Stefani Allison: The Heart of the Espresso

Heart of the Espresso

For Kayla

by Stefanie Allison


“Your turn to pay,” I said. My hands were shaking—damn withdrawals.

“You need to tell her,” Paul said.

“I told her everything I needed to say.”

“How about everything you want to say?”

“Christina? Can you ring them up? My register is down.”

“Sure, Jill. Ok, that’ll be $1.95 for the doppio.” Paul began to hand her a five. As she was about to grab it, he jerked it away.


“Admit it.”


“Admit you love her.”

“Dude, my hands are shaking and we’ll be late!”

“Gentlemen, please—”

“Admit it, or no coffee.” The sight of my shots turning black from oxidation made my heart rate rise.

“Aw, how cute! It’s the same reaction he has every time she walks by his office—OW, MARK!”


The Starbucks, once chirping with lively activity, stopped dead in its tracks. I swear I saw the coffee stop pouring the second I started screaming.

Jill remained behind the register. Paul handed over the five.

“Keep the change, ma’am,” Paul squeaked.

Jill ran past Christina.

“Jill! You’re on register, not bar!”

“Go tonight, Mark,” Paul said, adjusting his tie. I shook my head and stared at my shoes.

“I never made an RSVP and I threw the invitation away.”

“Just go anyway.”

“It’s too late, Paul.”

“Doppio espresso for Mark!”

I stopped before we got to the condiment bar.

“Mark? I hate to be the one to say this now, but we’ll be late if you don’t hurry.”

“Did that Jill girl at the register seem familiar?”

“Don’t know. I had a feeling I’d seen her on Corina’s Facebook before you manhandled me. Why?”

I turned the cup to Paul.

“‘Toshi’s Sushi Bar, 7PM tonight,’” Paul read. “‘And bring daffodils; those are her favorite flowers.’”

Jill was back at the register like nothing happened.

I’ll thank her tonight.

Interns at A Word with You Press on Casual Friday on their coffeebreak
Interns at A Word with You Press on Casual Friday on their coffeebreak

24 thoughts on “Stefani Allison: The Heart of the Espresso

  1. Diane Cresswell says:

    Better do this before Ms. Stef hunts me down. Let’s see… coffee jitters, check; angst of feelings, check; indecisions, check; drop dead silence, check; placed into a corner, check; and underneath it all, someone may or may not have spilled the beans!!!! I need to head to the coffee shop more often to watch life do all it’s crazy things. Good one Stef letting us see what mechanizations are played out when we’re not looking… or drinking.

  2. Diana says:

    Apparently, cyber-stalking on Facebook seems to be effective, Stef. I have read and appreciated. Seven degrees of separation are reduced to two when mega-busineses like Starbucks and Facebook are part of the equation. It’s good to have helpful Friends of Friends to play Cupid in this pre-romance.

    I did have some trouble figuring out who is speaking, like I usually do when dialogue is back to back and there are multiple characters but no speaking markers. Most modern fiction does that to me.

    Nonetheless, it’s cute, upbeat, and filled with just the right amount of caffeine and romantic angst to provide some tension between the giggles.

    • Stef says:

      It’s not a rule per se…but I often find romance and coffee like going on long walks on the beach with each other every so often.

      • Michael Stang says:

        A perfect backdrop for life’s little dramas. Somebody should write the book, hmm? A twist at every turn kept me sitting and reading. A cat attacked me once and I swear I saw his eyes go red, but another story.
        High entertainment, par usual for such a talented writer. What is a Doppio for the initiated to be? Will “the Bucks” stop at nothing?

        • Stef says:

          A doppio is a word for two straight shots of espresso… because some people don’t like anything getting in their way. Like milk. Or sugar. Or paying $4 for a latte when they can get two shots for like $2.

          I don’t know how low the ‘Bucks will go…we haven’t hit the bottom yet, so hang on!!!

  3. kyle katz says:

    Your dialogue has a nice gallop to it. It is how the spoken word is formatted in the current speech of cyber space.
    I could’t identify each character of he said she said…but in the patter of twist and turns of behind the curtain at Starbucks, it didn’t matter. You captured a stylized version of get to the point, let the dialogue filter you through the story. It’s got a beat without fancy chords. love it. Makes me want to write more dialogue. <3

    • Stef says:

      I find dialogue is the best way to get the most bang for your (Star)bucks. I didn’t feel the need to write “he said” or “she said” over and over (especially since it ate into my word count when I did)…just please, for your sake, if someone looks like they’re about to get violent, have compassion…they just need their coffee (or rehab).

  4. Miryam says:

    Stef,,,,, love your coffee addicted characters! The jitters & romance can go hand & hand, even without the bean.
    PS, it’s time for our daughter to meet us for coffee.

  5. Jon Tobias says:

    Great work. Love the presentation of the story. Dialogue gets shit done. I like that there is hope at the end for the main character as well, even though we don’t get to see what happens. I like endings like that. Awesome.

    • Stef says:

      I totally agree with you about dialogue. You can say so much with so little that way. And with a 350 word limit, there’s no time for the narrator to pontificate on how in love Mark is with both coffee and Corina. Also if I didn’t get him out of there soon, he was probably going to get himself fired from his job after going into a violent, withdrawal rage.

  6. Parisianne Modert says:

    Scandals at Starbucks. The good ole days before my friend and I changed venues before they had sufficient grounds to thrown us to the curb, because of the groups of people who didn’t appreciate our alternative romance talk. These days I wear sunglasses when paying for my bags of Komodo Dragon blend from Starbucks. May be I should take the unlucky lady on the register a daffodil as a peace offering for our past dialogue which ruffled tables to move. I liked that the dialogue matched the nervous pace of the action.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        Thank you, but what my friend Marissa and I talk about would make the Komodo Dragon swallow its own tongue and go running to Thorn to protect it from us. We make the vilest of porn videos look as innocent as a kindergarten frield trip to the petting zoo. Now where is that trench coat of mine? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Daffodil? Better make it an arrangement with chocolate dipped strawberries.

          • Parisianne Modert says:

            Sorry Jill, but for me there is only one Dom Perignon White Gold lady to sip champagne with from a glass slipper. Enjoy the scandalous words, flowers and chocolate strawberries. Thank you for selling the dragon coffee to me, the lady, Mata Hari. But like the finest champagne, my heart is forever corked and chilled in white diamond ice .

  7. Shawna says:

    Oh this was enjoyable, especially the screaming! It never ceases to amaze the vignettes that spawn in a good Starbucks, and never a better little flash on the acute agonies of love. Outstanding:)

  8. Tiffany Monique says:

    I would definitely call this story cute and upbeat… like coffee jitters. Jill is a coffee-laced-superhero-of-love.

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