“Pick up the pace Marianna!” My co-worker James yelled from down the counter. “You do realize we’re in the middle of a rush, right?”
“Really, I never noticed! Thanks for the memo Captain obvious.” I fired back as I maneuvered through the tight space behind the counter over towards the espresso machine. I’ve been working at this café for over two years now and I still haven’t gotten used to the sheer amount of people that storm this place in the morning.
Because the café was more of a mom-and-pop store rather than a big chain like Starbucks, James and I were the only ones working right now. Not that I was complaining, James had become one of my closest friends in the time we’ve worked together.
I lifted my eyes from the machines towards James who was currently manning the register. We exchanged smiles then got back to work. It took a few hours, but we managed to dwindle the crowd of people down to a few stragglers. The place started out spotless but by the end of those hours, our white counters were stained brown with forgotten coffee spills. Crumbs of the different pastries we served littered the dark wooden floors. Combined with the skewed tables and chair and you’d think a small tornado had gone through the room.
I leaned against the counter with my arms crossed over my chest, careful not to rest against the sticky parts of the counter. Wisps of my chocolate brown hair had fallen from my ponytail to now hang in front of my eyes. I tried blowing the hair away from my eyes, but the rebellious strands kept coming back. Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy.
James came from the back of the shop, a red and black shop broom in hand. “You’re on sweeping duty girl.”
I groaned, launching myself off the counter. “Aw come on J, I was on sweeping duty last shift.”
“You can come off sweeping duty when you’re the one to get us through a rush.” James' gray eyes glittered with humor as he tossed the broom in my direction. My hand grasped the handle just before the broom could crash to the floor.
“You’re just lucky I like you.” I turned around and began sweeping up the mess the rush had left. Luckily, the stragglers had left, and I was able to clean underneath all the tables. The perfectionist in me kicked in as I made sure the floors were spotless. I even took the extra initiative and swept the sidewalk in front of the Café. We’re located in Downtown Staten Island in Stapleton. With the beautiful waterfront nearby, the café was a magnet for people passing by to look at the various local stores. It was great for business but sucked when litter quickly piled up outside.
I entered the store and rested the broom against the wall. James was behind the counter now, fixing up cups of coffee for a group of older women that had come into the store. The bell over the door rang as I walked back to help James.
“Welcome to Grind House, I’ll be with you in just a second,” I called out without looking at who had entered the store.
“Don’t worry about it, take your time.” A deep voice responded, their new York accent thick. As a girl from the Midwest, I was surprised at just how thick this man’s accent was. What am I saying, we’re in fucking Staten Island. Of course this man’s accent was going to be prominent!
Once I was behind the counter, I turned towards the man who had entered the café. “Alright, sir what can I get you?” I couldn’t stop the sharp intake of breath as this man looked up. His shaggy unkempt black hair was tucked underneath a Yankees ball cap. Dark stubble was splattered across his cheeks and jaws. A set of dark brown eyes stared back at me, shinning from the light above reflecting on them.
“Just a medium coffee with cream please.” I allowed my eyes to briefly scan his body. He was wearing a navy-colored firefighter shirt with a white emblem over his left pectoral muscle. He was good-looking AND a firefighter? Fucking hell.
Nodding my head in acknowledgment of his order, I had his coffee made and given to him in under a minute. I slid the white to-go cup towards him as I gave the man my best customer service. “Here you go, it’s on the house.”
The man raised a thick, dark eyebrow at me as he grabbed the cup. “Are you sure? You don’t have to- “
“I insist. You guys put your lives on the line. It’s the least I can do.” Giving the man one last smile, I walked back around the counter to grab the broom. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get my lunch break in before the afternoon rush.
On the way to the broom, another man entered the shop. This time, he was tall and lanky. I couldn’t help but notice that his arms and legs didn’t look proportionate to the rest of his body. He was wearing the same shirt as the first man. Yeah, but he doesn’t fill out his shirt as well as the first one. I shook my head as I grabbed the broom. One of these days my thoughts were going to get me into some serious trouble.
“Holt!” The second man called out, presumably to get the first man’s attention. Holt turned around, amusement shining in his eyes. “Take a chill pill Sullivan I told you I was just getting a cup of coffee.” I watched as Sullivan stepped up to Holt. The two men were roughly the same height, but Holt had more muscle on Sullivan.
I wasn’t able to see Sullivan’s face but the two seemed to be having a tense conversation. Holt shrugged his shoulders at Sullivan before turning away from him to once again pick up his coffee.
The next few moments passed in a blur. One minute there was a distance between the two men. The next, Sullivan had reached for the coffee cup and grasped it in his large hands. A quick flick of his wrist and Sullivan had thrown the coffee on Holt, careful to avoid any skin. Holt’s navy shirt had now darkened as it became soaked. A mocha-colored puddle gathered on the floor where Holt stood. My eyes narrowed at the large spot that continued to get bigger as it dripped down Holt. I just spent 30 minutes cleaning this floor, are you KIDDING me?!
James saw my jaw tense and swiftly began putting together another cup of coffee. He knew that the perfectionist in me was boiling with anger. As I stalked towards the back room to exchange the broom for a mop, I noticed the amused expression had yet left Holt’s face. Granted he just had hot coffee thrown on him but the fact that he seemed to be unperturbed by the mess he made pissed me the fuck off.
When I made it to the back, I could finally hear Holt speak up. “Jesus Christ Sullivan, are you out of your mind?”
“What? You were being an asshole and I needed to get your attention. It worked didn’t it?” I could hear the smirk rising on Sullivan’s face as I gathered the mop bucket.
“Yeah well, it looks like the place was just cleaned. Now the poor woman has to do it again. Who’s the asshole now, huh?” The gratefulness of Holt’s statement squelched the rising anger within me. Ok, maybe he wasn’t such a terrible guy after all.
By the time I came back upfront with the bucket and the intention of thanking Holt, the two men had left, leaving nothing but the coffee spill and cup behind.