With my intelligence and outstanding personality, I will have a good life no matter what social class I am in.” The corner of his mouth pulled out a smile that was uglier than crying.

The man opened his eyes to see the entire coffee shop staring at him.

“I am sorry, did I say that out loud?” He grinned to himself.

“Crazy old man,” muttered a youth picking up a coffee on his way to university.

“Does no one know who I am? I put my all into my work, and for what? A caffeine-addicted teenager to mock my age,” the old man mused sadly.

The university student flashed him a vulgar gesture before quickly speeding away on his electric scooter. For a moment, the old man was seized with a blinding spark of anger, and he briefly considered chasing down the scooter to teach the young man a lesson.

Alas, Henry Amos was but an aging man with knees too weak for the chase, and a soul too weary to do anything but brood over the fact that he’d been fired. He sighed, pulling his mug of coffee closer to him, and watched as steam rippled off the surface.

His eyes slipped shut involuntarily. The warm, comfortable puffs of steam were relaxing on his swollen eyelids. He’d been missing this feeling recently, but it was hard for him to place in words what this blissful warmth reminded him of. What was it… his mother’s embrace? Laugher staining his cheeks red? No… A central heating unit.

A muscle ticked in his jaw as he clenched his meaty hands tighter around the ceramic mug. His temporary living situation was not only overrun with rats scrambling through the walls at night and awful water pressure but also severely lacking any semblance of heat in the winter. He’d been resorting to sleeping with an old suit jacket draped over himself. This… wouldn’t do.

It wasn’t his fault he ended up here with no warmth and no money. It was his boss’. Audrey Stefanova was anything but a boss, according to Henry’s standards. Pink manicured nails, blonde fake curls, and a red Chanel handbag certainly didn’t define the CEO of R&R Land Holdings. Mr. Shulz was a much better boss; if only he hadn’t been transferred to the Minnesota branch.

Henry cracked open one eye, thrown out of a stupor by the loud traffic, and twirled his empty cup around his finger. Does it contain liquor? he thought, feeling giddy.

“Am I drunk or what?” he mumbled, and looked at the bill. Life sure was throwing lemons at him. Sick of all of it, he opened his phone to a total of one message. He wasn’t exactly “liked” by many people. It was a saved number, none other than that of his ex-boss, Audrey. He looked at the message twice and could feel his pupil expanding from what he saw on the screen. He trembled at that single line: “How did you like that, huh, dear brother?”

His mind went into a familiar frenzy. The anxiety he soon encountered awoke all his senses that were numbed by the coffee.

He couldn’t exactly say he hated her, but he despised her and feared her. He feared her craziness and hysteria—the unexpected turns and twists she brought to people’s lives. He absolutely hated that. But it was hard to tell whether Audrey knew this all, or just didn’t care; every day at work, she would nonchalantly walk in with an outrageous outfit, drawing everyone’s unneeded attention and loud whispers to the table. Oh, and never forgetting the Chanel bag and her hot pink seven-inch high heels. At that point, he wondered how she had all that money, how she was so rich. Life is so unfair. I’m not bitter, I’m just… I’m just… He couldn’t finish his sentence because he came to the realization that all he was doing was self-rationalizing over and over.

Henry angrily got up from his seat, muttering all sorts of insults and plans to get revenge on his former boss. He stormed out of the café and scanned the small parking lot for his black Porsche.

Oh, wait. I don’t have a car anymore, the middle-aged man thought to himself, remembering that he’d speedily sold his prestige car after being fired. It’s all because of that sorry excuse of a boss. Selling his prized vehicle was one of the hardest things he had to do after being kicked out. It was a great symbol of his wealth and he loved to flash it everywhere. He had to resort to public transportation since that was the only thing he could afford at the moment.

He walked to the closest bus stop that brought him home. As he waited, he looked at all the nature around him. The birds chirping and squirrels playing tag in the trees. He was smiling slightly, but caught himself before he looked even more crazy to the world.

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