The Coffee Shop, The Harpy, and the Jock

This is why I can’t have nice things. Covered in hot, foamy coffee and the center of attention I tried to make a discreet exit, but heaven forbid I get out of this with my dignity intact. The coffee and teas I’d been carrying hadn’t just wet my apron. Oh no, they’d managed to spill up and over it, spraying across my chest to drip down between my breasts. Yup. I had no doubt that my favorite shirt and brand new bra were destroyed. But that’s not the worst. 

To add to my humiliation, the person I least wanted to witness this, walked in just as a rather large dollop of foam plopped from my chest and onto the floor. His black hair was perfectly quaffed, the shirt he wore tight against his chest. His chestnut-colored eyes were bright as they entered but darkened as he took in the scene before him. I looked away, unwilling to see his reaction.

Simone, that stupid crone, sat perfectly at her table, the foot she’d stuck out now demurely tucked behind her other one. Her hair and make-up were perfect, as always, but the malicious gleam in her eyes was outshone by the amusement she felt at my folly.  Between her and her friend’s shrill, hiccuping laughter everyone had turned to stare. 

So there I sat, covered in hot liquids that burned my skin and made me flinch from the pain. At least no one else had been hurt. In an attempt to keep the drinks from spraying on a customer, I’d turned as I fell taking the full torrent of scalding liquid across my arms and chest. As I’d fallen, I’d landed on my hip which now throbbed angrily.  Shifting the tray to the floor beside me, I sat up. I picked up the mugs still on my lap and cursed as I felt fluid sink into my jeans. Awesome.

“Alia, are you okay?” Miah, one of the other patrons, asked.

“Yes,” I groaned. “Is everyone else okay? I didn’t get any on you right?”

“No, but you’re covered.” She bent to help me up but I shook my head no.

“I noticed that.”

I got to my knees and cursed. My hand had landed on a broken piece of glass, the sharp edge cutting into flesh. I sat back on my feet pressing my fingers closed as blood filled my palm. Red seeped from my fist then down my forearm. That didn’t bother me so much until the voice that always managed to make my body go warm spoke up.

“What the hell happened? And why is no one helping her?” Rohan pushed through the crowd. He glared at Simone and her friends as he passed, whispering something which had her eyes going wide and their laughter fading away.

The world stopped. What was that about? My heart sped as his face appeared before me, his striking eyes meeting mine. 

“You’re bleeding. Bloody hell, why is everyone just standing around?”

He reached out and grasped the back of my arms. With very little effort he lifted me to my feet just as Heather, another barista, appeared with a few white cleaning cloths. Grabbing a dry one, Rohan wrapped it around my fist.

“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and this cut checked out.” His palm rested on my lower back as he guided me through the tables and toward the back. “Joseph, can you help get this cleaned up?”

“No problem,” Joseph said. Rohan’s teammate sunk down and with Heather’s help, began cleaning the mess.

Rohan led me past the counter and into the back room where a large sink stood. 

“You shouldn’t be back here,” I said, unable to look at him. My arms stung, the red welts brightening against my tanned skin. Tears stung my eyes.

“I think your manager will forgive me. And anyway, we need to get you cleaned up and your hand bandaged.” He turned on the cold water and made me lean just a bit over the sink. “Put those burns under the water. We need to bring the temperature down and stop them from getting worse.”

Leaning to the side, he removed a handful of paper towels. Rohan ran them under the water so that they were wet. Then he faced me. I’m halfway in the sink at this point, trying to cool the burns higher on my arm.

“I know this is weird, but you look like you’re in real pain. I can see the red marks on your chest. If you’re okay with it, I’ll hold this to them. Just the ones I see while you keep your arms in the water.”

“You want to hold that to my chest?” The question wouldn’t have been a big deal if my voice hadn’t cracked. 

Rohan bit his lip to hold back a smile. “I promise it’s not a line.”

I snorted, “I’m sure that’s what they all say. It’s fine.”

A girly squeak escaped my lips as the cold cloth touched my skin. Almost instantly it began to feel better. I closed my eyes, unable to believe this was happening. My crush and the hottest guy at school was holding a cool cloth to my skin and clucking after me like a mother hen. 

“So, what happened?” he asked.

I glanced up, only then realizing he was inches from me. This close I could smell the soap he used. It was mixed with his own scent, sunlight, and earth. It was intoxicating.

“Um…I tripped.”

“And by that you mean the harpy named Simone thought it would be funny to trip you,” he said. I bit my lip but didn’t say anything. His eyes lowered to watch the movement. “Of course she did. I swear that woman’s a menace.”

“I think the phrase you’re looking for is malicious bitch from hell.”

He laughed. “Yes, that’s a much better phrase. Accurate too.” He smiled down at me. “I think this is the most I’ve ever heard you talk. Unless you’re helping customers that is.”

I straightened and Rohan stepped back. Removing the cloth wrapping my fist, I opened my hand to find crimson painting my skin. He cursed, but I just placed it under the water. At my wince, his hand pressed to my lower back.

“Here, let me see.” He took my hand out of the water and looked at the wound. It wasn’t bad, maybe two inches long with only one deep section. “I don’t think you need stitches, but it definitely needs a bandage. Do you have a first aid kit?”

“Over there,” I pointed, then asked, “Why are you helping me?”

Rohan grabbed the first aid kit then began to rummage through it. He removed a bandage and some antibacterial ointment placing them on the counter. I leaned against the prep table and watched as he avoided my question. When he took my hand, removing the paper towel I pressed to it and meeting my eyes, I could barely breathe.

“I know how they treat you; Simone and her cronies. It’s not cool. We’ve been trying to get her to stop, but….”

“What are you talking about? You don’t know me, let alone acknowledge me at school. You’ve never even spoken to me.”

He shrugged. “True, but that’s because you make me nervous.”

“Nervous?” I said, with a laugh. Warmth spread down my spine and I had to work to control my breathing.  “Me?”

“Yeah.” His eyes flicked up for just a moment before he placed the bandage over the wound. “You’re beautiful. Way out of my league.”

“What?” This time it squeaked.  I was doing great not embarrassing myself. “You’re the captain of the football team, the leader of the debate club, and the most swooned-over guy in our school. Okay, probably the surrounding ones too.”

He chuckled. “So you know of me then?”

I would have rolled my eyes, but I had been struck dumb by the smile he shot me. 

“And I’m…I’m…Well, I’m no one.”

“You’re not no one. You’re smart – you kill it in the decathlon. You’re a hard worker not only here but in school. You skateboard every day and can out trick anyone who challenges you. Which is super hot by the way. I know from sitting behind you in calculus that you’re funny. And you’re beautiful.”

I tried to pull my hand from his, but his grip tightened. He stepped closer and ran a thumb across its back. I didn’t know what to say.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“How are you feeling? Better?”

“I’m confused and rather uncomfortable having this conversation while soaked in cappuccino and herbal teas.”

He smiled. “Would you consider having dinner with me?”

I knew my mouth had gaped open, but I couldn’t find any way to close it. Luckily, Heather stepped into the back shocking me out of the haze that had overtaken me. I stepped back, blinking wildly.

“Alia,” She said, rushing over. “Are you okay? That was awful, why is she so evil?”

“I’m fine. Wet, sore, but fine.”

“Well, I called Jerome and told him everything. He’s coming in to cover. He wants you to take the rest of the night off and make sure your parents look at your burns. They look awful.”

“But my mom can’t pick me up until after eight. I- I guess I can see if Barb next door can come to get me.”

“No need,” Rohan said. “I can drive you home and, maybe after you get cleaned up, we can go get pizza? Or, we can go another time. Totally up to you.”

Heat rose in my cheeks and I swallowed hard. Damn, I was blushing. I’d nearly forgotten he was there. How, I had no idea considering he still held my hand, and at some point, he’d leaned against the table next to me. I could feel the heat of his body, he was so close.

Heather clearly hadn’t because her smile grew wider and her gaze jumped back and forth between us. “That’s perfect! Thank you so much! Alia, get your purse. Let him take you home and if you don’t take him up on dinner I’ll pour whipped cream down your pants again.”

Rohan let out a startled laugh while I just glared. 

“We’re not starting that fight again. I won last time, remember? And we both almost got fired because of it.”

“Technicality. And that’s beside the point. You want to avoid another war, then go on a date with that hot piece of man meat holding your hand.”


Rohan was shaking with laughter and I couldn’t blame him. Heather was a force to be reckoned with.

“You’re so gonna get it,” I said to Heather, who just clapped her hands knowing she’d won. I met Rohan’s eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay with taking me home so I can de-sugar?”

His eyebrow raised, but he held back comment. “Of course. Are you up for dinner after?” 

I bit my lip and nodded. 

“Awesome. Let’s go.”

I grabbed my purse and jacket, flinging them over my shoulder. When I joined him, he placed his hand on my back and guided me out. I could feel the eyes on me, but in my embarrassment, I couldn’t lookup. 

We met Joseph at the door. He held out a cup to Rohan who took it with thanks.

“Joe, I can’t go out tonight.”


Rohan shook his head. “I have more important plans.”

“Is that so?” His gaze swung to me, a smile spreading across his face. “He finally asked you out, huh? Took him long enough.”

“That or he feels sorry for me.” I held out my arms. “Because let’s be honest, no one wants to go out with a girl covered in welts.”

“You’re beautiful, welts or no welts,” Rohan said, opening the passenger door to a blue truck. I slid in knowing that I was blushing again based on the way the welts darkened. Really? Like I needed another sign of my awkwardness.

Joseph sat behind me, and before Rohan slid in, he said, “He’s had a crush on you for over a year. Be nice to him okay? He’s significantly shier than you’d think.”

“He’s the most popular guy in school. Girls are all over him, all the time,”  I said dumbfounded.

“Which makes it worse. He hates it. He’s a really nice guy, Alia, and he really likes you.”

I didn’t say anything because, just then, Rohan opened the driver-side door.

“We’re dropping Alia off first so she can clean up. Then, if she doesn’t back out, I’m taking her to dinner. We can hang out later. Cool?” Rohan asked.

“Definitely,” he patted Rohan on the shoulder.

“I’m not going to back out,” I said, seriously. Rohan’s eyes met mine.  “Heather’s wrath just isn’t worth it. Plus, how could I say no to the guy who took care of me after the most embarrassing moment I’ve had since entering high school.”

His lip quirked and I swear I swooned. “I’ve heard she’s a force to be reckoned with.”

I laughed. “That she is. Now, Mr. Hot Piece of Man Meat, take me home so that we can go get some pizza.”

Joseph choked. “Mister what now?”

Rohan managed to hold back a grin only long enough to point at Joseph and say, “That will never leave this truck. It gets out or you ever refer to me like that, and I’ll put whipped cream in your boxers.”

“Boxers?” I said. “Wow, that’s a setup from pants. You’re hardcore.”

Rohan winked, then started the car.

Joseph leaned between the front seats. “Um, I feel like I’m missing something.”

“You are, but keep in mind that if he doesn’t do it, I will. And I have no trouble getting creative,” I said, meeting his eyes.

He blanched and sat back against his seat. “Damn, Ro. She’s awesome. Little scary, but awesome. You better treat her right or I’m gonna ask her out.”

“Don’t even think about it.”

I was picking at my nails as we turned onto the street my mind spinning a thousand miles a minute.  How in the world had this happened to me? Was I really in a car with Rohan? Had he really asked me out? Oh my god.

I jumped when Rohan reached over and took my hand to stop my fidgeting. I was about to pull away when I noticed the shy, hesitant expression on his face. He was nervous. He tried to pretend he wasn’t, but by the way he watched me from the corner of his eye, I knew he was. I pressed my lips together, the sweet gesture causing butterflies to fill my stomach. Taking a breath I told myself I could do this. I could be brave and take a chance. I did every day when I skateboarded, why not here? I laced my fingers with his and he shot me a surprised look. 

I glanced out the window before I told him the truth. “I’ve had a crush on you for forever, too.”

“Oh!” Joseph said, stretching out the single syllable. “You two are adorable. I am so glad I was here to witness this.” 

“Shut up,” we said in unison, which made us all laugh.

The night was amazing. They dropped me off, I got cleaned up, and then we went on a date. I have no idea how the most embarrassing moment of my life turned into the best night of my life, but it did. The best part was, at school the next day, telling Simone thank you for setting us up. Now that had to be the highlight of my year. She spat out her soda all over her cronies who sat with her in the lunchroom and began screaming. Then Rohan had walked up, wrapped his arm around my waist, and escorted me to the table where Joseph and a few other guys sat. as we sat down, Rohan leaned over to whisper in my ear. The moment he asked me out again, I said yes.

Published on OBW Blog May 7, 2021 © Tracey Canole

Scroll to Top