the warmth of your fingers
She was carefree and young and hadn’t yet experienced heartbreak and, to her, this was just another new adventure, a cup of tea she hadn’t tried yet.
There were tricks to her trade, little peculiarities that one working in a coffee shop learned to pick up over time; precisely how long it took to make a latte, how long to let the ice melt so that the frappucinos were the right temperature, how to smile brightly at customers and bat her eyes at them until they picked whatever she recommended. Tatiana Penvrane had mastered all these skills, and more.
What she hadn’t yet mastered was trying to figure out who the young woman sitting at a nearby table was. For the past two weeks, the redhead had been coming in and out of the local coffee shop, setting up a laptop on the counter and typing at it furiously. Sometimes, the brunette liked to watch her mouth profanity at the keys when she deleted something she didn’t mean to, or sitting with her fingers threaded through her fiery locks in frustration as she read and re-read the same page. There was a touch amusement in the brunette’s expression, generally, mingled with a sense of fondness.
And today, just like every day for the past two weeks, the other woman placed down her laptop, resolutely drew her coat over the back of her chair, and then stepped into line at the counter, waiting with a sense of forced patience.
Tatiana was just handing the customer at the front her coffee when she noticed her, and she leaned forward on the counter, elbows resting against the surface. “Let me guess, you’re going to pick something else that isn’t coffee this time?”
“You know me well,” the other nodded by way of agreement, her green gaze skimming the sign above the brunette’s head. “What haven’t I had yet?”
“The peppermint tea, chocolate chip frappuccino, and this drink we call butterbeer which has quite a bit of sugar and no actual alcohol, hot chocolate, peppermint hot chocolate,” Tatiana replied, counting off on her fingers.
The woman turned her gaze to the barista in front of her, mildly surprised. “You’ve been keeping track?” she asked to cut off the list, lifting an eyebrow as her lips curved up as well in faint amusement.
Tatiana blushed. “We don’t have many customers who come in and avoid the coffee,” she explained quickly, lacing her fingers together in front of her to appear calm and collected again. “So what’ll it be?”
“What do you recommend?” The redhead was leaning forward now, eyes shining in some sort of intrigue.
“Peppermint tea,” the brunette replied smoothly, still leaning against the counter. “Personally, it’s my favorite since I don’t drink much coffee, but as we’re in a coffee shop, I’m obligated to make you try the coffee here at least once.”
“Not going to happen,” the shorter woman grinned back.
A young blonde woman behind them, who’d been looking up secret recipes on her phone only moments before, now looked up and made a noise of annoyance. “Can’t you two flirt elsewhere?” she scoffed.
Cheeks flaming, Tatiana bustled about quickly in the small workspace, nearly bumping into her co-workers as she did so. Her favorite drink could only be prepared with the utmost precision, because even if it wasn’t herself, it was going to someone special. Or at least, that was what the barista had tentatively labeled the other as.
Because it was a family business and she worked with people she’d known for ages, Tatiana wore no name tag. Any customers who referred to her called her only ‘the pretty brunette barista’. Similarly, the redhead hadn’t given her a name either. Each day it was something different, verging on ridiculous sometimes. The earlier day it had been Ariel, the day before it was Alice, the last day of the previous week it had been Eva, and as she raised her eyebrows at the redhead, she found out that today’s was ‘Crackle’.
“That’s not even a real name,” Tatiana protested as she scribbled it onto the insulated cup anyway before passing it across the counter. The redhead handed her the money, and their fingers briefly brushed before the blushing barista exchanged the bill for change and handed it back by sliding it across the counter. “Can I call you that now?”
“If you’d like.” The other had flashed another grin. “You haven’t told me your name, either. What should I call you?”
Tatiana considered this. “Snap,” she answered smoothly as she did the action with one hand, handing the other woman a napkin with the other. The eighteen year old waved her off with a motion of her fingers. “Same time tomorrow, then?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” the redhead – Crackle, as Tatiana insisted on calling her – answered before smirking over her shoulder and strutting back to her seat, the laptop having connected now.
The brunette watched the other continue to work before the redhead left, and her shift ended soon after. She hung up her apron, consulted the paper menu of drinks on the wall, and then checked off the margin just beside where peppermint tea was listed.
She’d been semi-arguing with a customer over the proper way to prepare hot chocolate (“Sir, I’ve worked here for years. I think I’d know if I was putting the whipped cream on wrong.”) when the bell over the door had jingled. Her eyes roved over to the door and she grinned in greeting at the redhead, who was once more carrying her laptop, her jacket hanging off of her short frame. Handing the man his drink without continuing the argument, she beamed slightly as the other approached.
“So, Crackle, ready to try coffee?” When the other shook her head, “So what’ll it be today?” She leaned on the counter her hazel eyes twinkling in mirth as she gazed at the other woman.
The redhead leaned forward, her lips curving up much like a Cheshire cat’s. “What’s your recommendation, Snap?”she asked, her voice low.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Tatiana was vaguely aware that she shouldn’t be so attracted to a woman she knew so little about (for drink preference was hardly a biography on the other woman), but the irrational part of her mind didn’t care. She was carefree and young and hadn’t yet experienced heartbreak and, to her, this was just another new adventure, a cup of tea she hadn’t tried yet.
Brightly, she answered, “Hot chocolate seems to be popular today. Can I get you a cup?” When the other acquiesced, she set about bustling. The line was short today and there was no one waiting, so she was luxuriously allowed to take her time.
“So,” she started, fetching a cup, “What’s a girl like you doing in a coffee shop like this?”
The redhead laughed. “Was that a pick up line?” Before Tatiana could answer, the other had shrugged it off, seeming unperturbed by whatever the answer could be. “But to answer, I’m a university student – er, well, a struggling one.” She pursed her lips together. “I used to joke I was a Seer, but sadly, when that didn’t work out, I took philosophy online instead. The only problem is that I just can’t figure out how to use the Internet.”
“I see you cursing at it sometimes,” Tatiana agreed, fairly entertained as she turned to the machine and pressed the button for the hot chocolate.
“You see that? And here I thought I was doing it privately.” The other laughed, a melodic, twinkling jingle like the sounding of a bell, and absently, the brunette beamed at the sound, affixing a lid to the insulated cup in her hands.
“So, who am I addressing this to today?” she asked, lifting a dark eyebrow.
“You can call me…” the other paused dramatically, “Sexy.”
Tatiana laughed, feeling her cheeks flush pink. To hide her flustered figure, she quickly added jokingly in a stage whisper, “Only when we’re alone.” Still, she wrote the name on the cup anyway, her fingers moving quickly and instinctively before she handed the cup over.
The other glanced at it and laughed, turning and pointing at what Tatiana had written. “A heart, really?”
“Hey, I’ve got to woo my favorite customer if I want her to keep coming back,” she returned with a laugh, and the other smiled shyly, glanced away, and then waved at her before starting back to where she’d set down her laptop as usual.
Over the next few weeks, the brunette spoke to the redhead every day and learned quite a lot. For one, the university student was a natural redhead. Two, she wore a bracelet with an infinity symbol dangling from it. And three, Tatiana Penvrane was quite sure that she was in love with her – which was entirely ridiculous, considering that she still didn’t know her name.
The other co-workers had begun teasing her about her crush, but the brunette didn’t mind. As innocent as her flirtation with the other woman was, she wasn’t sure if it would go anywhere. For all she knew, the other hadn’t even shown any interest in her, but she enjoyed her crusade to get the other to try coffee nonetheless, no matter how fruitless it was.
And then finally, at the end of the week, when the shop was nearly empty, the redhead arrived. Tatiana had been waiting somewhat listlessly for half an hour, for it was later than the other usually arrived, but as soon as the university student was standing in front of the counter, she sprung into action.
“Is it any use to get you to try the coffee today?” Tatiana asked, lifting one dark eyebrow at the woman across the counter.
The other shifted slightly, a bit more ill at ease than she usually was with the brunette. The barista’s heart sank. Was she being too forward in her affections, and did the other want her to stop? Her fingers tugged nervously at the hem of her uniform shirt, suddenly feeling rather anxious.
The redhead cleared her throat. “I have a proposition for you,” she announced after a moment, her confidence returning in the gleam of her green eyes as they curved in an arc over the barista’s face.
Tatiana leaned forward curiously. “And that is…?”she prompted.
The redhead leaned forward so that they were only inches apart. “I’ll try the coffee here if you let me take you out for a drink – a real drink – afterward.”
Her cheeks quickly filled in pink, and she tried (and failed) to hide her excitement. “I’d be delighted, Miss…?” she let her question hang, trying at long last to ascertain the other’s identity beyond the pseudonyms.
The redhead finally answered. “Hamilton-Reed. Chastity Hamilton-Reed.” She looked pointed at Tatiana, and then her lack of a nametag. “So you are…?”
“Tatiana Penvrane,” the brunette chirped in reply, grinning as she turned to remove a cup and fill it with the steaming coffee. “So, should I write your real name this time?”
“Whatever you’d like,” Chastity answered, a smile curving her lips up eagerly.
And this time, Tatiana wasn’t flustered in the slightest as she finished looping the other’s name and then scribbled a small heart onto the cup just beside it.