Steamed: Scenes From A Coffee Shop Vignette Nine Center City

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Coffee, like people, comes in a variety of blends. The timeless narratives infusing Steamed: Scenes From A Coffee Shop are complex and uniquely blended. Appealing and recognizable characters steeped with emotions fuse to provide a fresh, robust flavor and presentation. Relish and experience the specialty mix, gourmet selections and single brews contained in this short story collection.

Submitted: June 02, 2015

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Submitted: June 02, 2015

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~~Center City

 


She should leave, Phoenix told herself as she saw him enter the coffee shop. Of all the places she’d thought to divide – Café Solange, the Rusted Leaves Bistro, bookstore, gym and Jolie’s Jazz Club – this wasn’t one of them. Then again, she thought, five months ago she had not met Luke, learned of his vision for the coffee house or planned to attend the grand opening.


Steeling her back, she decided she would not allow Orion or her unrequited feelings for him to rule her life or ruin opportunities for social interaction. Not tonight. Not at the culmination of Luke’s dream. Taking a deep breath, she crossed the room. Luke’s mother, who delicately dabbed her eyes with a white handkerchief, smiled and pulled her into a deep embrace. “I believed in Luke, you did and now it looks like a lot of others do,” the older woman said.


Phoenix returned the older woman’s hug. “I’m so glad to be here. This place is amazing.” She glanced around the congested shop. Forty minutes into the grand opening the crowd showed no sign of lessening. “Luke is very talented. He’s worked hard, had a vision and was able to take advantage of this opportunity.”


A tall man with sparkling green eyes approached. “Did I hear my name?”


“Phoenix was just singing praises about you.”


 “Praise from Phoenix is like manna from heaven.” Luke smiled and pulled Phoenix into his arms. 


She hugged him. Breaking the embrace but hands still clasped they took several steps away from his mother. “Get used to hearing your name,” she said. “People are going to be talking about you not only tonight but for a long time.”


He smiled. “Like when customers yell ‘Luke, a caramel cappuccino or coffee with two sugars’.”


She chuckled. “Something like that.”


Leaning close to her, he whispered, “At one time, I had hopes of hearing you say my name.”


She bit her lower lip. He was everything she always said she wanted - a tall, good looking, hardworking man with eyeglasses and an amazing smile - but something was missing. Was it chemistry? Timing? Or just not meant to be?  “Luke …”


“I shouldn’t have said anything,” he murmured. Six weeks after they met, he’d asked why she consistently rebuffed his invitations for anything that appeared dating related. Her response, while honest, was disappointing. “Thank you for coming tonight.”


“I would not have missed this for anything.”


He glanced around the room and nodded towards a tall, slender man standing in the corner next to a bookshelf containing paperbacks and board games. “That’s Thomas Downing from the Messenger.”


She followed his gaze. A quick smile crossed her face as she waved to the man. “I know. I spoke to him earlier. He said he usually doesn’t attend grand openings but his editor lives around the corner so they decided to stop by.”


Luke frowned. Thomas was a well-known local reporter. “It was naïve of me to think he was here to review my humble establishment.”


“Actually, I told Thomas about you, your vision and the events you have planned. Jazz performances, open mics, game night, art exhibits, Saturday night comedy review. He promised to tell the paper’s style section reviewer about you and Coffee Creations.”


The frown deepened as he stroked his chin. “How long did you speak to him?”


She held up her hands. “Whoa. What’s up with the question? Tone? I was trying to be helpful.”


He could not allow jealousy to ruin their friendship. “Sorry. It’s been a long day.”


“A long time coming,” she said. She took a deep breath. “I am so glad to be here and share this day with you.”


He bowed slightly and raised her hand to his lips. “I am honored you are here. I appreciate your friendship and belief in me.” Placing a gentle kiss on the back of her hand, he smiled. “I need to mingle. Maybe we can have dinner next week?”


“Coffee. I know this wonderful little place. And the owner is a friend of mine,” she joked. She ran her hand across his smooth shaven face. “Mingle. Greet your customers. Enjoy today. We’ll talk later.” Backing away from him, she headed to the counter to get another cup of tea. She was almost there when Orion approached. She was bound to see him one day, Phoenix reminded herself while bracing her mind and body for the encounter.


An overly bright smile was on his face. “Hello.”


What do you say to the man who broke your heart? She shifted her weight from one leg to the other while three fingers of her left hand drummed against her lower thigh. “Hello.”


“I saw you earlier but you were talking with some man.” When she did not respond, Orion said, “It’s been a while.”  The index finger of his right hand pushed his glasses up on his face while the fingers of his left hand tightly gripped his cup.


 Her mouth was dry and Phoenix hoped her voice did not crack. “It has.”


“How have you been?”


“Never better.”


Orion’s gaze swept her body, down the figure hugging black lace dress which stopped six inches above her knees to her black peep toe pumps before returning to her face. “You look great.”


“Thanks.” She held his gaze for a few seconds. “Gotta get my tea.” Taking a deep breath, she stepped away from him. Minutes later while balancing her cup of coconut infused tea and small purse, she reached for a napkin. “Thank you,” she said accepting the two handed to her. Glancing over her shoulder she smiled upon seeing Thomas. “Sometimes I think it would be nice to have three hands.”


Thomas laughed. “Only three? When I was in high school and college I could have used four, maybe five.”


She shook her head from side to side. “TMI,” she joked. Pointing to the two caramel and coconut macaroons in his hand, she said, “Luke’s cousin Angela is the pastry chef.”


He nodded. “If all the pastries are this good this might become one of my favorite spots.” Phoenix chuckled as the man took a large bite of the delicacy.  


“Tom,” a voice boomed from behind them. Turning in the direction of the speaker, Phoenix held her breath. Two men - a compact blonde and a tall, husky man with short mixed black and gray hair and gold rimmed eyeglasses - approached.


Thomas smiled. “Pete.” He pointed to the half-eaten chocolate chip brioche in his editor’s hand. “I see you found the desserts.”


The blonde laughed. “Let me introduce you to Ethan Somerset,” the blonde said. “Ethan and I worked together at the Dispatch twenty years ago when both of us were just out of college.” Turning to Phoenix, Pete smiled. “Actually Ethan has been out of college for twenty years. I’m not that old.”


Ethan laughed. “Ethan Somerset,” he said, holding out his hand to Phoenix. “It’s nice to meet you,” the melodious voice intoned.


Breathe, Phoenix reminded herself as she placed her hand in his large hand.  Long, supple fingers grasped hers. “Hello.”


Ethan smiled and tilted his head to the side. “I didn’t get your name.”


He could get more than her name, Phoenix thought. Exhaling, she reminded herself she saw good looking men every day. But not like this, a voice in her head countered.


“This is my new friend, Phoenix,” Thomas said. “Phoenix is a friend of the owner.”


“It’s nice to meet you Phoenix,” Ethan said. His fingers tightened their grip on her soft hand. Glancing down at his hand, she imagined it on her body. Touching, exploring, feeling, caressing. “So,” he asked, “Is it nice to meet me?”


Twenty-five words of smooth, honeyed intonation, she thought. Looking into his eyes she saw a sparkling golden ring around a glowing brown center. The attraction was mutual. “Yes, it is very nice to meet you.”


“I would offer to buy you a cup of coffee but you already have one,” Ethan said.


A sly smile crossed Phoenix’s face. “Not anymore,” she said, handing her cup to Thomas.


Ethan laughed heartily. He liked her style, her short dress, her curves and now, her sense of humor. “After you,” he said, following her to the counter.


She was still smiling two hours later.


© Copyright 2020 Carol Waties. All rights reserved.

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