Shelly opened her eyes and looked at red numbers on the clock across the bedroom – four am. She swung her legs out of the bed, stretched her arms, rubbed her eyes and started her day. Though she was tired, she padded to the kitchen to light the fire under the kettle. She showered and pulled her long sleeved Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt on atop jeans and boots before she went back to the kitchen and brewed her morning cup of tea.
Downstairs she turned on the heater and fired up the big Venezia machine. Three 20 cup pots began making dark roast, medium roast, and the light “house blend”. She pulled cream along with four gallons of milk from the big chill box and put them in the small fridge under the counter. She checked that the sugar was well supplied, then tied a short black apron securely around her waist and looked around the store, assuring herself that everything was in order.
It was not quite 5:00 when Shelly raised the shade on the glass front door and waved to Gil and Caleb who were waiting outside for her to open. They were stomping their boots and rubbing their hands together to keep warm. She unlocked the door and hustled the cowboys in, “Git in here quick, boys,” she urged them, “don’t let all my warm air out.”
She saw a couple of trucks parked at the curb disgorging more customers as she raised the rest of the shades and turned over the OPEN sign. By the time Shelly got behind the counter she had six cowboys lined up waiting to order. They had all carefully stomped the mud and stuff off their boots outside. They’d considerately dusted off their chaps and coats before they came in too.
“I know what you want Caleb,” she chided the biggest cowboy who was still rubbing his ‘pickup sized’ hands together for warmth. She poured him a demitasse of dark roast, placed a canela stick and two ginger cookies on the saucer and handed it to him.
He gave her a fiver, “Thanks Shelly,” he said “keep it.”
The register rang out and she put in the five, removed two singles and dropped them into her tip jar.
“Gil, what’ll it be today?” she asked then added, “Hey, why don’t all y’all let me know what you want, I can make more than one at a time here.”
“Skinny white mocha, for me,” said Gil.
“Latte,” Ruben chimed in, “With some of that almond syrup please.”
Dusty wanted a cappuccino.
Billy said, “I reckon an Americano will do it for me today, Shelly. And, maybe one’a them chocolate dipped shortbread cookies.”
Shelly realized that the last guy was a stranger. He had a straw hat in his hands and wore a duster. He had a strong chin with about two days stubble. Heavy black plastic frames held thick lenses in front of his eyes.
“What’ll it be, stranger?” Shelly asked him as she smiled. He was kinda cute.
“Uhm, large coffee please, ma’am.”
“Room for cream?”
“No thank you. Just black.” He smiled too.
“I’m Shelly,” she said and stuck out her hand.
“Toby,” they shook and she looked into his eyes holding his hand a little longer than she probably should have. It was rough and calloused. Felt good.
He blinked, breaking the spell and she released her grip, started making coffees and handing them over. The spurs were jingling the cowboys were telling jokes and laughing, the old NCR was singing and Shelly was busy.
When the cowboys left she made herself another cup of tea and wiped down the counter. She turned the chairs off the tables and sat down to enjoy her morning. She knew more regulars would dribble in, but it would be a couple of hours before the tourists started showing up.