The next part of the Common Grounds Cafe. These things are fun to write! I hope you enjoy it!
The scent of cinnamon-sprinkled apples awakened Diana’s nose and made her feel almost at home again. She wore a lazy smile as she walked into the café, her shoes shuffling across the tiled floor in a soft hush, as she enjoyed the smells of flavored coffee.
“G’morning,” she said, and got a nod in response from Michael. As she put on her apron, Diana asked, “You always seem to open. Is that your normal shift?”
Diana blinked. Butterflies began to assault her stomach, a feeling that she hadn’t experienced in almost a week since her first few days at Common Grounds. Had she done something wrong, something that prevented Michael from talking to her?
“Michael’s a mute, Hon.” Ellie appeared from the back room, her arms balancing sleeves of plastic cups and covers to get ready for the morning rush. “You haven’t realized that yet, huh?”
“Oh.” Diana glanced over at the manager, who, upon hearing his name, had glanced up at the women and gave them a quirked smile before continuing to open the register for the day. Diana wasn’t one to discriminate, of course, but she was curious as to how Michael could effectively manage and deal with difficult customers if he could not speak to them.
“The higher-ups like having Michael on the morning shifts,” Ellie said, as if she could read Diana’s mind. With a snake’s grin, the woman added, “This is the time when most jackasses are out, but they can’t argue well with a guy who just shakes his head at them.”
Diana smiled in return, oddly eager to see a customer try to argue with Michael. She got her station ready and, in no time at all, Michael was unlocking the front doors.
When she had first joined and learned that she would primarily be working the register for the first couple of weeks, Diana had been skeptical at how quickly she would be able to learn how to operate the machine. Her bosses apparently knew how to train their new workers, considering that Diana almost knew the register’s options by heart. With the simpler orders, Diana barely needed to look at the screen anymore. Her fingers flew across the options, hitting the correct buttons by heart.
“Seven twenty-five, please. Would you like your receipt?” Diana smiled at the customers as she counted their money or swiped their credit cards, and kept the line moving along as she wished them a good day.
“Large half-sweet, non-fat caramel macchiato.” A tall, thin man with a dark goatee matching his narrow eyes made his way to Diana’s register. “And it’s free.”
“Okay, that’s five thirty-eight—Excuse me?” Diana paused.
The man rolled his eyes. “It’s free. Name’s Luke. Everyone here knows me.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Diana said. “I’m new, so—“
“Just let me go and check—“
“What, you don’t believe me?” Luke glowered, and the butterflies were attacking Diana’s stomach in full-force. “You calling me a liar?”
“Of course not, but—“
“Then get me my free drink.”
“You got no free drinks!” Ellie, probably curious as to why Diana wasn’t inputting any orders in the queue, bustled over to Diana’s side. “Everyone here knows you as a cheat, Luke, including this new gal once we’re through with you. Either pay up or get out.”
Luke’s permanent scowl intensified. “Manager. Now.”
“Michael’s right over there, sir,” Diana said, pointing over toward the tables that the manager was cleaning up.
“He’s no sir!” Ellie scoffed, and returned to the drink-mixing area for the next order.
Luke marched over to Michael, and Diana took a deep breath before taking care of the next customer. She tried to ignore the customer’s increased volume with his shouts, and she felt guilty for foisting Luke onto Michael. However, when she snuck a glance at the two men while in between orders, she was impressed at how stoic her manager seemed. Michael’s arms were crossed, a cleaning rag in one hand and a spray bottle of disinfectant in the other, as he stared down Luke. Every so often, Michael would shake his head once, much to Luke’s aggravation. Eventually, Luke said something about calling corporate and getting everyone fired before stomping out of the café. Michael simply turned back around and continued to clean tables.
When there was a lull in the café, Diana’s first question to Ellie was, “What was that Luke guy’s problem? Who was he?”
Ellie huffed. “He’s a jerk that comes in once in a while, either early morning or late at night, always demanding his drink be free ever since he used to date one of the previous managers here.”
“That’s… ridiculous,” Diana said.
“People are,” Ellie said. “Let me just tell you this, Hon. If any customer claims that they are entitled to a free drink, always check with a manager. Doesn’t matter if the customer keeps arguing with you. Lie and say you don’t have the ability to make the drink free in the register or something. Just get a manager.”
“Alright,” Diana said. “I probably would have done so, anyway.”
“You got a head on your shoulders.” Ellie nodded with approval. “The last kid that was here got fired since he was so gullible.”
Diana winced in sympathy. She glanced over at Michael, seeing him through the office’s open door in the back of the café at the main computer. “Michael doesn’t mind that we sent the difficult customer to him, does he?”
“That’s his job,” Ellie said, cleaning some of the utensils and instruments used to make the drinks. “Don’t worry about it. Luke isn’t the first jerk that Michael’s faced off, and Luke won’t be the last.” Diana nodded, but wasn’t too convinced. Apparently, her skepticism showed, for Ellie added, “You’re going to meet a lot of different kinds of characters here, Hon. Working retail is crap, but it’ll give you tough skin and appreciativeness for others.”
A bubble popped from behind her, making Diana jump. She sighed and gave Colin’s smirk a crooked smile in return.
“Unless you’re Colin,” Ellie said to end her speech.
“What,” Diana said, “Colin doesn’t appreciate others?”
“It’s not that,” Colin said, tossing his belongings in the back room and giving Michael a nod, which Diana began to understand as the universal greeting between guys. “I don’t have tough skin. I’m very sensitive, you know.”
“As sensitive as a rhino’s hide,” Ellie muttered, and Diana laughed. “Your shift is done, Hon. Clock out and go home.”
“Unless you want to do my shift too,” Colin said. “You know, get the extra practice and all.”
“I think I’m good,” Diana said, taking off her apron and hanging it up. “Besides, you need to work on getting tougher skin, right?”
His smirk grew. “Not sure. After all, girls like sensitive guys, right?”
Diana shook her head. “Not if they’re lazy! See you later, everyone.”