latte on the terrace

24 Oct

“Oh God, it’s her again.”  Mickey said looking out the glass door to see a familiar woman walking up the path.

For the past two weeks she had been coming by the Java Junction every afternoon, and every afternoon she had caused a ruckus.  The after-work crunch was the second busiest time of the day for the small cafe and customers often had to wait ten to fifteen minutes in line before being served.  Most of the regulars were used to the wait and chatted amongst themselves but the arrival of this woman and her damned dog made Mickey’s job as manager a living hell.

Mickey looked around behind the counter and nodded to Sarah.  “You — go outside and tell her to grab a seat on the terrace and we’ll bring her a latte.  There are fifteen people in line none of us need to listen that mangy little creature barking for the next twenty minutes.”

Sarah looked reluctant but eventually moved around the counter towards the door before the woman had a chance to come in.  As a regular barista Sarah had seen the dog take a nip at more than one customer.  Mickey did not blame her for being cautious but someone had to go.

“Bob,” he barked at the guy beside him. “Make the chick on the terrace a decaf latte with extra foam.  Since I can’t make you smile at any of the other customers I am going to assume that you do better with dogs.”

Bob nodded quietly and started to heat the milk for Emma’s drink.  He may have been chastised for being unfriendly with the regular customers but he was willing to bet that he was the only one on staff who knew the woman’s name.  He had been saying hello to Emma everyday for two weeks while all of his co-workers were too busy sneering t her and her dog.

When he was finished preparing the latte just the way that Emma liked it he grabbed a coffee for himself, a few napkins and headed out to the terrace.  “Hey Mickey,” he shouted over his shoulder.  “I’m going to take my break.”  If Mickey objected he did not hear him over the customers chatting in line.

As the door closed behind him Bob took a deep breath and then walked over to Emma’s table with her drink.  “Here you go Madam,” he said putting the cup on the table with some extra flourish.   “May I join you?”

Emma smiled and pointed to the chair beside her.  “I would love that thanks.”

As he sat down Bob noticed that Emma looked tired.  Usually well put together, he noticed that today her hair seemed a little messy and her eye make-up had smudged into a black smear under her eyes.

“Rough day?”

“It has been hell actually.  My ex just flew across the country unannounced to ask that I return a pair of earrings he gave me on our six month anniversary.  I am not sure if I am more annoyed that he made the request or that he had the nerve to walk into my office as if we were still friends.”

Emma grabbed her purse and started rummaging around for a Kleenex to dab her teary eyes as Bob took a sip of his coffee pretending not to notice.

“Snookie decided that today would be the perfect day to pee on one of the firm’s best client’s shoes then took a nip at one of my best accountants.  As I left today I believe my staff was in the process of voting on what they hated the most:  Snookie, me or any idea that came out of my mouth.”

“Wow,” Bob said with a chuckle.  “And I thought I had it bad trying to juggle my manager Mickey and a cranky art professor.”

“Are you in art school?” Emma asked.  “Please tell me about it.  I wanted to go to art school but my family insisted that I take business instead.  When your last name is Stone your priorities need to be as follows:  the firm, the family then your happiness.  The firm won out and now I am in line to take over Marsters, Stone and Shore whether I like it or not.”

“I hear ya,” Bob said.  “When I went to art school my old man threatened to disown me.  ‘I have not spent the last fifteen years slaving away so that my family can turn their back on my legacy.’  We haven’t talked in five years.  My mom used to ask if I needed cash but I am not taking a cent from them.  I love my mom but I have to do this on my own even if they do have more money than they know what to do with.”

“Wow, I think you are my hero,” Emma said with a smile. “My grandfather took me in after my folks died.  He has been telling me ever since that day how I have been a disappointment to him.  I think he expected me to be taking over his job in the firm by now so he could retire.  Instead he has been forced to hide me away in Chicago trying to forget how I have let him down.  I am sure he has already had his lawyer look for ways to disown me and adopt my ex who is his top sales guy.”

“Well, I don’t know about hero.  Right now my biggest claim to fame is doodling in the foam of my favourite customer’s latte.”

Emma looked down at her cup and smiled.  “Is that Snookie?”

Bob smiled as Emma started to chuckle and shake her head.

“Thanks.  I think the only thing that would make my grandfather happier than adopting Iain,” Emma continued, “is to see Snookie made into a rug.”

“He’ll have to get in line behind Mickey on that one,” Bob said.

“I know he is a pain in the ass,” Emma said as she picked up Snookie and began to finger his long pointed ears.  “But this little dog is all I have left right now.  He may bark up a storm but I love him.”

“I get it,” Bob said.  “He’s a Chinese Crested, right?”

“How did you know?”  Emma asked.  “Usually people just call him a rat dog.  When I was a little girl, we used to visit one of my dad’s business partners.  The guy’s wife was always really nice to me.  Anyway, she had a little dog like Snookie here and I adored it.  Granted, that dog was much better behaved than mine.”

“Oh, you only saw her on her good days.  Mocha could be a pain in the ass too,”  Bob said looking up at Emma.

Emma’s mouth fell open as she looked at Bob.

“I knew you didn’t recognize me.  I’m Bob, but my folks still call me Robert.  Robert Marsters.”

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