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Espresso Yourself

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"Girl," said Jaz. She said it with at least four r's.

"Don't 'girl' me," said Emily, placidly writing the specials board.

"I'll girl you all I want when I'm judging you!" Jasmine was supposed to be stocking medium-size coffee lids in preparation for the morning rush, but instead, she was leaning all over the countertop and self-righteously eyeballing Emily. "Come on, now!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Emily. She painstakingly lettered 'Great Espresso-tations,' careful not to catch the tail of the p on the line below.

"You know, I know you by now," said Jaz. Emily didn't turn around on the stepladder, but she was willing to bet that Jaz had sprawled even lower. She had a bad habit of happily partying the night before a five a.m. shift and then showing up dragging the leading edge of a hangover. "I can tell when you're on the edge of one of your weird little smiles. You're teasing me!"

"You're not working," Emily pointed out mildly.

"That's because I'm judging you! How have you not spoken to that fine piece of ass yet?"

"Jaz," said Emily.

"Stop writing awful specials boards based on the books she reads and ask for her number!"

"It'll happen when it's supposed to happen." Emily glanced over her shoulder. "Maybe stop talking about customers like they're pieces of meat and go get ready to make them coffee."

"Meat," said Jaz longingly, dragging herself upright. "I could do with a sausage roll right now."

"Get everything stocked before open and I'll go buy you a breakfast sandwich from McDonalds on my break."

"McMuffins don't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as a proper sausage roll," Jaz shouted as she headed toward the back room.

"I'll throw in hash browns," Emily called, and there was a lengthy silence.

"The big ones?" yelled Jaz, and Emily smiled.

*

Christine wasn't as forthright as Jaz - no one was as forthright as Jaz; she put the English reputation for staid calm utterly to shame - but even she paused as she took off her coat while reading the specials board. Today's hair wrap was red with white polka dots, Emily noticed, as Christine stood in silence in the middle of the coffee shop floor.

"You should talk to her," she finally said, brushing past Emily to hang her coat in the back, and Jaz cheered. "Like, actually talk to her."

Emily stared at the register she was standing in front of. It was ancient, the transparent coverings over the keys worn down by the weight of hundreds of fingers, but she wasn't really looking at it; she was focusing on not losing her temper. "I don't need backseat drivers."

She really didn't. Jaz was her own person. She liked tiny skirts and tinier tops, and she didn't have a single qualm about hopping into the lap of her latest crush and covering them both in the glitter she liked to wear. That worked for her. That would never work for Emily; that sounded like a nightmare, frankly. She had her own process, a slow process, and she did okay with girls. She took her time.

Unfortunately, Jaz didn't always understand that not everyone loved talking to strangers like they were old friends. Her stories of Manchester clubs and four a.m. jaunts to new friends' shady apartments were both awe-inspiring and a little horrifying to Emily, and Jaz took well-deserved amazement over the fact that she hadn't been axe-murdered to mean that Emily was some kind of old lady who needed to be drawn out of her shell.

"Obviously you do!" Jaz shouted, cheerfully sticking her head out through the door. "Not to worry, Ems; we've got your ba-" She squawked as Christine's coat wrapped around her face.

"Speak for yourself," said Christine. "I'm not getting involved in this. And FINISH STOCKING THE CUPS."

"If you've fucked my hair, this is war," said Jaz, merrily flipping her off and throwing the coat back at her

It wasn't like Emily was humorless or a prude, or a humorless prude, as she'd been accused in the past. She appreciated fun and a good joke - she just felt seriously about fulfilling her supervisor responsibilities, especially while she was getting paid for it. "Let's just get everything ready for open, okay?" she said.

When Christine said, "Okay Emily," Emily was fairly certain she was being humored, but if it meant they were ready in time for the crowd of early morning customers who were going to line up out the door, she was okay with that.

*

She came in at two o'clock, between the lunch rush and the end-of-the-day rush just like usual, but Emily still felt the thrill of excitement crawl up the back of her neck when she spotted the familiar coppery hair and red lipstick a few people back in line.

"Ems," Jaz hissed from the register, because she was anything but subtle. "Emily!"

"What?" Emily demanded, sharper than she meant. She nearly sprayed foam all over herself as the cappuccino she was making slipped in her hands, but she grabbed it at the last second.

"Jaz is having a hard time with the register," Christine said, grinning unrepentantly and utterly ignoring her own claims that she wasn't going to get involved. "You should help her." She let Emily put the lid on the cap and place it on the counter, then she hip-checked her. "You should help her now."

Emily stumbled and caught herself on the counter in front of the register. Jaz winked at her, then smoothly slid over to take up her spot on the drinks line with Christine.

"Hey," Emily said to the beautiful girl who came in on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and sometimes Sunday mornings. "What can I get for you?"

The girl was smiling; she always seemed to be smiling, though when Emily had pointed that out once, Christine had rolled her eyes and said, "Emily, she's smiling AT YOU."

" 'A Tale of Two Mochas' looks good," she said. "I'll have that in a medium."

"It's a new special," Emily said while the beautiful girl reached into her backpack. "You're the first person to order it."

The girl's eyes crinkled with her deepening smile. "I'll let you know how it is."

Emily knew that it was good. She rigorously tested all of her new special ideas before unleashing them on the general public. She'd learned that people mistook comments like "it's good" for weird arrogance, though, so she said, "I hope you'll like it."

"I'm sure I will," the girl said, her face warm; "I love the theme today," and then she suddenly frowned down at her wallet. "Shit, I'm out of cash; do you guys have a debit card minimum?"

"No," said Emily, and before she really knew what was happening, she was swiping a Visa card that said FELICITY M WARD.

"Oh," she said. Felicity M Ward lifted her eyebrows in a friendly way. "So - your name isn't actually Batman."

Felicity, wonder of wonders, understood that she was kidding. She laughed. "No," she said, smiling. "It's not really Voldemort either, or Diana Prince."

They shared a smile across the counter, Emily as she remembered the silly order names that had caught her attention last month when Felicity first started coming in, and Felicity as, well - she wasn't sure why Felicity was smiling. But she was, and it was making heat rise in Emily's face.

The credit card machine squawked, and Emily jumped and then ripped the receipt off the machine and slid it over to Felicity M Ward. "If you could just - sign here-" She grabbed one of the pens that she'd taped plastic spoons to after people kept stealing them.

"Oh, okay," said Felicity, and she signed and then stepped out of the way of the next customer.

Emily thought about it for a minute, and then she handwrote a name in black Sharpie on Felicity's cup and handed it off to Christine.

Emily was taking orders from the last of a group of students who'd come in together when she heard Jaz call, "Khaleesi?" She sounded half judgmental and half like she was struggling not to giggle. "Khaleesi!"

Emily peeked at the table where Felicity had settled with her book and a few of the friends she always met here on Wednesday afternoons. Felicity had lifted her head and was starting to look toward the pick-up counter.

"I've got a Tale of Two Mochas for Khaleesi?" Jaz yelled, and the smile that bloomed across Felicity's face, as her friends laughed, was gorgeous.

Tomorrow's theme, Emily thought triumphantly, would be called Game of Cups.

*

On Thursday, Emily had the morning shift and didn't see Felicity, but she heard all about her reaction to the Game of Thrones specials board on Friday morning.

"She laughed FOREVER," said Jaz dramatically. "She loved it!"

"She asked if you wrote it," said Christine in passing, her arms full of bags of ice for the freezer.

"Loved it!" Jaz sang out.

"Who, Felicity?" Emily asked, all cool.

Christine's voice echoed from inside the cooler out back. "I didn't know you'd gotten around to exchanging names in your weird little courtship."

"We didn't," Emily admitted. "She paid with a debit card the other day."

"FATE!" Jaz yelled, nonsensically.

"Have you ever had a conversation with her?" Christine pressed. "You should talk to her."

"We've talked," Emily defended. "A little bit. At the register."

"Girl," Jaz said from under the counter, where she was stacking plastic cups of ice.

"She's super into you," said Christine, coming back out front and crossing her arms in the way that meant she wasn't going to let this go. "You should talk to her instead of fucking with your eyes and pretending you're not looking at each other every time she comes in."

"I," said Emily, ready to protest that she was taking her time, and then she thought about it. "She makes me nervous," she admitted, thinking of the way her stomach fluttered and her mouth went dry when Felicity came in.

"Good nervous?"

"Yeah," she said. "I just have kind of a hard time talking around her. I dunno."

Jaz popped up from below the counter and opened her mouth.

"No," said Christine, and she unceremoniously bundled her into the storage closet, slammed the door, and then came back alone.

"She makes me feel a lot," Emily admitted.

"Aw," said Christine, "my weird little robot," and Emily pulled a face but let her squeeze her in a one-armed hug. "Don't be bad-nervous. That girl thinks you're the shit. Flirt to your robot heart's content, okay? With words or with the specials board."

"Yeah, okay," said Emily, rolling her eyes a little, and she went to let Jaz out of the closet.

That afternoon, Felicity forgot her copy of Great Expectations on her table. Emily read the note inside the front cover three times before the words I think you're super cute really hit home. She carefully tucked the book away under the counter, beneath stacks of old flyers, to wait for Felicity and her warm smile to come back.