It was still dark when Summer pulled up behind the Coffee Shop. She’d been out late the night before and barely had four hours sleep, if that. But at 25, Summer was sure that’s what she was supposed to do. Partying and work took precedence over sleep any time. Summer needed to work, and she worked hard because she wanted the money to party. She knew that some day it would be different. That she would want to work for the things that she needed, but that was in the future. Right now she enjoyed her job to the extent she could. She had many friends and most of them were of like mind when it came to fun. But Summer was not your usual party girl. Alluring as she could be, she tended to keep her distance, hanging more with her girlfriends than guys. She liked guys and wasn’t above sneaking into a corner with one to talk. But Summer had no tolerance for drama. If things started to head in a theatrical direction she’d exit the stage quickly.
Summer grabbed the newspaper bundles and tossed them in through the open door - the Daily News, The New York Times, The Providence Journal. She was opening with Nathan this morning but there was no sign of him yet. She made it to the back room by the glow of her phone and switched on the lights. She looked around to make sure the night crew had cleaned up and proceeded to set up for coffee and tea. It was Nathan’s turn to do the pastry case. Since he wasn’t there yet she took pastries out of the freezer so that they could begin to thaw. Summer didn’t mind working with Nathan, he was generally reliable and customers liked him. They had gone out together once or twice, but nothing had really come of it. He seemed to have a lot of girlfriends and Summer wasn’t interested in being just another one of them. She had been worried that those couple of dates might affect their working relationship and she was pleased when they didn’t. Her relationship with Nathan was what she imagined having a brother would be like. Summer was an only child and based on the families that she saw come in to The Coffee Shop, she was pretty sure that she hadn’t had much of a childhood. She had been more like a little adult growing up, more comfortable with grown-ups than with kids. It was that maturity that she railed against by partying, but that also made her more reserved in the middle of it. If her world was sometimes a hurricane, Summer was the eye of the storm, calm but expectant.
Nathan came through the glass door with a groan. “Sorry, I’m late,” he said slipping out of his coat and into his apron with what seemed like one quick movement.
“No big deal. I started to take out the pastries. Coffee and tea are ready and things look pretty neat from last night. It mustn’t have been very busy.”
“It wasn’t when I came by around 8:30. Did you go to Stan’s?” he asked as he placed a chocolate croissant in the pastry case.
“Yes, yes I did. Sara was playing. She’s so good.
“Yeah, not a fan. What’s the musical equivalent to chic lit?”
“Chicklits, like the gum?”
“No, you know like books, literature that only girls read, usually written by girls. There’s movies like that too.” He was gently placing the “Classic” Coffee Cake behind its little name plate.
“Just because someone can speak honestly and thoughtfully about their emotions doesn’t mean they should be relegated to some niche. Besides there were plenty guys there clearly enjoying the show.”
“That’s just cause she’s hot.”
“Really, is that why?”
“Well, it’s true isn’t it?”
“What, that she’s hot? I suppose, but I don’t think that’s why guys go to hear her. It wouldn’t hurt you to be a little more open minded, particularly regarding emotions.” Summer was looking for her key so she could unlock the doors. It was 5 o’clock and she was hoping Nathan hadn’t really heard that last part. The last thing she wanted to do was give him the idea she might still be interested in him in any way.
When Summer first started as a barista two years ago she thought she’d never remember how to make all the different drinks, let alone remember customers’ names and their drink preferences. Now she was a pro. To her it was all muscle memory. Everything was laid out in such a way that she just moved through it - making espresso, pouring gallon after gallon of milk, crushing ice for cold drinks, reaching for cups, covers, straws and placing the finished creation with a flourish on the bar. Since she and the other baristas were all in their twenties or early thirties, they became fast friends sharing customer stories and, when scheduling allowed, hanging out together outside of work. Kevin, the manager, a quiet man in his early forties who owned his own shop before the franchise came to town, tended to avoid the socializing, but encouraged his team in their friendships. He felt the better they got along the smoother things went. Of course this wasn’t always the case. In fact, Kevin had some concerns when he learned that Summer and Nathan were an item. And, like Summer, Kevin was relieved when the relationship ended without incident.
Summer liked her job, and it showed. She enjoyed the customers too, for the most part. There were of course those customers, mostly women - but she would never admit it - that you could never please. There was always something not quite right with their Frappuccino or there Caramel Macchiato - but that was easy enough to fix, a new drink, a smile, done. The men liked to flirt, and most of the time, and to a point, that was fine. Unlike some of the other female barista’s, Summer’s good looks hid an innate aloofness. While generally talkative, if she suddenly went silent, it was because someone said the wrong thing. Not that you could read her exactly, and many had tried, but, unless you were a complete idiot, if you went too far you knew it.
The morning started off quietly enough. The usual week day morning regulars. By seven they were a team of four, Zoe and Nathan on the register, and Summer at the bar with Tony as floater cleaning tables, making sure there was enough sugar, napkins and cream. By eight a line had formed, people grabbing coffee and breakfast on their way into work. Summer was still on the bar when Dan Green walked in. Dan liked to flirt and had made it known that he was interested in a couple of baristas - Summer being only one of them. Summer was filling an order, a green tea lemonade for a very sweet Korean lady who came in every morning at exactly this time. Summer could see out of the corner of her eye that Nathan had just finished taking Dan’s order. Not that it mattered, she knew it anyway. Summer also knew that Dan had his eye on Zoe, a new girl who had just started. Pretty and shy, Zoe was 17 and couldn’t open early. Summer could see Dan eyeing Zoe as she bent down to retrieve a pumpkin loaf from the bakery case. Orders were coming quickly. The next time Summer looked up, Dan was standing in front of her.
“Hey,” she said crushing an empty gallon bottle of milk and tossing it into the trash.
“Hey, what’s going on Summer?”
“The usual, how about you?”
“Saw you at Stan’s last night.
“Good show, huh, Sara?”
“She’s ok. At least she’s hot”
Summer thought of what Nathan had said earlier, but Dan was the lowest of the low, and this didn’t count.
“Why don’t you bring little Zoe with you when you come out?” Dan continued.
Summer looked around to see Zoe heading into the back room.
“That girl’s barely eighteen years old, Dan.” She said leaning in to hand him his red eye.
“That’s how I like ’em," he said, "young and tight,” Dan paused looking deep into Summer’s eyes and whispered, “and wet,” wrapping his hand around Summer’s.
“You pig.” Summer said smiling under her breath, but loud enough so she knew Dan heard her.
“If you don’t want me to bother her - I’d take you in a heartbeat, anytime.”
The Coffee Shop was full to the brim. The line for orders stretched all the way to the side door. When Dan started screaming everyone turned to look. The scalding coffee was on his face and dripping down onto his leather jacket.
“You bitch,” Dan yelled as he pushed people out of the way to get to the napkins, pulling one out after the other.
“Dan I’m so sorry”, Summer said demurely. “It must be a weak cup, didn’t mean to get you all wet.”
“Fuck you, bitch! You did that on purpose”. Nathan came over and pulled Summer off the bar. Tony had come around with a roll of paper towels to clean up Dan and the spill. Zoe was at the register. Dan took off without even asking for a refill.
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