When he was a few people from the front, he could hear the barista’s voice as she attempted to handle a complicated order.
“Vanilla Latte, double shot espresso, extra large,” she said, her voice fraught with stress.
“No,” said the angry heavyset man at the front of the line. “Vanilla steamer, one shot of espresso, extra large.”
“Sorry, sir,” she said, “I’m new here.”
Steve strained to see the barista’s face, but the fat man was nearly as tall as he was, and she was granted total concealment by his corpulent mass.
“Sorry doesn’t fix it,” said the man, turning away from her with his drink wedged between pudgy fingers. “I intend to speak with the manager about this!”
The man left, people shrinking to get out of his way. Steve was able to see the barista at last. His breath caught in his throat. She had black hair done up in pigtails that cascaded down her slim shoulders. Her eyes were a soft, rich brown, with a slight almond shape to them. Her tan complexion was even and attractive, from her dark brows past her thin, roman nose and down to her wide, feminine lips. She had a metal hoop pierced through her right eyebrow, and a golden stud gleaming over one nostril. The black sweater she wore under her red coffee house apron had the sleeves rolled up the elbows, revealing several tattoos. He could only see her from the waist up, but she had moderately large breasts which strained against the layers of fabric atop them.
The girl took two more orders while Steve stood enthralled. When it was his turn he was still staring at her. She raised an eyebrow, finally heaving an exasperated sigh and asking;
“Can I help you, or are you just trying to catch flies with your mouth?”
“Huh?” he said, sputtering. “Oh, sorry!”
He quickly moved to the counter, offering her a nervous smile. She glanced back at him, one eyebrow arched, as he continued to stare.
“This is the part where you tell me your order,” she said sarcastically.
“Your order?” she said. “You know, you, as the consumer, tell me, as the barista, what you want to drink and I make it for you. Are you a foreigner?”
“A foreigner?” he said, his voice breaking.
“No, you speak English too good,” she said. “Are you autistic or something, like Rain Man?”
“Uh, no,” he said with a slight chuckle.
“Then what’s the hold up?”
“Sorry,” he said, “I’ll have the usual.”
“That’s great,” she said with mock sincerity “except that I’m new here and have no frame of reference as to what your ‘usual’ is.”
“Oh,” Steve said, “a large Colombian dark, with four sugars and six creams.”
“Holy crap,” she said with a short bark of laughter, “you even like the taste of coffee?”
“I’m in a coffee shop, ain’t I?” said Steve, growing perturbed.
“Yeah,” she said, preparing his order, “you are at that.”
She put the cup on the counter and eyed him expectantly.
“This is where you pay.” she said.
“Oh, right.” Steve dug in his front pocket. Change spilled out of his hand and onto the counter. He cursed as he strove to collect the pieces of silver as they rolled around at his feet. The barista snickered as he frantically bent over, his butt facing toward her. The frustrated patrons behind him were giving him dark glowers. Had he not been so large a fellow, no doubt some may have been moved to verbally berate him.
“You fucked up,” said Autumn in a singsong, sports fanatic way, “you fucked up, you fucked up!”
Several of the people behind Steve in line gasped, horrified that a sales clerk would curse so readily in front of customers, particularly in such a mocking manner. Steve, however, was overcome with laughter, actually dropping more of his change in his mirth.
“Old ECW chant,” he said, finally giving her the correct amount. “Nice! Haven’t heard that since back in the day.”
“You like wrestling?” said Autumn, filling an umbra paper cup with dark coffee.
“Yeah,” said Steve, “I actually used to be one, for a little while.”
“Really?” said the woman, slapping a plastic lid on the cup with some awkwardness, “you don’t seem the type…what made you quit?”
“Well,” said Steve, collecting his coffee and a hand full of condiments “I-”
“Yo, buddy,” said a man in a flannel vest a few spaces behind Steve, “flirt on your own time! I gots to get to work!”
Several others, emboldened by the tubby man, added their voices to the chorus.
“Uh,” said Steve, staring into the woman’s eyes. He again found himself lost in them, not quite sure knowing why, or caring. “Uh, I-”
“Sorry sugar,” said the woman with a wink, staring past him at the next customer, “I gotta earn my bread. My name’s Autumn, in case you can’t read my nametag, and that’s Autumn like the season, not Auggie like the hideously deformed kid from Wonder, you dig? I work most Tuesdays and Thursdays, so come in and say hey if you want. Or not.”