Guys guys guys guess what!
It’s been ages since I posted anything fiction… but finally I have a new short story to share! And it was actually published on Story516, my friend Zach Sollie’s new website. It was inspired by friendship and coffee shop aesthetics and Story516’s theme word for June, “Name”.
The bell has been ringing all day.
The café is full. It has been since midmorning. Every time I think the line is getting shorter, that bell over the door rings again. It’s nearly three in the afternoon, and I’m still pouring coffee and serving sandwiches and making lattes almost nonstop.
Not that I mind terribly. I like the challenge, seeing how fast and how well I can juggle everything. Except that I haven’t eaten lunch, it’s almost fun.
I slide a mocha across the counter for the big bearded man waiting, and lean out to survey the lobby. The round wooden tables are mostly full of customers; light from the hanging lamps gleams dimly off tables, coffee, and a few bald heads. Out of habit, I scan for men and women in black suits, but the only ones I see are business people I already know. I spin around, grab another cup, and start steaming milk for a latte.
The wail of the oven cuts through a cloud of steam and noisy conversation. “Clara!” Nadya calls from the register. “Can you get that?”
I nod, finish a rather sloppy latte (latte art? More like latte blob), and run to the back, pulling open the oven door on my way to grab the mitts.
Today has been insane. It doesn’t help that I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Sergei and Marina—friends from work—came over for dinner, and then Marina suggested we watch a movie. That didn’t end until nearly midnight.
I was groggy enough this morning—drinking coffee in the bathroom while I contoured my face—that I got blush all over myself by accident and had to redo most of my makeup and change my shirt. I’d planned to dye my hair again, but that’ll have to wait for tomorrow. I only got about ten minutes to sit on my balcony and read my Bible while the sun rose over the mountains in blazing pink clouds and set the entire city glowing.
It’s usually a twenty-minute walk from my apartment to the café. Down a few blocks, past the neighbors who wave as I go by, past the church and its graveyard, and past several smaller shops overflowing with flowerpots. Today I nearly ran most of the way, breathing in the brisk, bright morning to clear away the grogginess.
I reach into the oven and the scent of fresh rolls floods around me. I inhale deeply, lean away from the overwhelming heat, and slide the trays out to set them on the stainless steel racks behind me.
The chatter of customers outside, with Nadya’s clear voice rising above them, just reaches back here. I can’t make out words, just a vague cloud of voices. They mingle with the heat of the oven, the aroma of fresh bread, and the rumble of machinery.
Then Nadya leans around the door. Her cheeks are flushed and wisps of dark hair, escaped from her bun, cling to her forehead and cheeks. “Clara, I need you out here. There’s a bunch of tourists. English-speakers.” She rolls her eyes. “Can you take care of them?”
I paused with the last tray halfway to its rack when she appeared. One roll fell on the floor. I sigh, kick it to the side, and hurry out, closing the oven door behind me.
I hear them before I see them. The machines on the front counter block my view.
There are several of them. Men and women both. Maybe a large group, else they’re just talking loudly. For just the briefest moment, I search for the accent. And then it hits me, all in a flash with a gasp of breath, and I freeze where I stand.