A strong scent of smoke filled the room.
"No, no, no, no, no!"
Abigail Waters of age 24, stared down forlornly at her new uniform.
"Abby? What's that smell?"
She heard a snort from the door and looked up to see her flatmate, Clara, peaking in. "Don't tell me you burnt it?"
"I'm absolute shite at ironing," Abby said, holding up her work blouse in the light. "It's not that bad, is it?"
Clara refrained from answering. "Aren't you going to be wearing an apron, anyway?" she asked, instead.
"Yeah, but it's not going to cover all of it," she said, hands on her hips as she stared down the iron with a frown.
"Ah, well," she shrugged a second later. "It's not as if I'm particularly excited about this job, anyway."
Clara merely rolled her eyes and retreated back to her room.
After finally getting ready, Abby called out her goodbyes and began the short trek to the café just a couple streets away. It was one of those rare, sunny days that she simply adored and that filled her with a surge of happiness. She had the strongest urge to just start jogging or maybe do a little twirl.
Glancing surreptitiously around for any passersby, she smiled impishly and twirled around with her arms out and head back, facing the sun.
Then a few seconds later, she cleared her throat and continued her brisk walk as if nothing had happened.
"Waters, right on time," a voice called as she entered the shop.
Abby smiled at her boss, as she quickly threw on her apron.
"Which means you're late."
The smile was immediately wiped off her face.
"I want you here at least 15 minutes before the start of your shift," the older woman stated brusquely. "Now, go and clear those back tables."
"Yes, Ms. Appleton."
Harry Potter sat in his usual seat by the window, not making eye contact with anyone and positioning his chair in a manner that ensured no one would talk to him.
"Can I get you anything, sir?"
No, I just came in here for the scenery.
"One black coffee, please," he said, looking up at the waitress.
She had sleek blonde hair that came down to her waist, and Harry always wondered how she even managed to do her job when she had to continuously move it out of the way. Her face was one of symmetrical beauty that seemed almost obnoxious in the normal setting around her. And her body could rival that of a model: tall and very thin.
"Will that be all?" she asked sweetly, flashing a pearly white smile at him.
"Yes," he said, not smiling back.
The woman left, leaving Harry to once again stare blankly out the window.
He stopped here nearly every day, and always ordered the same thing: one black coffee. Then he would proceed to drink it while staring out into the busy London streets. He talked to no one, and no one talked to him. That's the way it always was, and he liked it.
"Black coffee, right?" a voice suddenly asked.
Harry looked up into the face of a young waitress he'd never seen before. She was holding two separate orders somewhat precariously in her hands, and didn't look to be very well-balanced.
"Yes," he said warily.
As luck would have it, a child running loose from his mother chose that exact moment to bump past the her.
Harry watched the contents of the coffee mug as if in slow motion. And as the scalding hot liquid made contact with his shirt, he jumped up and let out a grunt of pain, trying extremely hard not to swear loudly.
"I-I'll get you some ice," said a scared voice that he barely registered.
Making sure no one was looking, Harry quickly cast a cooling charm on his body and let out sigh of relief as the throbbing began to subside.
He saw the woman practically sprint back toward him carrying a large bag of ice and effectively catching the attention of everyone in the small café.
"I am so so sorry," she whispered frantically, carefully placing the bag on his still sore chest. "Do you need go to hospital? I can call an ambulance, you might have some burns. Oh, this is all my fault!"
"It's fine alright," Harry said. "The ice helped, thank you."
"Waters," said a stern voice from behind them.
The girl shut her eyes for a moment before turning around. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Is this your doing? I needn't remind you that this is the third blunder you've made today," the older woman said quietly so as not to cause any more disturbance.
"It wasn't her fault," Harry said, flatly. "A kid bumped into her, it could've happened to anyone."
The woman pursed her lips, but didn't argue. She apologised once more and offered him a free meal, but Harry wasn't interested.
"I just want one black coffee."
"Of course. You can manage that, I hope, Waters?" she said to the girl, a touch of disdain in her voice.
When the girl came back with his order, she very carefully placed it on the table and then paused in front of him.
"You really don't have to apologise again," he said, hoping that she would just leave him alone.
"I actually wanted to thank you," she said. "For what you told my boss."
"I only stated the facts."
"I know," she nodded vigorously. "But you saved me my job. So…thank you."
She still didn't move, much to Harry's dismay.
"My name is Abby, by the way," she offered, uncertainly.
"Yes, I deduced that from your name tag."
She looked down at her uniform and gave a small chuckle. "Oh, would you look at that…" she said to herself. "Well, anyway, can I get you anything else, Mr…?"
"No, I'm fine with my coffee, thanks," he said.
"Right…well, I'll just leave you to it, then," she said with a smile.
Harry watched her leave. Then, taking a sip of his coffee, he turned back around to stare listlessly out the window once again.
Abby sighed in relief as the last customer left the café. Somehow, some way, she had made it through her first day at work.
"Did Crab-Apple leave?"
Abby looked up at her co-worker, Maggie. "What?" she asked.
"It's what we call the Boss when she's not around," Maggie explained as she began wiping down the tables.
"That's an accurate nickname, if I ever heard one," Abby muttered.
Maggie laughed. "Yeah, don't worry about her. She gives everyone a hard time."
"Everyone doesn't switch people's orders, knock over chairs, and spill burning, hot coffee on customers."
"Well," Maggie said with a sly smile. "You did get a reaction out of Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. Which is a first, mind you."
"Who? And what's with all the nicknames?" Abby asked feeling bewildered.
"The unfortunate customer you spilled coffee on. He comes in here practically every day, but never says a word to anyone. And he always orders the same exact thing. A bit strange, that one. But boy is he easy on the eyes," Maggie said, shaking her head.
Abby considered these words for a moment, picturing the man's face in her mind. "He seemed sad," she said.
Maggie merely shrugged, continuing her vigorous wiping. "Dunno. Couldn't even tell you his name."
"Couldn't you just see it on his credit card or something?" Abby asked.
"Always pays with cash."
The two continued on in silence after that until they were finished. Wishing each other goodnight, they walked their separate ways.
It was a mad first day at work, and she couldn't wait to change into her pyjamas and become one with the couch. However, throughout her entire walk back to the flat, and even as she flipped endlessly through channels on the telly, one thought simply wouldn't leave her mind:
What's his name? Mr. One Black Coffee.