The espresso machine is hissing, a line of customers pressing into the tight space, before Doke, tying his apron, bursts through the kitchen to take his place behind the veined granite counter. Even though the morning line is long, Lorean wants the barista with “Doke” on his apron, blond ponytail straight as horsehair, to wait on her, because he slips her sly glances that ignite her nerve endings and pumps her extra shots for free, tracing foam on top of her drink in arabesques of paisley clouds. Rob, too, waits in line for his latte, not sure what he appreciates more, the ass of the woman ahead of him or that the barista is consistently late and takes his sweet time shooting steam into the heavy ceramic mugs.

Doke scribbles indecipherable orders on napkin scraps and eyes the erect older gent as the line pushes the woman with the beautiful hair and smell of orchid blossoms towards the counter, towards him as if she is his true destiny. She likes his cloudy smile, like he’s thinking of something to whisper to wake her, because her boyfriend doesn’t talk in the mornings, not really, just groans he needs his cup of joe to get his brain cells greased. Rob measures the woman, imagining her on tiptoe, his dick swaying gently, slowly, like the sun’s steady rise, between her meadowy thighs; she’d twenty years his junior but has reddish hair like a dissipating sunrise.

If only Doke’s damn girlfriend wouldn’t hog the bathroom every morning after sex, he would be able to leave on time, but as it is, every morning she escapes from the tangled sheets like handcuffs around her ankles, and bolts the bathroom door, expecting him, he supposes, to brew coffee in his naked, sticky state. Funny, but Lorean never sees the man she lives with drink anything in the morning, unless it’s a swig of beer pooling in the bottom of a bottle, flat, stale from the night before. The line edges forward, the large male behind him bumping Rob into the redhead so he’s afraid she can feel his hardness against her butt; there isn’t much he can do as people crowd inside to escape the morning drizzle, pressing, pressing, pushing, and even at forty-two, he can’t control his member.

Doke’s hands shake as he ejects the shots for the pretty woman whose hair reminds him of ripe peach fuzz, a texture and color he’d love to have whisk down his bare chest. Something hard nudges her rump and she slides forward a step, wishes she were brave enough to leave her drunken boyfriend because even the sex isn’t much good these days, hardly lasting long enough for her to settle her booty in the pretend silky sheets. With a jolt, an unexpected chill sweeps across Rob, as the woman steps forward, creating a gap, and takes her cup from the counter guy, her hands trembling when he whispers to her, his voice a breeze meant only for her ear, her hair puffing as if he’s blown the words her way.

Doke’s sure this woman, her cheeks the ripe blush of an apricot, would luxuriate in bed with him, her hands on his body and his in her hair, not barricade herself away from his caresses; he wishes he could brew magical words the way he did espresso so that they would break through her self-contained expression, some phrase that would make her leap the counter and kiss him, her lips warmed with her first morning foam. The thing is, Lorean knows she’ll have to give up the coffees, even if they are the best part of her day, the closeness, the barista’s long fingers touching hers when he passes her the ritual cup; she knows she’s pregnant, knows she can’t expect better than the baby’s drunken father. Rob wants to nibble the reddish fuzz on her swan’s neck; when she turns, her lips twisted in a smile that could mean she’s not angry, that she never felt his body’s betrayal, it dawns on him she has no inkling of the sway she holds over men; he tenses, sensing she might cry.

 

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C.A. Cole is currently looking for a job in Colorado and taking online courses instead of working on her writing. She volunteers with a group of local Hispanic students helping them apply to college and for scholarships. Upcoming work includes Gargoyle and Dogwood Journal. Work has recently been included in Blood and Thunder and Smokelong Quarterlyand other places online.