March’s short story is brought to you by a random idea I had one day that spiraled into something bigger.

(Yes, this is a sneak peek of “Vanilla Latte.”)

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!

Vanilla Latte (Part Two)

“How are you doing?” Katrina asked, breaking the silence. She and Andrea had rode in the car without saying a word to each other until they reached a red light. They were almost at Andrea’s apartment, which is why Andrea thought Katrina was just asking about her feelings now.

“I’m fine,” she replied. “How are you doing?”

Katrina sighed, still looking at the road. “I don’t know what I’m feeling, to be honest. I’ve only read books where things like this happened. I never imagined it was something that would happen in real life, let alone to us at our cafe.”

“I’m sorry you’re going to have to close the cafe for a while,” Andrea stated.

Katrina scoffed. “Oh, Andrea, I don’t care about the coffee shop. I’ll figure out a way to ensure you guys all still get compensated somehow. I don’t know if I’ll be able to give you all your fair rate, but I’ll see what I can do.”

Andrea straightened in the front seat, staring at her boss. “Oh, no, that’s not at all what I meant. I just know the coffee shop is important to you, that’s all. I wasn’t looking to get paid.”

Katrina cast a gentle smile in Andrea’s direction before moving through the green light. “I know you didn’t mean it in that way. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about most of the afternoon.”

Andrea leaned back in her seat again. How could Katrina think of money all afternoon? Andrea was too busy trying not to stare at the dead body.

Katrina pulled the car over to the side of the road in front of Andrea’s building. She put the car in park and sat back. “Before you go,” she said.

Andrea unbuckled her seatbelt and then paused.

“Promise me that you’ll reach out if you need to talk to someone about what happened today?” Katrina asked. “I know I’m no therapist, but I’m here if you need an ear. Not just about what happened today, either, but for anything. I don’t want you feeling alone, especially now.”

What in the world was she talking about? Sure, it was nice of Katrina to offer and they all went through a traumatic experience today, but Andrea had a feeling Katrina was speaking about more than just what happened at the cafe.

Unsure of what else to do, Andrea smiled at her boss. “Don’t worry about anything, Katrina. I know you have my back. I hope you know that I have yours, too, alright? You can call me for anything, too.”

Katrina nodded. “I know, I know, but I’m the boss. And I’m older than you.”

Andrea chuckled. “You’re older than me by, what, five years?”

“Four,” Katrina corrected.

Andrea laughed again. “Exactly, you’re the same age as my sister. I know you’re here for me outside of work.”

Katrina stared at Andrea.

“Oh, wait,” Andrea said, groaning. “Is that what this is about? My sister moving out?”

Katrina shrugged. “I don’t know how comfortable I feel about you being alone during this time, that’s all. I know you were upset that your sister is moving out and you were stressed about making ends meet with the rent… and now you’re going to be out of work for who knows how long, you know?”

“Katrina, I’m fine. I’m promise.”

“Is your sister here tonight?”

“I’m not sure. She’s moving in with her boyfriend this weekend, but she sleeps over his house a lot. I won’t know if she’s home until I head up.”

“She doesn’t tell you when she’s not coming home?”

Andrea shook her head. “I have her location on my phone, though. It’s okay.”

Katrina let out another sigh.

Andrea smiled, opening the car door. “Thanks for the ride. Get some good sleep tonight.”

“You too,” Katrina said.

Andrea closed the car door, knowing that Katrina was about to say something else, but she didn’t want to hear it. She turned her back on the car, entering her apartment building. As she walked through the lobby, she waved to Katrina through the large windows. Her boss always waited to make sure Andrea got into the building okay.

She watched Katrina pulled off the side of the road and turn the corner. Andrea sighed, suddenly tried. If she could take a nap on the floor right then and there, she would.

Still she never got her steps in from walking home. So, Andrea walked by the elevator and entered the stairs to walk up the five flights to her apartment.

As Andrea walked up the first flight, she hoped her sister wasn’t home. It had been such a long day and she wasn’t in the mood to hear her sister gush about her day or what her cutesy boyfriend texted her in this afternoon.

As she walked up the second flight, she realized that it might be nice to hear about what her cutesy boyfriend texted her sister all day. It would, at the very least, get Andrea’s mind off of the events that happened at work today.

When Andrea rounded the corner, beginning to walk up the third flight, she silently hoped her sister was home. The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to talk about the events that happened at the coffee shop that day. As much as she wanted to get her mind off of things, she wanted to talk about it and get it off her chest. Everyone kept saying what a traumatic days it’s been, but Andrea didn’t feel traumatize, just shocked.

Or was that trauma?

Shaking her head, Andrea began to walk up the fourth flight of stairs, manifesting silently that her sister was home. She wanted to talk about it, she didn’t want to talk about it. She wanted to hear about the boyfriend, she didn’t want to hear about the boyfriend. None of it mattered.

All Andrea knew was that she didn’t want to be alone tonight.

She exited the staircase, upon stepping onto the fifth floor. She opened the door to the hallway, taking a right. She wandered absented mindedly through the hall before she reached the end, taking another right.

When Andrea and her sister had moved in here two years ago, there were two apartments available. Room 18 on the second floor or room 55 on the fifth floor. Andrea wanted the room on the second floor. It’d be easier to move their furniture in, quicker to bring in groceries, and easier to get up and down the stairs.

However, all her sister heard was the angel number 555 – fifth floor, room 55. It represented independence and aided in transitions.

It was a sign, so naturally, Andrea’s sister had told the landlord they’d take room 55 on the fifth floor without consulting with her.

Andrea didn’t mind though. Sure, it was a pain to bring groceries upstairs, but they made it work. She was just happy her sister took her along so that Andrea didn’t need to live alone with their parents.

Andrea made it to her apartment, opening the door. Music played from the blue tooth speaker in the kitchen, so Andrea knew that her sister was home. Some days, after a long day, this annoyed Andrea. But today, it was a relief.

Comforting, almost.

“Hey, you’re back early!”

Andrea narrowed her eyes at her sister poking her head around the corner. She looked at the time in her phone. Her shift had begun at six in the morning, the police help them there for hours, and it was now four in the afternoon. If Andrea was going to be on time coming home, she wouldn’t have made it back here until two. If anything, she was later than late, not early.

“How are you doing, Elle?” Andrea asked, closing the door behind her and locking it.

“Good, good,” Elle responded from the other room. “Today was rough, huh?”

Andrea paused in the living room. “Oh, uh, yeah. Have you seen the news?”

Elle emerged from her bedroom, putting the finishing touches on her hair. Her face scrunched in disgust. “Oh, no. I don’t watch the news, it’s too depressing.”

Andrea nodded in agreement. Although, she wondered if the coffee shop and Calvin’s death was even on the news.

“I was talking about my day being rough,” Elle continued, oblivious to her sister’s exhaustion. “You know how I told you that my work is trying out this new intern program? Well, they started yesterday and I was assigned one of the interns today. I’m not really supposed to do anything with the intern other than help them help me, which doesn’t really make any sense to me whatsoever. I don’t know how they expect me to do my job and show someone the ropes, but whatever. Anyway…”

Andrea nodded as her sister spoke, pretending to listen, as she mindlessly shifting through the junk mail sitting on the end table by the door.

“Can you believe that? How do people not know how to work a coffee maker? So, I needed to take time out of my day to show this poor sap how to use the coffee maker. They’re 18 years old and never had a cup of coffee in their life? Oh, please. They’re in college. What do they do when they pull all-nighters for homework? I mean, they drink caffeine, right?”

“I think the kids these days are drinking energy drinks,” Andrea said in a dull tone. She moseyed her way over to the couch, sitting down, watching Elle pry a curler out of her brunette hair.

“Energy drinks?” Elle finally stopped speaking. She shrugged, tossing the curler back into her bedroom. “Well, I wouldn’t know. I never pulled all-nighters because I knew how to manage my time. Anyway, I introduced this poor soul to the wonderful world of coffee-”

“Are you going out?” Andrea interrupted what she was sure was a riveting story.

“Hm?” Elle tossed the other curler into her room, while glancing at the digital clock on the oven. “Oh, shit, I’m late.”

Andrea chuckled. The irony.

Elle disappeared back into her bedroom, still talking. “Yes, I’m going out. Harvey’s taking me to this fancy steakhouse place. Ever heard of it?”

Andrea curled a lip in confusion. “I don’t know, which of the many steakhouses are you talking about?”

“Hey,” Elle poked her head out of her bedroom, “you should come with us.”

Andrea immediately shook her head, standing up from the couch. She made her way through the living room and into her own bedroom. “No, thank you. I’m all set.”

“Why not?” Elle whined, following her sister.

“I’m not crashing your date,” Andrea said sternly.

“Harvey won’t mind at all. He’s been wanting to meet you.”

Andrea rolled her eyes, sitting down on her bed. “So you say, but you still won’t introduce us.”

“I’m trying to right now,” Elle replied bluntly. “Come on, it’ll be fun. You never get out of the apartment unless it’s for work and you two are my favorite people in the world. I want you guys to meet.”

Andrea’s stomach dropped at the thought of work. She had completely forgotten about the events that day.

“Please?” Elle pressed gently. “I can’t tell you’ve had a rough day. You need this.”

Andrea sighed, though she still didn’t give a positive response.

On the one hand, if Andrea tagged along, she’d get a steak dinner. Otherwise, she was probably going to make herself instant noodles and then crave a midnight snack later on.

If Andrea went with them, then it would surely get her mind off of the events from the day. Then again, she could also turn on some really old, bad comfort movies and drown herself in popcorn.

It was one thing to go out and socialize with her sister, Andrea didn’t mind that at all. In fact, she would love to do that. They two of them didn’t really hang out and go places together anymore. But did she feel like socializing with a third person? Did she feel up to meeting someone new?

Maybe Harvey was an easy-going guy and simple to get along with. Maybe it would finally give Andrea a bit of piece of mind about her sister moving in with a guy.

Or, maybe Andrea would end up being the third wheel.

Andrea snapped out of her thoughts as she soon as her sister’s hand waved in front of her face.

“What?” she batted Elle’s hand away.

Elle smirked, folding her arms over her chest. “You had your thinking face on again and I didn’t think you were going to come back to reality for a moment. So, do you want to come to dinner with us or not?”

Andrea hesitated to answer.

Elle sighed, sitting down on the bed beside her. “Listen,” she said gently, “I know it’s weird that I’m breaking up this duo and I’m going to move in with a man who you still haven’t met yet.”

Andrea pinched the bridge of her nose. Elle was the older sister, but her lectures were awful. And, she knew, that if she interrupted Elle, then Elle would only lecture her for interrupting and then start all over again. So, she had no choice but to sit and take it.

“I didn’t want you to meet Harvey for a while because I think I was in a little bit of denial. But I really like him and think that he and I can take this relationship to the next level. That’s why, after a year of being with him, I’m moving in. But we’ll still hang out and talk every day and-“

“I’m not upset about that at all,” Andrea interrupted anyway. “I’m happy for you, Elle, really. Part of me is sad that I won’t be seeing you every day anymore and I don’t like that you’re moving in with someone I’ve never met. You and Harvey have been together for a whole year and…”

“And I didn’t want to bring him home to meet you unless I was absolutely sure that he’d fit in well with our family,” Elle finished her sister’s sentence.

Andrea furrowed her brows, trying not to smirk. “That’s a load of crap and you know it.”

Elle chuckled. “There really wasn’t much time, honestly. You were going from job to job before you found this cafe gig and he works weird hours, sometimes long hours.”

Andrea frowned. “You know, I realized I don’t even know what Harvey does for a living.”

Elle smiled gently at her. “You never asked. You never really seemed interested.”

Andrea pressed her lips together, embarrassed. She was always a bit stubborn about Elle having a boyfriend. “Oh. Sorry.”

Elle rubbed Andrea’s arm. “It’s alright, just come to dinner with us please? You can grill him all you want, I don’t care.”

Andrea grinned deviously. “Really? I won’t embarrass you? Or him?”

Elle shrugged. “You might embarrass him, but hey, you’re my sister. I assume he’d expect a little grilling from you.”

Her phone buzzed and Elle immediately looked at the screen. “Ugh, he’s here. He’s always early, we have to go.” She stood up from the bed.

“I thought you said you were already late?” Andrea asked.

Elle winked at her sister. “That’s because Harvey is always early. He told me five o’clock, so I aimed to be ready for 4:30 and now it’s…” she gasped. “4:44! It’s a sign!”

Andrea groaned. “A sign for what now?”

“Our guardian angels are watching over us. We have their love and support,” Elle said, closing her eyes drifting to another world Andrea knew only existed in her sister’s mind. “It’s a sign that you and Harvey are supposed to meet tonight and all will go well.”

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Rachel Poli

Rachel Poli

Author

Rachel Poli is a multi-genre author with a soft spot for mystery.

She often experiments with short stories and flash fiction, however, she's currently working on the first book of her detective fiction series.

When she's not writing, she's usually cleaning, reading, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.

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