The coffee shop was a warm sanctuary to the harsh winter chill outside. Martin peeled off his drenched jacket and hung it up on a hook, slipping into his apron and pinning on his name tag. He stuffed the rest of his gear into a cubby and took a few deep breaths, noticing the Christmas music playing softly through the speakers. He let out one final exhale, patted his pocket and pushed through the door into the main room.
“Nice to finally see you Martin. Only ten minutes late today.” Sabrina spoke in a constant monotone voice that Martin had never heard any change in. “It’s nasty out this morning. Good think I have a car to keep me dry. I can’t imagine having to ride a dinky bike into work all day, especially when it’s dumping rain.” She never looked him, she focused on wiping down a single spot on the counter, the same spot she tried to clean everyday but never could.
Martin just grunted in reply, thinking to himself how much her face reminded him of Pee Wee Herman and laughing at the thought. He checked the time and mumbled something about another fifteen minutes. Only one customer had come in so far, the usual early bird, working on the first of two triple shot something-or-others.
He positioned himself by the cash register and made himself look busy by tidying up the display of sugar-free chocolates and smooth jazz CD’s. It felt like an eternity before he spotted headlights piercing through the rain, turning into the parking lot of Espress-Oh! and taking up two parking spaces. Martin turned to Sabrina and whispered, “The storm is about to come inside now,” with a smirk. Sabrina chuckled, but Martin could never tell if it was at him or his jokes.
A man in his late twenties flung open the door of a bright yellow Hummer, struggling to push out an umbrella he had opened before stepping out. Low bangs brushed his eyebrows and a bald spot offered the perfect target for spit wads. He waded through the flooding parking lot, swearing at all the water. He wrapped his leather coat tighter around himself with a big frown.
Martin’s hand reached down to his pocket again. The Storm pulled, for the hundredth time, on the door clearly labeled push, and swore again before pushing his way inside. He shook out the dripping umbrella and soaked the floor and wall. Sabrina groaned and grabbed another towel.
“Good morning, sir, welcome to Espress-Oh!, what I can get you?” Martin tried to up his “charm and cheer,” just like the handbook says.
The Storm replied, “The usual, and quit being so cheery.”
Martin nodded and rung up the Storm’s bill, handing him four cookies and grabbing the smallest cup size he had. He set to making the Storm’s hot chocolate. He glanced around to make sure no one was looking, then slipped a small vial out of his pocket and poured it into the Storm’s drink. Martin smiled.
“Hot chocolate!” He yelled from the behind the counter and set it out, watching the Storm strut over and grab it. He took a small sip and his eyes opened wide. Taking a step back, he looked over at Martin and took another sip. “This is… This…” Before he could finish he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. He ran his fingers through his hair and felt thick black hair in a spot where none had been for years.
The Storm smiled, for what Martin assumed, was the first time in his life. He stuffed the cookies into his pocket and ran out the door, forgetting his umbrella. He splashed all the way to his Hummer and left, laughing.