Coffee Sensibility: Part IV

Coffee Sensibility: Part IV

When my eyes fluttered open, a shock coursed through me that rivaled the strongest cup of Java. I found my head cradled on the lap of my manager, Mr. Purvis, duckwrangler508. Keith.

“You?”

He regarded me with tender eyes. “Did you never guess?”

“Guess? How should I guess when I know you only as kpurvis@coffee.mult.or.us.net?” I sat up, shaking with barely suppressed emotion. Simple spyware would have sufficed; how dare he trifle with my feelings in this manner! “Am I to be fired now?”

“It’s not like that.” He laughed out loud and I shivered. How often had I wondered what duckwrangler508’s “lol” sounded like? “I was too embarrassed to ask you out.”

This was the reason his eyes followed me everywhere, that he came so frequently to the internet café, that I received so many memos? With a rising sense of violation, I pushed myself to my feet, suddenly conscious of the unnecessary hours he had spent in the internet café, scrutinizing me and gauging my reaction to his advances. My indiscreet blushes must have pleased the coward.

I turned my back and picked up a mug with shaking fingers.

“Sophia?”

“Miss Vanhese, please, Mr. Purvis. I am your employee and I hardly think further intimacy is appropriate.”

Had he argued his case at that moment would I have relented? Perhaps. But the door to the internet café opened and a wave of customers came rushing in, braying with laughter. In the edge of my vision, I saw him deflate and walk away.

Pushing my feelings to the side, I forced myself to concentrate on my customers and their endless pleas for coffee. The hour passed in a daze; each order from a customer was a welcome distraction from the anguish assailing my heart.

My laptop chimed.

I saw a new email in my box marked urgent. duckwrangler508 – RE: plz

How could I face him? I deleted it unopened and, lest I be tempted, emptied my trash folder, consigning him to a random memory.

The bell above the café door rang as the last customer left with his steaming cup of Maui Moka, light on the chocolate. In that precious moment of quiet, I recognized that my earlier anger had not been directed at my Ducky, but at myself for the deceitful role I had played. Why had I pretended to more knowledge than I possessed?

I surrendered to a bout of frenzied weeping. How I longed to seek him out, but even should he accept my apology, our differing stations must keep us apart. Did not the district employee handbook frown upon fraternization such as this? To pursue a relationship with my manager would surely raise questions about my character.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, I gathered my sensibility and prepared for the next invasion of customers. The bell rang. In the unexpected silence that followed, I heard the sound of the door’s lock clicking into place.

Turning, I saw Mr. Purvis standing at the door, with his back to me. He turned the sign to “Closed.” In his hands, he held a slip of paper; it was pink.

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2 Responses

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      It’s what I love best about writing serials.

      I originally wrote a very different form of this for the First Line and at some point rewrote it for Story House Coffee, which sold their beans with short stories written on them They were specifically looking for serials. Alas. The market closed while this was on hold with them.