I really shouldn’t be here. It’s not fair, it’s selfish…it’s too late. I’m next and they’re expecting me to be ready. I tap my fingers against the steering wheel to an unknown beat, as I blink my eyes in the hope that I can magic myself somewhere else. It doesn’t work, and there are now two guys behind me so I can’t turn around. Not now. Or maybe I could…

“Hey there, what can I get you?”

“Oh. Ummm, a Tall flat white and two granola bars, please.”

That came out far too easily. It’s as if I’m buying the kids something to make myself feel better. It really doesn’t though. I don’t have the money for a coffee. I just fancied a treat. It’s the smallest size they do…but, still.

The Starbucks drive thru is too easy. It’s on the way home, it’s almost always open, and I can feel anonymous. If I slouch down in my seat, I can blend into the buzz of busy business people on their smartphones, students on their way to lectures, and young families on the school run. It’s a normal Friday here; the difference is that everyone else deserves their morning coffees and smoothies.

I feel like a fraud, but the guilt that’s pinching me is nobody’s fault but my own. I have to leave my job soon. The kids need me even more now. My babysitter’s great, but I go to work to pay her to look after my kids. I should be looking after my own kids.

“OK. Your coffee’s been taken care of today, so that’s…”

 I leap out of my thoughts with a start. “Sorry, what?”

“The lady in front paid for your coffee,” beams the barista.

Did I hear that correctly?

I dramatically lean out the car window to try and spot my mystery coffee buyer — not that I know what car I’m looking for or anything. I really must pay more attention.

“Her name is Mackenzie,” continues the barista, “She comes in here quite often. She’s the one in the Mazda.” He points at a black Mazda 3 about to exit the drive thru.

Mackenzie in the Mazda. Angels have wings and wheels. I’ve read about things like this happening before — where a complete stranger carries out a random act of kindness — but I never thought it could happen to someone like me.

“Thank you so much”, I manage to utter, realising there are tears trickling down my cheeks.

I look down at my lap to compose myself. Ever since dad died I’ve felt the need to be what I call ‘head strong’, especially in front of the kids. I keep saying ‘everything will be OK’, so my face needs to show it too. Today is slightly different though as they’re happy tears. Tears of gratitude.

As I’m handed my coffee, I place it in the holder like it’s a precious stone. I have nothing to offer in return other than a very heartfelt thank you. Time to set off and find Mackenzie.

Nicole’s thank you note to Mackenzie went viral. Read the real-life story to find out why.