Meet Drake!! The handsome new stranger in Cold Spring :) You'll get to know him real well in my upcoming holiday romance, For the Love of Gingerbread!
“Order up!” I hit the bell and slid the plate of today’s special onto the front counter. I still can’t believe how far this place has come since I first started. The ad was so small I almost missed it. It was in the bottom right corner of the daily newspaper I happened to be flipping through in my parent’s living room. I was old school. I loved searching the want ads in black and white instead of scrolling on a computer screen. There was barely any description of what the job entailed, yet somehow that intrigued me.
Help Needed. Café growing. Looking for a new chef with unique menu ideas. Stop in any weekday between noon and two if interested.
Growing up on the opposite side of the river didn’t make me a huge expert on the town of Cold Spring, but I had been there a time or two. The last time was maybe ten years ago with my eighth-grade class to dive into the history of the West Point Foundry. I remember stopping at a pizza place on the main strip before the bus took us back over the Newburg-Beacon Bridge for home.
I read the ad four times before I circled it in red and then looked at my watch. I was twenty-three, out of school, and barely making ends meet. I had time to make the forty-minute drive that would eventually lead me to where I was right now, standing in front of the double oven of Mave’s Coffeehouse.
“Thanks, Drake,” Mave said. She snatched the plate from the counter. Her hair was frazzled from the constant back and forth to the tables that morning. Her white apron had coffee stains on it. Her almond-shaped eyes looked tired and she was out of breath, but there was still a smile on her face seeing how busy we were. It was a rarity these days, so even though I was moving double time, I appreciated it. Mave did too. I looked up to see her peering through the opening that separated the kitchen from the rest of the café. “We’re getting low on muffins out here. Do we have any more in there?” Mave asked.
“I think I have one tray. I’ll go look.” I spun around and hurled myself back towards the pan rack where I found a dozen more blueberry muffins topped with a lemon glaze. I slid them from their place under the double chocolate brownies and restacked the display before taking another ticket from the order line. Mave and I did a little line dancing around each other. There wasn’t much room behind the counter and I wasn’t sure with her lightning speed through the room that she saw the muffins. “Blueberry muffins are good to go, Mave.”
“You’re the best decision I ever made.” She winked at me.
Mave said I was the best person for the job when she called to offer it to me, but to be honest, I think I was the only one in the running. Growing up in a small town usually means aching for life in a big city, which is where most of those I graduated with ended up. Not me though. I loved being able to see the stars at night. I never needed an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. The birds did that. The sounds of them chirping their way into my dreams and easing me into the morning light was soothing. I felt the same way about the bell to the café that meant the last customer left for the day.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, but after a full shift, there’s no better feeling than throwing down the towel and letting out a heavy sigh to catch my breath. Mave met me in the kitchen to do the same.
“Today was a good day,” she said. “I feel like things are starting to look up.” I wrapped my flour-covered arm around her shoulder.
“We’ll get there Mave. Business has already started to pick up since we introduced the breakfast menu and baked goods. It’s almost doubled our revenue.”
The way Mave was staring into the abyss in front of us made me feel sad. The coffeehouse was her late father’s legacy. Being an only child, it was both a blessing and a curse when she inherited it. Her memories were alive and well between these walls, but the financials were a mess. She couldn’t believe how much her father hadn’t told her, but she understood. Second to Mave, the coffeehouse was his baby. He put his heart, soul, and every dollar he ever owned into this place.
“Hopefully we can keep it up,” Mave said, “or come the new year we might both be out of a job.”
I couldn’t stand the thought of not waking up every morning to come to Mave’s. Besides my cozy two-bedroom apartment above the hardware store, this is where I spent most of my time. Even after the doors were locked, Mave let me stay and play in the kitchen to see what kind of creation I could come up with next. I liked that a part of me was slowly become immersed here. Before I started, the coffeehouse was strictly that…coffee. There was hot coffee, iced coffee, and blended coffee. After three years of grinding coffee beans without her father, Mave knew she needed to make a change, and thank goodness I needed one too because the two of us made a darn good team.
Mave manned the counter. She made the coffee and served the tables and I tucked myself between the oven and the chopping block to meet the demands of the newly introduced menu I incorporated. When it was really busy, Mave’s daughter Alice would help out for a few hours, but being a teenager, working at her mom’s place wasn’t the cool thing to do.
“Alright kid,” Mave said. She pulled the towel slung over her shoulder and whipped it at me. “Get outta here. Go enjoy the day. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. I could tell by the way her brows melted together though that she needed some time alone.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said. I saw my reflection in the metal of the pot hanging above me. My arm wasn’t the only thing covered in flour. I dusted the bits of white off my cheeks and my forehead and switched out my chef coat for the winter one hanging by the door.
The sun was hiding today and the snow was falling. It was my favorite kind of snow. The fluffy kind where the snowflakes fall like feathers before they land. I didn’t have far to walk back to my place, but the thick blanket of white made it hard to see too far in front of me. Every few feet I’d take a step and the ice would get me. I’d skate my way forward until I caught my balance and I’d start walking again.
I loved the snow. I loved this town. I loved the people. They loved this town and they loved Mave’s Coffeehouse. I thought about how long the roots of that coffeehouse were as I pushed through the blindness to the door that would lead me up a flight of stairs to my apartment. I wanted to preserve those roots. Mave’s still had a lot more life left in it and I was determined to figure out how to find it.