A cold, winter rain falls outside the quiet coffee shop. Water streaks the wall of windows like long fingers, distorting the image of the darkening streets beyond. I’m so not looking forward to my walk to the bus stop in a couple hours.
I call out the order as I set a steaming mug on the counter.
The coffee shop is settling into a sparse lull of customers now that the lunchtime rush is over. One of the afternoon regulars walks in the door—a middle-aged woman with cat-eye glasses.
She waves to me as she nears the counter, and I begin making her usual: Iced Latte with a shot of caramel. While I ring her up, she tells me about the progress she’s made on her novel. It’s about a group of kids who discover a secret coven of dragons living in the small forest of their suburban backyard.
I leave the register to wipe down vacated tables in the far corner, smiling to myself as I imagine how much my brother Darren would love reading that kind of book.
Before Darren and I were cursed with the Sight last summer—an event that persuaded a fae demon, the Slaugh, to stalk us down—I used to make fun of fantasy stuff. Why waste time on things that aren’t real?
But now I know better than to claim something doesn’t exist, just because I haven’t seen it myself. When you experience the unbelievable firsthand, it alters your paradigm, your entire life, forever.
Which is what happened when I entered the Otherworld—an underground realm teeming with faeries. Godlike creatures who are both tragically gorgeous, and terrifyingly vengeful.
The jingle of bells announces another customer. A tall, lean man in his twenties. He’s not one of our regulars.
He approaches the counter, gaze fixed on the menu above that’s written on a large chalkboard. I observe him from behind as I wipe down the last table. The tail of his black trench coat drips a steady stream of rainwater onto the linoleum.
That I just mopped ten minutes ago.
I soften the scowl on my face and circle around the counter.
“What would you like to order?” I ask him.
“A small tea. Black.” He meets my gaze and his distracted attention narrows in on me. “You must be new to the area.”
The words take me aback. I glance at him as I enter in the order.
“You must be the friendly neighborhood greeter,” I say, smothering my tone with extra snark.
His easy smile surprises me. Usually my verging-on-rude comments are all it takes to dissuade people from getting too close.
As he retrieves his wallet, a stray wave of turquoise blue hair falls in front of his soft face, and he brushes it behind a slightly pointed ear.
My blood freezes. He’s fae!
I haven’t spoken to a faery since the Otherworld. I was warned to keep my Sight secret. The Slaugh tried to kill both Darren and I, simply because it figured out we could see through its glamour—its invisibility guise that’s supposed to keep faeries hidden from the human world.
We barely survived the consequences that followed. Which is why Darren and I hide our “gift” of Sight at all costs.
It takes several seconds for my panicked mind to realize the faery asked me something, and is now staring at me expectantly.
I lick my dry lips and command my voice not to quiver. “One moment please.”
Keeping my head down, I turn and escape to the back room of the shop. I stumble through the doorway and find Whitney—the girl sharing my shift—idly picking at her nails.
At my sudden appearance, Whitney scrambles to resume washing dishes. Then, seeing it’s only me, she drops the rag in a splash of suds and frowns at me.
“You’ve got to stop bursting in here.” She leans into the sink with a dramatic eye roll. “I thought you were Max, coming to micromanage me again.”
I lean against the counter, ignoring Whitney’s comment and her prolonged stare.
Faeries can’t stand to be around iron. Which means that metal structures, like the coffee shop, are my sanctuaries.
My road to recovering from the Otherworld, and coping with the Sight, can be a muddy mess at times. But this was one rule I thought I could count on.
Whoever this fae-punk is, he just shat all over my rulebook.
“You have to finish this order for me.” I fold my arms, forcing myself to be still even though my insides feel like they’re swarming with termites.
“What?” Whitney says.
I close my eyes, pleading with my body to stay with me. I can’t have a panic attack at work. Especially not over something like this.
It’s just a normal guy, I tell myself. Just an observant, nosey local.
Who also happens to have pointed ears.
Keeping my eyes glued shut, I tell Whitney through clenched teeth, “Customer. At the counter.”
When all I hear is a groan, I add a desperate plea. “Come on. I’ll owe you.”
“Whatever,” she sighs, but I hear her move toward the door. “You got issues, just so you know.”
The door closes. I soundlessly drop to the floor, place my head between my knees, and take deep breaths to combat my blackening vision.
That’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed this bonus scene from The Festival of Vision and Fire. Stay tuned for the second half of the Coffee Shop Scene!
— Logan Miehl