Alfred stared, bemused, at the man lying in the gutter. He had never seen him before, which was odd considering that he lived in such a small town where everyone knew everyone. Alfred wondered if he was a wandering hobo, albeit a strangely dressed one.
The man looked like he was wearing an ill-fitted angel costume, complete with wings, halo, and wand. From the little light offered by the streetlamp, Alfred could tell that whoever the mystery man was had recently gotten there, since his outfit was still a clean white. He wondered if the man lying there went to the college nearby and slept in the gutters on a dare
it wouldn't be the first time the college seniors forced their freshmen to do a stunt like that.
Alfred took a step closer to get a better look at whoever was bumming around the neighborhood. The first thing Alfred noticed were his eyebrows, which were possibly the bushiest he had ever seen. Giving a wry smile, he continued to inspect the sleeping man; pale skin, thin frame, thick golden blonde hair. Eyebrows and angel costume aside, Alfred couldn't deny that this guy was pretty attractive.
Tightening his jacket, Alfred wondered what to do. He knew his boss, an easily irritated German named Ludwig, would be furious if he brought him into Daily Grind, the coffee shop he was currently standing outside of. But even so, Alfred knew he would feel terrible if he let the poor guy freeze outside. Weighing his options, Alfred took out his key, stepped over the sleeping man, and opened the door to the coffee shop.
He quickly flicked on the lights and hurried to the counter, where he whipped up a cup of coffee and heated some scones. He kept a careful eye on the man outside as he poured the coffee into a Styrofoam cup, watching out for him to make sure he didn't get mugged or anything.
After putting the scones into a small paper bag, Alfred went back to the front of the shop and stepped towards the sleeping man. Unsure of how to wake him, he reached out his hand to brush a few strands of blonde hair out of his face. His eyes instantly opened.
Green. Green. Green. Greenidy-green.
That was all Alfred could see. A shade of green so bright it could have put emeralds to shame. He blinked. Green eyes blinked back. Alfred swallowed, retracted his hand, and got up slowly, breaking the eye contact.
you looked cold so I brought you some coffee and something warm to eat." Alfred handed him the cup and bag, and the man took it cautiously.
He sipped from the coffee cup and contorted his face into disgust, causing Alfred to panic a bit.
"What! Do you not like it? Is it too bitter for you? I can add some sugar if you'd like
sorry, I forget people don't usually like it black."
"I don't like coffee. It's an insult to more refined beverages like tea."
He had a British accent. Alfred now knew for sure he wasn't a local, not with an accent that thick. Alfred looked at the man, and was now more curious than ever about who he was and why he was sleeping in the gutters. To anyone else who rejected free coffee, he would have probably would have ranted and raved for a bit before leaving with a pouty expression, but Alfred was curious about this guy and didn't want to scare him off. With a shrug, he told him, "Alright. If you want tea, I can make it for you, just come on inside." Alfred held open the door, thoughts of what Ludwig would say be damned.
The man walked into Daily Grind and wrinkled his nose. "It reeks of coffee beans in here."
Alfred snickered. "That's what you get for walking inside a coffee shop, but don't worry the scent will grow on you."
As Alfred walked to the counter to boil some water, the other man took a seat at a table near the register, idly looking around the shop. He settled his gaze on the wall, which served more like a mural. It started from the counter and circled halfway around the room. It included portraits of Alfred, his boss Ludwig, a few of the shop's regulars (the Scandinavian quintet in particular: Tino, Berwald, Lukas, Matthias, and Emil), the city, coffee art, and the painter himself, a young Italian busboy named Feliciano.
Alfred took a seat and gave the man his tea, "Nice isn't it? Feli sure has a way with paint."
He received a curt nod in response. Alfred propped his head up with his arm and watched the man beside him drink his tea, looking somewhat pleased. He would occasionally nibble on a scone, and Alfred thought he caught a mumbled, "Scones baked in England taste so much better" but decided to ignore it.
did you like it?"
"I've had worse."
Alfred decided that this was his way of saying it was the best tea in the world. He gave the British man a grin and cleared away the trash on the table. The Briton walked towards the door, pushing it open slightly and gave Alfred a very quiet, "Thank you."
Before Alfred could stop and question him, the strange man was already out the door. He ran outside, hoping to catch him before he got too far, but after looking left and right down the street, Alfred couldn't see the British man anywhere, which disappointed him slightly.
Without the presence of the British man, Alfred suddenly felt slightly empty. It wasn't often that he got to interact with people during his early morning shift; it was usually just the occasional business man who desperately needed to get to work on time. Alfred hardly had anyone to chat with at this hour. Plus, he hadn't gotten a chance to ask why he was sleeping in the gutters in the first place.
Alfred figured he would never get answers to his questions, so he went back inside, wiped down the counter, and started brewing coffee for the morning rush.
Thirty minutes and two customers later, Ludwig finally arrived. He greeted Alfred with a brief, "Good morning." It was all for formalities sake, as Ludwig and Alfred were not on the friendliest of terms.
Their less than friendly relationship was part of the reason why Alfred decided not to mention the British man from that morning. Giving away free coffee, tea, and scones as well as talking to someone sleeping on the streets would just end up testing Ludwig's patience.
Morning rush hour came soon after Ludwig's arrival, giving Alfred plenty of work to do. He made drinks while chatting with the customers, asking them what their plans were for the day. It was Alfred's favorite part of the job, to talk to the customers. Even if some of them were rather irritable without caffeine in their system, most were friendly and would talk to Alfred enough for him to know about the latest gossip and goings on in the town. Alfred asked several people if they had seen a British man in a toga, but it seemed as though no one had.
The shop started clearing as people left for work or school, leaving Daily Grind in a comfortable silence. Ludwig started preparing sandwiches and soup for the lunch rush they would get in a few hours.
It wasn't long before the door opened again.
"Feliciano! You're late again." Ludwig had left the stove and was giving Feliciano a menacing glare. Feli shook for a bit under Ludwig's gaze before bursting into tears.
"S-sorry Ludwig! I fell asleep in class but my professors didn't wake me this time! It was so scary, waking up in the dark classroom all alone!"
Feliciano went to college, and was very smart despite how he ditzy he acted around others. Truth was, he could afford to sleep in class, though he did it so often that the professors eventually stopped waking him and left him to his "siestas" as he so proudly called them. The problem was that Feliciano enjoyed oversleeping and that often made him late for his late morning-early afternoon shift. Tardiness was a well-known pet peeve of Ludwig's, but he seemed to have a soft spot for Feli since it seemed as though no matter how many times he was late, he was only warned but never fired.
Alfred grinned lazily and threw his wash cloth down on the counter, "Don't worry about it Feli, I got you covered. We didn't have many customers in your absence. Lunch rush won't start for another hour anyways."
"Thank you Alfred! You're a real pal! As a token of thanks, would you like some pasta?"
"Nah, I'm good for today. I think I'm going to make a McDonalds run. You guys want anything?"
There was a grunt of refusal from Ludwig and a firm shaking of the head from Feliciano. Alfred shrugged, put on his jacket, and started walking to the town's only McDonalds.
The trip between the two shops was only about a block, but Alfred often stopped to talk to his friend Tony, a grouchy old man who spent his afternoons sitting on his front porch insulting everyone who walked by. Alfred wasn't sure when he started talking to Tony, but seeing him every day was something Alfred made routine.
"Afternoon Tony." He greeted with a jovial wave of the hand.
"What do ya want, ya fuckin' Yank?"
So Alfred told him the story about the sleeping "angel" from that morning. When he finished he asked, "Have you seen him?"
"A fuckin' limey? In this part of town? Not a fuckin' chance kid."
Alfred was slightly disappointed with this answer. "Well thanks anyways Tony. See you tomorrow then."
"And what makes you think I want ta see ya?!"
Alfred laughed and gave another wave as he resumed his walk to McDonalds.
And when he arrived he almost couldn't believe his eyes.
Because there stood the British man from that morning.