The Café

‘The usual, miss?’ An African-American gentleman asked through the open kitchen-bar. He wore a white chef hat and apron, and extended a greasy spatula.’Please’ said the attractive young woman settling into her usual seat at the bar.

The chef immediately begin bustling about, pulling down a jar of marshmallows, a large tub of pure cocoa powder, a jar of sugar. Then he spun around and headed for the fridge. He pulled open one its silver doors, when he closed it he had a bottle of milk and a can of whipped cream. The chef placed a pan on full heat, he measured out some milk and splashed it into the pan. He added two teaspoons of cocoa powder to a narrow glass cup, then one heap spoon of sugar. Once that was done he whisked at the milk vigorously and began to hum a merry little tune that she didn’t know but loved. She watched him, hypnotised. Steam began to rise. He switched the gas hob off and slopped the milk into the glass. Stirring the mixture with gusto he brought it over to rest it on the bar, there he added a generous amount of mini marshmallows and topped it off with a tower of cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. He placed it onto a saucer and added a biscuit.

‘Thank you, darlin’, a pleasure to see you’ She handed him the exact cash. He noticed a wide-eyed young girl staring at the hot chocolate, beside her flustered mother, both wet from the rain.

‘I want one of those!’ Said the little girl.

‘Little miss, that’s a hot chocolate made the old fashioned way. I don’t use factory made mixtures and I certainly don’t use water’ the chef exclaimed as if the thought of either was an outrage. The little girl stared back in disbelief, not really knowing what he was talking about. ‘Mommy, I want a hot chocolate’ he looked at the woman for permission and began the process again. ‘There you go, little miss. Plus you get a little biscuit, just like how my mama used to do it’ he smiled and pushed the drink to the little girl. ‘Be careful now, it’s hot, hot chocolate! And for you miss?’ The mother wore an angry expression, she had laid out her coat on the bar and was trying to fold a jammed umbrella. ‘I’ll have the same, they remind me of someone too, my grandfather’ her tone was surprisingly pleasant. ‘Certainly madam. Did he used to make them when you were young?’

‘Yes, the old fashioned way, like yours’ 

‘Ah real cocoa then? Excellent. You see things aren’t the same any more’ he bobbed his head towards a middle-aged couple both absorbed in their mobile phones. ‘I like to keep some things the same, as they should be. They’ve done away with a much happier, healthier time. No more newspapers, no more books, no more letters, no more real cooks. Everything has been replaced. I used to come home from school to stew and we would eat it by a roaring fire. Then my mama would tell me and my sisters to go get our books and to read before bed time. She would busy herself writing letters to her friends. She would make things by hand. She would have visitors and they would exchange updates on their families and their lives. That life is gone now’ he looked bitter. He placed her hot chocolate down and offered a crooked smile ‘There you go, miss, hot chocolate the old fashioned way’ The chef went back to clean up.

The woman looked down at the mobile in her hands, it was lit up alerting her to various notifications. She entered the pin and opened up a message. There was a picture of a newborn baby with a generic message from the father, a friend of hers. She signed knowing he was right. Nothing meant as much anymore, not even wedding vows. She absently stroked her finger, she usually twisted her wedding ring around when she felt uneasy. Instead there was an indented white mark where the ring had been earlier that day.

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