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Of Caramel Macchiatos and Cold Flute Hands

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If I leave at 8:20, and I’m fast, and timing works out perfectly, I can still make it there by nine.

Ian looks over at the clock on the bedside table again.

It’s not gonna take me more than 20 minutes to get ready anyways.

On any other day, Ian would've been out of bed before the sun was up. He's the textbook definition of a morning person, awake and ready to start the day far earlier than anyone else feels is necessary. But he has to work today, and the shop is always either stressfully busy or completely dead at this time in the morning, and there are so many things he could be doing instead of spending four hours of his morning making overly fancy drinks, and it's so uncomfortably warm today, too…

Eventually, Ian drags himself out of bed and throws on some proper clothes. He still feels half-asleep as he continues getting ready for the day ahead, and the bright morning light coming through the windows isn’t really helping. It’s only four hours today, he reminds himself. It could be worse.

The rest of the morning continues on like any other Tuesday morning: hop on the train around half past eight. Spend the 15-minute commute daydreaming and mentally writing poems that’ll probably never make their way to paper. Arrive at the shop just on time, and prepare to spend the next four hours taking orders and trying to avoid burns from hot coffee. Nothing unusual happens. Nothing unusual ever happens at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday.

“Have you finished that history essay yet?” asks the only other barista in the shop.

Admittedly, John- or Evans, as he likes to be called- is not the type of person who Ian usually enjoys spending time with. He's loud and impulsive and he insists on being called by his last name simply because he thinks it makes him sound cooler. However, he and Ian have always gotten along well. Maybe it’s because they only see each other a couple of times a week on average. Best not to think about these things too much, figures Ian.

“No. Honestly, I don't even know why I picked that topic. Eighteenth-century farming innovations are… dull, at best.”

“They sound dull.”

“Yeah. They are. There's only so much one can say about seed drills. I could probably write a better paper on the inventor’s name, to be honest.”

Evans giggles under his breath. “Heh. What a good name- Jethro Tull .”

“Yeah. Anyways. It’s not due for another week and a half… you think anyone would mind if I worked on it a little bit right now?”

“Maybe. I guess there’s really only one way to find out… oh, hey Barrie!” Evans turns around to greet the boy standing at the till. “What can I get for you today?”

“Ooh. Lemme see… I’ll get a small lavender tea with two sugar, and a medium vanilla latte.”

Evans scribbles the orders down on paper cups. “Sounds good. Is John on his way, then?”

Barrie grins. “Yup.”

“Nice. Ian, would you like to prepare some tea? Maybe a latte too, if you feel like it?” asks Evans.

“No.” Ian's slight smile gives away his sarcasm. “Here, gimme the cups.”

“Thanks, Ian!” Barrie calls out as he drops his hoodie and backpack at a table. Sure enough, John- Barrie's boyfriend/partner-in-musical-adventures- arrives within a few minutes.

“How are you doing today, my sweet Barriemore?” John asks in an exaggerated tone as he sits down.

“Oh, I’m doing just wonderfully today,” Barrie replies, his own voice taking on the same fake-serious tone as John’s. “And what about yourself?”

“I’m feeling just splendid today, thank you for asking.” John takes a sip of his coffee. “So anyways. I added some more stuff to the composition we were working on the other day, and it’s sounding ridiculously good.”

Ian wonders how they can be like this all the time- so caught up in their joking mock-formality one moment, and then completely casual the next. He’s known Barrie for maybe two and a half years- they’d been roommates for a semester, before Barrie transferred to his technical college, and they’d bonded over a shared love of writing and playing music (though neither one considered themselves good enough to ever make a career out of that). Even when they weren’t living together, they’d managed to stay in touch, even to the point where Ian was Barrie’s go-to for romantic advice. (“Ian, John asked me if I wanted to go to an orchestra concert with him, what do I do? ” “”Say yes, dumbass!”)

The next hour or so passes slowly.

Evans takes an order for two large chai tea lattes and Ian whips them up quickly because he’s made probably two million chai tea lattes in the past year, or at least, that’s what it feels like, and at this point he could probably make one with his eyes closed. The next customer orders a peppermint latte and it’s the same thing- Ian makes the drink without even really thinking about it because it’s just muscle memory at this point. No real effort or thought involved.

Eventually he and Evans decide to switch for a while, with Ian running till and Evans making drinks, just for something different. The first customer to order a drink from Ian is a dark-haired boy in a striped denim jacket.

Ian’s immediate impression of the boy is that he looks like something from another era- his wavy hair cascades past his shoulders, but doesn’t look untidy in the least. He’s slouching a little, but he still looks sure of himself, somehow. His eyes are wide and dark, and his clothes are just slightly too big, and that wide-brim hat must have been bought at a thrift shop.

“Uh, hi, what can I get for you today?”  

“Let me see…” The boy looks up at the menu for a moment. “Can I just get a medium earl grey tea?

“Sure, sounds good. That’ll be £2.10, please.” Ian feels compelled to say something else. “Also, uh… I like your jacket.” Ian’s voice cracks as he pronounces the last word. “The stripes are, um, nice.”

The boy looks down slowly, as if he’s forgotten what he’s wearing. “Oh. Thanks.” He hands Ian some change and makes his way to the end of the counter.

Evans hands him his drink and wishes him a good day before turning to Ian with a hint of a smile on his face. “I like your jacket, Ian,” he says in a mocking tone.

“Shut up!

“Why? I really do like your jacket.” Evans is reluctant to give up the joke. “The stripes on it are so nice.

Ian looks him in the eye, a slight blush spreading across his cheeks. “You’re not funny.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll stop. That really was amusing, though.”

“Hey, I was just trying to give him a compliment. I mean, that was a great jacket. You saw it, right?” Ian asks.

“Yeah, I saw it. It was… different. Anyways. Your awkwardness is so entertaining sometimes.”

Evans clocks out a short while later- he's the type of person who has no issue with starting his shifts at 6 a.m., which means he gets to leave as early as 11 some days. Today is one of those days. He says goodbye to Ian (who’s stuck working for another two hours) and heads off.

The rest of Ian’s shift drags on. However, 1 o'clock rolls around eventually, and he leaves to go to his one class of the day- an elective on basic linguistics. It’s not a particularly interesting class, but Ian figures the lectures are preferable to being at work. After class, the rest of the day is spent in the library, where Ian attempts to finish this week’s assignment for the class.

 


 

Wednesdays are generally uneventful and Thursdays are generally more uneventful. Ian manages to get a sizable chunk of his history essay finished and decides to reward himself with a trip to the little music shop about half an hour north of his flat.

He spends a good long while just looking around, imagining what he could do if he ever actually learned to play an instrument properly. He’s been playing guitar for maybe two years now, so he's got a bit of experience behind him on that, but he's never actually learned any proper technique- he's always just experimented with different ways of playing until he finds something that feels right. He’s also got his flute, which he hasn’t touched in what feels like forever. Although he has virtually no time to play the thing anymore, Ian can’t bring himself to sell it. Keeping the little instrument around is nostalgic in a strange, yet pleasant, way.

Eventually, Ian just picks out a new set of strings and heads home.