[Author’s note: This is satire. No coffee shops were harmed in the writing of this piece.]
“I know that place,” Paw Paw pointed to a shop called “Big Bucks” on the mall directory. “You should be safe over there. Stay there until I come for you, Charlie.” I nodded and we walked in opposite directions.
I found the place that he was talking about at the other end of the mall. My stomach growled as I walked inside. I hadn’t eaten for several hours and something smelled really good. When I approached the counter, I nearly drooled at the sight of all of those pastries in the display case. Paw Paw and I were running away from demons, but surely we had enough time for a snack? As I leaned over, trying to decide what I wanted, I heard a voice.
“Hi, welcome to Big Bucks. Can I take your order?” A dark-haired girl about my age looked at me expectantly. Her name tag said “Kelli.”
“Uh,” I stammered. My mind went blank as I looked into her large, golden eyes. I ordered the first thing that popped into my head. “I’ll just have a cup of coffee.”
She studied her nails. “What size?”
I don’t drink coffee, but it was too late to ask for a pop. “Uh, small?”
“We don’t have small.”
“You don’t have small,” I repeated. When she rolled her eyes, I hastened to adjust my order. “Well, how about a large?”
She shook her head. “We don’t have large, either.”
Confused, I said. “Do you sell coffee?”
She scowled at me and placed on hand on her hip. “Look, I’ve got things to do and customers to take care of. I don’t have time for some loser who’s trying to be a smartass with me.”
I glanced behind me. There was only one other person in the place and he was sitting in a booth in the back. “I’m not trying to be a smartass. I really wanted to know if you sell coffee.”
“Of course we do,” she snapped. “This is a cafe. But I need to know what size you want.”
It felt like her eyes were boring a hole in my face. Flustered, I asked, “What size do you have?”
The girl looked at me with disgust. She sighed deeply, turned around and pointed to the sign above her head. “We have fawn, doe, buck and big buck.”
My temples throbbed. There were pictures of animals on the chalkboard. I didn’t understand what wildlife had to do with coffee. “Is the fawn small?”
“It’s smaller than the doe.”
I stared at the blackboard. She was right. A fawn is smaller than the doe or the buck. “I guess I’ll take a fawn?”
The girl pushed a button on her register. “Regular or skim?”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I didn’t want to upset her again. I wasn’t sure how someone would skim water for making coffee, so I chose the safer option. “Regular.”
“What type do you want?”
“Coffee,” I said confidently.
Kelli frowned at me. It was obvious that I answered incorrectly. She waved at a different board behind her. “All of this is coffee. Pick which type you want.”
Every inch of the blackboard was scrawled in chalk. There were more pictures of animals and words that I didn’t understand. I spent a few minutes squinting at the tiny letters, before shaking my head in defeat. Kelli sighed deeply again. “I’ll decide for you. How about a latte?”
“That sounds good,” I said, relieved. I didn’t know what a La Tay was, but I gave Kelli a grateful smile.
She avoided my gaze and pushed more buttons on the register. “Will that be all?”
I suddenly remembered how drained Paw Paw looked. He needed a drink too. I didn’t feel like ordering any more coffee. “I’d like a pop.”
“We don’t have pop,” Kelli said. Her shoulders slumped. “We have italian soda.”
Before I could ask what that was, I felt someone behind me. My temples started throbbing. As the pain increased, my muscles tensed into rigidity.
Kelli looked shocked. I couldn’t turn around to see who had driven out the contempt from her eyes and replaced it with fear.
“Hello, Shivani,” a deep voice said. I felt a chill down my spine. “I’ve been looking for you for a very long time.”
“I know you,” Kelli whispered, as she took a step backwards. Her head swiveled, as she leaned against the counter behind her and rested her hands on the surface. I saw her slip something into her pocket. “You tried to kidnap me when I was twelve.”
Her words made my stomach drop. I wanted to grab Kelli and get her out of the cafe. Frustrated, I focused on closing my fingers into a fist to take a swing at the person standing behind me. Nothing happened. I tried to lift my feet from the floor, but they were glued to the ground. My arms remained motionless on each side of me. I couldn’t even turn my head to see what the guy looked like. I was just frozen in place, staring at Kelli, like a victim instead of a hero.
“Where are they?” the voice asked. The air around me shifted as he moved into my range of vision. I wanted to scream at Kelli to run, but no words left my mouth.
Kelli winced when he wrapped a hand around her long dark hair and yanked it backwards. When she didn’t fight him, I wondered if she was stuck like I was. But unlike me, she could still talk. “Who?” she whispered. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
“Tell me where they are, and I’ll be merciful,” he snarled, leaning over her. The hood on his black cloak covered most of his face. He grabbed her throat with one hand and dug into her hair with his other hand. After a few seconds, she cried out. Tears streamed down her face. “Don’t fight me,” he said softly, when she cried out again. His fingers traced her scalp. “It hurts more when you resist.”
My heart pounded as Kelli whimpered. I had to help her, but I still couldn’t move anything. Not my arms, legs, shoulders or neck. The stranger was breaking Kelli right in front of me, and nothing about me worked.
Except for my thoughts. Suddenly, Paw Paw’s face flooded my mind. Where are you, Paw Paw? I need your help, I thought. It felt like an eternity, before I heard someone else behind me.
“Let her go.” It was Paw Paw. Astonished, I watched Kelli sink behind the counter and the stranger slam into the wall. I collapsed onto the floor, writhing in pain. When I looked up, a woman in a hooded cloak knelt beside me. She placed her hands on my temples. Something warm seeped through me. The pain receded, as I slowly flexed my arms and legs. I could move again.
The stranger approached the woman from behind. Before I could warn her, he lifted her up and threw her across the room. I watched in horror as she landed on the floor in a crumpled heap.
“Get the girl out of here,” Paw Paw yelled at me, as he raced over to the woman. I scrambled to my feet and rushed behind the counter. I didn’t know where the stranger was, but Kelli was still lying on the floor. I gently turned her head and looked at her face. She was breathing, but unconscious. I looked around for another way out. There was a door behind the counter. I bent over to pick Kelli up. But before I could gather her in my arms, the stranger stood in front of me, blocking my path.
He took two steps towards me and stared at me. His gaze narrowed. “You’re one of them,” he said, tilting his head to study me. A flash of insight told me that he hadn’t expected me. My mind whirled, wondering how I could use this information. But as I watched him, his eyes changed color. They were molten gold, like Kelli’s. I couldn’t look away. He wrapped his fingers around my neck and whispered, “Maybe I was wrong about the girl.” His eyes flashed, as his lips curved. “Maybe you’re the one my master wants.”
My legs flailed as he lifted me off the ground. Gasping, I tried to wrench myself free from his grasp. His grip tightened. I felt something burrowing through my chin. It traveled along my jawline, up to my temples. I wanted to cry out as the pain ripped through me.
“Where are your parents, boy?” the stranger’s deep voice was all I heard before blacking out.