Harvey wiped his brow as he poured what had to be the twentieth latte of the day. Man, these people were ravenous. Maybe it was something in the air. Maybe it was the weather. The quickly cooling autumn air brought people into Cozy in droves, much more than he was used to serving. It was all good for him, of course. The extra tips meant he would have a little more left over after bills this month. He enjoyed making coffee and tea and talking to the people that frequented the shop. Being up at the ass-crack of dawn? Not so much.
Eric, his boss, had been working him even more hours than usual due to the influx of fall customers. School was in session again at the university nearby, and students straggled into Cozy at all hours to get their next caffeine hit or wind down with some of the kittens while sipping a warm drink.
Cozy was the first and only cat cafe in Washington, DC, and it was doing quite well for itself as a new business despite the skyrocketing rents. Cat cafes served a double purpose--it was a coffee shop, but also in another room held an assortment of kittens and cats, all up for adoption. They rescued the cats from shelters and people could come and spend time with the cats and get a drink as well. It was a win-win. They'd adopted out dozens of cats since the cafe started not long ago, and it filled Harvey with a sense of pride to know that in some small way, he was helping these cats find their new families and homes.
Okay, he mostly just made the drinks and stared longingly at the cats. But it was a nice respite from the harsh political climate of DC.
Speak of the devil, Eric came out of the back of the shop carrying a full bag of coffee beans. He poured it into the grinder near the front, grinning at Harvey.
"Did you get my invitation?" He asked, his eyes twinkling. Eric's voice barely carried over the sound of the grinder but Harvey was able to make out the words while he rang up the most recent customer. When they left, Harvey turned to him and gave him a hearty clap on the back.
"I did," Harvey smiled, nodding at him. "Congratulations, man." Eric had been the latest of his friends (acquaintances, whatever) to get engaged. It seemed like that was the hot thing to do nowadays. Harvey was happy for him, of course, but he would be lying to himself if he said it didn't tug at his heartstrings a little.
Everyone seemed to be finding love but him, and with the cool air filtering into the area and the leaves turning from green to gold to brilliant red, he couldn't think of a better time to share a warm beverage and a blanket with one he loved.
But it didn't matter. Harvey had lasted this long without someone, and he could carry on a bit longer. He had never been the type to need to be with someone. Besides, work was really picking up at the cafe. He enjoyed his job, and was even quite good at it. Of course, he wouldn't have it any other way. Harvey had higher standards than most people, but it kept him busy and made him happy to provide excellent service.
"You been seeing anyone?" Eric asked, wiping the counter clean of the few beans that had spilled out.
"I'm married to the job, remember?" Harvey laughed, raising the mug sitting beside him. He waggled his eyebrows and kissed the cup to make things all the more ridiculous.
Eric rolled his eyes and waved a hand at him, looking him up and down. "You need to learn to loosen up. Stop working so hard all the time. Find a nice girl for once."
"What's not fun about this?" Harvey gestured at the cats roaming the room. "We practically sell fun here." The lull in customers gave them enough time to chat, but as the clock rounded its way toward noon, a new slew of students would be bursting into the cafe soon.
"You know what I mean," Eric laughed. "Just keep your eyes open, you know? Never know who could walk in that door."
The bell on the door tinkled as a new customer stepped in and headed for the counter. Harvey finished the rest of his coffee and wiped his hands. Back to work.
"We'll talk about this later," Eric promised, disappearing into the back.
"And what can I get you today?" Harvey asked, wearing his most winning smile.
Another latte. Of course.
The remaining hours of his shift passed quickly as he brewed more coffee and served up the last of the pastries they'd baked that day.
"I'm heading out, Eric," Harvey called, entering in his time for the day as he hung up his apron.
"See ya later, man," Eric called from the back. As Harvey stepped toward the door, he heard Eric's voice again. "Hey, you got a minute?"
Not really, but okay. Liam was probably climbing the walls with hunger by now.
"Sure, what's up?" Harvey turned back to him, wearing that smile again.
"I've been thinking. The cafe area has been booming--largely due to the influx of students--but the cat lounge needs work. I'm not sure how we can get people in here, you know? They come for their coffee and get out, but these cats need homes. You know that. We made an arrangement with the shelter, but we won't be able to manage the upkeep costs unless we can get more people visiting, and hopefully, adopting. I'm trying to think of promotional ideas, but I'm coming up short. What do you think?"
Harvey scratched his head. Eric meant well, but sometimes he bit off more than he could chew. "It's hard to say. But you can count on me. Let me think on it, okay? I'll let you know next time genius strikes."
"You mean the next time you get drunk?" Eric teased.
"Shut it," Harvey laughed, punching Eric's arm.
"Have a good night, man," Eric waved, still chuckling. "Don't worry about it. Just wanted to toss some ideas around."
"Later," Harvey waved, stepping out into the cool autumn air. He turned toward the Metro, hoping against hope that the trains wouldn't be delayed again. Construction had shut down service to many train lines recently and it always felt like a lottery to know if his train was going to be on time.
Luckily, he lived only one stop away from the cafe. It was still early afternoon, but the cool air was coming in quick. It was going to be a cold winter at this rate.
When Harvey opened the door to his apartment, Lacey and Liam were on him before he could toss his keys and bag aside. They rubbed up against his legs, mewing happily as they looked up at him with huge eyes.
"Yes, yes, I'm home," he smiled, taking off his shoes and heading over to their food bowl. Empty again. "Hungry cats," Harvey mumbled and shook his head before filling the bowl again. The sound of the cat food hitting the bowl was enough to send Lacey and Liam running. They nearly tumbled over one another as they made a beeline for the food dish and started munching at the kitty food in earnest.
As Harvey headed into the kitchen to find some human food, his mind kept drifting toward Eric's announcement.
Why couldn't he find someone like that? Eric positively lit up whenever he talked about Jessica. As much as he tried to keep himself busy, he wanted that. To be cared for. To be wanted. Harvey sighed, grabbing a leftover quesadilla out of the fridge. It warmed in the microwave while Harvey stared at the ceiling, wondering if he'd ever find a love like that.
For starters, sitting at home all the time didn't help. Intuitively, he knew that. But the outside world? It was too unpredictable. His stable routines he could control, and he knew all too well how jittery he got when things were out of his hands. It was fine, though. At least, that's what he told himself.
The microwave beeped and Harvey took the quesadilla out onto the patio. He gasped as he took a bite and got a mouthful of molten cheese. Really needed to be more careful about that. The cool air rushed against his skin as he surveyed the row of plants on the patio. Behind cats and coffee, Harvey's third love was gardening. Vines and blossoms spilled from the ceramic pots and over the porch railing. First frost would be soon, and Harvey feared the plants wouldn't make it. He made a mental note to bring them indoors. He checked the leaves of each plant as he went, sprinkling water into their pots. The hardy succulents were still holding color nicely.
Tending plants made him feel like he was making a difference in the midst of the crazy world. He could grow something from scratch and help it thrive. Especially in the fast-paced machine that was DC, having his own little bit of life was invaluable.
After watering the plants, Harvey settled in with the novel he'd been reading and a comfy wool blanket pulled over his lap. Lacey and Liam were long into their food comas by the time he pulled the blanket into the bedroom and drifted into a fitful night's sleep. He hoped that one day, and one day soon, he'd find that extra something.