"The line's out the door, boss!" Someone yells from the kitchen. My hands are scrambling to make an espresso faster than they ever have.
Trina's mopping up a spill on the floor.
Hames is helping Col figure out how to make one of the new drinks.
The soft bustle of the morning floats in the air. Multiple yawns are passed around the room. People waiting for work. People waiting for coffee. People waiting for pumpkin spice lattes. Not very patiently, but that's what's special about it.
Every year around this time, it can be felt in the air. The stillness of when people know what's coming. The announcement of something that changes their lives every fall.
The Pumpkin Spice Latte.
The day that it's released is the craziest, especially this year.
Starbucks had the crazy idea to not only release a pumpkin spice latte but a full line of autumnal drinks. Now, if you would please hold a drum roll for the introduction of our new initiates. First up we have, the Java Pumpkin Seeds, Roasted Pumpkin...and Falling Beans (aha get it? Falling leaves, falling bea-yeah). Don't they make you feel so...sick to your stomach?
Anyways, the buzz of this day always makes me feel warm. I walk into the door and smell the fresh coffee beans and know immediately what day it is. Cars whip into the parking lot, change rustles around in people's pockets, the steam from the coffee warms the air, and soft conversation fills the room with a hum.
It's only six o'clock but the room is filled to the brim with people, but one man catches my eye as he walks in. Someone makes an angry gesture at him, and yells that there's other people in line. My hands are currently empty so I walk over to him, pushing through the crowd of people.
When I approach him, I notice his cheeks are stained red from the cool weather outside. He stands about two feet taller than me so I have to look up at him, but he still doesn't notice me.
Green eyes look down at me, straight, white teeth offer a friendly smile. "Ma'am." Freckles decorate his red cheeks, and I swear mine turn red.
"Hey, yeah. So I'm going to have to ask you to get in the back of the line. And wait like everyone else."
"Aw, you can't make an exception for a man in a hurry?" he says, pulling back his coat to glance at his watch. I shake my head and scoot closer to him as the crowd becomes bigger.
"No sir. Please follow the rules or-" He seems to have completely lost interest in our conversation because his eyes have drifted over to another man standing right in front of us. He glances at his watch once more, muttering the time.
I'm pushed to the side by his bulky arms covered by a bulky gray coat that hangs over his hands. I breathe heavily out of my nose, deciding to leave the situation alone and get the handsome but utterly rude man a coffee.
Without pumpkin spice. His day doesn’t deserve the flavor.
As I’m grabbing a cup to pour the coffee into, the morning sun that’s just started to poke in through the windows catches something silver, reflecting light into my eyes. I figure it’s someone’s jewelry and when I realize that the glaring light is coming from the rude man, I know it’s his watch. My eyes linger on the peculiar man for a few seconds, his eyes are transfixed on the man in front of him, like he’s trying to burn a hole into the back of his head.
A warm sensation tingles on the back of my hand, the coffee overflowing. It teases with warmth, then it burns my hand. I grab a napkin to wipe up the spilled coffee and Hames bumps into me, spilling another coffee. He groans but tells me it’s okay and grabs the roll of napkins. I've always had a thing for Hames, but he never has seemed to interested in me. I reach to grab one of the used napkins off the floor at the same time he does and our hands touch.
"I got it," he says with a apologetic smile. I smile back but the butterflies in my stomach are interrupted by my intuition.
Suddenly, the small coffee shop starts to become claustrophobic, the hum of conversations become miserable cries for help in my ears. As we’re standing up from being on our hands and knees, I have a mock feeling that I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off of the rude man.
I stand up to glance at him, and for some odd reason, I’m not surprised to see a knife in his hand. It shakes as he holds it but by the look on his face, he’s filled with alacrity about what he’s going to do. The man in front of him stands there with a warm smile on his face, most likely put there by the coffee he’s just received. He’s older than the rude man, his face wizened with wrinkles, and a grey goatee covering his chin. I know what’s going to happen though. He’s going to turn around, offer a genuine smile to the man before he realizes who it is. His smile will falter and his coffee will drop to the ground as the knife enters his stomach.
But it doesn’t have to happen, someone whispers.
I’ve always watched the show What Would You Do? I’ve always wondered if I would be the hero that stands up and does something about the situation, the person that everyone says they would be like, but really they have no idea. It kind of ties in to the fight-or-flight response. Jokingly, with my friends, I would say that I would fly away faster than the speed of light. You wouldn’t even know I was there.
I’ve always wondered.
I approach the man with practiced steadiness, focusing on the knife, and the rough, masculine hands that are holding the knife. People around me make way for the worker doing her job, simply smiling at me with generosity. When they don’t get a smile back they whisper that “someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed today,” but soon they will be whispering that “someone was at the right place at the right time.”
I will be the hero.
My hand reaches for the knife, quickly snatching it out of the man’s hand. When I look up at his handsome face, his freckles are lifted up with an apathetic grin. He turns and walks away and I’m too paralyzed with shock that I don’t see. I don’t see the wise man grabbing his stomach and falling to the ground. I don’t see the surprised people around me as all conversations come to a silencing halt. I don't see the blood covering the knife, dripping onto my hand with haste. I don’t see my boss running towards me while Hames dials 911. I just see the man walk out the door, climb into a car, and drive away.
That’s what I yelled over the variations of conversations in the crowded building after it happened.
Is what I yelled when the cold metal of the handcuffs stung my wrists.
Is what I am.
Is what the judge declared after the wooden instrument hit the desk, echoing through the empty courtroom.
The metal bars shook as they closed, almost as if they were laughing in my face. Mocking me for wanting to be a hero, for just wanting to help.