Her hometown only had one coffee shop, and it was good.
A barista in Makati – also someone from this small, sleepy town in the Southern part of Luzon – started the business. It was more out of a passion to share good coffee to people outside of Metro Manila than for monetary gain. A popular food blogger was visiting relatives once and chanced upon the shop, wrote about in one article, and the it instantly became a destination coffee shop.
There were several other cafes, of course, but this was the only one that actually cared about coffee. It featured local coffee beans, expertly roasted by the owner’s friends in Metro Manila, as well as a selection of beans sourced from roasters outside of the country. Despite it becoming extra popular in recent times, the owner still refused to add any frappes to his menu. He respected coffee too much and this polarized opinion about the shop. Others praise it for propagating the third wave coffee movement, while some lambast it for offering too few in the way drink options (as well as food).
She has not been in her hometown for 10 years. She always used to go home during school vacations, but once she left for her final year of University she never came back. Her career took off, and she now held a management position in one of the country’s largest Business Process Outsourcing organizations. She remembered that lonely bus ride in the middle of the night, when her parents could barely afford her fare to go back to Manila. Now she was traversing the long road home in her swanky SUV, her favorite artist’s music pumping in the expensive sound system she had installed.
She has become a blogger herself, everyone in a stressful position at work is always encouraged to have a hobby that helps them disconnect, and she has been known to be a coffee connoisseur. This coffee shop, though it has slightly fallen off the list of must visit shops outside of the Metro after a scathing write-up from a fashion blogger three years ago, was still something she had always wanted to visit and review. Truth be told, it was the main thing that convinced her to finally attend their family reunion this year. Her mother was sick, and this might be the last reunion she would be able to attend, but she still needed the prospect of visiting a coffee shop to make her come back.
The shop was located along the main highway, just before you enter the town proper. It was nestled in this clearing and almost surrounded by these old trees, some say (including her) that this was part of the shop’s charm. Oddly enough, she could not find the shop itself on Waze or any other navigation app. However, she was familiar on how it looked after studying it for so long after all and she’s confident she’ll be able to find it herself. It has already started to get dark, traffic was unusually heavy on the expressways, so she had started to drive slowly as soon as she passed the marker telling her she was already in her hometown.
As she drove past a section of tall trees on both sides of the highway, a clearing appeared with warm lights washing over the well-kept grass. “This must be it”, she audibly told herself.
She slowly turned to the right along the clearing and sure enough the familiar all wood and glass façade of the shop greeted her. She instantly felt happy, a feeling she knew her own childhood home won’t be able to give her. There were two other cars parked out front, and it seemed like there were only 3 people inside the shop – including the owner. He didn’t hire any staff, oddly enough one of the things that fashion blogger considered a negative.
She turned the engine off and texted her mom she stopped by this shop first and that she’ll get to the house in an hour, though she planned to stay here until the shop had to close. She got off the SUV, made sure it was locked, and started walking toward the shop. She was thinking about all the questions she had always wanted to ask the owner, all the ways she would want him to prepare her coffee other than espresso. This will certainly blow her Instagram up and add to her coffee cred.
She was instantly greeted by the owner upon entering, so loud that the other two patrons looked up from their cups at her. The wood accents placed carefully, the impressive espresso machine, all the manual brewers displayed in the shelf behind the bar, all the beans proudly displayed in this shelf on the side, the different designs of the tables and chairs that still looked coherent – she took this all in as she slowly made her way to the register. It was warm, it was comfortable, they were even playing her favorite artist’s best album three years ago. “I want to live here” she whispered to herself, surely as a joke.
“Good evening, city slicker! Hope you had a great drive here?” the owner’s follow-up greeting took her out of the trance she seemed to be in. She was still in her work attire, casual for Metro Manila standards but still obvious somebody who worked in a proper office in the City will wear.
“I reckon you’ll be staying with us for a long time?”
She shivered. Why did that sound so sinister to her? Why does she think his smile is creepy? For some reason, she glanced at the other two people in the shop. They were still staring at her, but why did they look at her with pity?
She instinctively checked her phone, also so that she won’t have to look at the owner. There was a reply from her mother: “What coffee shop? That burned down two years ago. Stop joking and get here immediately. Your cousins have been waiting for you all day.”
Those two, they looked familiar. It looked awfully like that fashion blogger and her equally famous assistant who tragically died in an accident during a vacation two years ago. She never read the details, she despised her but still felt bad, but distinctly remember it was in a freak fire accident.
Wait? Is that the click of the door lock she just heard?
She looked up again and found herself in the burnt carcass of the famous coffee shop she had always wanted to visit. Gone was all the warm light and cheerfulness. The only light was coming from her smart phone’s screen. She started to panic but she somehow couldn’t move.
“Let me make you a cup of coffee, we’ll be here for a while” said the familiar voice of the owner before her phone auto locked, enveloping her in pitch-black darkness.
Her hometown only had one coffee shop, and it was good.
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Categories: stories with kape