Decaf

by Charlotte Reiser, age 13
Decaf Charlotte is a thirteen year old girl who loves writing, grilled cheese, and Jane the Virgin. She loves listening to music and playing piano. She is so excited to share this short story about addiction to coffee.

“I took another sip of my coffee. The taste swam around in my mouth making me feel the heat of a Costa Rican sun or feel the drum of a lost island. The smell was enough to make you happy, but the taste was amazing.”

Chapter One

“Grande iced coffee with almond milk, two pumps of caramel, and one and a half pumps of hazelnut. Thank you.”

“Decaf?”

“No,” I shuttered. It was too early to have decaffeinated coffee. I needed to have coffee. Last night had gone too late and too long. God, last night was awful and now I was tired, annoyed, and majorly hungover. Coffee would help with that. Maya always said I drank too much coffee. Everyone always said I was addicted, but I was really trying to stop drinking so much caffeine. It’s just, what else am I supposed to do? At this point in the argument, Maya would say I could sleep, then I would laugh, she would roll her eyes, and I would leave with full intentions of going to Denny’s, getting on line, smiling at Ralph and getting my drink. They always had it ready and ice cold. But of course today of all days, there was a new barista. Molly, I read. Next time I would make sure I got a barista that knew what they were doing. 

“Anything else, um, what’s your name?” Molly asked.

“Lexi and, um, yes.” Then I looked at the clock and then at Molly. This was her first day and I could tell. She looked like a deer in headlights, staring down each customer like they were her enemy. No, I didn’t have time for Molly to under or overcook my bun and I didn’t need to be any later than I already was. 

“I mean no,” I told Molly just as she was about to add more to my order. “I’m good,” I said as I gave her my rewards card. She took it like it was a space rock from Mars. She looked it up and down trying to figure out what this strange object was. 

“Never mind I’ll just pay with cash.” I took back my rewards card and gave her exact change in case she didn’t know how to open the cash register. 

“Thank you,” she said. For a moment I thought she was going to come out from behind the cash register and hug me, but she just stared. I smiled and went to go get my coffee.

“Nice name,” Molly shouted. The bribery was strong in this one. 

Now all I had to do was run to the open call and hope and pray I would get the role. Fortunately, when I checked my phone I saw that the open call was only five minutes away. Unfortunately, I only had two. I ran all the way there and was still late. When I went inside, the director handed me a packet and told me to sit down. I knew as soon as I saw the character description that I wasn’t even going to try. Shame, the girl at first seemed good. It said her name was Ashley and she was twenty one. That was fine and good. The only problem was that Ashley was struggling with an addiction to alcohol. I had never had an addiction. I didn’t want to offend anyone by portraying someone wrong. I stood up and walked over to the director. I was two steps away before I realized I was without my Denny’s cup. I needed something to get me through this. I ran back to my chair, grabbed my cup, and went back over. 

“Hello sir.” I smiled. I knew I could do this I talked to directors all the time. “I was wondering if I could talk to you about my role.”

“Call me Carl.” Carl. Of course his name was Carl. “Yes, Ashley. She’s a beautiful character.” I took another sip of my coffee. The taste swam around in my mouth making me feel the heat of a Costa Rican sun or feel the drum of a lost island. The smell was enough to make you happy, but the taste was amazing.

“Yes but it’s just-” Suddenly a wave of caramel splashed the top of my mouth. Something was off. I took another sip searching for the hazelnut that would always balance of the slightly salty caramel, but I couldn’t find even a trace of it. I took another sip and another, but the caramel once again overwhelmed my taste buds. It must have showed on my face because Carl was staring at me like I was a freak.

“I’m sorry, it’s just, I don’t know if I can play her.” I tried to recover.

At this point, if I messed up, the ice and coolness of my drink would calm me down, but instead the coffee seemed to grow hotter. 

“Listen, I understand that she seems like someone completely different, but just see if you can find some similarities. I’m sorry—are you okay?” No, I wasn’t. My mouth was just flooded with a nutty taste. Oh my god, is that nutmeg? Who mixes up hazelnut and nutmeg? This was the most disgusting coffee I had ever had and apparently it showed.

“I’m sorry. It’s just my barista messed up my order and it’s literally disgusting and it isn’t ice cold and just blegh.” When I looked up at Carl, he was laughing. 

“What’s so funny?”

“It’s just, it seems like you have a bit of an addiction of your own.” How dare he. How dare this man insult me like this. It wasn’t my fault Molly messed up my order and it wasn’t my fault Carl was being rude. 

“I’m usually like this it’s just something was off and I didn’t know what it was. It turns out my barista used nutmeg instead of hazelnut and I’m just having a bad day.”

“So I see you’re a coffee snob—” My jaw dropped. “—and a little bit of a drama queen.”

“I am not a coffee snob.” My face was getting red and my jaw was practically hitting the floor. “And I am not a drama queen. I just like to be in control of what goes into my mouth. If it’s trash, I don’t like it, which is probably why I don’t like this character!” As soon as I said that, I wanted to take it back. “No, no, no. That’s not what I meant. I just meant-”

“Ms. Brown,” said Carl, “I think you should leave.”

“No, sir, please.” I took another sip of my coffee, knowing and dreading what would happen next.

“Out.” Carl smiled and reached out a hand for my Denny’s cup. “And close the door on your way out.” I bit my lip to stop the tears and slowly walked out the door. I almost left that audition feeling sad until I heard Carl spitting out my drink exclaiming how disgusting and gross it was. Maybe it was the complete over dosage of caramel. Maybe it was the absence of hazelnut and the nutmeg sinking into every delicious coffee bean. Maybe it was even the coffee itself. Maybe Molly had messed it up like she had this entire day and this entire audition. But all of those seemed fine compared to the giant flem god that I spat in my coffee. Who was a drama queen now?

Chapter Two

“How did it go?” asked Maya. She was making coffee, decaf no doubt. 

“Not well,” I told her. “The director was just awful and my coffee was just awful. There was this horrible barista, Molly. She mixed up hazelnut and nutmeg. Like who does that?” I fell onto the couch, sinking into the fluffy Target pillows.

“Well,” Maya said as she jumped onto the couch next to me. “Maybe it wasn’t all Molly’s fault.”

“Yeah maybe I actually just told her nutmeg instead of hazelnut.” I rolled my eyes. I would never mess up my order. 

“Well yeah,” Maya said, “I mean I do it all the time.” I rolled my eyes, but then Maya smiled and I had to forgive her.

“I redecorated the apartment.” I looked around. Maya tended to do this very frequently. This week’s (possibly day’s) theme was blue. She had added blue beach paintings, which she was making when I left, to the walls. Then she had gotten a new rug for the living room and some new vases and accessories for around the house. Yeah, it looked good, but I wish she could just stick with something. I told her I really liked the peach one she did three weeks ago, but she said it was too princessy. I took a peak in her room and saw she had completely redone her room to. It was slowly closing in on itself with the layers and layers of paint she would use to cover the last stage of herself. The Maya she was showing today was vintage Maya. She was wearing old Levi’s overalls and an old MTV tee that she no doubt got from a thrift store or yard sale. This ensemble was accompanied by her old ass Converse and a ripped up Newsies cap. Maya would change into a different person every week, throwing away her life before this new style. Sometimes I would like Maya and sometimes I would hate her. I didn’t like emo Maya. I really didn’t like preppy Maya. Sometimes she would ask me what my favorite Maya was and then I would say, “My favorite Maya is just Maya.” Then she would laugh, even though it wasn’t a joke. But today vintage Maya would just be out of it and cool. I was fine with that, but I wished I could spend my time with the Maya I knew when I moved in with her. But who knows maybe that was another version of Maya that I didn’t know. To go with this new Maya, she had painted her room a brown-ish mustard. Her record player and typewriter were out and she was using her orange sheets and she had switched out her Chanel poster for a display of her records. Maya was starting over once again, creating herself again. Soon she would drop all her preppy friends and she would start hanging out with hipsters at coffee shops. 

“So do you like it?” She seemed kind of eager to hear what I had to say.

I wanted to say, “you should just keep it normal and stop changing it,” but instead I said, 

“I love it. Definitely your best form yet.”

“Well,” she said. Then she smiled and I realized I was looking at the same Maya. Her toothy grin made me so happy so I went with it. 

“Yes.” I tried to replicate her smile but I just came out looking like a bunny.

“Maybe we could redo your room.” She flung open my room before I could stop her. I would go into detail describing my room, but it’s pretty basic. It’s all white, but not in a cute way. It looks like an asylum except for the occasional splotch of coffee spill. I still loved it, but Maya, well, Maya thought it could be improved. 

“I mean.” Maya paused. Even Maya, who comes up with new room designs every week, couldn’t think of a way to salvage my room. “We could-”

“We could close the door of my room and never open it again,” I suggested, but before I could execute my plan, Maya stepped into my room. I couldn’t leave her to her own devices in there so I followed her in. I was truly beyond the point of no return.

“Well we can start by getting you some new sheets.” Oh brother this was going to be awful, but, hey, I was in Maya’s hands now. When I looked back at Maya she was spacing out.

“Maya,” I said. Nothing. “Maya!” I basically screamed. Suddenly Maya’s face lit up. “What?” I asked.

“I know what we’re doing for your room.”

“What?” If she made my room like a six year old’s I was going to kill her.

“Coffee,” she said smiling.

“What?” 

“Oh my god, stop saying what. Your room is going to be brown, white, and green, like a Denny’s cup. Also we’re going to have cute coffee art and a desk and finally your room isn’t going to look like you live in a mental institution.” 

“Great. You do that.” I went to go get some Cinnamon Toast Crunch and, you guessed it, coffee. 

“Come on,” Maya begged.

“No,” I said. I had no intention of letting Maya touch my room.

“Why not?”

“Because.” 

“Because what?”

“Fine. Do it.”

“No.”

“This is why. Once you do it once, you’re just gonna do it over and over and over until I’ll have no room because the paint is going to kill me with it’s fumes.”

“I won’t do that.”

“Fine, go. Go make over my room.”

“Eeeee!” Maya squealed. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

I was going to regret this, but before I could tell her to stop, she was out the door. I slipped into my room and opened my computer. I opened up my Gmail and waited. I stared at the screen, waiting for an email, an open call, an audition, something. I needed to start pulling my weight or else, well, or else Maya might not want to house me anymore. No, that couldn’t happen. It wasn’t Friday, but I started the send anyway. First, I would need coffee. I walked out to the kitchen, bringing my cereal with me. I mixed it and sipped it and I suddenly knew everything was going to be okay. I started the first email and finished the second, third, and sixth. I sent the third and the second, but held on to the sixth. I wanted to see what Maya thought. Then I waited… and waited… and waited. And then an email popped up. I clicked on it and it was from Carl. It read: 

Dear Lexi,

Although you were a bit rude I want to give you another chance. I feel you can really embody this character. Come tomorrow at nine. Sharp.

Chapter Three

I’ll skip the pleasantries and just say this show was amazing. Except for one day. One day, I was walking back from a particularly bad rehearsal and Maya told me to sit down.

“I have a surprise,” she said. She seemed a bit too happy. “Come with me.”

“Ok,” I said. She led me to my room. 

“Now open.” My jaw dropped. My room was white with a band of brown around it. In the middle of my new room was a huge circle with the Denny’s logo on it and that logo ended up morphing into my head board. Around my room was more disgusting green and coffee art. If you couldn’t tell, I hated it. 

“What did you do to my room?” I screamed.

“Nothing, I just made it better.” Maya seemed hurt, but I didn’t care.

“That was my room and now I’m literally living in a coffee cup.”

“Yeah, that was the idea.”

“Well, I hate it.”

“I was just trying to help.” Maya started to cry.

“Wow, Maya,” I said sarcastically, “and I thought with so many different personalities you weren’t able to even have feelings.” At this point I was crying too. But not sad crying, angry crying.

“I just wanted to help you.”

“Well Maya, you didn’t.”

“What is wrong with you? I thought we were friends. Friends do things like this with each other.”

“Really? I don’t know, Maya. Are we friends? Or am I friends with Preppy Maya, Hippie Maya, Mean Girl Maya, or, god forbid, Emo Maya? There are just so many of you I don’t know. Are we friends?”

“I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

“You don’t know who I am? Try figuring yourself out first.” 

“Don’t go there, Lex.”

“Oh, I’ll go there Maya.” Now I was mad. “You don’t know who you are. You always say you change your look for fashion, but that’s not true. The truth is you keep changing because you think one day someone might actually like you. But guess what Maya? If you just keep never truly opening up, no one can love you. No one.”

“Out,” Maya mustered through tears. So I did. I packed up my stuff and left for a cheap motel. The next day, I was still in shock, but I still went to Denny’s and got my coffee.

Molly gave me the cup and said, “I made it specially for you.”

When I opened the lid, I saw something I’ll never forget. A huge fly was swimming around in my foam. Before I could think, I texted the food and drink health department and demanded for Molly to be fired. Then I sent a picture of my drink.

I left for my last rehearsal. At the end we all hugged and high-fived and said we couldn’t wait for Sunday. It was Friday and I couldn’t wait.

I went home, well, I went to my motel and I texted Maya. I said I was sorry. She left me on read. I pulled an all nighter sipping the gross motel coffee from the lobby. When I went outside the next day, I saw something. I didn’t believe it. I saw an abandoned building that used to house the Denny’s coffee shop. I went up to the window still seeing the painted walls of green, white, and brown. The chairs were turned up just like they were yesterday only now the doors would never open. I touched the brass door handles and pulled slightly. The door opened until a chain stopped it. The opening was just big enough to slip inside. I did. Then I smelled the coffee. I looked outside to the world I used to be in and then to myself inside a now abandoned coffee shop. My hair was messy and my eyes were cakey from putting on too much concealer.

I still remembered that fateful day when I went to get my coffee and met Molly. That day I thought I was mad at her, but I didn’t know about how much she could really destroy. As I walked around this haunted house, I saw a flyer. I walked over to it, examining the bold red letters that spelled “D-A-N-G-E-R.” Right below it, it read “dangerous health conditions.” Then my eyes got fuzzy and I heard the drop of a single tear on the ground. This was my fault. 

“So.” I turned around and saw Molly in the doorway. “Was it worth it getting me fired?”

“No,” I said, “I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, well, here.” She handed me a coffee cup.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“Crush it,” she said. So I did. 

“Done.” She looked at the cup. It was completely destroyed, the green band now bent.

“Now say ‘I’m sorry’,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I told the cup. It stayed the same. Destroyed. “Nothing happened,” I told her.

“Exactly.” She slipped through the door and didn’t look back. I walked sluggishly back to the motel, making each step slower than the last. When I finally got there, I went up the stairs, not even stopping to think to myself how hard it was. When I opened my door, I saw that Maya had texted me back. She said it wasn’t OK. I lay on my bed thinking of Ralph and Molly and even Denny. They were all out of work and were probably struggling. Especially Molly. I thought about what she said. Even though I knew she was right, I still wrote each and every person I hurt an apology email. No one wrote back. I closed my eyes and thought of everything and finally I slept. I slept and slept not being woken up by coffee or Maya or anything. I slept through the opening lines of alcoholic Ashley. I slept through Carl screaming and asking anyone if they knew where I was. I slept through eighteen text messages from Maya telling me to wake up. I slept through Denny’s getting sold to Starbucks. And the Sunday I had wished and dreamed about for my whole life came and went.


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