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 a cuppa joe, open
Lar
 Posted: Jan 5 2016, 10:17 PM
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If the country of Nadia's childhood is a fairy glen, the city is her castle; glass-backed skyscrapers crenelate the sky. From beneath the streets, plumes of steam rise from the subway like the breath of sleeping dragons. A yellow cab nearly hits her in a crosswalk and the cabbie swears like something out of a movie, and Nadia laughs there in the city ruckus, her skirt stained with slush.

The sound gleams.

She is a fine-haired thing, slight as a willow bough, fair as a dandelion, and the country has written itself all over her denim jacket and cowgirl boots. Digital billboards stare down at her and move, laughing in their way: Nadia doesn't belong.

Despite the cold and the chaos, she stumbles her way over ice-patched sidewalk to the doorway of a chain cafe where the coffee is fast and burnt and ridiculously named. It is the first time she's set foot on their beige carpets, and she takes a quiet pleasure in it. New territory. She catches an eye or two on her way up to the counter and smiles, her small mouth curving prettily in a way that doesn't touch her almond eyes.

"Coffee, black, tall," she says all in a sputter, adjusting the canvas bag tossed over her shoulder.

"Please?"
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knox
 Posted: Jan 5 2016, 11:24 PM
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Two of the eyes she catches belong to the barista. They’re dark and deep-seated in eyelids so swollen they look like grey beanbags. Under the bruises, there’s a bandage doing its best to hold together a broken nose, and beneath that a fat lip, and the teeth under that are fucked up enough to make it look like he’s smiling. But he’s assuredly not. Rafael has never been surer of one thing in his entire life. Well, two things: he’s going to get fired, and no, he’s definitely not smiling.

“Nuh-uh! Is that right?” Rafael says sweetly. He’s all in a sputter, not because he’s delighted in sharing Polyanna’s first big-town coffee order, but on account of all the blood. He sticks out a grey thumb behind him and gives her the flat affect. “It’s not on the menu.”

“Just make her the coffee,” a second barista chides, handing another customer a stale croissant wrapped in wax paper. “It’s the last thing you’ll have to do here anyway.”

Pig tailed and perky, the second barista's eyebrows raise in anticipation and Rafael knows she's liable to cry at the fall of a cupcake, so he huffs, “Fine.” He tries to give Nadia the side eye, but his eyelashes get stuck together with gunk.

After a beat and another reproachful look from the barista on the other side of the counter, Rafael skulks over to the Bunn Burner with a cloud above his head bigger than the one hovering in the city sky. It’s the most time he’s ever spent getting a small cup, pressing a button, and popping on a lid, but he doesn’t care just so long as he’s helping to make someone’s day as bad as his.

The broken blood vessels in his head will heal, hopefully not before Rick, location manager and all-time-prick comes down to have a word with him, but the rest of it will take time. Especially the teeth. Until then, Rafael is stuck with a smile he doesn’t want.

Much to his chagrin, when he turns around to hand Nadia her coffee, he catches a glimpse of a yellowing bruise around his eye in the wall to wall mirror behind her.

“Two-fifty,” he sputters miserably.
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