“Good morning, ma’am!” greeted the seventeen year old waitress to the usual visitor, Rebecca Dupont. Despite being so young, she had dark circles underneath her eyes, a strained smile and a frail body which obviously needed more time to be taken care of.
“Good morning, Ava. May I occupy the seat by the window?” Miss Brown asked walking in with confident strides. She was a young lady in her end twenties. She was in a silk shirt, which was in the lightest shade of pink, which blended well with her chiffon, tulip skirt which had intricately carved buttons embedded on a side. Her auburn tresses had been hurriedly tied up into a messy bun and her eyebrows were well done. Her lips were enclosed in a light shade of gloss and she wore a smile of pure confidence. Her nails were polished by smooth strokes of mauve nail-polish. She was seen seated on that brown armchair by the window every Sunday evening, sipping on dark coffee and scribbling in her sketch book. She was known to be quite a dedicated fashion designer, but no one knew which company she worked for.
“Would you like your usual, ma’am?” Ava asked placing the brown, leather-bound menu card on her table.
“Yes, please, Ava,” Miss Dupont curtly replied, rummaging through her handbag and taking out her sketchbook.
“Would you like some milk in it, ma’am?” Ava asked, despite knowing exactly what the answer was going to be.
“No, Ava. I like it dark,” she replied again flipping through her pages and ruffling her fingers through her hair, as she opened her bun which fell down into an auburn waterfall up to her shoulders.
“I’ll be right back with your order, ma’am,” Ava confirmed taking a small bow.
“That’s a bloody lot of work,” Rebecca muttered to herself, taking a deep breath and flopping her handbag on the floor. She gave a grunt as she spotted her chipped nail polish. "Perks of being a nail biter," she grumbled. "Now, where is that nail polish of mine?" she muttered rummaging through her bag in such a way that half her belongings nearly fell out. "Ah, there," she smiled, taking out and trying to open the bottle of nail polish that was by now extremely tight due to not being opened for about three weeks.
Soon enough a cup of dark, extremely bitter, coffee was brought along with a plate of a fat blueberry muffin, that was sheltered in a layer of sugar powder and drizzled with a sprinkle of honey. Rebecca added a spoonful of the sweetened buttered in the center of the muffin and stared at it being sucked in and dissolving amidst the sugar. It was somehow like the sun dissolving into dusk.
“Why, thank you, Ava,” Rebecca smiled, looking up and waving her hand to move away the warm fumes arising from the tea, like one did to wave away flies which seemed to appear whenever there was the most exquisite meal being plated up.
Rebecca flopped a couple of sugar cubes into the cup of coffee and took a small sip. Normally, people would have made such a face if they ever tasted such a coffee. No whipped cream, no milk, no flavor. Ava often wondered how Rebecca managed to take it in. "To think of dark coffee being made in the fanciest of cafes! To think this is what I signed up for! What is the world coming to?" she could often hear the chef groan.
“Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking, why do you have the most bitter coffee every time instead of trying out the exquisite flavors that we are known for? There are so many- honeysweet, caramel cluster, chocolate chip- and yet you sit with the same old coffee every Sunday morning!” Ava said finally, after a couple of months of curiosity.
“Trying to sell your most expensive meals, are you?” Rebecca laughed.
“Oh, no, ma’am! I would never!” Ava flushed, shuffling her feet, buried by the load of the unexpected embarrassment.
“I’ll tell you, then. Bitter coffee helps me control stress. It’s somehow so bitter that it helps me feel like there are worse things than my workload. Oh, and let me tell you a secret. I balance it with a bite of this muffin,” Rebecca answered tucking in.
Taking a spoonful of the muffin, and soaking it with a small sip of the bitter coffee, she looked at Ava and asked “How is everything now? Is your dad any better?”
“He passed away last week,” came Ava’s soft reply.
“Oh, I’m so very sorry, Ava. Things will get better soon, don’t worry, alright?” Rebecca reassured comfortingly.
Personally, Rebecca always had a soft spot for Ava. Coming from an extremely poor family, Ava had to work multiple shifts just to get enough money for her college fees.
“Ava, seat number seven wants to place an order. Get that while I jog off and convey another order to the chef,” bellowed someone. There were waitresses running from the left side to the right, all kinds of people swarming in and the smell of freshly baked pastries floating around.
“Off you go now,” Rebecca laughed giving her a pat.
“Busy day,” Ava sighed, tying up her apron and scurrying off.
Rebecca took a sniff of the air inside. It was the smell of this place that kept drawing her there. One could almost taste the cakes and pies that were being taken out of the oven. Rebecca looked out of the window, glancing at all the people who had come outside for a relaxed Sunday afternoon. Her eyes searched carefully for a particular man. They shifted from one person to another, meticulously observing each one. There was someone with a black tuft of hair and glasses. “No, not him,” she muttered to herself. There was another one. He had a similar pair of eyes, brown hair and a familiar figure. “No, it can’t be him either. My guy doesn’t have a moustache, and he has a scar settled on his left cheek which this guy lacks,” she sighed to herself looking around. She started tapping her feet out of restlessness. Taking out a pocket mirror, she began puffing her cheeks. Catching a glimpse of the man behind her, that appeared in the reflection, she turned around rapidly. There stood the man she had been looking for. The man who was holding a gun, ready to shoot. In a split second, Rebecca took out a microscopic gun which was hidden behind the mirror. Both bullets were fired, but Rebecca’s one being more accurate, placed itself on the man’s chest while the bullet that was supposed to draw Rebecca closer to death, placed itself on a nearby chair instead, much to the occupant's enormous surprise. The lifeless body of the man fell on the marble floor with a thud. Only if someone had looked through her sketch-book, he or she would have known earlier about Rebecca’s identity. For in that sketch book, there were no sketches of outfits, but only of artillery.
“Reflection to the rescue! If I had not taken out my mirror, I would have been the one lying dead. Well, what are you all looking at? I’m a spy of course, and a bloody good one on top of that. He’s from a rival agency, quite a famous terrorist,” she shrugged as she flung her bag over her shoulder and walked off.
“And oh, Ava, I’d like some of that caramel cluster coffee next Sunday to celebrate the reduction of my workload. This guy right here is the one I’ve been trying to find for an entire month. See you later. Have a great Sunday!”
- Sampurna Dasgupta
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