"One double espresso nonfat no foam mocha latté for my favorite customer," I announce, handing the paper travel cup over the counter to the aging man.
“I don’t know how you’re so cheerful this early every morning, Katherine,” Frank says, shaking his head.
“That’s a really good question. Just a morning person, I guess,” I say, pumping French vanilla cream into a cup for myself. “How’s the missus?”
“She seemed to know who I was yesterday,” he says, his face lighting up like it always does when he speaks about his wife. “Spoke about cats for an hour yesterday before I had to leave.”
“Cats, huh? How did this conversation start?” I ask, sipping my coffee, elbows prop on the counter as I watch the sixty-something-year-old man talk.
Frank’s wife has Alzheimer’s, and despite her spotty memory, he visits her every afternoon. Every Monday, he brings her a bouquet of flowers from the shop down the street.
“Well, I’d better get going. Don’t want to be late!” Frank says, leaving a dollar on the counter. He waves as he walks out the door.
I put the dollar in my pocket as I look around me at the empty coffee shop that is my pride and joy. My father kind of forced me into starting it up after I graduated since I didn’t want to go to college. He had my interests in mind, however, knowing I like baking and had loved my barista job at the café I worked at when we lived in the US. He brought me here one Saturday afternoon and told me he’d pay the rent for the first year, but after that it was my responsibility. I have been happily getting up at 4:30 every morning since.
A door slams behind me, snapping me out of my reminiscent trance. The sound of insensible shoes clacking across the tiled floor fills the air. I turn to see my best friend, Lina, walking confidently through the kitchen toward the counter, pulling her hair out of a ponytail, purse hanging off one arm.
“Coffee,” she demands, throwing her purse into the break room.
I hand her a full mug of coffee, knowing she won’t be fully functional until she's had two of ‘em.
We sit in silence, sipping our coffee, occasionally getting up from out barstools behind the counter to pour a cup of tea or coffee for a customer as the city wakes up around us.
"So are you excited to move out?" I ask Lina. She's been living at my house for the past year after her breakup and she's moving out tomorrow.
"I'm more nervous about finally living on my own, but I'm pretty stoked," she replies.
After that, we are silent for a while.
“Heels? Really, Lina?” I say as she finally pours her own coffee.
“It’s never not an occasion to wear heels,” she says, taking a sip. “Besides, they’re kitten heels. If you’re not going to let me wear the real deal, I’m still going to make the most of my Mondays and wear the closest thing that I’ve got.”
I look at her suspiciously for a moment. “Even if I did let you wear your medieval torture devices, you still wouldn’t be taller than me.”
“I know, damn it!” she says, stomping her foot. “But I can try.”
I laugh and take another sip of my coffee. The bell for the customer entrance chimes and I stand up. “You got this one, Lina?” I asked, walking toward the break room.
She nods, and I grab my purse from where I stashed it between two coffee machines. I pull out my keys and unlock the safe, pulling out the café iPod. I hook it up to the iHome and click the play button on the Monday playlist, the music filling the almost-silent café. As I walk back into the kitchen, the bell chimes again, and in walks a flustered Naomi, her clothes rumpled and hair messy.
“Naomi!” Lina and I say at the same time, running to give her a hug.
“Lemme see her!” I say after I let go of her, taking the car seat she is holding from her hand, set it carefully on a table, and throw the cover off. The one-month-old baby inside is sleeping, so I slowly unbuckle the restraints and pull her out, resting her head carefully on my shoulder.
“She grew!” Lina says, frowning. “They’re supposed to stay little so they never have a choice in whether they cuddle with you or not!”
“If she keeps waking me up every two hours, she can grow up right now,” Naomi says, leaning her head on her hand.
“You could’ve come in later,” I say. “It’s six o’clock. It’s not like there’s many people out yet.”
“No, no. I wanted to come in today. I have to get used to coming back to work on time again,” she says. “Love your pants, by the way.”
“Thanks!” I say. “They’re new. First time I’ve worn them outside the house.”
“Naomi, why don’t you go back into the break room and fix everything,” Lina says, pushing the new mom through the kitchen and into the small room. “We’ll make sure Isabella doesn’t throw any parties, right Katy?”
“Damn. There go our plans, Belly. Guess we gotta cancel the band now, huh?” I say to the sleeping baby, pretending to be disappointed.
I hand the newborn off to Lina and take the car seat to the break room where it will be out of the way, then make Naomi a cup of tea.
I take the now-fussy baby from Lina when a customer walks in and bring her back to her mom. “She doesn’t smell like shit so I’m assuming she wants the boob,” I say, grinning. “Just do your thing and we won’t bother you until you say it’s safe to come in. Just make yourself at home.”
“Thanks, Katy,” she says. “You’re the best.”
I grin cheekily and shrug. “I know.”
The seven-thirty morning rush comes and goes, leaving the café virtually muffin-less, much to my disappointment. I had made extra last night and then some more this morning, and we only have about a dozen left.
“Naomi?” I shout into the kitchen from in front of the counter.
“Katy?” she shouts back.
“Would you mind mixing up some muffin batter and shoving it in the oven for me? We only have a few left.”
“Already on it!” she answers.
“See, now that’s why you’re my favorite worker,” I say, walking back to the kitchen to take out a pie.
“Hey!” Lina says, poking her head out from under the sink. “I just fixed your drain and now she’s your favorite worker?”
“You shoulda done it a week ago when it first got plugged,” I shrug, laughing.
Just now, a wail comes from the general direction of the break room, and Naomi’s shoulders slump. She turns off the electric mixer and pulls her apron over her head to go soothe her crying baby.
“You know what, Naomi? I got this. You keep working. Or take a nap or whatever, but I’ll take care of Belly,” I say, putting my hand on her shoulder.
Her face brightens. “Thanks, Katy.”
“Don’t mention it.”
The bells for the front door jingle, signaling the arrival of another customer.
“Lina, your turn,” I tell her, taking off my apron.
“But it’s Naomi’s turn!” she says, washing her hands.
“She’s also my favorite worker,” I say, laughing. She sticks her tongue out at me and walks to the register, drying her hands on a towel.
I march into the break room and pick up the wailing Isabella, shoving my finger in her mouth as I look around for her pacifier so I can make her a bottle.
A few minutes later, as I am feeding the monster, Lina skips into the break room, grinning like the Cheshire cat. She spins around on one foot and does a little jump-and-clap thing I’d only seen on Disney Channel when I babysat in the US. “I,” she says proudly, “just got myself a date.”
“Now I’m not the meanest boss in the world anymore, am I?” I say, smiling. “I thought you were still getting over Zack?”
“Sweetheart, please. It took me forty-five minutes and a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints to get over that boy,” she says, quoting The Fault in Our Stars.
“It took you a year and two dozen pints of ice cream,” I say. “I would know. I bought that ice cream.”
“Well, that doesn’t matter now. I am over that douchebag.”
I raise an eyebrow at my best friend, but don’t question her further. The back door slams. Lina and I turn just in time to see Damian wrap Naomi in a massive hug.
“Oh, Naomi, how I’ve missed seeing your beautiful face at work!” he says, releasing her. “Girl, you’re looking fine post-baby. Where is the little rug rat anyway? Did you bring her? You did bring her, right?” The look he gives her is so intense it almost scares me. He is my only employee that hasn’t gotten to see Isabella yet, and he is not happy about that.
“She’s in here, Mama Bear,” I say, wiggling my fingers at him when he turns.
He opens his mouth real wide and covers it with his hands as he walks in. He stretches his arms out when he gets close. “Gimme,” he demands.
I hand the now-empty bottle to Lina, throw a burp rag on Damian’s shoulder, and then give Belly to my gay best friend to burp.
“Did you get new jeans?” Lina asks him, studying his pants intensely.
“Absolutely! You know I can’t see a fabulous pair of designer denim leg-wrappers and just not get them!” he says. “It’s actually their inaugural outing today! I’m celebrating by going shopping after my shift!”
“Speaking of shopping, guess who got a date,” I say excitedly.
“Oh, Katy! Good for you! You haven’t had a boyfriend since you moved here!” he says. “I’d totally be your boyfriend, but you have the wrong parts. I just don’t see why men don’t like you!”
“Not me, Damie,” I say, shutting him up. “Lina is finally getting over Zack.”
He frowns. “That douchebag piece of man candy? Thank God!” Then he grins and hands the kid to me and puts his head on his hands in midair. “So who’s the lucky bastard?”
As they talk about her upcoming date, I stroll out to the kitchen with the sleeping baby on my shoulder, patting her back so she’ll burp. The door bell jingles and I walk up to the register, laying Belly in the crook of my elbow. “Hi, welcome to Brewed Awakening! What can I make for you today?”
“Oh! Cute baby!” he says. “Is she yours?”
“I wish,” I mutter under my breath, thinking about what my life would be like now if I hadn’t – no. I’m not going to think about that now. I have to work. “No, she’s Naomi’s.” I point over my shoulder to the curvy brunette in the kitchen. “I’m just babysitting for a little bit. So what can I get for you?”
I finally look at him and instantly started internally fangirling. I hold my breath as Zayn fucking Malik tells me his order and pays, then goes to wait at a table with four other – holy shit. They’re all here.
I stare for a moment, and then quickly turn away as Harry turns his head to look at the counter, probably looking for Zayn’s coffee. But I’m not taking any chances. I make the coffee and call out the fake name he had told me. Perks of being a celebrity, I guess. Needing to make up names like Marty in a downtown coffee shop that isn’t even that busy.
“On second thought, can I get one of those muffins, too? I’m told the banana nut muffins are pretty good here,” he says when he gets his coffee.
“Actually, we’re out of banana nut at the moment. But I’ll have one of my employees bring one to you when they come out of the oven,” I say, desperate to walk away before I start screeching like a pterodactyl.
“Alright, thanks,” he says, tapping the counter once before turning to go back to his table. I turn around and dash back to the break room where Damian and Lina are eyeball deep in a conversation about alligators.
“I’ve seen an alligator. They're not that fascinating. But boy, do they taste good,” I say, calming myself down. “Have you ever had a gator burger? Or jambalaya? That stuff is the shit.”
I keep talking about my experiences in Louisiana, hardly stopping to breathe. Finally, Lina shuts me up. “Katherine Nicole Mandt, you’re babbling again. What are you nervous about?!”
“My ex-boyfriend is here,” I say in a rush. “I haven’t seen him since I was fifteen when we broke up and I have to serve his table and I just can’t do it Lina you’re going to have to do it for me.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s with the whole run-on sentence in one breath?” Damian says. “This guy is either really hot or you hate his guts.”
“I hate him. I have no reason to, but I hate him. And he’s really hot. But I hate him, so I can’t like him, can I?” I say. I sit down on the couch. “I am so confused.”
“I want to meet this boy. I’ll serve his table,” Damian offers.
“Thanks, Damie. You really are a lifesaver.”
“Nanner nuts are done!” Naomi calls.
“Okay. I need one of those muffins to go to table three. The one with the black hair ordered it. Don’t talk about me; don’t say my name. Just say, ‘here you go, Marty,’ and walk away. Lina, go man the kitchen. Tell Naomi to work the register. I need a cherry pie in the oven and whipped cream in the fridge,” I direct.
“Aye-aye, sir!” Damian and Lina say, saluting me and marching in perfect synchronization out of the break room like they always do when I panic.
“Hey, Lina!” I call, putting Belly in her car seat. “Get me a piece of that cherry pie, will you? I need I-hate-my-ex-boyfriend’s-guts-but-I-think-I-might-still-like-him food.”
Who's Katy's ex-boyfriend?
Why is Katy a morning person?
What is going to happen next?
Comment and tell us what your ideas are!
Next chapter release: August 16