Just a Cup of Coffee – a short story

Just a Cup of Coffee

“The café was scented with chocolate, freshly baked pastries and coffee. Oh the heavenly coffee. At “The Coffee Bean” it has been rumored for years that customers get exactly what they need. If you had a broken heart they would serve you the perfect espresso milkshake with a special touch that put a smile back on your face, or the perfect chocolate mousse cake that would draw out those tears that you were hiding so that you could move on.”

After twenty years of business the place had gotten on more lips than their coffee. Andrea Fitz, a young journalist for the The Times was writing a piece on the place. With her office skirt and perfect white shirt she looked out of place in the colorful and relaxed atmosphere of the room.
‘So what is it about your products that makes this place famous?’
She had an arrogance and disbelief in her voice that would make you want to slap her, not really knowing why. On the opposite side of the table you would find the complete opposite. Elise, the shop owner was the cutest grandmother you could ever wish for. She was a petite, but curvy woman in her late fifties, always wearing colorful dresses, one or more flowers in her white and wavy long hair, and always with a smile on her face. Even when she wasn’t smiling the corners of her mouth somehow pointed subtly upwards. Somehow the air around her seemed sweeter than everywhere else. One would think that when her sweet air met the bitter air around Andrea it would somehow combust, but something completely different happened.
Elise sipped her tea from a big blue cup and sat it back down on the table with a big smile on her face.
‘We make everything with an extra dose of..’ leaning in as if to tell a secret, Andrea leaned in ready to hear it, ‘.. Love!’
‘Of course.. Love.’ Even though she almost whispered it while taking her notes, the sarcasm was loud and clear. Elise didn’t mind, her smile actually grew a little wider.
‘Are you sure you don’t want anything? A cupcake or a cup of tea?’
You can’t buy me. Was Andrea’s immediate thought before swallowing it. How did I get like this?
‘You really can’t write a piece about our humble coffee house without having a taste of what we have to offer.’
‘Maybe later.’ She tries to smile but it doesn’t feel right and looks less genuine. ‘Some say that you use some kind of magic in here.’ Elise’s laugh rolls light heartedly in the air. ‘Some even speculate in use of drugs after all the stories that has shown up through the years.’
‘I can guarantee you that we’ve never used any kind of drugs in here.’ she almost giggles in between words.
The air around them somehow shifted. Andrea thought she felt it but ignored it none the less.
‘And magic?’
‘There’s magic to be found everywhere.’
‘So you’re not denying it?’
With the pen ready on the notepad she’s waiting for the headline of her article.
‘You look like you could some kind of magic.’ Elise sips the last of her tea.
‘No. I don’t believe in magic.’ Her head filled with pictures of unicorns, green witches and werewolves. She doesn’t need any magic either. She’s engaged to Alex, living in a beautiful penthouse apartment and working because she wanted to not because she had to. It wasn’t everything she thought it would be but she was happy, sure she was.
‘What about when he gets angry?’ Elise asks with a curious look. Her eyes are met with a look of utter surprise.
‘Come again?’
All that arrogance and bitterness washed away from her voice.
‘And there’s another man that sneaks into your thoughts more than you like? Someone who could have been maybe?’
Colin’s face flashes into her mind and the pen falls out of her hand. Elise picks it up from the floor and lays it on top of the notepad. Andrea’s heart is racing and she’s panting.
No one knows about these things. How can she know?
She wants to yell it out to her in anger, but it comes out as in insecure whisper.
‘How do you know all this?’
‘Maybe it’s magic?’ She takes Andrea’s left hand in hers as if she really were her grandmother. It felt surprisingly comforting, but being scared and in confusion she pulls her hand back.
‘Who are you?’
Elise gets up and walks over to the counter. As she turns she’s holding a big pink cup that she brings back to the table and sets in front of Andrea.
‘There, there child. I’m just a silly old woman who’s seen history repeats itself too many times in too many faces.’ She cocks her head to her left and gives Andrea a little wink, ‘Have som coffee now. It’s on the house.’
A piece of Andrea wants to run for her life. Run away from this smiling witch, but she has a deadline. She needs to write that story.
‘What’s in it?’ her voice shakes a little.
‘It’s a peppermint cappuccino with a hint of white chocolate.’
It smells heavenly.
‘I can’t remember seeing that on the menu.’
Elise sits down slowly. There’s something in her smile that Andrea doesn’t recognize.
‘It’s a mouthful of truth hon. Do you dare to drink it?’
Andrea’s hands folds around the the cup. It warms her, makes her curious and even more scared. The cuckoo clock on the wall starts the first of its three cuckoos when her lips touches the pink porcelain.

Everything around her is too bright. She can’t see anything that’s in front of her. The feeling of dizziness and nausea overwhelms her. And as the surroundings around her clears up she feels a warm hand in hers. A strong hand. As she turns her head, the silhouette of a man turns into clear view.
‘Colin?’
His hand squeezes hers again. It feels so different than the hand she’s used to. It feels like love.
‘Who else would it be hon?’ He smiles that tender smile. The big confident one that always reminded her of a young Tom Cruise. ‘Your other boyfriend?’
He laughs at his own joke.
Andrea’s heart is racing faster than she thought was ever possible as she throws her arms around him and kisses him. The feel of him, the taste and the smell feels so familiar. Like no time had passed at all since the last time she saw him, almost a decade ago.
‘I’ve missed you.’ tears are pushing their way to the surface while she hugs him harder than she’s ever hugged anyone.
‘I’ve missed you too.’ He kisses her neck, just like he used to. Goosebumps tickles down her back. She remembers this feeling so well. She feels warm. Happy. She feels loved. It’s as if he read her mind.
‘What you’re feeling right now Andrea, that’s real.’
She sighs.
‘But this moment isn’t, right?’ his big hand strokes her left cheek with the love that she’d been missing. Then he shakes his head and talks in a low whisper:
‘No. This is what could have been if different choices were made.’ Andrea feels like she’s going to faint, uncertain if this still is the perfect dream or if it’s now turned into a nightmare, ‘You cannot make a new choice for that crossroad now. That one is in the past. But what you’re feeling right now, you can have that again. You just have to take a leap of faith and you have to go look for it.’
Colin kisses her one more time and she hears the cuckoo again.

The third cuckoo. She’s back in her seat. Back at “The Coffee Bean” where no time has passed at all. Her confused eyes filled with tears falls down on the cup of coffee. She only remembers the first sip and yet there it is, empty.
This time she doesn’t pull her hand away as Elise puts it in hers.
‘That bitter sweet after taste in your mouth is the truth. It hurts to know that your what if had a better outcome than the road you chose. Now you need to choose another.’ She then gets up and put on that happy smile and a light purple apron.
‘I’ll make you a new coffee to go.’
Andrea could do nothing but nod and whisper thank you.

“I came to The Coffee Bean not knowing what to look for, but found a jewel in this so ever lost city. It’s a place to clear your mind, and even if your going alone you’ll be in good company from a lovely and passionate staff.
The truth is there. And the truth is simple:
You never know what can happen over just a cup of coffee.

– Andrea Fitz”

Written by Christina de Vries, January 2013

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