Part One: It's Another Day Serving in Barista Cuppa Hell
"Good. Coffee is good for you. It's the caffeine in it. Caffeine, we are here. Caffeine puts a man on her horse and a woman in his grave." - Ernest Hemingway
"Whew! Success! Made it, I've made it just in time for my shift," a woman who looked to be in her early twenties wearing her blond hair in stylized hair buns and pigtails grinned triumphantly, as she left the employee bathroom as she tried tying her black waist apron around her waist...until she bumped into a familiar white haired man with violet-like hazel eyes.
'Oh no...I'm busted...smile! You and him have been friends since your second year in middle school when he transferred to Juban from his old life when he used to live in Finland....though it's awkward seeing how he's your boss now you dummy Usagi.' Usagi silently thought to herself as she noticed the look of disappointment and slight annoyance on her good friend and currently assistant manager.
"Usagi, You better have a good excuse for being late again...for the third time in two weeks." Demande Black sighed, not looking thrilled that he had to give the infamous dreaded 'You're late and now I have to deal with you like a work manager needs to address their employee' lecture.
"Demande-chan, Uh I mean Sir...Well, they always say that the best things take time..." Usagi answered with a nervous laugh, her cheeks flushing pink as she felt ashamed that Demande of all people was giving her that 'disappointed' look like she'd get at times from her Father.
"While that is true, you know you have to make it here to the 'Black Eclipse Cafe' on time every day when it's your scheduled morning or afternoon shift. You know Rubeus and I can't always cover for you when my Father comes in here questioning where you are when he keeps looking at his pocket watch, and starts going off on us in the back about how 'Employees who work for our family's coffee house need to be here on time promptly!”, Demande sighed, not looking thrilled.
“Gomen!” Usagi cried apologetically with a bow, feeling a little guilty.
“You're very lucky my Father didn't come into today yet due to needing to have a meeting elsewhere with some business big shots about possibly expanding our cafe house into a potential coffee house chain like Starbucks in this country." Demande spoke again, more softly yet serious, honestly hating that he had to speak this way with his favorite rabbit, who had become his best friend he had made when first coming to Japan three years ago.
"Gomen Demande...Oni-chan, I'm really sorry I got here a few minutes late. I didn't plan on being late. Minako-chan was supposed to give me a ride to work since my motor scooter's in the auto shop where Kunzite works still needing repairs. It's still got replacing parts needed after that baka neighbor of ours with his car backed into it, damaging it in the parking garage a few days ago. Minako-baka forgot all about giving me a ride in her car and wouldn't get up, so I had to take the city bus to get here. The damn driver wouldn't get off closer to my stop, so I had to get off at the stop that was further of a walk away," Usagi explained while motioning with her hands as she looked irritated about the damage to her motorbike scooter and having gotten ditched by Minako that morning who slept in, refusing to get up.
"Understanding completely, especially concerning with your scooter's model not being easy to have it's parts replaced quickly due to it being a vintage resorted scooter bike. As for Minako-san...I'm thankful she isn't my roommate as Rubeus, Sapphire, and Esmeraude are all with all the antics she's done over time. To ensure you aren't late again tomorrow, why don't you ask Makoto-san for a ride in the mornings since that French bakery shop she works at is a few shops down from us?" Demande suggested as he noticed a smile form on the blonde-bunned rabbit's begin to appear before he was engulfed into a tight hug by her.
"Hai! You're the best unofficial Oni-chan ever Demande! Just don't let Motoki-Oni-chan know...he's still number one or he'll be jealous and hurt if he knew," Usagi giggled in whispers as continued to hug him.
"Your secret's safe with Me Usagi-kun, you're the only girl who I'm happy to be-store the title of being my unofficial Imouto-chan. Now, tie up your apron and get to work at your usual station to make coffee and tea drinks for our regular and new customers planning to come into those doors." Demande hugged her back gently, before removing his arms, looking at her with a half serious and half-affectionate tone of voice.
"Hai, ready to work Sir! My black sharpie markers are ready to name label clear and white cups, and to make drinks with Esmeraude-chan. Hey, where's she at?" Usagi paused smiling, as she noticed the older girl with lime green dyed hair and flawless make up wasn't around behind the counter with them.
"She's out back behind the building, taking a cigarette break, she might be in a foul mood with everyone today—Well maybe everyone except you Usagi." Sapphire answered for her.
He was filling up straw and napkin containers by the coffee condiments counter across the small cafe house; wearing a regular black apron with the white sewn embroidery of 'Black Eclipse Cafe' with an upside down moon crescent on it.
"Ah, I take it that blind date Esme had last night didn't go well?" Usagi asked while she went to make sure all the squirt bottles of caramel and chocolate sauces were filled up ready in the clear mini-refrigerator nearby the assembly cold metal counters, where the flavor shot pumps, mixing cups and blenders were.
"Let me guess Brother, Esmeraude ended up with the date from hell last night? Didn't we tell her speed dating at one of those speed-event things wasn't going to turn out how she'd expect it go?" Demande sighed, shaking his head while he moved from the back of the counters and register to the entrance doors to unlock them, and flip over the window sign from 'Closed' to 'Open'.
"From what Petz told me what she was able to get out of her last night from when she called her around 10pm while I was out cold sleeping in our bedroom; the speed dating was that bad. Older men old enough to be our Grandfather and Uncles hit on her, some assumed she was an escort with the choice of makeup and how she had her hair done up...she even slapped a guy for trying to move his hands to somewhere no lady appreciates being touch," Sapphire whispered to them, as both Usagi and Demande looked applaud and shocked at hearing that.
"Those hentail! Poor Esme-chan!!!"
"Tell me about it, Petz told said she was able to calm her down last night. I saw her show up before you got here Demande, looking like hell. She even had her bugged eyed black shades on covering her eyes...guess she was nursing an over late night hungover. She kept popping mint chewing gum into her mouth when I opened up the back doors. Esmeraude didn't say anything to me except 'Mor'ning Sapph...please make me up a quick cuppa black joe with extra shots of vanilla flavor...I need it now if I'm going to survive the morning to afternoon six-hour shift...Please.' She actually said please to me." Sapphire shuddered, not being used to that kind of behavior from Esmeraude of all people.
"That must have been one bad night if she was polite and asking you please...I'll take her out to lunch to make her feel better. Hai?" Usagi suggested with a smile as both men nodded, knowing the blond and the green haired women despite being opposites still had a few things in common as co-workers and friends.
"Usagi, if you take her out to lunch at Crown Arcade you better make sure that Motoki-san gives her the largest ice cream chocolate cake and whipped cream sundae special he has...because you know that's the only thing that will make herself feel better...anything sweet with cake." Demande suggested with a serious look in his eyes as Usagi knew he wasn't overreacting or joking.
"Oh believe me, I know Esme's sweet tooth can rival my own sweet tooth just as easily...we went to the Cheesecake Factory once with Rei, Ami, Makoto, Minako, and the sisters and the two of us with Minako practically killed a whole blueberry cheesecake together. It was the best breakfast brunch gathering Sunday ever...I don't know why people were looking at us so strange when we left after our time there and paying the bills." Usagi recalled, not noticing the look of not too surprised glances and sweat drops on Sapphire and Demande's faces.
"Alright, looks like we have our first customers of the day. Business folk, battle stations Sapph. Usa, please go fetch your partner in dessert cake crime from outside...she better be done with her third cigarette or she'll be the one washing dishes today." Demande immediately started issuing out commands to the two as the bell above the entrance doors rang, and two customers entered.
"Here you are Mister Nakamura-san, One Large Iced Black Moon Mocha Chocolate Chip Coffee with extra Whipped Cream and Galaxy White Chocolate Syrup. Then, a few Galaxy Purple Full Moon Cookies with Edible Glitter and Star Sprinkles...I put in an extra cookie in case you wanted to snack on the subway ride to work," Usagi beamed smiling friendly at one of there regular customers a suit and tie elderly man who smiled back at her.
"Agrigato Usagi-chan, you even put extra napkins into my pastry bag. You and your one friend who works here, the one with the large violet hair in that unique bow-hairstyle always know how to take care of me." Nakamura grinned, as he accepted his to go cup in the black paper colored coffee cup with a sip lid, and paper bag of sweets, branded with the printed Moon and Lettering Label of the cafe.
"It's no trouble Sir, we like taking care of loyal and kind customers such as yourself. Oh Koan-chan is doing good. She's on maternity leave right now expecting her and her husband Rubeus's first little one. Rubeus is one of our bakers, he's out in the back kitchen area baking some more bagels and rolls for sandwiches." Usagi shared, loving to chat with their regular customers when there weren't many people inside.
"You don't say? Tell Koan-chan and her husband Rubeus-san congratulations from me. I better be off, another day for a school district inspector. Take care of yourself Usagi, and here, an extra tip from me to you." Mister Nakamura winked mischievously at the barista as he put a couple of coins from his leftover change into the ceramic black lucky cat piggy bank, serving as the employee tip jar that was sitting on the counter next to the register.
"Thank you so much Sir! Have a nice morning!!!!" Usagi called out excitedly as the older man nodded, leaving out of the coffee cafe doors.
"Sometimes I'm just amazed at how you have a way with our regular customers Usagi. How do you do it?" Esmeraude asked her, as she stood back against one of the counters behind her.
"I don't know Esme. My Mama says it's just my personality I guess. We should always be friendly and try to smile to make customers day. They do come in to give us their business after all," Usagi grinned as Esmeraude nodded, finding the girl's smile affecting to make even herself smile.
"I suppose your right. Come on now, let me show you how to make a proper Macchiato also known to some as a Piccolo Latte since the last time Demande tried teaching you how to make one...you accidentally dropped the foamed milk all over his shoes...don't worry, he got over it weeks ago." Esmeraude assured Usagi with a pat on her shoulder, leading her to the counter to start teaching her.
"I still can't help but feel a little guilty I ruined his nice new leather white dress shoes last month...was he ever able to get the stains of the milk out of them?" Usagi asked while laughing nervously, making the lime-green older girl start snorting in laughter she didn't hold back.
"N-no! The best part was when Sapphire and I got to witness giving those awful distasteful shoes a funeral in the trash can bin in their apartment. It was hilarious! At least he learned to wear sneakers and plain old shoes he didn't care to dirty up at work now." Esmeraude snorted, laughing as Demande tried to ignore what was being said, while stocking the dessert racks with freshly baked bagels and berry muffins inside the display glass.
"Esmeraude, just teach Usagi how to make the damn drink correctly with a demonstration and have her try making it herself, and get back to work," he mumbled looking annoyed as he heard her voice continuing to hyena laugh while Usagi was blushing.
"I never want to make another fucking hot chocolate again!" Esmeraude growled with aggravation as she eyed the hot cocoa machine with hatred.
"Never?" Usagi asked, eyes wide with surprise.
"Never! Fucking never again with extra syrup chocolate, rainbow sprinkles, or extra whipped cream! Did it sound like that I studder Usagi?!" Emeraude hissed.
"I-iie! It didn't sound like you stutter Esme-chan." Usagi replied nervously while wincing at the tone her green haired co-worker seethed.
"Gomen, I didn't mean to snap at you like that...It was that last damn customer who made me lose it." Esmeraude apologized, her eyes looking apologetic and guiltily at the younger woman who at times looked child-like with her appearance, as she slide into her seat by her in the small back kitchen ''break room'' opened area.
"It's okay. I know you didn't mean to get snappy with me. Was it a lawyer or dentist this time?" Usagi gently asked, giving her friend a comforting hug.
"I highly could imagine either person in those professions wanting a sprinkled chocolate up hot chocolate to go! Humph! No, it was one of those young happy fun time let's all be 'happy' tourist tour guides for Tokyo who ordered one...she wanted the 'supreme' cup size to go order of chocolate...with an extreme amount of whipped cream." Esmeraude explained with disdain for what the customer had ordered.
"What's so bad about her a customer ordering that in the morning?" Usagi asked, looking confused over Esmeraude's ranting.
"I almost had burned my damn hand while pouring the hot liquid of hell into the cup before she broke my concentration with calling out to me that she wanted the galaxy multi-rainbow colored whipped cream and not the regular white whipped cream in a can!!!" Esmeraude screeched, motioning to her said hand that was wrapped tightly by her then in a ice wet scrubbing counter towel that she had taken care of by the kitchen sinks.
"Ohh...ouch. Let me take a look at it...no blisters, no burns broken into skin, it looks like it just lightly got you with hot steam and not the hot cocoa liquid...you're lucky Esme-chan." Usagi assessed calmly as she held Esmeraude's untoweled hand in her hands.
"Ugh, thank Kami for that. I can't afford a trip to the hospital emergency room right now when we're close to going into lunch rush once eleven hits. Can you cover the register counters? I need to go use the employee restroom to see if we've got any skin heal cream in the first-aid box to help cool down the burn I feel on my hand." Esmeraude tried to gently asked the blonde with pain in her eyes.
"Of course, you can count on me anytime!" Usagi chirped.
"Arigato. I'll owe you lunch later on lunch break. My treat, you order and I'll pay for it. No arguments." Esmeraude smiled thanking Usagi. "Really?!" the blond hollered, looking thrilled at the potential lunch treating.
"Yes, I will even agree to us going to that annoyingly loud mini-sushi converbelt place that plays that stupidly annoying melody music where you try pigging out on sushi dishes to try to win prizes...if you wish to go there or...ugh...McDonalds..." Esmeraude sighed, having quietly a dislike for the American fast food eatery though knowing her younger co-worker and friend loved the place.
"McDonald's is perfect! I'll go ask Sapphire, Rubi, and Demande if they'd like to join us later for lunch." Usagi nodded before taking off towards the kitchen area to find everyone else.
"...Great...looks like I'm buying lunch for everyone today." Esmeraude sighed unhappily.
"Usagi's been my bestie girl-bros before hoes friend since we met in Preschool on the first day! First day! I sooo get the bestie discount when ordering here." a blonde haired woman with a reddish-orange bowtie in her long hair, dressed in an outfit of a loose J-pop boy band t-shirt, orange jean skirt and comfortable looking black hi-top sneakers voiced loudly to Esmeraude, leaning against the customer side of the 'ordering' counter line.
"...There's no such thing as the friend or best friends, or the bestie bros discount here at our establishment. It doesn't exist Aino...What do you want to order? I've got 15 minutes until the after lunch rush customers come in for the afternoon drink special hour, our busiest time for special drinks when we get packed with customers...so 'please'...order a coffee or tea already." Esmeraude tried to 'calmly' talk to her co-worker's annoyingly one of many best friends.
"Alright, don't have your apron barista panties in a bunch Esmeralda." Minako Aino huffed, rolling her eyes before scanning up ahead at their giant sign menu of what they had of drinks and food.
"That's not how you pronounce or even say my name...'What...Do...You...Want?" Esmeraude tried again asking even more 'gently'...despite inside wanting to jump over the counter to strangle the pesky blond-bowed wannabe model and actress with her emerald painted fingernails.
"What's better to order for lunchtime here, the supernova lemon-blueberry lemonade or the jupiter's rising oranges iced tea? Hmm...oh, I know...SAPPHIRE-SAN!!! Hey! What is it that Rubeee-san's pregnant wife Koan usually gets that's much more refreshing? Pregnant women baristas know flavors." Minako asked cheerfully with an amused smirk towards the now upset barista before her.
"USAGI!!!!! PLEASE COME DEAL WITH YOUR BAKA-BOW HAIRED FRIEND...NOW! I need an emergency cigarette break now!" Esmeraude screamed enraged looking ready to commit murder or violence on Minako.
Today just wasn't Esmeraude Black's day.
"Excuse me, Usagi! I'd like to complain about my cuppa chocolate chip strawberry frap not being 100% perfect. Your co-worker didn't put enough whipped cream in it. I think I'm entitled to a full refund." Minako demanded with a grin as she approached Usagi by the second 'Order' line walk-up counter.
"...Minako, unless you haven't taken a sip at the drink or fully drank completely said drink you're complaining about...I cannot just give you a full refund of giving you, your money back or making you a brand new drink." Usagi sighed explaining.
"...Ohhh...I did finish it all...can I at least get a refund concerning a new coffee straw? Mine wasn't super space black moon bended-twisty enough." Minako motioned to her bended-twisty hot pink straw.
"Just here, take one of our newest pastry mini-cupcakes and go. Just go before Esmeraude really does start screaming and crying, and Demande seriously really considers banning you for life from here. Shouldn't you be at your job at that clothing store in the mall," Usagi murmured, taking the straw and giving her a new one alongside the newest pastry.
"Arigato!!!!!!! I love that you work here!!! Oh that boring job at that kid's clothing store? I got fired weeks ago. I've just been hitting model and acting auditions when I don't go to the nail salon to upkeep my nails or mall shop. Sometimes I do go to job interviews every other late morning. Just not today," Minako grinned accepting the straw and pastry before returning to her table in the corner of the cafe.
"One of these days we're going to have to ban her Usagi," Sapphire shook his head, as he stood by his bun-headed friend as he restocked the straw bin dispenser by her register.
"I know...but you guys never will...especially when she'll bring in her dates she runs scams on and the fellow students in her acting classes to come in here for drinks or food. Her and Kunzite are currently in their phase of 'off again relationship'. So she's mingling with boys." Usagi smiled in amusement.
"...Fair enough...still, one of these days my brother will be tempted to ban her for a few weeks or else Esmeraude will commit homicide on Minako. She said she was this close to putting the bug or rat poison into her drink after having to remake it twice just to shut Minako up." Sapphire mused with a chuckle.
"Of course she'd threaten to poison her...that's why I hid both of the boxes of pest control poison powder and the bug sprays further on the shelves in the storage closet so Esme-chan couldn't find them." Usagi giggled.
"Good job little bunny. Oh look, seems like a new customer late into the lunch routine. He's probably a lawyer or doctor with that suit and tie he's got on. Want me to handle this one or do you?" Sapphire said motioning to the man dressed in a nice black suit and red tie coming in as the greeting doorbells chimed.
"I'll take this last one before I go on break, you go take your lunch break in the back," Usagi assured Sapphire, as he nodded and left her to handle the new customer.
"Good afternoon to you Sir, welcome to Black Eclipse Cafe! How may I help you today?" Usagi put on her best friendliest voice and smile as the man came up to the counter line to order.
To Be Continued