Prema is her sister's assistant. Will dealing with her conceded sister find her love?
|Kate just needed her mocha latte, didn’t she? I thought, squinting my eyes to prevent the snow from blowing into them. I pulled my gloves farther up and my wrists and kept walking through the slushy sidewalk. Wasn’t she supposed to be on a diet? She was always on and off some kind of diet.
Of course it was just luck that my car broke down and it was my ‘job’, as Kate so graciously calls it, to run her errands. But who’s fault was it, really, that I needed for collage and my sister had an opening position?
I sighed as I shoved open the door to The Coffee Cup, a local bakery/coffeehouse, and the warm air hit me like a furnace. I paused just inside the door, letting it slam behind me, as I pulled off my hat, gloves, and scarf, laying them on a plush chair in bright orange.
The Coffee Cup was done up in bright, bold colors, that should have clashed, but instead created the perfect atmosphere. A granite toped counter ran along one wall, sleekly sliding into a glass front cabinet the displayed cakes, pastries and bagels freshly made. Behind the counter a huge chalk board hung, showing the menu in loopy script.
No one was in here, as I had expected. Of course, everyone was snuggled up warm and cozy in their homes. Kids were cheerfully hanging around the house, on an energy rush from the snow day. They were not getting their sister a latte while a vicious snow storm raged outside. They were not playing gopher for a lousy eight dollars an hour.
I ran my fingers through my dark brown, chin length hair. The curls bounced back into place. I looked around, no one was manning the register but something soft was playing on the hidden speakers.
“Mitch? Tiffany?” because I’ve lived in Jordan, Minnesota all of my life, and come in at least three times a week, I have come to know the owners fairly well.
I leaned on the counter and tapped my fingers. After a few passing moments I sighed and made my way behind the counter and was about to push on the swinging door when it came swinging at me. I felt the hard wood hit me just above my eye before I hit the floor.
I heard a male voice swear and I groaned. I forced my eyes open and looked into deep green ones framed by thick lashes. Whoever the guy was seemed to be my age, maybe a little older, but not by much. He a full mouth that was pursed together and nice almond eyes, even if they seemed to be glaring at me.
“You have really long eyelashes.” I don’t know what I said it, but I’m blaming it on the fall. “That’s really weird because you’re a guy, and guys normally don’t have eye lashes like that.”
I think I heard him sigh
“How hard did you hit your head, curls?”
“How hard did you hit your head?” his deep voice went hard and impatient. He pressed his fingers just above my right eyebrow, his fingers gentle despite the calluses on them and the hardness in his eyes. I squirmed and tried to sit up, he lifted his hands.
My head spun as I leaned against the wall. I closed my eyes and took a few breaths. “It looks like you’re going to have a nice bruise there. Open your eyes again.” I did “How many fingers?”
“Three, one thumb.” I said and rubbed my head as his brow lifted at my comment but he only sighed again.
“Fallow my finger.” He moved his hand back and forth, and I suppose I passed the test because he stood up and hauled my to my feet.
My head was throbbing, but I could stand without swaying.
“What are you doing back here?” he asked
“No one was out here so I was coming to look for Mitch or Tiff…what are you doing here?”
“No one works for Mitch or Tiffany.” No one ever had. They had always said they could handle themselves and what was theirs.
“Since when?” I asked walking back around to the other side of the counter
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Look, did you come in here to get something or just to bug me, curls?” he asked, cutting my off
“Mocha latte, large, in a to-go cup.”
He turned and started to make it, soundlessly. I glared at his dense blonde hair that seemed to have a mind of its own. He could at least ask if I was alright, or apologize for nearly knocking me out.
He set the cup down on the counter with a thud as I pulled my hat and gloves on. “Two dollars and ninety-seven cents.”
“Put it on my tab.” I said while wrapping my scarf around my neck and walking to the door.
“I don’t know your name,” he called
“Its Prema,” I sighed
There was an endless silence. I turned to look at him; he was standing there, pen in his had, staring blankly at me.
“Your joking.” He said with a humorless laugh “The coffee is three dollars; you would actually lie about your name to get out of paying for it? That low.” His brows drew together “And you should pick out a more common name, like Jane or Melissa. That might go over better.”
“You think I’m lying about my name?” I asked, my temper flaring
“No one names their kid Prema.”
“My parents did.” I shot back and stomped back to him pulling my wallet out of my pocket. I shoved my license under his nose and watched as his eyes lowly scanned it.
His eyes lifted to mine, flicked back to the card, and then back to me. “Were your parents high when they named you?” he asked incredulously.
“you would think so.”
“Who were you names after?”
“no one, they thought of it all on their own. Sadly.”
“its really weird.”
“Whatever floats your boat.” He handed me the card back and turned to wipe the counter. I shoved the license in its spot in my wallet and walked out the door in a rage. Before it shut, and the cold, blistering weather surrounded me I heard him say, “Put some ice on that shiner, Curls.” With a laugh.
I glared at the snow, my head pounding
* * *
“Prema!” Kate cried when I walked into her house, shivering.
Kate was sitting in her den working on a new layout for the store website. Even thought on Saturdays we didn’t open till eleven Kate was up, and I was expected to be, too.
Her honey-blonde hair was curled and, naturally, her makeup was already applied. She wore a teal cashmere sweater and tan pants. I felt like I always did around her, under-done.
I wiggled out of my outdoors clothes and handed her her latte. She set it beside her laptop, on a coaster, and turned to look at me.
“What took you forever?” she looked over my jeans and long-sleeved tee in disgust. “Its almost nine. You never get here later than eight fifteen.”
“If you hadn’t noticed, there is the making of a blizzard outside, and my car broke down days ago, which I told you, so I had to walk there, and some new employee of Mitch and Tiff’s hit me in the head with the door, and then made fun of my name, assuming that—”
“Someone new made my latte?” she turned her attention from my scuffed boots to the cup on her desk “Are you sure he made it right, Prema? It’s a hard thing to make.”
I hadn’t expected her to ask how I was feeling after my run-in with the door, or pretending he was sorry that I had to walk in the horrible weather outside. She lifted her cup and took a sip, tasting for anything wrong. After a moment she took another drink, apparently finding nothing.
“Its okay, nothing amazing, but it will do. Although it is a bit cold.” She made a humming noise in her throat and turned to the computer.
I rolled my eyes and said “Okay, well, I’m going home. Ill see you at the store later.”
“Wait!” she spun back to me, her eyes wide, holding a paper out “I need these to go to Kinko’s and have a hundred and fifty copied in color.” I rubbed my head. The ache was getting worse.
“I cant. I told you, my car broke down. Kinko’s is on the other side of town.”
“Walk, Prema, it will do you good.”
“I cant get these done today. Mom and dad wont be home till late so I cant use their cars, and I would never dare touch your car,” I huffed sarcastically “So you can wait a few days.”
“well, I just thought that because I am your boss, the one who signs your check, I would be able to tell you what to do. Not the other way around.”
“My job doesn’t start for two hours, Kate, I’m going home.”
“Fine! At least change into something more…cute before you come in. your working register. Jean quit.”
“I wonder why,” I muttered to myself.