Angel’s Coffee

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A small coffee shop in a coastal town. A woman still mourning a loss. A man still holding a grudge. A widow living a memory. Three strangers, three empty seats, three conversations that will forever change their lives.

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Three Strangers

Angel’s Coffee was a Cardiff, CA institution. The small shop stood on North Santa Fe and Birmingham for years. And despite a sign that simply read “Hot Coffee” and an empty cafe void of any number of customers, the shop stayed open somehow. It had never been in any magazines or in the local town newsletter. Even its opening, which was so unremarkable that the owner himself would have a hard time saying when it was, didn’t make any splash on the small beachside community. People simply knew it as the old wood building that butted up against the local donut shop. People would head right into VG’s Donuts for their tasty morning snack and walk right by the small quiet cafe whose only claim was “Hot Coffee”.

Even given this reputation, or lack thereof, on a Saturday morning full of marine layer and cool spring air, three strangers walked up to the clean glass door, opened it, and walked inside to enjoy a hot drink and a life changing conversation.

Julie woke up just after the sun. Little bright rays of light made their way through the thick ocean clouds and past the thin blinds that really did nothing to block the morning light. But Julie couldn’t complain. This was later than she normally slept. Last night’s dream was another splash of color dimmed down by melancholy grays. Even in her dreams her life was dull.

She managed her way out of the oversized bed and shuffled her feet into the closet to get dressed. Julie had no plans. She rarely did. Most days were spent curled up with a book and her cat, Theo. She was the epitome of a divorced middle aged woman, and she was alright with that.

As she pulled up her socks and tightened her shoes, Julie noticed that she hadn’t done her normal Saturday morning routine. The stained t-shirt and comfortable robe, both Saturday morning staples, lay next to the worn down slippers on the closet floor.

For whatever reason, without a thought in the world, Julie had dawned a pair of dark jeans and an oversized blue dress shirt. It was an unusual choice for a Saturday with Theo and her current read, Theodora Goss’ The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

Julie caught a glance of herself in the small makeup mirror that sat in the corner of the closet. She didn’t like what she saw. Again, she rarely did.

“Maybe some coffee will wake you up,” she muttered to the reflection. “Well, we are already dressed. Maybe a little time out of the house will do you some good.” Her words sounded more like a plea to the person staring back at her, like she was trying to convince the woman to go out and maybe that would spark some happiness for her. It hadn’t worked in the past, but for once Julie was optimistic, or at the very least, too dressed up to sit on the couch with a cat and a book.

Five miles away, on the Southern tip of town, where the Cardiff bungalows are swallowed up by the larger, more upscale ocean view mansions of Solana Beach, Tim Ratliff was finishing an argument with his wife. The argument had actually ended if one didn’t count the fading of footsteps down the hall and the slam of the bedroom door as part of the larger altercation. But nonetheless, Tim sighed loudly and muttered under his breath some indiscernible words.

Angrily, Tim grabbed the maroon jacket from the small coat hanger on the wall and after a quick look around the empty living room he opened the door and headed to his car.

Dorothy lived on the north end of Carlsbad. She and her husband, David, loved the coastal town. The small shoppes, the cute downtown of Carlsbad Village, and the little restaurants that dotted the small community. But what Dorothy loved more than anything else was the 101.

The highway that started in Oregon, and made its way down the curvy coast of California all the way to the Southern Border, was Dorothy’s favorite part of California living. Having been retired for the better part of a decade now, the old woman cruised down Coast Highway every morning. Her ‘64 Ford Mustang kept her warm under the early morning marine layer. And every time she headed back home down the winding road she popped the top and let her gray hair feel the warm Southern California sun.

Today would be no different. Dorothy woke before both David and the Sun, and she quietly dressed before making her way to the small living room. The couch she sat on was soft and plush, but she made sure not to take her time getting her shoes on. She didn’t want the sofa to feel so good that her body would refuse to get up from it. Still, she took a second to look out the large front window at the beautiful car that sat in the driveway.

“It still looks good,” she said quietly to herself through a small smile.

Once her last lace had been tied, the old woman stood and made her way to the front door. As she grabbed the knob and twisted, her smile fell. It was slight, but Dorothy felt the light twinge that hit her heart every time she went for a drive.

A deep breath and the feeling dissipated. The door knob turned and Dorothy went out into the cool morning air.

Each person, unbenounced to them, was traveling to the same place.

Julie had exited her house simply because she had put on clothes that would have made her feel guilty doing nothing in. Was she aware of why she had done this? Did she know where or what she was to do? No. Not at all.

Tim had left his house in his usual attire, but not his usual mindset. The fight with his wife had left him angry, and in need of a drive to cool off. Did he have a destination in mind? A place that he knew would cool his anger and clear his mind? Absolutely not.

And Dorothy had done what she had done almost every day. She had backed her car out of the driveway and made her way to a road she had taken more times than she could count. But did she know where the trip would end up? Would this trip end in a simple u-turn when she felt that she had traveled far enough?

That was the magic of Angel’s Coffee. Nobody had ever meant to head there, and still somehow there had always been a meaning in ending up at the small cafe. For these three strangers it was unknown at the time, but all three of them would leave with a hot drink and a life-changing experience.
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