Tying my hair up in a ponytail, I pull the café hat over my head, pulling the ponytail through the opening in the back of the cap. The logo on the front read ”Maldilves“, the blue matching apron only having the logo on the small pocket on the side.
They had scolded me for avoiding putting the cap on, as it sometimes would leave a mark that would go away about half an hour later. It still bothered me, but I still tried dealing with it.
I worked outside my town at a café in a bustling plaza the next city over. It paid a ton more than any other job I skimmed through on job apps. In maybe ten or more paychecks it could set me to move out.
“One plain latte with skim.” A tall white man orders but doesn’t acknowledge if he’s talking to anyone.
My mind is everywhere but the drink I’m making. I somehow learned to multitask all the while making drinks. It wasn’t a very bright thing to do, but whatever. If I get burned by scalding coffee, it would mean a paid vacation.
“Here you are.” I place the man’s completed order on the pickup counter and he grabs it and walks out of the store without another word.
The clock on my phone read 4:30. Thank God. Thirty more minutes of monotone customers grabbing their last coffee of the day.
5pm was when it really got busy, and I was never there for it. The business people rushing out of their office buildings for a quick snack to hold them for the ride home until dinner.
I impatiently stood at the counter and people-watched the few patrons sat reading or on their computers. Oh how I wish I was them.
My manager Tay exits the back room and slams down a box of new cups. Great. More stacking.
"More? Didn’t we just get a new shipment yesterday?” I whine.
Tay shrugged. “The more the merrier, as they say. Plus, a bunch of ’em fell out back. Thank Jose.”
I roll my eyes and rip the plastic sealing the cups. While I’m stacking, a greasy looking man enters the shop, catching the attention of a few of the seated. They go back to minding their own business when he gives them a look of “Fuck off”.
I am thoroughly unnerved by his presence, but put on a customer service smile once more. “Good afternoon. Can I get you anything?”
“Just a plain coffee.” He seemingly growls. He looks me up and down before adding, “And maybe a piece of cake.”
I look down at the register as to not make eye contact with the man. I tell him the total in a low voice.
He takes out his wallet, not taking his eyes off me. He slowly reaches his hand out, which has a five dollar bill between his fingers. “Keep the change. Tip.”
“Thank you.” I clear my throat.
The whole time I’m making the coffee the man is staring at me, his demeanor filled with lust. As I go to put the cup off freshly made coffee on the counter, the man grabs onto it while my hand is still on it so our hands are touching.
He licks his chapped lips and whispers, “Hot.”
“Yes.” I croak. “It’s on the label.”
“I’d like to give you a whole new label...”
The man and I dart our heads to the entrance. Cade.
“I told you to stay put.” The man scolds the blonde haired boy approaching him.
“I wanted a smoothie and you left your phone in the car,” Cade looks kind of afraid, and I’m not surprised. “Just wait for me out there. The AC’s kind of acting up again.”
The man looks at me, then at Cade, then back at me before huffing past his son, his coffee still on the counter.
“T-thanks,” I say, not sure if he knew what I was thanking him for.
“I saw your fear from the car,” Cade pulls out his wallet. “Don’t worry, you’re not the first and certainly not the last.”
“I wonder who was the lucky first.”
“And who’ll be the extra lucky last.” Cade finished the thought for me.
“Probably someone with ties to law enforcement,” I hope I’m not offending him, but his laugh tells me otherwise.
“Can I get a small smoothie?” He shyly asks. “I need my excuse when I get out there.”
I chuckle and say, “Sure.”
“Two jobs?” Cade appears impressed.
I’m confused by the question before I realize what he’s talking about. “Oh! Yeah. Well, I’m starting college in late August, so.”
“Sweet smell of debt.”
“Hopefully not.” I hand him his order. “Enjoy the artificial strawberry flavor.”
“My favorite kind.” Cade smells the straw. “So, I’ll see you around?”
“Yup.” I say a little too enthusiastically.
Cade is already at the door when I turn to go back to daydream. It startled me when he appears at the counter once more.
“I don’t want to seem like a total creep like some people,” Cade points his head at his dad staring at us in their car. “But do you like... festivals?”
“Festivals?” I raise my brows.
“I... You know, music and dancing and food and games and—”
“Well I’m not really an outdoorsy person,” I continue as Cade’s face turns red. “But shit like that, I’m a sucker for.”
Cade’s face changes from regret to exitement. “Great. Cool! Yeah, me too.”
He looks as if he’s about to throw up. “So there’s—”
“The Beginning of Summer Festival.” I finish for him. “I’d love to go.”
“Awesome!” He pauses for a second. “Just to be clear, with me, right?”
I let out a rather loud laugh. “Yes. The best day is always the first. It’s at 12 on Saturday.”
“See you then.” Cade smiles brightly.
I watch him get into his dad’s car, a small spat between them, and a look of shame wash over him. It’s not until his eyes meet mine that he’s back to his naturally sugary-sweet self.