Authors: Felicia Starr
Esmeralda loved the rustic feel of having hand written specials on chalk board signs. She had varying shapes and sizes of chalkboards in her coffee shop. Sometimes there were little ones announcing a specialty bread for the season or holiday. She had a large fold out one that she would put on the street in front of the front door on sunny days to help draw in new customers.
She decided that the best way to entice both Lilly and Leo to order the salted caramel coffee or latte was to make it a special for everyone. She couldn’t very well give out enchanted hand crafted coffee drinks to the whole neighborhood. The goddesses only knew what kind of potential love fest mess that would cause.
Maybe that is what happened in the seventies. How else could that many people have been in love with the idea of love?
Esmeralda got to work before her crew arrived to make sure that the chalkboards were written out just the way she wanted. She took the extra time to bust out the box of colored chalk and made some artistic swirly art around the corners of the board and made the ‘a’ slated in a pretty pink heart. When she finished she wanted to pat herself on the back. The sketch of the coffee cup put it over the top for her.
She was tired from the late night with her sisters, but she knew better than to indulge in Jasinda’s mead on a work night. Her crew started to show up and the baking commenced in preparation for opening. Esmeralda knew that other coffee shops in the area opened earlier than she did, but they didn’t offer the special human touch that she and her staff provided to the locals. She had plenty of regulars; some were just familiar faces while others she had slowly gotten to know over the years.
Leo came in at the exact same time every weekday. She could set her clock to him walking through the front door. He had a small accounting firm a few doors down, actually it was his father’s firm and he worked there.
He ordered the same thing every day at ten AM; one large black coffee and a medium caramel latte. Esmeralda knew Leo’s father took his coffee like he took his whiskey-- straight up.
Occasionally on the weekends Leo would come in for coffee early in the morning or late afternoon. That was when Esmeralda got to know him. He had just finished his master’s degree two years ago and would one day take over his father’s firm. As far as Esmeralda knew he was still single, he had not recently mentioned anything about dating. When he first started to come in two years ago he would be with a blond, but they broke up once he started working full time.
He was a very polite guy with his head on straight. He had a steady career, one with a stable future. As far as she knew, he did not do drugs. He was nice looking with sandy colored hair. He was just shy of six foot. He wasn’t overly buff
, but she knew he had a regular exercise routine and looked great in or out of a suit. At least she imagined he looked good out of it. If she were a few years younger, maybe she would have pursued him herself.
Lilly frequented the cafe less days out of the week, but her schedule was just as much a routine as Leo’s. She came in at nine thirty Tuesday through Friday. She had a hot coffee, light and sweet, sometimes vanilla sometimes caramel and she would work on her computer until lunch time when she would order a bite to eat and an iced coffee.
Lilly and Esmeralda got to know each other fairly well. Lilly worked on her laptop in the cafe for a good majority of the day. They both welcomed the small breaks talking with one another, although, more often than not it was Lilly doing the talking.
Tuesdays were often the
day that Lilly offered a breakdown of her weekend to Esmeralda. If Esmeralda had to guess, Lilly had a blind date story every two to three weeks, none of which lived up to her expectations of what a good date would be.
It had crossed Esmeralda’s mind on several occasions to try and set up Leo and Lilly on a blind date, but she had her suspicions that Lilly would never have any luck in that department. Lilly needed a more organic first encounter with someone.
Esmeralda watched Leo walk in every day right past Lilly. There were two problems, one was that Leo was always in a hurry to get back to the office and Lilly always had her back to the shop. She told Esmeralda it was so she didn’t get too distracted by people watching. If only there had been a way for them to stumble upon each other, Esmeralda felt like they would be a good fit for one another.
Esmeralda had ordered a few bottles of the salted caramel syrup. One bottle may have been enough to get through a day of specialty coffees, but she also didn’t want to run out.
The bottle of flavored syrup that had been enchanted was marked with the double L’s and a label that said ‘Do not use this bottle to make drinks.’ Esmeralda planned to keep it stashed and out of reach enough that any of the baristas working for her wouldn’t make the mistake in using it to make someone else’s coffee.
Nine thirty came and went. Esmeralda nervously watched the clock, concerned that Lilly was not going to come in for coffee. The cafe was not her employer, but she was always punctual, Esmeralda doesn’t remember her faltering from her routine.
Ten o’clock rolled around quickly. Esmeralda was certain that Leo would be walking in any minute. She was starting to worry that her plan was not going to work out. She debated on whether or not to make Leo’s special drink if Lilly wasn’t there.
In that moment of debate she realized that she had not thought this out enough. How was she going to make sure t
he spell worked on them? They didn’t even know each other.
Maybe if they walked in at the same time it would be a sign that they were totally meant for each other. Esmeralda started to get excited at the possibility that the goddesses were working their cosmic magic and that was why Lilly was coming in so late.
“Hey, you ok?” an older woman in a brown button-up shirt and khakis tapped Esmeralda on the shoulder.
“Oh yeah, thanks
, Jan. I am just in la-la-land daydreaming. Do you need something?” Jan was one of the two women working the coffee station and register with Esmeralda for the day.
Jan laughed, “I never saw you look so distant. You had me worried for a minute.”
“Please, don’t worry about me. I was just thinking about whether or not this salted caramel coffee will be a big hit. Do you think we should do a frozen version?”
“That sounds really good. Maybe you could make some of your homemade caramels and we can top them with that pink salt. You can use them to garnish the whipped cream.” Jan licked her lips.
“See, that’s why I keep you around,” Esmeralda laughed. “That sounds yummy, but might be too much work…but if we made them bigger we could sell them as an add on for like fifty cents with any salted caramel beverage.”
nd that is why you are the boss,” Jan said and excused herself to take an order at the register.
Esmeralda smiled and was glad that spell or no spell she would make sure that drink was a positive addition to the cafe.
The power of positive thinking always amazed Esmeralda, because just as she was about to turn her frown upside down, she saw Lilly’s long blond hair cascading in waves over her shoulders as she walked through the front door.
She looked up at the clock and saw that the clock was about to strike ten. Lilly put her computer bag on the tabl
e just to the right of the pickup side of the counter. She did not usually sit so close to the action, but it was the only empty table. Sure enough, as she walked up to order Esmeralda watched Leo walk in and she got a little flutter at the pit of her stomach.
“Good morning, Lilly,” Esmeralda smiled at her so hard she nearly pulled a muscle in her face.
“Morning. Aren’t you extra cheerful today?”
“That is because I just had a salted caramel latte and I have decided to make home-made caramels later.”
“Yum, that sounds delicious.”
Esmeralda wagged her eyebrows up and down, “You want one? It’s on the house, you can be my guinea pig and tell me what y
ou think.” She saw Leo approaching the counter, but didn’t look up at him. She wanted to take his order too, so she stalled. “Why are you so late today?”
“Oh, you noticed? I will tell you all
about it after a cup of coffee,” Lilly answered.
“Fair enough.” Esmeralda looked up and waved at Leo. Lilly turned around and smiled at him. “Hey Leo, I have something special for you today.”
“I don’t usually do special. You know my order always stays the same.” Leo chuckled.
“I know. One large black coffee, but your latte is on me today. I don’t know if you saw, I am running a special. I want to see what you think. Salted caramel.” Esmeralda wagged her eyebrows again and walked to the other end of the counter and got to work behind the espresso machine.
Lilly walked over to the table and opened her lap top. She reached over to the counter to grab some napkins and bumped into Leo as her foot got caught in the strap of her computer bag.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry,
” Lilly said. Her face started to turn a dark shade of pink as he grabbed her under her elbow and helped to steady her as she untangled herself. “I am so clumsy.”
“That’s ok. I’m not always the gra
ceful ballerina I pretend to be,” Leo responded.
Lilly looked at him to check to see if he was kidding or for real. His face was poker straight.
“Oh. Right?” Lilly wasn’t sure how to respond.
” Leo answered. “I actually am quite graceful.”
Lilly let out half a laugh and hu
ng her bag off the back of a chair at her table.
“No really, I’m kidding. I’m neither. My name is Leo, do you come here often?”
“Why yes, actually, I do. I am usually hiding in the corner with my nose in my computer.” Lilly pointed to her computer. “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Lilly.” Lilly shook his hand and then popped her head over the wall dividing the seating areas from the workstation.
, Esmeralda, can you keep an eye on my stuff? I need to use the little girl’s room.” When she turned around Leo was looking at a display of coffee mugs and packaged cookies.
Esmeralda watched the whole transaction, smiling up to the heavens knowing that it would be a great day for her spell. She knew that the spell would only help Lilly and Leo to open their hearts to the possibility of love. If the chemistry wer
en’t already there then it wouldn’t do anything.
Esmeralda was pleased at the size of the crowd she had in her little cafe for a Monday. It was late morning and the rush had usually simmered out by then.
She looked over and saw the front door open again. A tall young guy maybe in his early thirties walked in. She was less than impressed with his ripped jeans and concert tee. She didn’t understand why anyone would want to dress like that as an adult. To make matters worse he had on a dirty old pair of high-top canvas sneakers. She thought the least he could have done was comb his hair.
She finished up making Lilly and Leo’s drinks. Before sh
e brought them over to the pickup counter she wanted to make sure she put away the enchanted syrup. She turned around to put the syrup in the cabinet behind her when she remembered she needed to brew a fresh pot of coffee for Leo’s dad.
“Leo, give me another minute, I am brewing a fresh pot of dark roast coffee for your dad.”
“Ok, thanks.” He waved at her and proceeded over to the newspaper stand and began to flip through the pages of a used paper.
Esmeralda listened to Jan take the order from the underdressed young man.
“Hey, you’re making salted caramel coffees today?”
“Sure are, would you like to try a latte?” Jan offered.
“Nah, I’m not into the fancy latte thing. Actually I usually just take my coffee like I take my women…light and sweet.”
Esmeralda rolled her eyes and was glad she wasn’t waiting on him.
“Ok, is that what you would like? A coffee, light and sweet, honey?” Jan asked him.
“Ya know what? I’m gonna get a little crazy today just because you look like you could convince me to start drinking lattes.”
Jan’s cheeks turned bright pink. “One salted caramel latte coming right up. What is your name, hun?”
“Leon.” Jan wrote it on a paper to-go cup and walked over to make him his drink.
“Esmeralda are you done here?” Jan asked as she packed the pod with fresh espresso grinds.
“Yeah, thanks I am just about to pour a black coffee to go with that order.” Esmeralda had the large to-go cup in her hand.
Jan finished up Leon’s latte. “I’m gonna put your drinks up ok?”
“Perfect, I am right behind you with this.” Esmeralda put the lid on the coffee.
“Here you go, hun.” Jan put the three coffees up on the counter. “Have a great day, you’ll have to come back and let me know if I converted you.”
Leon grabbed his to-go cup and gave her a wink just before he turned to walk toward the exit, “You bet. See you soon.”
Lilly came walking back to the pickup corner, “Are one of these mine?”
“Yes, I wrote your name on it.” Esmeralda told her as she put up the black coffee. “Leo, you’re all set.”
“Esmeralda, we are out of printer paper in the register,” Jan called out.
Leo walked over and picked up the large coffee. Lilly picked up the latte and went to hand it to him. “Do they call you Leo for short?”
“Huh? No, why?” Leo said.
, because your coffee says Leon.”
Esmeralda dropped the box of register tape when she heard what Lilly said. She knew she wrote Leo on the cup.
Leo just shrugged his shoulders and took the cup. “See you some time.”
,” Lilly replied and looked over at Esmeralda. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, it just slipped out of my hands.” Esmeralda didn’t know what to think or do. She considered putting a call into her High Priestess Seraphina
, but was not sure how she was going to explain the mix up.