I liked the ambience of coffee shops; the books and newspapers spread out on the reading tables, the comfy chairs and sofas that are scattered about, not to mention the smell of coffee itself. Something about the smell of coffee just makes you feel so sophisticated and whole.
I never went to Starbucks for my coffee, though. Perhaps it was because I didn’t want to fall into the hype, and the very fact that it’s always packed just adds to the list of reasons why I never stop there for my morning coffee.
Those, of course, are lame reasons why I never went to Starbucks. In actuality, I’d just always had a bad feeling about it. I’d drive by one, take a glance, and suddenly feel this dark, heavy feeling in my heart. I didn’t know why this always occurred but it did. And because of such a premonition, I never came near a Starbucks. I never had the need nor the motivation to.
However, my fiance Reid is obsessed with Starbucks’ coffee and is adamant that I give it a try. I didn’t want to tell him about the feeling I always got with the franchise, because honestly it sounded ridiculous. Even I thought it was ridiculous, so we made plans to grab some brunch there on Friday, the 13th.
While driving I noticed how dark and gloomy the skies were today. It was overcast, chilly, and heavy clouds hung low above. I took the weather and its Shakespearean indications with a grain of salt, instead focusing my mind on my brunch date with Reid.
Reid had just graduated fresh out of John Hopkins’ med school, while I had just graduated from Columbia law. We’d been dating since about three years ago, meeting through mutual friends. He was handsome, smart, funny, charming, and dressed in Ralph Lauren and J. Crew from head to toe, which was exactly what I liked in a man. He’d proposed to me just a couple of months ago, and I’d been more than thrilled to accept. According to my mother and practically just about everyone else, Reid and I were a “match made in heaven”. I couldn’t have agreed more.
Upon arriving at the Starbucks that Reid had directed me to, I found him nowhere in sight. Then I got a text from him saying that he was stuck in traffic and that I should order first. “Get me a Green Tea Frap,” he’d said.
For some reason I hadn’t wanted to venture into Starbucks for the first time alone. I wanted Reid with me, tall, strong Reid. But I hated chickening out on anything so I went inside anyways, trying not to think about it too much.
I stood there in line, looking up at the menu. Reid had told me that he liked the frappuccinos. Maybe I should get one too? The caramel one sounds good.
“Welcome to Starbucks how may I…”
My eyes were still on the menu board but I was still rather puzzled at how the employee had stopped mid-sentence. How unprofessional, I’d thought.
It wasn’t until I met eyes with the employee however, that I realized why.
My eyes widened in surprise, just like his. Time seemed to freeze in that very moment and I began to wonder why I suddenly felt so warm throughout my entire body. The surprise of seeing him after so long shocked me so much that I could hardly speak, let alone think. My mind went utterly blank.
“Ma’m, could you hurry it up please?” a dude said behind me.
I snapped out of it. “O-Oh yeah.”
The Employee cleared his throat, trying to avoid making eye contact with me as much as possible. I did the same.
“One Green Tea Frap and one Caramel Frap,” I said. My voice appeared dry and weak. I hated how I sounded.
The Employee nodded and punched in the info. “And, uh…” He took out a sharpie and said, “What’s your name?”
After paying, I took a seat at one of the tables to wait for my order. Reid came in and took a seat across from me.
“Luckily I found a parking spot right when I drove into the plaza,” he said, all smiles. “So what do you think of the place? Not too bad for a franchise huh?”
“Yeah,” I said, still in a trance. “Not too bad.”
Reid noticed that I was staring at something – or someone – and looked at me suspiciously. “What are you staring at?” he asked. I blinked and looked away, switching my attention to the cute coffee cups on the other side of the room. Reid however, knew that something was up and didn’t hesitate to pry it out of me. “Were you looking at that worker up front?”
“N-No.” Why are you stammering?!
“Did he give you any trouble?”
“No,” I said, this time more clearly. “He didn’t do anything.”
“Do you know him?”
“Nope. I don’t.”
Reid took another glance at The Employee and said, “I wouldn’t have been surprised if he gave you trouble.”
I looked at him, puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“I go to this Starbucks a lot cause it’s the closest one to my work,” Reid said, “and I’d come in during breaks to find him getting scolded by the manager. I’ve seen it countless times. I think his name is Keith?”
“Why would he get in trouble?” I asked, curious.
“He’d mess up on orders and pour the wrong ingredients and stuff. He hardly knows anything about coffee, much less how to serve it, yet he’s still here,” Reid said. “But the manager only keeps him because she pities him. Won’t be long before that runs out though and he just gets fired.”
“Wow.” I was speechless. “I did not know that.”
“Keith,” the manager’s voice boomed, “you messed up on the orders. Again.”
“I’m sorry,” I heard Keith say.
“If this happens one more time, you’re out of here. You hear me?”
He nodded, his head hung low. Then he grabbed two drinks, reading the names on the cups.
“Avery,” he said.
I made a move to get up but Reid stopped me. “I’ll get it for us,” he offered.
When Reid went up to get the drinks for me I knew Keith was surprised. Or at least, I hoped he was. I hoped he was surprised to see that I’d managed to snag such a well-rounded man, much better than he could ever be.
As Reid and I left the place, Keith and I met eyes. His eyes were still so brown, so mesmerizing. He still had it. And I hated myself for still feeling it.
“So Avery,” Reid said as we walked out to the parking lot. “Do we plan on coming back?”
I took a sip of my Caramel Frap. “No. We don’t.”