December 5, 2019

COFFEESHOP WISHES by Jade Wilburn

"I need to make a wish."
"I can do that for you.
But what are you going to
offer me in return?"
There was a reason Fae did the most business in the wintertime. Being cooped up indoors for an entire season had a way of bringing out the desperation in people when they couldn’t wash away their miserable thoughts and horrid personalities with soothing spring rains, summer rays of sunshine and ever-changing foliage.

Ariadne supposed there were some perks to this time of year when glistening white blankets covered the gray dreariness of sky-high buildings and black-top parking lots. If she had the time, she might’ve even closed her eyes and reminisced about the glory days, when magic was rampant and wild and free from modern sensibilities.

But right now, she had trudged through several feet of snow and was starting to lose feeling in her toes.

“Coffee!” She moaned in relief as she crossed the protection spell laying across the threshold and stepped into the warm embrace of the tiny coffeeshop. There were some delights to be found in this modern era, and the fragrant roasted beans, conveniently found on every corner, were at the top of her list.

Her favorite barista chuckled at her dramatics before grabbing a white chipped mug and setting it on the wooden counter.

“Your usual?” She teased and Ariadne nodded gratefully.

Whipping off her beanie and freeing her pointed ears, the faery slumped into the cracked vinyl stool with less grace than was expected of her kind. The barista snorted and quickly filled the mug.

Smiling toothily, Ariadne cupped her brown hands around the mug, savoring the warmth and rich earthy smell. Sure, she could use magic to warm herself up, but sometimes it was nice to play mundane.
  
“So, what brings you in today?” The barista asked, cocking her hand on her hip as she leaned against the counter. “Wait, let me guess… still got that gremlin infestation?” 

“It’s gotten worse, they keep multiplying!” Ariadne shuddered. “Demanding little creatures! They were driving me crazy with their incessant demands, and I needed to get out of there for a while.”

She tossed her head back and took a deep swig of the beverage, not minding the scorching temperature.  Feeling much warmer, she took a moment to sweep her coat off her shoulders and tossed her damp silver hair out of her face. Her sensitive ears twitched at the sounds of the barista’s inaudible swallow and Ariadne’s lips quirked into a knowing grin.
  
The barista flashed a shy dimpled smile as she played with the fringe of her apron – she was a pretty little thing, Ariadne thought faintly, with rich onyx skin and tight curls that threatened to devour wayward hands that attempted to touch them without permission. 

If they were anywhere but here, she might’ve spirited the girl away, cocooned her in sheets of golden spider silk with a braided crown of dahlias and peonies nestled atop her head. 

Alas, that was labeled as ‘kidnapping’ nowadays and was heavily frowned upon in modern society. 

“Slow night?” Ariadne asked, peering around the empty shop.

The barista gave her a knowing look. “Yeah, I mean, it’s not like the shop is super popular in the first place, at least with us humans. Folks aren’t real keen on places that welcome supernaturals, y’know?” 

She rubbed her face tiredly. “It’s been real quiet the last few shifts though. Although, I guess that’s to be expected, what with the new laws and restrictions by the Supernatural Regulation department. The boss even got a witch to strengthen the protection spells around the shop, just in case.”
  
“And, what about you?” Ariadne prompted, her voice tinged with concern. “You know how…unreasonable people can be, especially against other humans. The whole ‘cavorting with the enemy’ nonsense.”
  
“I’m a tough girl, I can handle myself.” The barista smiled wryly and flexed a muscle. 

Contemplating how to spin an offer of an emergency amulet into a date without being too obvious – her race did have a reputation to uphold after all – Ariadne was pulled out of her musings when the door crashed open.

A woman rushed into the shop, struggling with a baby carrier and cursing as a flurry of snow surged around her. Frowning, the faery snapped her fingers and the shop door closed gently behind the new customer while the accumulating blanket of snow on the ground evaporated.
  
The woman immediately looked up, her eyes roving across the mostly empty coffeeshop until her eyes caught sight of Ariadne – specifically her pointed tip ears.  A myriad of emotions flowed across her face: relief, determination and hard-bellied desperation that made the faery’s face twist in aversion.
  
The barista coughed and Ariadne quickly schooled her face into something a little less hostile. It wouldn’t do to scare the human and risk her lodging a complaint with the Supernatural Regulation department – they wouldn’t hesitate to bring her in for ‘questioning’. 

Hurrying over, the woman plopped the baby carrier on the bar roughly and the infant inside immediately began to squall, a waterfall of tears streaming down its plump cheeks.
  
“All you do is cry,” The woman, presumably the baby’s mother, snarled. “just shut up for once!”
  
Hackles rising, Ariadne’s amber eyes flashed gold until the barista all but shoved a newly refilled mug of coffee into her hands. Nodding her thanks, she took a long swig, ignoring the woman’s blatant staring and the indiscreet clearing of her throat. 

“Can I help you?” Ariadne finally asked, utter loathing spilling out of her voice.
  
“I need to make a wish.” The woman practically spat the words, ignoring her whimpering child that the barista was soothing. “I heard you’re the person to come to. That you’re quick and discreet.”
  
Ariadne’s eyes roved across the woman; her clothes were slightly worn but of middling quality, the type found in generic department stores. Her blonde hair was a veritable rat’s nest, dark circles bloomed under her eyes and a formula milk stain stood out on the collar of the woman’s shirt.
  
Against her better judgment, something like sympathy slowly unfurled in the faery’s breast for the visibly exhausted mother – until she glared at her child, eyes simmering with anger and resentment. 

Ariadne’s face hardened. “What is it that you desire then, human?”
  
“My name is Ra-” She snapped her mouth shut with a clang of her teeth and Ariadne chuckled darkly. 

The laws could say whatever they wanted but it was still a bad idea to offer your name to a faery, hence why Ariadne still didn’t know the barista’s name even after six months of regularly patronizing the coffeeshop.
  
“I want to be famous.” The woman began instead, her voice growing in excitement. “I want my name in lights, across billboards and movie screens. I don’t want to live in this boring small town anymore, I want everyone in the world to know who I am.”
  
How mundane.
  
Ariadne smiled at her, a slow cruel thing and the barista looked up from the giggling baby in alarm.
  
“Very well, I can do that for you. But, what are you going to offer me in return?”
  
The woman reached inside her coat and pulled out a checkbook. Ariadne snorted and even the barista covered up her laugh with a cough.
  
“If you’ve come all this way to make a deal, you should know my kind doesn’t dabble with those kinds of payments.”
  
The woman flushed a mottled red, fingers twitching from the reprimand. Her baby let out loud giggle as the barista tickled its side and the woman’s face dawned in awareness. Snatching the carrier away from the startled barista, she shoved it towards Ariadne, her face alit with triumph.
  
“I don’t want the brat with me where I’m going. You can have her in exchange for my wish.”
  
The barista made a noise of protest, but Ariadne patted her hand and gave her a reassuring smile.
  
A twist of her wrist and a silver athame appeared in the faery’s hand, the ceremonial blade glistening brightly in spite of the dim lights. Ariadne cut her hand shallowly before offering the blade to the woman. She didn’t hesitate, snatching the athame and slashing her hand open. 

“We have a deal then. The babe in exchange for fame, effective immediately.”
  
The two of them shook, a flash of white light erupting from their joined hands to seal the contract. Moments later, the woman walked out the coffeeshop with a skip in her step and Ariadne sighed, looking at her gurgling new charge.
  
“I can’t believe she gave up her child for fame, of all things. She didn’t even notice that you were intentionally vague in your wording.” The barista scoffed, shaking her head.
  
“That’s what happens when you get too desperate.” Ariadne shrugged. “I get the kid, and she’ll become famous overnight. After getting pulled over with bags of money that just so happen to be missing from the local bank. There’ll be dozens of movie re-enactments and shows with experts trying to decipher how she did it while she sits in jail.”

As if on cue, police sirens sped past the building, rattling the windows. The barista and the faery looked at one another and burst out laughing.

All too soon, it was time to close up the coffeeshop for the evening and Ariadne waited patiently on the stoop, chuckling at the infant’s nonsensical babbling while the barista locked the door behind them.

“Well, that’s it then.” The barista breathed heavily, gazing at the faery with soft expectations. Rubbing her head sheepishly, Ariadne held out a circular disk.
  
“It’s an emergency amulet. You never know when one of those might come in handy.”
  
“What’s in it for you? A faery never does anything for free.” The barista teased. Ariadne’s cheeks flushed red.
  
The barista giggled and took the amulet, ducking down to deliver a quick kiss on Ariadne’s cheek. “I think a date is a fair enough trade. My shift ends tomorrow at three. Say hi to the gremlins for me.”
  
The faery watched bemusedly as the barista pulled off in her car before looking down at her new daughter nestled cozily in the carrier.
  
“Come along now, time to meet your fellow monsters.”
  
Taking a side-step, the two of them re-materialized in front of their home. It was oddly shaped like the letter L, with a sprawling ground level running horizontally while the connected circular tower jutted up several stories towards the sky on the side of the structure. Painted brown to blend in with the forest, it looked remarkably like a giant shoe.
  
“Gremlins, I know you’re still up! Come out and meet your new sibling!”
  
As if on cue, the front door at the “heel” of the shoe-like house opened and a stream of children ran out, their hands and mouths sticky from a late-night snack. They crowded around the newest member of their family, spitting out dozens of questions.
  
“I hope it’s a girl.” The eldest, Moira sniffed, looking every bit of sixteen going on thirty. “You haven’t brought one home in a while, and there’s too much testosterone in the house.” Glaring at the seven boys that outnumbered the three girls. 

“Let’s get her settled first and then I’ll answer your questions.” The girls cheered, glad for reinforcements while the boys groaned. Despite herself, Ariadne grinned as she herded her brood towards the house.

It’d be a pain to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to register her newest kid before the Supernatural Regulation department got into a snit and accused her of spiriting away children – again – but the faery wasn’t too concerned.

She had adopted yet another gremlin and gotten herself a date for tomorrow. Not bad for a day’s worth of work.
A native of Rochester, New York, Jade is currently earning an M.S. in User Experience and Interaction Design at Thomas Jefferson University. In between studying like a good student, she devours fairytales and composes fantasy stories. Follow her on Twitter @_Jade_Green_

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

2 comments:

  1. So much magic in this fun story!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Really enjoyed reading this! Faeries and coffee shops are always a fun combination.

    ReplyDelete

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