Byul Li pushes through the glass doors of the café. Only to have to wait in the end of a curved line. It isn’t long, there are only four people are in front of her. But it is enough that she taps her foot impatiently and checks the time on her phone. Her lecture started four minutes ago. But she couldn’t find her lucky vans in time for the first bus. How could she attend her first day of classes without her lucky vans?
She answers before the barista can even ask, “Bold coffee with soy milk.”
A pause. The barista blinks, “Will that be all?”
“Yes,” Byul Li answers. She pulls a crumpled bill from her jeans pocket and hands it across the counter.
“Name?” the barista asks, cup in hand, sharpie poised.
“Byul Li,” says hastily.
She gets her change and waits at the end of the counter with everyone else.
Byul Li gets called.
The other people should stop glaring. If they wanted to leave quickly they shouldn’t have asked for that iced-dark-chocolate-expresso-whatever-complicated crap. After all, less is more. And this bold coffee is exactly what Byul Li needed.
She walks briskly out of the café, smug smile on her face, content with life.
Until she checks her phone.
Lecture started ten minutes ago. .
Byul Li runs.
Byul Li struts into the café, head held high, and long black hair trailing down her back. Her blue button down is unwrinkled and she’s wearing her lucky vans. Their powers are working this time, there is no other customer in the café.
Byul Li forgoes going through the empty line and walks right to counter.
“Bold coffee with soy milk,” she says.
The barista closes and nods as she punches the order in the cash register. Her work apron is covered in an arsenal of multi colored buttons. Byul Li sees a moustache button among the rainbow mix.
Byul Li pulls a flat bill from her pocket.
As the barista counts out the change, she asks, “Name?”
She bounces when she hands over Byul Li’s change. Cute.
Byul Li’s coffee is ready before she can step away from the counter.
She sips her coffee as she leisurely walks out.
There’s a black scribble at the end of Byul Li’s name on the cup
Byul Li runs into the cafe on campus. She’s already late for her lecture, her hair is unbrushed and hidden under a large Ed Hardy snapback, her sneakers hastily slipped on with the laces untied.
The line to the cash register curves three times. .
She types a quick text to Yong Sun, asking her to save a seat in lecture.
“Bold coffee with soy milk,” Byul Li said before she had stepped up to the counter.
The barista nods and says “Byul Li, right?”
Byul Li blinks, momentarily surprised, “Yeah.”
The barista smiles, she has dimples, as she writes the name, “It’ll be ready in a moment.”
Byul Li pulls a crumpled bill from the pocket of her hoodie.
The barista bounces when she hands Byul Li her change. Cute.
Byul Li stares at her phone as she waits, impatiently tapping a rhythm on her sweatpants.
Her name is called. She quickly grabs her coffee and runs to the lecture hall.
Yong San saved her a seat. Thank god.
Once settled in the desk, she squints at her coffee cup.
There’s a filled in triangle after Byul Li ‘s name.
Byul Li and Yong Sun are walking leisurely to the lecture hall.
“Primary processes are like solving long division problems, right?” Byul Li asks as she holds the door open.
“No, that’s secondary process,” Yong Sun stepped up to the end of the line, “Primary process is the id, it’s instinct based thinking like eating or going to the bathroom. Which you would have known if you didn’t fall asleep in lecture the other day.” Yong Sun finishes with a smile.
Byul Li glares.
Yong Sun has a child’s smile, overconfident and bubbly. Her hair flowed down her shoulders in perfect waves and her dress was form fitting and wrinkle free. She looked grown up. Like an adult who had her life all figured out. It was in moments like these that Byul Li hated her.
“I’ll pay for the coffee,” Yong Sun offers.
Then again, who in their right mind would ever hate Yong Sun.
“Thank you, unnie,” Byul Li makes a heart with her hands.
Yong Sun laughs and shoves her shoulder.
When it’s their turn, the barista asks “Good morning, what can I get you?”
“Good morning,” Yong Sun smiles just as brightly, “Can I get a green tea latte?”
“Got it, and for you,” the barista turns to Byul Li, “a bold coffee with soy milk?”
She smiles, her dimples are more prominent. She’s cute.
Byul Li smiles back, “That’s right.”
Yong Sun’s eyes pass from Byul Li to the barista. She smiles to herself and hands her card over to barista.
She doesn’t bounce when she returns the card, but her smile is still blinding.
Byul Li and Yong Sun step away from the counter and move to where the other patrons are waiting for their drinks.
“She knows your order,” Yong Sun’s eyebrows shot up.
“She knows everyone’s order,” Byul Li dismisses.
Yong Sun smirks. Byul Li wants to punch her. She looks at the barista instead. Bangs across her forehead, ponytail bouncing behind her.
And maybe Byul Li notices her smile is that much smaller than it had been with her.
Or maybe it was nothing.
Their orders are called. There’s a scribbled out triangle next to Byul Li’s name. Yong Sun starts laughing, Byul Li can’t understand why.
Byul Li walks into the café. There are no other customers. Probably because of her lucky vans.
“You’re early today,” the barista says when she sees Byul Li.
“I got lucky,” Byul Li shrugs. She doesn’t say anything about setting her alarm a half earlier to catch the first bus.
“Bold coffee with soy milk?” the barista asks. Her name tag says Hwi In with a flower drawn at the end. Cute.
And then she smiles up at Byul Li.
Byul Li finds herself smiling back, “Yeah.”
“I’ll have that right out for you,” the barista, Hwi In, says.
Byul Li pulls a perfectly folded bill from her pocket and hands it across the counter.
Hwi In bounces as she hands Byul Li her change. And waves Byul Li off.
Byul Li’s name is called.
On the cup her name is written in purple sharpie this time. Hwi In forgot to cover the heart.
Byul Li doesn’t pay attention during lecture.
Byul Li had a midterm that day, a midterm she was late to even when skipping her morning coffee run.
She feels terrible.
She had to guess for half of the questions. She’s going to fail the midterm.
And on top of that Hwi In wasn’t working.
“Hey,” Byul Li sighs.
This girl had short blonde hair and on point eyebrows… but she didn’t have a smile… or dimples.
“Can I take your order?” the barista asks. Her name tag said Hye Jin.
“Excuse me?” Byul Li asks.
“Your order,” Hye Jin’s long painted nails tapped against the counter, “What is it?”
“Uh, bold coffee with soy milk,” Byul Li’s head hurts.
“Is that all,” Hye Jin asks.
“Yeah that’s all,” Byul Li digs a couple of crumpled bills from her hoodie pocket.
Hye Jin unfolds the bills, punches in the amount, and does not bounce as she hands Byul Li the change.
“Who is the order for?” Hye Jin asks.
“Me,” Byul Li answers.
“And your name is?” Hye Jin asks.
This was wrong. Her hair was blonde, not brunette, and she wasn’t smiling. And if she did smile she probably didn’t have dimples. Today was not a good day.
“Byul Li,” Byul Li finally tells her.
It was probably all in Byul Li’s head but the coffee tasted more bitter than it usually did.
Byul Li reluctantly walks into the café, the taste of last time’s encounter still in .
There was no line.
There were only four other people in the café.
One of them was Hwi In. Hwi In in her black work shirt and white apron with all of the cute buttons replacing the tape on the cashier register.
She smiles up at Byul Li when she walks to the counter. “Good morning, I didn’t see you the other day.”
Byul Li couldn’t stop from smiling back, “Yeah, I was running late to class.”
Hwi In nods.
Byul Li’s fingers thrum against her jeans.
“Bold coffee with soy milk?” Hwi In asks, her purple sharpie already writing Byul Li’s name on the cup.
“Of course,” Byul Li pulls the bills from her back pocket.
Hwi In takes the crumpled bills and bounces in place when she hands Byul Li her change.
It was probably all in Byul Li’s head, but the tasted more sweet than it normally did.
Byul Li walks into the café. Her hair is perfectly straight and trailing down her back. She’s wearing a button down shirt under a sweater. She’s wearing her lucky vans. There’s a line today but she can wait, she’ll be late to lecture if she has to.
Hwi In is at the first cash register. She smiles as she takes each order. She bounces as she hands the customers their change. As serves a man, she sees Byul Li in the line. Byul Li waves. Hwi In’s smile grows wider. Then she returns to the customer.
Finally Byul Li reaches the front of the line. She opens and Hwi In smiles wide enough for her dimples to show. Byul Li forgets what she was going to say.
“Let me guess, bold coffee with soy milk?” Hwi In tilts her head as she speaks. Cute.
“Same as any other day,” Byul Li says with a shaky laugh.
Hwi In doesn’t notice. She smiles brightly and reaches for a new coffee cup and the purple sharpie in her pocket.
“The name is different!” Byul Li says too loudly.
The girl in line behind her jumps back.
Hwi In blinks. “Okay,” she says uncertainly, “What name do you want on the cup?”
“Hwi In’s number.”
Hwi In’s blushing. Byul Li can feel her own cheeks heating up. This plan sounded so much better in her head.
“Nevermind, Byul Li is fine,” she says to the counter.
Hwi In nods and writes on the cup, “We’ll call out your name when the order is ready.” She can’t meet Byul Li’s gaze as she slides her change across the table
As expected, Byul Li was too forward. She doesn’t even know if Hwi In is interested. Maybe she’s cute to all of the customers. Maybe it was all in Byul Li’s head. Maybe Hwi In is scared of Byul Li, and is going to switch shifts and Byul Li is going to have to order coffee from the girl with the long nails. It’s not that she gets the order wrong but she’s not-
Byul Li’s name is called.
She grabs the cup without making eye contact. Damn it, she’s already late to lecture.
Her name is written on the cup.
Underneath her name is a phone number.
Followed by “I’m free on Thursday.”
Followed by a heart.
Byul Li smiles as she walks into her lecture hall, ten minutes late.