Of Spells & Coffee by Alaina Wolfgaard is an original work of fiction. I am posting it on here (on my blog) to see if it will get any attention that justifies publication. Feedback is welcome. Each week I will post a new chapter.
Claire Holloway is a normal woman living in a small town and operating her own coffee shop which is doing pretty well for itself. Until one night something awful happens…
I always dreamed of owning my own coffee shop since the age of twelve; when I was allowed to go into my first one with my grandma. Walking into the shop was so exciting, I think the feeling stuck forever when my grandma let me get an iced latte (which I wasn’t supposed to have at my age according to my Dad) and from there, the rest is history. At twenty-six, I made my dream come true when I invested my life savings into a small business loan. Today, Ive owned, operated, and worked for myself at Liberty Street Coffee & Cigar for a few years now. Im happy when Im at and my little business is prospering in my small town.
My thoughts were pleasant as I stood behind the barista bar, whipping up a hot cappuccino for a college aged girl with short brown hair. I poured in the hot frothy milk quickly, creating a simple heart pattern in the crazy top. I handed the creation to the girl, who “aww’d” in approval before leaving to dine a seat in the busy Monday morning cafe.
The coffee shop used to be an old pharmacy and soda shop back in the 1920s. When I bought it, it needed some major T.L.C. but had sturdy bones, a lot of potential, and came at an affordable price located right on the up and coming and high end street of Liberty in the heart of Springfield, Missouri.
It took 9 months to renovate the two story, antique building but now that it was done, everything flowed together perfectly. The first floor was the coffee and cigar bar – designed to be modern but which with stainless steel tables and appliances with dark wood accents and stark white walls covered in local paintings provided by college students from various schools in town. We even had a state-of-the-art air flow system installed during renovation so the cigar smoke didn’t accumulate and overwhelm the customer who were only there to enjoy the coffee. It was a good thing because we, sometimes, had a lot of people come in to enjoy and coffee and cigar all at once. Proper ventilation is great. Upstairs, was my own private residence – a two bedroom, two bath city loft. In contrast to the cafe downstairs, my home was designed to be contemporary. i don’t belie a home should feel like a museum so my place was comfortable and clearly lived in.
My kitchen was opened concept onto the living room so the complete space was painted a deep red with black leather and dark wood accents. The kitchen appliances were stainless steel, similar to the cafe downstairs. The rest of my home was done in the light grey with hints of black and white. My favorite feature, besides my bed, was the long, curved couch in my living room; completely covered in decorative pillows. I have a thing with pillows, okay.
Almost lost in thought, I moved onto the next drink, a mocha with butterscotch; one of our most popular drinks. I got down a deep ceramic mug from the cup shelf and began to prepare the flavorings and espresso in the espresso machine. I turned to my part-time help, Tim, to direct him to start steaming the milk. Tim was an older guy, probably late-50s if I had to guess. He combed his hair to the side in a classic “American Boy” hairstyle and donned a goatee. Time had been with me since 2 months after opening for business and he was great. He always joked about being semi-retired but I think he appreciated having something to do during the week. He didn’t know it yet but I was going to ask him to be the store manager if he wanted the new responsibility.
Tim handed me the steamed milk in a steel carafe and I poured it over the mocha-butterscotch concoction. I created a little leaf in the foam and handed it off to an older gentleman with five o’clock shadow. He smiled as he took it and said, “thank you”. In response, I said, “No, thank you! Come back to see us. Have a great day!” He left to join a woman around his age at a table. I watched him take a sip and his face lit up in joy. That reaction always made my day.
I took an additional moment to look around the cafe, which was very busy at this hour. This was fairly normal for most Monday mornings with the exception of holidays, when we were slow and weekends, when we were packed to capacity. On a few occasions, we’ve added additional tables outside or around the cigar bar to accommodate the extra traffic. Today, there were very few seats left. People were contently drinking their cups and eating whatever they’d ordered from our limited menu.
It was too early for anyone to partake in the cigar bar, but one older fellow was browsing the, one of many, tall glass display cabinets that we featured in the front of our coffee shop. Thats how the business was set up – cigar bar towards the entrance with the coffee shop towards the center and back, just off the entrance. It worked better that way, anyway. People saw a cigar shop initially and would think to themselves, Oh, thats interesting. You don’t see just cigar shops around. Then they would come in and discover that its not only a cigar shop, but its also a cigar bar where they can smoke what they’ve just purchased but it was also a coffee shop. So, when you just simply wanted a good smooth cigar – boom – you get a coffee on top of it and you’re set for the day. It was a good marketing tactic. Both the coffee shop and the cigar bar flowed together beautifully and seamlessly. Both tastes worked together because they were both recreational as well as something of a stress reliever for people and my employees enjoyed working here. If someone wanted a cigar from the bar, all one of them had to do is walk over and sell a cigar to a customer. I even hired a part-time girl to manage the cigars because they became more popular than I initially anticipated.
On this Monday morning, however, my little business seemed perfectly happy to wake up to an uplifting Cup-o-Joe and a light breakfast. Some read books, others newspapers, while others opted to just sit and star as they slowly woke up, or even some, engaged in conversation. I couldn’t have asked for better customers.
I focused for another minute on the natural noises of my business. Tim cleaning out the machine (which was routine to do between customers), the low drone of quiet chatter, pages being flipped in reading, and the quiet sound of light jazz playing over the speakers. I smiles to myself as I looked out of the store front window from my position behind the bar. The sun was slowly rising in the cool May morning. Today was going to be a good day, I could feel it.
“Miss Claire,” Tim said from behind me, “you want me to start restocking the breakfast items?”
I looked down at our display of breakfast items, that truthfully looked sparse for the time of the day. I turned around to face Tim since my back was toward him.
“Yes Tim, thank you. Try to get some of those scones sold today also. They’ve been sitting a while.”
Our orange and sage scones were relatively popular items, but not today. Today, people seemed to want our french toast muffins. The shop was funny that way. You could pretty much tell the trend of the day within the first few orders.
“I’d say go ahead and offer 10% off the scones just to free some room for the cookies at lunch time,” I said to Tim, “and let’s go ahead and pull more french toast muffins from the kitchen. Get ‘em out and sold also. No 10%, normal price, for now.”
Tim nodded, “Yes ma’am,” and left to fulfill his assigned tasks.
During slower times, like this mornings lull, I could usually get a lot of stuff done. There was always something. I collected the dirty cups from the bar and immersed the in the soapy water, then I wiped down the entire bar. After the bar was cleaned, I moved the cups to our industrial dishwasher where they’d stay until around noon, when they were cleaned. I worked behind the bar cleaning, making drinks, supplying nourishment to the community, restocking creamers and refilling coffee flavors until Emma same in at noon.
Emma was a sweet girl that worked as my “cigar girl” slash fill-in barista. She went to college at Missouri State University, which was a few blocks away. I think she majored in Biology or something along those lines and vaguely remember her saying that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She was polite but I didn’t have a lot of time to talk to her amongst working, cleaning, and maintaining the records. College was hard – I knew that, I spent four years in college myself, having graduated from Louisiana State University with an undergraduate in Criminology. I didn’t use it, of course, but maybe one day. Either way, I didn’t care what Emma majored in or the school she went to as long as she showed up on time and had a good attitude. I intended to keep her as long as I could.
I let her settle into her shift before leaving from behind the barista bar. Time and her would would cover until Mac and Jo came in; which would be soon. After that, Emma would move to cigars and Tim would move to baking. Really, for the most part, Mac and Jo were our prized coffee brewers. Mac, particularly, could make any drink your could imagine. He was like a dictionary of coffee mixes and recipes.
Usually I didn’t stay at work all day; thats what employees are for. I would typically cover early mornings and any “call-ins” but that was about it. I sat down my apron behind the bar then made my way upstairs to my loft. When I got to my front door, I pushed in my key code. The door lock clicked in acceptance and I entered.
From the front door, my loft opened up into the living room. Attached to the living room was my kicker in an opened concept design. The guest bathroom was to my right along with a small hallway that led to the two bedrooms. I set down the articles in my hand; a notepad and pen that I’d grabbed downstairs before making my way down the hallway and turning left to enter my bedroom. I walked across the room, around the queen size bed which was on the right wall and into my bathroom. From there, I turned on the shower and got in real quick. When I got out, the room was steamy so I had to wipe the mirror to see myself. I was fairly tall for a female, about 5’6, and was slender but shapely. I had clear blue eyes, a heart shaped face and even thought my hair was wet, you could tell it was long, wavy, and a deep natural red. My complexion was pale with a few freckles sprinkled across my nose. My teeth were straight and white, my lips were plump and curved in a deeper cupids bow. I was considered attractive to society but I was more “girl next door” versus “fatal attraction”. To put it in layman’s terms, men noticed me but they didn’t outrightly desire me until they knew me. I had a few boyfriends in the past but none that I wanted to keep around. See, I was the daughter of a retired sailor, so I was tough, I cursed, and my arms were covered in tattoos. Yeah, my face looked like a girl next door but I was not. I wasn’t a bad bitch from hell but I wasn’t a sweet simpering idiot either, you know? I think maybe to some men, I was more intimidating than pretty but I was okay with that. I knew that one day, I’d find the right person who would love me for who I was without any questions asked. I needed someone who was as quirky as I was and, apparently, most guys didn’t “do” quirky.
At this point in my life I was way more focused on my business that I was with “getting freaky”. After I examined myself in the mirror, I put my hair into a ponytail, put on some Chapstick, then went into my bedroom to change into running tights, a long tank top and Nike running shoes. I left my bedroom and didn’t once over of my loft before departing. I headed downstairs and exited through the back door to my SUV. I got in and started the engine then headed to the gym where my best friend would be waiting.