Sam Wicker looked up from his phone at the barista with a flushed face. She caught him off guard, as she always did, all bright eyes and little freckles spread across her nose like a constellation. But as “cute” as she was, there was something else that lingered in those emerald pools that wasn’t so cute. It was definitely something mischievous, or so Sam had decided.
“What’s your name, anyway?” The girl leaned over the counter, her perfectly messy brown buns atop her head narrowly missing a massive stack of coffee cups.
“Sam.” His eyes drifted down to her name tag, covered in stickers. If he wasn’t mistaken, it was the first time she ever wore it in the past six months. “Nice to meet you, Samantha. Or do you go by Sam, too?”
“Both, ” She grinned. “Nice to meet you, Sam Number Two, though we’ve met plenty of times.” She waved her hand in the air nonchalantly. “But I’ve never seen you when it’s so dead in here, then again it never really is. It always bothered me-I knew your order and not your name. Now, I no longer have to call you tall-dark-cup-of-coffee-with-one-sugar.”
“Really?” Sam laughed aloud.
“Yea, it suits you. You’ve got a tall-dark-innocent thing going.” Samantha shrugged and grabbed one of the cups without looking, moving fluidly out of memory. She spun like a dancer behind the bar, making his order without him asking. “You know, you can tell a lot by the way someone takes their coffee, or at least, I can.” She turned and grinned broadly.
Sam didn’t answer but looked around at empty shop. The only life was Sam One, Sam Two, and the various plants scattered throughout. “Why is it so dead?”
“Mmm…probly ’cause of the rain.” Samantha pointed to the window without turning around. “A downpour at 7am on a Saturday doesn’t bring many folks out. They do have Keurig’s now, ya know?”
It was unusual for no one to be there, every day there was a line out the door. But Sam didn’t mind, he really liked their coffee, as did apparently many other people. It was almost eery with it so empty. KoffeeKinesis claimed to be the best in town and so far they seemed to live up to it.
Sam glanced back to the bar and at the cup Samantha was holding. There was a shimmer above the top, like a snowfall, that swirled down from her manicured nails to the coffee.
“Damn,” Samantha muttered, turning back to him. She whispered something to herself. “Well, Sam Two, this one’s on me.”
“But what was that? I saw- I mean, you -”
“Just a little extra sugar.” Samantha winked. “There’s a reason they say we have the best cup of coffee in town. Now run along.” She shooed Sam away and walked into the back room.
Now that Sam thought about it, the baristas always brought the coffee to the back room. It was never done entirely in the front.
Sam grabbed his coffee and turned to the door, doing what he was told. He paused with his hand resting on the handle. He knew he saw something, and Samantha even acknowledged it. I’m not crazy, Sam told himself, and took a deep breath. He walked up to the counter and flipped up the part that moved on hinges.
It was strange to be on the other side of the counter, where he didn’t belong. That feeling wasn’t new, but the criminal feeling was. In fact, it was the most criminal thing he had ever done in his eighteen years of life.
The coffee shop looked the same from the other side, all earthy and warm, but when he walked into the back room he found something entirely different.
There were more plants in the back, including trees that reached the high ceiling. It was so full of life, it looked like a real forest. The room was way bigger than it should have been based on the size of the little old brick building it was in.
There were potted plants too, lined up on a table directly behind the coffee bar. They were all labeled as different herbs and some things Sam had never heard of. There were other strange bottles scattered about, some labeled some not.
Movement behind a tree caught Sam’s attention – two familiar brown buns.
“You’re a curious one, huh?” Samantha came out from behind the tree and leaned against it as if nothing unusual was happening. She held up her hand and the same swirl of white appeared above her fingertips.
Sam took a big sip of his coffee. “Curiosity killed the cat, I guess.”
“But satisfaction brought it back. Nothing wrong with a little curiosity, that’s how we all got involved, saw something we shouldn’t have. Most people would dismiss it as a trick of the eye.” She shrugged.
“You have to tell me…what is all this?” Sam looked down to his coffee, rethinking what on earth she could have put in there.
“Depends,” Samantha crossed her arms and a gave him a wide grin, “Do you want a job, Sam Two?”