Tatiana could read the writing backwards.
EFAC SNUB YENOH
The window stickers hadn’t changed for weeks. The door banged and in with the cold air came ‘Mr Triple Shot Espresso and Cheese & Marmite Bagel’. He didn’t wink at her this morning. His eyes were slits, like the coin slots on a parking meter. She popped a little something into his espresso. Just to give him a lift. Next to arrive was ‘Mrs Hot Chocolate on my way home from night shift’. Her eyes were like coin slots too, narrowed by an eight hour shift plus two hours overtime on the ward. Dealing with other people’s pain was tiring. So Tatiana popped something into the hot chocolate to make sleep come effortlessly.
After that there was a bit of a lull, the pause between the night shift going home and 9am starters leaving home. She arranged her bottles under the counter. Brown bottles on the right, clear in the middle, green on the left. Generally she found the brown bottles were needed most often, she kept the green bottles for emergencies. Exhaustion, lethargy, depression, hangover, grief, headache, laziness, irritability, apathy: there was a bottle to relieve them all.
Not a cure, never a cure. Just a little something to help. A drop, sometimes two. In emergencies only, a slug.
Oat biscuits. Flapjack. Gingerbread men with yellow and red Smartie buttons. Croissants. Apricot Danish. Blueberry muffins. Tuna melts and croque monsieurs.
Apple juice. Orange juice. Banana smoothie. Coconut water. Plain water. Raspberry water.
David Warner came in at quarter to nine. He was exact every morning. He wore his name on a red badge. ‘Customer Assistant’ it read, beneath his name, next to a symbol of a blue boat.
“Double espresso please, Tatiana” She wore a name badge too. Hers was brown, like coffee, a paler brown than her little bottles under the counter. The same brown, in fact as a triple shot semi-skinned latte.
She warmed his milk and tried not to flinch as he sneezed violently. Into the espresso cup she added a generous shake from a brown bottle. Without waiting for his drinks order, she poured the extra hot milk into the medium takeaway cup, topped it up with the espresso then sprinkled cinnamon on top.
“You’re marvellous, the way you remember what I like,” he said as he took his cup. “Your coffees are so addictive.”
She smiled as she wiped the counter with an anti-bacterial spray. “I’m glad you think so. I love my job. I like to give my customers what they need.”
He held the door open for a stout lady wearing brown lace-up shoes and carrying a canvas bag over her arm. Every Wednesday Mrs Welburn went to the WI meeting, calling in for a cup of tea first.
“Tea please, Tatiana,” she asked quietly. “You make a better cup here than I do at home.”
“I do try to please.” Tatiana put the brown bottle back under the shelf which she had used for Mr Warner, and took out a small green bottle. A little drop of something to help Mrs Welburn stand on the stage in the village hall to speak in front of the other ladies.
Today’s talk ‘Self-confidence’. Sponsored by Honey Buns Cafe. Tatiana sat in the back row, and applauded loudly. Mrs Welburn’s public-speaking had improved beyond recognition, ever since Tatiana had started to add brandy to her tea.
© Sandra Danby
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