Today’s coffee was exceedingly delicious. Sue sipped, and her eyes nearly popped out of her skull. “It’s vanilla!”
Kyung Tak grinned and sat across from her. “I hoped you would enjoy it,” he said. “Do you know much about flavored coffee?”
She shook her head and took another (notably larger) sip. “I don’t know anything about coffee,” she confessed. “Just the taste. This flavor is astounding.”
“Roast the beans dark,” he said, nodding in remembrance, “then add the flavor. Pour over ice.”
Behind her, the old ghost hovered in an agitated manner, looking longingly over her shoulder at the clear plastic cup with the Kyung Tak Coffee House logo. “That looks delicious,” he complained.
“I’ve been meaning to ask,” began Kyung Tak conversationally, “Do you do all the shopping for your family? You don’t live alone, do you? You’re a bit young.”
This observation caught her off guard. Sue muttered a tiny “Oh” and then cleared her throat. “I don’t live alone. I live with my Grandpa and my brother, Sam. He works all day because my Grandpa is retired. So I have the most time…”
“After school, that it?”
“When I can stand it,” she confessed. “But it’s convenient for me to do the shopping .”
“What about your mother and father?” he asked suddenly.
Her silence was enough of an answer for anyone.
Sighing, the Barista looked up toward the ceiling. “You know, Sam Soon,” he whispered, “we’re more alike than you think.”
The strange, Hanbok-clad man was in the kitchen again, and she couldn’t help but watch through the glass-less window as he bustled around, mixing this and adding that. The wrinkled ghost floated in and out of the walls, humming an old tune as he tried – and failed – to grab hold of the ornaments above him. His shimmering fingers slid right through. Outside, the rain still fell.
The Barista finally emerged, bearing a fresh cup of dark brewed coffee in his hands. The aroma was stronger than normal, and the mug itself was a plain white one, not like the colorful mug she had used before. Sue blinked. “No one is here, who is it for?” she asked.
Setting it down, he replied, “For the dead.”
Eyes alight, the wrinkled apparition started longingly at the coffee. Sue swallowed. “The… dead?”
Kyung Tak glanced out of the covered window. The pelting sound of raindrops penetrated the walls. “Our talk of family reminded me of something,” he explained.
“I haven’t offered anything to the dead in a very long time,” he said. He sat next to her, and she began to get a very bad feeling. “Even they want someone to remember them.”
Sue suppressed a shriek as dozens of dead melted through the walls of the coffee shop all at the same time, surrounding the single cup of coffee on the table top. What were so many ghosts doing in one place? She swallowed her scream and took a feverish sip of her beverage. Even Kyung Tak would feel the chill from so many of the dead in one room.
Sure enough, he shivered. “It’s cold,” he mumbled.
She bit her lip. The ghost of a young girl had passed right through him and stared, mouth watering, at the coffee. A middle-aged one snarled, “You can’t have that – I saw it first!”
The old man frowned. “Sam Soon,” he complained, “I was here first!”
Another one turned in surprise. “Can you see?” he asked.
“That one can see? That human can see us?”
She gulped, determined to remain ignorant, and fidgeted with her own drink. Ignore. You can’t see.
The young girl poked her cheek, and Sue yelped as the icy feeling of ghostly fingers slid through her skin.
“She can see!” they cried.
Kyung Tak blinked. “Sue?”
She tore her eyes from the dead. “Yeah?”
“You…No…are you alright?”
“No, no,” she said. “Er, yes. No!”
He frowned. “No?”
She shook her head. “No, yes. I’m fine. Just felt the draft, is all. Why’s it so cold in here so suddenly? Ha ha...”
Suddenly the middle-aged enigma catapulted forward, shouting, “That coffee is mine!”
His fingers slid right through the ceramic handle of the mug, and he emerged from the crowd coffeeless.
“You know the rules!” snarled a different man. “The mug isn’t a part of the spirit world yet! You need to wait until it’s been given to us to touch it!”
The ghost of the young girl rolled up the sleeves of her jumper. “I’m beating everyone to that mug,” she hissed.
“You can’t have coffee, you’re a kid!” yelled the man.
“I’m dead! What’s it gonna do, stunt my growth?”
“Actually, coffee doesn’t stunt your growth, that’s an old wives tale,” said yet another person, floating around the circle. “And because I know the most about coffee, I should be the one to drink it.”
The old ghost said, “Sam Soon, this isn’t fair! I was here first, and I want it!”
The little girl pointed a transparent finger at him. “Stay out of this, old man! You lived a long life, why don’t you move on to leave the coffee for those of us that actually have unfinished business?!”
Sue frowned. “I should just go,” she muttered.
Kyung Tak wordlessly poured her more coffee, smiling secretly.