Connie sat in front of the ancient and wheezing coffee pot willing it to make coffee for the third time that morning. She was starting to get annoyed.
“C’mon you ridiculous piece of shit,” she muttered as she unplugged it. She was certain it was an issue in the filter from the water tank.
“You have to talk to it just right,” said the Old Man as he passed her to get his French press from the cabinet.
“I was talking to it just right,” she grumbled. The filter was clogged. She opened another cabinet and pulled a new filter for it.
“Calling it a ridiculous piece of shit is talking to it just right?”
“Considering our ongoing and contentious relationship, yes.”
The Old Man rolled his eyes and put a kettle of water on the stove. “You’re welcome to some of mine if you can’t get that to work.”
“I have a busy day today Old Man. I need coffee quickly.”
“At this rate, I think both pots will be done at the same time.”
“Ah hah!” she shouted triumphantly as the coffee pot wheezed to life. “You have a bet old man!”
“Alright.” He turned on the gas on the stove and stood back. “While we’re waiting, what do you have going on today that has you so worked up?”
“I have to go to the City today. I need to pick up a package from Captain Downing, meet with a client to solidify something he had planned, get back here in time for confession, I have to make sure the club is cleaned up after that stupid business last night, be there in time for a delivery, and then set up for the night.”
“That is a busy day you have planned there. What possessed you to stack so much on one day?”
“Not my plan. I just forgot today was confession day.”
“Of the missions you have today, I think Father Patrick would let you miss one week.”
“I’ve missed the last two weeks. He’s threatened to send Father Michael after me.”
“Not much of a threat.”
“I know. But enough.” The coffee pot in front of her sizzled and popped and finally a thin stream of brown liquid was draining into the carafe. “And how are you doing with your coffee?”
The kettle was percolating. And a few seconds later began to let out its shrill whistle. The Old Man turned off the fire and poured the water into his French press. “Just getting started here.”
“Well then, I just might…” But the coffee pot behind her let out a louder pop than the others. She turned back and sparks were flying from the cord where the plastic had melted and was now threatening to burn. “Shit shit shit shit shit!” she exclaimed as she wrestled the plug out of the wall. Only a quarter inch of brown liquid was in the carafe. The stream stopped. Her shoulders fell.
The Old Man pushed down the plunger on the top of the French press. “Have I mentioned this will make two cups of coffee?”
Connie pulled one of the chairs out from the kitchen table and sat down, completely defeated by a coffee pot. “Just, shut up and pour Old Man.”
He chuckled. He pulled down her favorite mug. It was a midnight blue and handmade. The best feature to her was the fleur-de-lis in relief on the side. He sat it down on the table in front of her and poured the coffee to an inch before the rim.
She picked up the cream she had already put on the table and poured it in, watching the black concoction bloom in a flower of white and tan. She put in two spoons of sugar as well.
“Can I come in?” said Eric from the door.
“Are you going to be nice?” asked Connie.
Eric looked at the Old Man with a raised eyebrow.
“Answer her, it’s her rule,” said the Old Man.
Eric rolled his eyes. “I promise to be nice.”
“What? I want coffee! And breakfast!”
“Coffee maker is broke again. The Old Man will have to brew up another couple cups in his French press again. And as for breakfast, you’re going to have to be nicer if you want to come in here.”
Eric let out an exasperated sigh. “Connie, for serious now.”
“Are you really going to argue with me about this?” said Connie staring straight at him.
“It’s been THREE YEARS!”
“This was the agreement that we came to two years ago when I saved your life as I recall. So, be a good little boy, sweeten up that voice some, and then I’ll feel safe about you coming into this kitchen.”
Again Eric looked to the Old Man. But he was staring back with the same amount of anger annoyance that was now on Connie’s face. He took in a deep breath, put on his most genuine smile and said, “Connie, can I come into the kitchen?”
“Are you going to be nice?”
“Yes, on my honor, I will be nice.”
“Thank you.” Eric walked in and reached for the kettle.
The Old Man snatched it from his hand. “No, I handle the coffee.”
“Can’t do anything right this morning,” Eric muttered.
“Last time you tried to make coffee in his French press you broke it,” said Connie. “And it took three months to find another French press.”
“Eric, stop. I have a busy day and I really don’t need to start it with your whining over all the things that you have done that are your fault and you just don’t want to own up.” She walked around the kitchen table and opened the fridge before he could say anything else.
“What’s got the both of you in such a bad mood?”
“Not a bad mood,” said The Old Man, putting the kettle back on the stove, “just feel the need to keep you on a shorter leash since you were such an ass last week.”
Eric sighed. “Okay, that was my fault. I will own up to that one. I broke a rule that I shouldn’t have.”
“Yeah, and so now you have to deal with it,” said Connie. “I don’t know why you didn’t just stay at Magnolia House for a few more days.” The kettle shrieked and The Old Man poured the hot water into the French press.
“Mother was not exactly happy with me when she found out why I was hiding out there.”
“Even so, she’s taken you in after you have made stupider mistakes.”
“She has a soft spot for you. So when I make a mistake that hurts either one of you, I find my stay is shorter.”
“Hmmm,” said the Old Man. He got down Eric’s favorite mug and poured in the coffee.
“Thanks,” said Eric.
Connie finally emerged from the fridge with a carton of eggs, a bowl of fried rice, cheese, and butter.
“What are you doing with all that?” asked the Old Man.
“There’s enough fried rice left to heat and make omurice,” she replied laying out her ingredients on the counter. She had a wide grin on her face and she did a little shimmy of joy.
“Just one serving?”
“I can be persuaded to stretch it into two.”
Eric rolled his eyes. “Thick as thieves you two.”
“I think he just complimented us,” said the Old Man in a conspiratorial tone.
Connie giggled in response and said something to him in Korean.
Eric shook his head. “Alright, I give. I’m getting some toast and I am leaving the kitchen.”
The both of them laughed now. Connie retrieved a pan from the cabinets and set to making their breakfast.
“Anymore coffee?” said a sleepy brunette as she walked into the kitchen and avoided bumping into Eric as he headed for the bread loaf and toaster oven.
“You’re in luck Becca,” said the Old Man. He pulled out her mug and poured it half full. “There you are.”
“Thanks,” she replied pouring in cream and sugar before stirring.
“You look a mess,” said Connie glancing over her shoulder.
“Fell asleep at the computer again,” Becca said with a sigh. She flopped down into one of the kitchen chairs and sipped on her coffee.
“Got enough cream?” asked an equally sleepy raven haired man as he peered over Becca’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek.
“Never enough cream in the world,” she replied.
“I’m making toast Byron,” said Eric. “Do you want any?”
“Oh, yes please.” Byron sat down in the chair next to Becca and twiddled with her hair.
“You’ll have to wait for the coffee,” said the Old Man as he put the kettle on the stove again.
“That’s fine. I can stand to wait. Still waking up.”
Connie tossed the fried rice in the pan.
“Ooof,” said Becca. “I can smell the kimchi from here.”
“Yeah, they’re having their Korean breakfast tradition,” said Eric. “Never can stomach it myself.”
“Good thing there wasn’t enough for you then,” said Connie.
Becca rolled her eyes. They had been acting like this for days. She was looking forward to when they were just gently jabbing each other rather than trying to draw actual blood.
“Yeesh, full house,” said the redhead at the door.
“Don’t worry,” said Eric, “once my toast is done I’m heading out to the porch.”
“Becca and I will probably join him,” said Byron.
“We need a bigger kitchen,” said a dark haired man with olive skin over the red head’s shoulder.
“You tell me how to fit a bigger kitchen in this old house,” said the Old Man. “And if you can’t, be quiet and wait your turn.”
Both raised their hands in defeat.
“Travis, you working the club tonight?” asked Connie.
The dark haired man in the doorway nodded. “Yeah, me and Maverick.” The red head nodded to confirm.
“Thanks, hopefully it won’t be a shit show like it was last night.”
“I didn’t hear,” said Eric. “What happened?”
“Seems some MPs were on leave. Got drunk. Got loud. You know how it goes.”
Everyone in the kitchen and in the doorway nodded. Military police were an unfortunate part of life. But MPs off duty were often worse. They would come into the Sinner City expecting to get whatever they wanted for free. But here the criminals made the rules.
“Anyway, I was reliably informed by Denise and Patrick that there is some clean up to be done.”
“They’re your bartenders, why didn’t they handle it?” said Eric.
“They just barely managed to handle getting the MPs out of there and subsequently the customers who had gotten restless and annoyed by the whole scene. They got their usual clean up done. But there’s something that they say I need to see before they can decide what to do.”
“I don’t know. It was late. They were tired. I didn’t press for details. I was just glad we didn’t get shut down.” Connie slid the fried rice onto two plates and retrieved the soft omelettes from the other pan. She put the ketchup bottle on the table. Then handed one of the plates to the Old Man.
“Oh thank you!” he replied with a look of delight. He gave the dish a deep sniff. “Mmmm, smells like Tan used to make.”
“I hope so,” replied Connie sitting down. “He’s the one who taught me.”
The Old Man handed over the French press so Byron could pour himself a cup. The toaster oven dinged. Eric retrieved the four pieces of buttered toast. He put them on plates and handed one to Byron. Becca and Byron stood together and went out the front door to the porch. Eric followed close behind.
Travis and Maverick then spilled into the kitchen and went to the fridge to hunt for their own breakfast. The Old Man blew gently on his food and took a bite.
“Mmm, almost exactly like Tan’s.”
Connie smiled. “He likes to put in gochuchang. Unfortunately we don’t have any.”
“That would be the one difference. I’ll have to see if I can find some.”
“Don’t strain yourself. It’s tough to get Korean products here.”
He nodded. The kimchi that they had was actually a special delivery from their friends who lived there.
Maverick and Travis split what was left of the coffee in the French press and nibbled on the cold boiled eggs they had found in the fridge.
Connie shuddered seeing them. “Ugh, cold eggs.”
“You don’t like them?” said Travis.
“Sensory thing. Long story. Not important.”
Travis nodded and let it go.
“Do any of you know what Eric has planned for tonight?” asked Connie.
All three shrugged.
“Just hoping he’s not coming to the club. I’ve got enough shit to do today. Don’t need to babysit his ass while he’s out tonight.” Connie swallowed the last bite of rice, put her plate in the sink, then ran upstairs to get dressed.