Raven pretty much followed the same routine every morning; a blind drill of wake up, brush teeth, wash face, throw on the first shirt and jeans she could find in her wardrobe before rushing to the nearest Starbucks to get herself a hot chocolate. With only half a shot of caramel, as opposed to the usual one. Sometimes when her best friend Rea stayed over the night before she would order a sandwich for them to share, but otherwise it was a pretty standard procedure of trudging her way to the counter and ordering the same thing.
Now, Raven liked order. She thrived on it, because it meant stability in the midst of an otherwise messed-up existence. So when her drink was passed back to her that one fine Monday morning, this time with green handwriting on it instead of the usual black, she raised an eyebrow in mild discontentment. The colour looked a little off-beat and it didn’t quite go, but what really irked her were the cancel marks scrawled on the bottom of the paper cup.
Some cheeky random had cancelled out most of the words in the sentence: “Caution, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot”. Which would have been fine and all- people did have their idiosyncrasies and sometimes did the strangest things, but the real thing that irked her was the fact that the sentence now read:
“You’re extremely hot.”
A number was scrawled next to the line in messy chicken scratch, along with a smiley face. No name was given, though, and there was no indication of which of the three people behind the counter had written the message.
Shooting the counter a dirty look, her eyes met those of the barista that had served her. Some punk with a bandanna and blue in his hair, along with dancing teal eyes that sparkled as he shot her a wink. Thin lips curled up into a smirk, and he mouthed the words, “Call me.”
Hastily, she turned away, frowning and regretting the moment that she had caught his gaze. Heaving a sigh, she finished up the rest of her drink calmly and slowly, before making her way to university as usual, ensuring that she crumpled up the paper cup on her way out and flung it into the bin.
The next morning arrived with no fanfare and no dramatic music blaring in the background. After all, you couldn’t expect niceties like that from day-to-day, couldn’t expect too many bursts of colour in the monotony of life. Not that she was upset about it, of course. Monochromatic shades of grey suited her best, along with the majority of the world. And it was the fact that most events and people were so dreary that gave the few pops of colour their vibrancy and joy. Stepping into the Starbucks once again, Raven couldn’t help but smile.
She was friends with Rea for a reason. And this day, she was going to surprise the other girl at university with a passion fruit frappucino with extra syrup on top. Ice-blended, and with three extra straws. Raven snorted.
Why anyone would drink that in the cold was beyond her, of course, but then again most things that Rea did simply went over her head. Strolling up to the counter, the dark-haired girl was about to place her order when she realized the identity of the male standing behind it.
Teal eyes met grey, and he shot her a wide grin.
“Let me guess. Hot chocolate, with only half a shot of caramel. Right?” She quirked an eyebrow.
“Yes,” she said. “That, and-” Before she could finish her sentence, though, he had keyed her usual into the till. Shooting her yet another smirk, he continued:
“And nothing else, right? That would be three pounds and fif-” Seizing the chance, she quickly cut him off.
“Actually, no. I’d also like a passion fruit frappucino, please.” Her tone was polite, formal, curt. The blue-haired male stuck out his lower lip.
“You doing this just to spite me or something? Your sidekick isn’t with you today,” he chortled, drumming his fingers on the bartop. “That’s her order. Whereas you’ve been ordering the same thing for exactly ninety-eight days in a row. There was a one-day break where you presumably fell sick before that, and your friend came in and ordered the exact same thing for you, but you’ve been in here exactly four hundred and ninety-eight times, and you always get the same thing.”
Brief silence. She stared at him in disbelief. Her lips parted to speak, but no words came out; quickly, she found her hands darting towards her purse, grabbing hold of a five-pound note and practically shoving it at the barista. The smirk was still plastered over his face: the look of a man who thought that he had won a verbal conflict.
… Or had he?
“You’re bullshitting me,” she retorted, her face still expressionless, her tone still deadpan. “I haven’t been in this city for all that long, and less than a year ago, I spent a weekend in London.”
In the background, his redheaded male co-worker let out a “Told ya,” while the female, an evidently younger beauty with hair dyed in streaks of purple and blue, palmed her face, shaking her head as she shot the male with a bandanna a sideways glare. Raven glanced up at the male who was serving her, and his sheepish grin and resigned shrug gave her some sort of mild inner satisfaction.
She even allowed a small smile to creep up on her face as she collected her drink, only for it to fall from her face when she noticed that he had left her the same message. Again, in green ink, only this time there was an extra smiley face next to it and a “Really, it’s true.”
She took a gulp from her drink as she flopped down on one of the cushioned chairs.
He evidently wasn’t going to let up, was he? Unless… Pulling out a black Sharpie from her handbag, she crossed out the entire sentence he had written, and printed the words in upright, streamlined font:
“And you’re extremely irritating.”
With that, she finished up the drink, and left the cup on the table, hoping that he would pick it up and leave her alone for the remainder of the time he worked here, until he got laid off because of his own idiocy or the economic downturn.
“But that’s part of my charm!” her paper cup had said the next day, along with a sad face and what was presumably his number once again. She rolled her eyes as she read the message, and shot him the most irritated look she could muster. Again, he reciprocated with his usual combination of a smile and a wink, before trotting off to serve the next person in line. Raven actually groaned.
Some guys just couldn’t take a hint, could they?
After gulping down the last drops of her drink (it tasted better than usual, more chocolate-y and less sickeningly sweet) she pulled out the Sharpie once again. This time, she wrote on the cup:
For a second, she contemplated leaving the cup there for him to pick up, but decided against it. Evidently, it wasn’t enough to keep him from leaving more messages on the pristine whiteness of the cup; she would have to be a little more blatant to drive the point home.
Taking a good look at him out of the corner of his eye, she quirked an eyebrow as she watched him high-five the redhead before dashing off to make another drink. He was cute, certainly, but she simply wasn’t interested in romance. A-and he had blue hair, for crying out loud! Not that she had a thing against people with unnatural hair colours, heck, her best friend was Rea, who dyed her long tresses a different hue every few weeks or so. But still, she wouldn’t date her, would she?
Whatever it was, the bandanna-wearing, always-smirking jerk was probably shitting her anyway. Sticking the cap back on the marker, she removed the lid from her cup once more, just to make sure that none of the best hot chocolate she had ever had would go to waste out of her frustration.
And then she walked up to the counter, where bandanna boy and redhead were teasing the girl about something or other while she rolled her eyes and wiped the glass cabinet. Yet again grey eyes met teal, and he walked up towards where she was standing to collect the used bit of paper.
“Do you like it better this way?” he smiled. “I can change the ingredients up a little, as long as my boss doesn’t find out. Azzy-baby does-” Before he could say anything else though, she had walked off and left, leaving him and the cup in the distance. She could have sworn that she heard another male voice go: “Girl’s as good at this game as you are,” and the younger girl tell him that he deserved everything he had coming, but she quickly decided that it was only her imagination.
Besides, university beckoned, and so did her upcoming exams. She didn’t have the time to deal with something like this, though the excellence of that hot chocolate would keep her going back for more.
Annoying barista, or no annoying barista.
Wei Yun is writing this in the dead of winter, and wishes it were extremely hot.
Image taken from here