When I say best friend, I meant my dog, Roxy. She was a short but stout blue healer and I was picking her up at the gym because that’s where the guy that I have “dog sit” goes to work out. Today, I’d be picking Roxie up and going to run errands with her. I pulled into the parking lot and can already see the white Chevy Impala that “Dave the Dog Guy” drove. Roxy knew the Jeep immediately, she knew her routine. As I pulled into the spot next to Impala, I could hear her whines for me. Dave got Roxy out, on a leash, and she started jumping up and down; so much excitement. I parked the Jeep, then got out to greet my puppy. I have never been so loved in my life.
After exchanging pleasantries with Dave, I put Roxy in the car and headed out to run our errands. Roxy was all smiles on our way to check point B, it definitely made things more pleasant with her around.
We went to the bank first, to a home decor store real quick while Roxy waited outside with the windows down, and then we both got out to shop around the farmers market where we got some fresh fruit, vegetables, homemade soap and locally grown coffee to use in the shop. Luckily for Roxy, there was a vendor selling homemade beef jerky so she got a treat for herself before we headed back home.
Roxy jumped out of the Jeep and ran into the rear entrance to be let in. I opened the door and she turned right and ran up the stairs to the loft. She knew not to run into the café during the day; even though I bet that she really wanted to meet every one of the customers and get the ultimate pet. My dog was extremely intelligent and I was proud of her. When we got into the loft, I looked at the time which said 4:30. The coffee shop didn’t close until 10 PM so I had some time to go downstairs and be my own customer.
I went back into my bedroom and changed into a black T-shirt and skinny jeans. I put on some black leather Vans slip-ons and went into the bathroom to apply some light, natural looking make up. I also took down my ponytail, brushed out my wavy hair and straightened it with a flat iron. In this outfit, I looked completely different than when I was working. I tried covering my tattoos when I was on the clock. It helped people take me seriously as well as my employees to see me as a boss instead of a friend. I tried keep everything as professional when I could. I got a ponytail holder just in case before leaving Roxy to go downstairs.
I turn the corner to go into the coffee shop and could see the place was packed but with only two customers in line waiting to be served. When Mac and Jo worked together, they were unstoppable. I was impressed they kept down the line for as packed as it was. I approached the bar and became number three in line. I could have gone behind the bar and helped myself but with as crowded as it was, I didn’t want to slow down the work of Mac and Jo.
Jo is in her mid-20s, like me, slender with long straight black hair, she favored black clothes and had a bit of an “edge”. Mac, short for Macklemore, had the same style but wore his hair in dreadlocks which he liked to wear up in a messy “man bun” a lot – like he was doing now. Both have tattoos covering their arms like myself. I was “up” in line now. Mac smiled a big smile when he saw me, his eyes glanced over my entire appearance. He said, “what’s up boss lady?”
I smiled and return, “Hey Mac! I just got back from getting Roxy and running errands. Can I get a butterscotch macchiato?”
“Heck yeah, boss,” he said. He entered the order into the iPad we had for check out and flipped it around for me to slide my card for payment. This was our usual payment method but we had a cash register for the rare occasion when somebody, usually an older individual, wanted to pay with cash. It wasn’t anything fancy, we only kept $200 in the till at all times then made a deposit once a week to the bank. Any money we held was locked in a safe in the office across the stairs that went up to my loft.
After about two minutes, Jo handed me my drink and I put a “fiver” in the tip jar on the counter.
Jo said quietly, “Aw, thanks girl.”
“You’re welcome, Jo and Mac. I appreciate you both.” I looked over at Mac who was giving me the cheesiest grin ever while bobbing his head to the bongo music that was playing over the speakers. This little dance was mocking the music and I had to agree, the music was a little weird. The playlist was a random mix off of satellite radio, so I didn’t handpick it or anything. You never knew what kind of music was going to play. I think the playlist was called, “Coffee Shop” or something generic like that.
One of my favorite things to do, these days, what us to sit in my own coffee shop and just blend in like I was another customer. Because my town was fairly big, and relatively close to both Kansas City and St. Louis; most people who came into the shop didn’t know that I was the owner. I liked that.
I took my cup over to one of the many deep leather chairs against the far wall and immersed myself in the life taking place in my small business. There were conversations happening about church and scripture within a party at six from a table close to me. There was some friendly, spirited talk from a couple playing board games, hushed whispers a few different parties; possibly about work, extramarital affairs, we’re just having a quiet date. While sitting there, I heard a few complement the style of the Café and a few complements the coffee which was always nice to hear. I sipped my butterscotch macchiato and was in heaven. You certainly wouldn’t find another like it in the surrounding areas.
I sat like this for a good while it until I realize that the sun had set. A folk band made their way through the front doors and Emma walked them to a cleared area where they could set up. I had completely forgotten they were coming in tonight but was glad I was down here to watch now. Since none of their equipment required a plug, it didn’t take them any time at all to set up, but rather, they just needed to get settled in. When they were good, they started with the slower song to ease their audience into the music. The crowded coffee shop became very quiet as people began to hear the rhythm. When we had band by, people tended to drink and eat more; they tended to stay a while longer. I raised my hand to Emma, as she walked past, motioning her to come over.
When she approached I said, “Emma, go ahead and tell Jo and Mac to get our chocolate covered cherry mocha samples ready. You pass them around with a few Acid Blondies on your tray. If anyone wants the whole drink, direct them to order with you, then take them their drinks. This should get you some extra tips.” She nodded and did as I said with a smile.
I took a swig at the last bit of my butterscotch macchiato and sat back to watch the band. After a while, Emma started making her rounds with our new coffee flavor and brand cigars that I suggested. The coffee seemed to be going well as Emma made frequent trips back to the bar to retrieve the larger sized portions. The cigars went over well too, as smoke began to rise above the crowd. Once it got high enough up, the smoke disappeared into our state-of-the-art ventilation system.
The band shows an invigorating, upbeat song among the drinks and cigars being passed around and people started to really enjoy themselves.
I was sitting there when I saw him walk through the door with his wife. He was tall, about 5’9, with dark blond hair, thick dark eyebrows and a face one could describe as a “baby face”. He had a deep indent in his chin and his face was covered in new stubble, like he had shaved that morning but his facial hair didn’t agree with that decision. On all accounts of social norms, he would be considered attractive. His wife was also attractive and tall for a female. She was slender, blonde like him, but her hair was lighter and she had skin that glowed a nice honey color.
For all intensive purposes, I should say that I knew these two people personally and was quite fond of them both. With an almost magnetic draw towards them, he saw me past the crowd and waved. I got up and walked over to greet them. We met at the bar.
“Hey, Thomas! How are you?” I asked with a smile, “It’s been a few weeks.”
Thomas, the tall dirty blonde male just described, held out one arm for me to go into a one armed “friend hug”.
He said, “We’ve been good. We heard through Facebook that the White Lotus were playing here tonight. Anne has a friend that plays the trumpet,” he indicated his wife who I met a handful of times, “what’s good here?” He asked.
He always asked that every time he came in, which was about twice a month. He liked to push my buttons.
“Actually, we just released a chocolate covered cherry mocha,” I said.
Anne raised an eyebrow and looked at her spouse, “I love cherry,” she said and then giggled. Thomas and I returned her giggles like we were back in high school. Trying to stop smirking, I said, “It’s already pretty popular. We just released it tonight, not even 30 minutes ago.”
“Let’s do it,” Thomas said, rubbing his hands together. He looked up at our food menu before saying, “Let’s do two chicken avocado melts as well.”
I turned to the cash register on the other side of the coffee bar where Mac had patiently been waiting.
I sent to Mac, “Give them the BFF discount on the coffees and the military discount on the food.”
The “BFF discount” mention that the copies were free and when we did a military discount, we took off 20%. That meant that Thomas and Anne only paid $4.50 for their food. Since Thomas was a sergeant in United States Army National Guard and a friend to the business owner; that meant serious perks for him and his wife.
“Thank you so much,” Anne said.
“Yeah, thank you,” Thomas reiterated.
Thomas and I had grown up together, in a way. He was one of the first people that I had met when I moved to this town about four years ago. After graduating from Louisiana State University at the age of 22, my Dad decided to retire and move to the Ozarks to be closer to my grandparents. Since I was still technically living with him at the time, I moved to the Ozarks with him. Ever since Hurricane Katrina forced the majority of my friends to move away, in 2005, there wasn’t really anything keeping me in New Orleans at that point. When I first got to the Ozarks, I had trouble finding work that I found fulfilling, so after a while, I decided to go back to school and take a few business courses in preparation for owning my own business one day. That’s where I met Thomas. We had Marketing Concepts together and, in finding out I was new to town, he introduced me to a few of his friends. In doing so, another such friend had a father in the banking business who gave me a good deal on my small business loan and here I am four years later; two years into being my own boss, serving Thomas, the real O.G. in my life.
Took a seat at a table for four, with the extra chair becoming the home to Anne’s large purse. Jo personally brought their drinks and food tour table with an additional black coffee for me. Looked up at her and she winked. Nothing more needed to be said.
I love Jo, I thought as she went back behind the bar. Thomas and Anne had already started digging into their food, their plates contained a sandwich and a bag of chips, respectfully.
Thomas look up from his food, send looked at his wife and smiled before saying to me, “We have news for you.”
I looked at him suspiciously, “What?” I looked from him to Anne, who was ripping open her bag of chips. They both looked at each other and couldn’t help but smile again. I knew what was coming, it was obvious, but I played along.
“We’re pregnant!” Thomas said excitedly, he corrected himself, “Well, Im not pregnant. She’s pregnant,” he pointed to Anne’s belly region, “but we’re pregnant through her.” He cleared his throat.
I knew my eyes were wide from the confirmation of my thoughts, “Oh my god! Congratulations!” I stated happily, “How far along?” I asked this to Anne who looked up at me from her bag of chips now.
“Only three and a half but we’re telling people now that its been long enough.”
She was right. I heard you should ways wait that long to tell people because of the high risk of it not “sticking” during the early days. It was actually pretty common according to random and spontaneous Google searches that I’ve done on the subject.
I was smiling, “Oh my God,” I said again, “That’s amazing!” I looked back at Thomas who was stuffing his face with his sandwich. I caught a classic awkward mid-bite face. Then I looked back at Anne. “You’re not getting more free coffee though. Just because of this good news,” I indicated this truth by drinking my own black coffee. They both laughed at that, which I was hoping for.
Thomas looked down at his half full coffee and said, “Claire, our have a really great place here. We are both really proud of you.”
I felt the color raise up in my cheeks, “Thanks, you guys, that means a lot,” but suddenly I felt very tired, like the life had just been drained out of me. I looked at my watch which read, 8:30PM. I smiled at the two of them again. It was the sort of smile people understood to be a closing statement.
I said to them, “Imma let the two of you enjoy yourselves here. Great music,” I indicated the band as I stood for the chair and took my coffee from the table, “I’ve got to get upstairs to take my dog out but you guys enjoy your night.”
Anne and Thomas both stood from their chairs and we exchanged hugs before I headed upstairs.
As if she was some sort of psychic, I opened the door to my loft with Roxy sitting in the entry way staring at me. She smiled in her dog way when she saw it was me.
“Walk?” I asked her.
She stood, half turned, and whined in response.
“Okay, hold on,” I got her leash and poured my coffee into a to go mug, “Come on girlie,” I said as she followed me out of the door.
She relieved herself pretty quick but we spent some extra time outside so we could walk around downtown. We circled around the square which was full of people at a relatively late hour and on a week day. We passed by the downtown library, a rum social house, and a satellite building for Missouri State University. We left the square and made our way down the street, passing luxury lofts that were mostly occupied by college students living off of their rich parents money. The air was crisp with the spring and there was a faint smell of barbecue and donuts that mingled nauseously. You could see stars in the night sky which had a light dusting of the remaining twilight in the far distance. This is my favorite time of day, I thought as I sipped my coffee. Roxy stopped to smell things intermittently, which I let her do because she didn’t get to go outside much aside from our outing at the farmers market.
Roxy and I walked like this, in the gentle night, for some time until the sky was completely overtaken by the darkness of pure nightfall. When we got back upstairs to the loft, I took off her lease, put my coffee mug in the sink, and noticed the time on the microwave which read “9:45PM”. The coffee shop was quiet downstairs and I could tell the last of the customers would be making their way to other destinations shortly. Mac and Jo would be doing the night time closing duties which included moving the remaining food to containers and into the refrigerator in the back, cleaning tables, stacking chairs, and cleaning out our espresso machines. Emma would be conducting counts of our cigar inventory; which she did every night. Then she’d start on the dishes, take the trash to the dumpster, and mop the floors while Tim was responsible for balancing our accounts and counting receipts for the night, he’d put the cash from the cash register in the safe then make sure it was closed and secured before they all headed home for the night. All-in-all, my staff would be out and on their way around 10:30PM and that’s if something bad happened, like a cup broke or the espresso machine spewed water everywhere. I usually stayed awake until around midnight, but tonight, I felt completely wiped out.
I made my way into the bathroom and removed my makeup. I brushed my teeth and put on night cream before changing into my silk pajamas.
I did a final walk-through of my loft. I made sure everything in the kitchen was unplugged, that the front door was latched and locked, there was no trash just sitting around, and that my windows were all locked. I set the alarm to “ON” mode.
In routine fashion, Roxy followed me into my bedroom, as I turned off lights on my way, and jumped onto the bed. She slept on the left; towards the door, while I slept on the right. We both got comfortable then settled down into bed. I closed my eyes and quickly drifted into another world.