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Drabbles: Brunch at Starbucks

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…”

…help you?

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?”

“Avery.”

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?”

Bingo.

“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.”

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Drabbles: At The Bus Stop

A girl was walking home alone. It was dark out, the streets bare and lifeless. The moon was high up in the night sky as it overlooked the city of Compton.

She pulls her coat closer to her as a chilly breeze sneaked by. Tears stained her cheeks, her eyes red and watery. She ran her fingers through her hair to keep the curly strands out of her face.

Up in the distance was a man. He was leaning against the bus stop sign, smoking a cigarette. His attire consisted of a torn-up sweater, a big burly, smelly-looking jacket, tattered up boots, and a scarf. He sported a tangled beard and uncombed hair.

The girl paused and considered her options. She could return home and avoid the risk of possible danger. That would’ve been easy.

But the thing was, she didn’t want to go home. Home was no longer the sanctuary that it once was to her. Home was where her parents were, where the expectations were. She hardly had the motivation to go back. It was stupid to think that she was choosing danger over safety. But at the moment, danger seemed more appealing to her than lectures about things that she already knew.

The girl pulled up the hood of her coat and gently made her way over to the bus stop. She stood at a clear distance from the man, keeping her guard up.

Then she felt like she was being watched. Slowly turning her head, she peered over at the man next to her. Their eyes met and she was surprised to see that the man had bright, red eyes.

She flinched, suddenly realizing what kind of person this man could be.

The man smirked and threw his cigarette to the ground, smashing its remains with the sole of his boot. He inched closer.

“What’s a girl like you,” he said, almost in a hushed whisper, “doing out here alone on the night streets of Compton hm?”

The girl backed away. “D-Don’t come any closer.” Her palms began to water and flashes of what could possibly happen ran throughout her mind. Why didn’t I just go home?!

The man cocked his head to the side. “You think I’m going to hurt you?”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“The question is: why would I?”

The girl’s back reached a pole. She felt panicked, as if she’d reached a dead end and there was no way out. The man walked closer to her.

“B-Because,” she stammered, “because…your eyes…”

“Now you’re just being prejudiced.”

The girl blinked and looked away, knowing that her answer sounded pretty lame and judgmental.

The man stopped at about a yard away from her and  slid his hands into his pockets. Then he looked up at the night sky, observing the moon.

“I’m truly curious,” he then said, quietly, gently. “What are you doing out here by yourself? Compton isn’t very safe at night, I’m sure you know that.”

“Of course I know that,” the girl said. “I’m no idiot.”

“You’re beating around the bush here.”

The girl sighed and her shoulders relaxed as she gave in to his curiosity.

“My parents,” she started, “were giving me a hard time because I didn’t get into a college that I wanted to go to.”

The man nodded. “I see.”

“You should’ve seen them,” the girl said. “They were yelling and shouting and then they asked me why I was crying because apparently ‘crying doesn’t solve anything’ and then they called me weak. I know my failures more than anybody else and it doesn’t help when my own parents just start shoving it into my face.”

Tears began to fall. The girl sniffled and quickly brushed the wetness off of her cheeks, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” the man said, his head still facing the moon. “You tried your best, did you not?”

“I did. But it wasn’t good enough. Nothing is ever good enough when it comes to them. They expect some Goddess of a daughter and I hate to admit that I’m not capable of that but I’m not.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” the man said. “It really isn’t.”

“No offense, sir. But how would you know anything about this?” the girl asked.

The man smiled to himself. “Believe it or not, young lady, but I was once a Harvard scholar.”

The girl’s eyes widened. “No way.”

“It’s true.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“Believe what you wish. But remember that in the long run, an education is what matters the most. Of course it’d be nice to go to an Ivy League school or a UC and whatnot but take in account of the money. You will be drowning in debt before you can even blink.

“I-Is that why…”

“Life’s too short to be worrying all the time. You’ll get accepted into other schools, you’ll still be offered an education. Your parents will learn to accept your decisions. You’re an adult now.”

The girl shrugged. “I guess so. What’s done is done, right? Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.”

“Maybe it wasn’t.”

The bus lights shone brightly in the distance, coming closer and closer until it pulled to a stop just in front of the pair. The doors opened, and the man stepped inside. He turned around, noticing that the girl hadn’t followed him.

“Are you going to get on?” he asked her.

The girl shook her head. “No. I’m going home.”

The man nodded with a grin. “Great choice.”

The girl smiled through her tears. “Thank you,” she said.¬†“By the way, why are your eyes red?”

“Birth defect,” the man replied. “It’s extremely rare but I like to think of it as a gift.” Then with one last look, the doors to the bus closed.