Gabby fumbled with the lock as she crouched on the damp sidewalk. The glass door between the bars misted under her breath and she shivered.
“Come on,” she growled at the key, “or I’m never opening you again.”
The jagged metal finally slipped into the hole, the bolt thunking. She grabbed the base of the grated screen and heaved. The barricade rattled up into the roll above the cafes’ facade and stopped. The echo rumbled down the bare street, carried away on a morning gust.
Gabby fought with the locks on the door, pushed inside causing the bird like chimes to sound, and flicked on the lights. The dangling lamps glowed beneath their hand blown shades, creating pools of pale greens, yellows and purples on the upturned chairs set on the tables. The floor still carried the scent of pine from the previous evening’s mop.
She locked the door behind her and a check on her watch kept her moving. She scampered behind the counter. Dumping her bag into the drawer below the cash machine with one hand, her other passed over the keys. A few beeps later and the system was up and running. She spun and began pouring out whole beans by the cupful into the grinder while slipping into her apron. The coffee grounds tickled her nose and pushed away at the morning haze clinging to her thoughts. She added water to the pots and started the vats brewing.
A tap at the door called her attention.
David gave her a drooping smile through the windows and waved with a hand holding his current book. His angular shoulders slumped beneath his matte black shirt and long jeans dangled over his stalk like legs.
Gabby trotted to the door and flipped the latch. The bell above the door tinkled.
“Morning,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said striding in. “Coffee?”
“Be about 5 more minutes.”
He plodded forward and behind the counter. Gabby rotated the wooden sign dangling in the side window, the perked cat whose tail coiled through the large O in Open, now facing outdoors.
She began putting the mismatched chairs upright while David filled the glass cases with fresh pastries and bagels.
The greeting chimes chirped.
“Hey Gabby. David.”
A lean woman in magenta scrubs strode to the counter. Her perky ponytail bobbing with each step of her thick soled shoes.
“The regular, Hanna?” asked Gabby, heading behind the register.
“You know it.” Hanna slapped down a five dollar bill.
David provided the large cup of black with an inch of room for cream and began toasting the multigrain bagel a moment later.
Hanna cupped the compostable container and drew in the coiling threads of steam while Gabby fetched her change.
“You know the drill,” said Hanna, waving off the half dozen coins.
“Thanks.” Gabby chucked the dimes and quarters into the tip pail while Hanna moved off to peruse the bookcases lined with faded paperbacks while her breakfast crisped.
The bell rang again. The regulars continued streaming across the café’s threshold.
Joe for his Americano; Sara for her non-fat, extra foam latte she refused to call a cappuccino; Benny for his coffee with an extra shot of espresso; Jane for her coffee with a shot of chocolate; Paula for her tea; Abigail for her Danish. The morning flowed on, bell chime, greeting, order, pour or press or steam, pay, tip, farewell.
Gabby’s feet began to grow numb by the third hour in the morning routine. The petite cafe had warmed with the fourth round of brewed coffee and the few who remained to read or simply sit and catch a breath before the day truly began.
Gabby glanced up from steaming a cup of soy milk as the now sun drenched door glittered and bells twittered.
A pack of four, by Gabby’s quick count, continued talking frantically as they entered. Their voices invaded the quiet like a sudden flood. Heads looked up with frowns from newspapers and books.
“Got a rush,” Gabby said to David who was adding vanilla syrup to one cup while pouring a small coffee.
He bobbed his head in acknowledgement then began the third drink in the order for the Johnson and Tyler firm down the block.
Meanwhile Gabby poured her steamed milk into a waiting porcelain cup, added a fern to the froth and set the order on the pickup counter.
The delicate Asian woman in her business suit looked up from her hand held device and swept up her beverage.
Gabby smiled although her cheeks had begun to burn with all the grins and then headed to the counter to await the newest arrivals.
She cocked her head, watching them as they milled like bees in the front seating area.
“Look at those,” said a plump blonde holding a clipboard against her blazer and bulky scarf. She waved a peach tinted finger at the dangling lamps.
“Yes, yes,” said a shorter man next to her. The soft light glinted on his balding head and glasses. “We’d only have to bring in some stands.”
“And these bookcases are quaint aren’t they?” A skinny fellow full of pointed edges from his sharp nose to the tips of his polished boots, waved a pale palm at the shelves.
The blonde frowned and thumped a pen on her cherry stained lips. “Might have to swap some of these out.” She gestured her ball point like a wand.
A round of nods followed, joined by scribbles by a mousy woman with cowed shoulders whose face remained burrowed in her note pad.
“Can I get you anything?” asked Gabby.
The balding man swayed forward, the smear of a smile on his ball shaped face. He adjusted the thick rectangular frames highlighting a pair of sharp blue eyes.
Behind her, Gabby heard David gasp then a mug shattered on the tiles. Gabby glanced over her shoulder and found him frozen, mouth gaping open and eyes as wide as saucers.
“You’re…you’re…” stumbled David.
“Yes,” said the pointed man, “he is.”
Gabby turned back to the waiting customers. “Excuse me?”
The blonde rolled her eyes. “This is Don Jenkins.”
Some of the other customers began to mumble. Chairs squeaked as people leaned around for a better look.
For her part, Gabby blinked at the blonde. A part of her stunned mind began counting the lashes outlined by the other woman’s thick mascara. Gabby leaned into the counter and her hands smacked onto the tile. The sway in her knees ebbed with the firm sense of the stone against her skin. She wobbled her gaze back to the balding man.
His smile stretched.
“Wow,” Gabby began, the words pouring, “I didn’t realize. I didn’t recognize you.”
“It’s alright,” said Don with a wave of his left hand. His palm landed back on his barrel chest, the thick band around his ring finger clacking against his jacket’s zipper. “Pleasant change actually.”
Gabby tried to steady her grin. “What can we get for you?”
“I’d like your shop actually.”
“For my next film, you see. I’m setting it in local establishments rather than some sterile movie stage. My prospectors were out here a few weeks ago and now I’m making my final selections.” His grin fell a few degrees. “I want to use yours.”
“Oh…” said Gabby. She gazed around the shop. The bulletin board full of advertisements for lessons, local services and events hung slightly out of square next to the single bathroom. The mismatched chairs and tables paralleling the counter had chips on their edges. The paintings and photographs, all from emerging artists from the neighborhood, stared out from mottled frames with various themes and price tags. By the front, the shelves seemed dusty and the plush chairs seemed to sag. She returned to Don with a frown. “Here? Really?”
“I’ll have my people call your people.”
“I am my people, Mr. Jenkins.”
David coughed behind her.
“David Andrews,” she said with a wave, “one of my two baristas.”
Don stuck out his meaty palm. Gabby thought David might crumble as they shook.
“Nice to meet you.”
“You too, Mr. Jenkins.” David licked his lips. “You wouldn’t need any extras would you Mr. Jenkins? For your film?”
Don chuckled. “Maybe, kid. I’ll keep you in mind.”
David’s face broke into a childish grin. “Thanks.”
Gabby felt Don’s attention returned to her. “You’d be amenable to the idea? Ms…”
“Gabb-Gabriel Hunt,” she said, extending her own hand. “And, well…” She closed her mouth and made her brain begin to process thoughts more logically. She set her hand back onto the counter, the warmth from their shake lingering. “I don’t mean to be rude, but it would depend on the circumstances. What exactly you wanted to do here.”
“Gabby,” muttered David.
The blonde and pointed man both gave derisive snorts in parallel octaves.
“Quite practical of you, Ms. Hunt.” Don’s acknowledgement silenced his party. “I’ll have a contract written up, outlining all the formalities. You can read that and we can negotiate matters from there.”
Gabby nibbled at her lip, but failed to find a trap. Tyler or Johnson, she thought, might even provide some legal advice in exchange for a few free drinks. Her head began nodding slowly. “That sounds reasonable.”
“Excellent.” Don drummed his hands on the counter as if sounding a final note.
“Can I get you anything for now?” Gabby tilted her head at the assortment behind her.
Don rose up on his toes to peruse the collection. “I’ll take a medium sized cup of your house blend.”
Gabby nodded and the other three gave their orders, the mousy one remaining to pay while the others continued their debates. She dumped a few extra bills into the pail.
Gabby started to pour around David’s rapid mopping of his earlier spill. The handle of the coffee pot, the soft thud of the espresso press and sizzle of the steamer oozed onto her spiked nerves. By the time she finished with the fourth beverage, she had found her rhythm and weaved between David and the components behind the counter with renewed ease.
She set the drinks into a four holed recycled tray on the pickup counter.
“We’ll be in touch,” said the mousy woman, laying a card on the counter before taking hold of the order.
Gabby took the rectangle and stared at the name, address and number all in finely embossed letters alongside a cartouche made of a perched parrot with one raised claw.
The tinkle of the chimes at the door tugged her away from the raised font and she watched Don and his crew walk out of her cafe.
“You think they’ll be back?” David asked as he rested his chin on the top of the mop handle.
Gabby stared back down at the business card. Her finger passed along the thick, solid edge of the only bit of evidence from their transaction with the world famous Director.
“I guess we’ll see.”
“I hope so.”
“I think I do too.”
Gabby smiled, slipping the card into her back pocket as the chimes chirped and the current of the day flowed on.