The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal

The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal

The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal


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A Little Sugar


The dim coffee shop gave off an aura of warmth. Its soft orange glow from hanging lights and dark wood furniture gives the whole atmosphere a cozy and safe feeling. Her battered laptop sits in front of her, blank and inviting, ready to be filled with words she wanted to say. However the blanker the page, the harder it seems to put words on it. Especially when the response of her editor to her last short story still rings in her head. 

“It’s a cute story, really, but something just wasn’t quite right with the characters.” What could she do? None of her writer friends could figure it out, saying things like “he just isn’t right” Yep, got that, super helpful. Her sisters were young and didn’t know how to properly criticize. Her Dad was more interested in Moby Dick rather than what she enjoyed writing, and her mom didn’t like hurting her feelings. 

She wanted to let her head crash on her computer but stopped herself as there was a small ring, announcing the arrival of another customer. He was probably around her age, with dark hair and clothes that made one think of offices and arrogance. He made his way to the counter, with its daily baked pastries and goodies, no longer warm, but not yet replaced with the lunch sandwiches. She specifically came around this time of day because of its emptiness, so seeing a stranger who looked like he belonged at a fancy desk was not a welcome sight. Especially when he turned toward her and she could feel the judgment radiating off him. His gaze locked on her vest, given to her by her aunt in Oxford, which she was well aware didn’t exactly match her current outfit. It was her favorite thing to wear while she was writing. It radiated good ideas and was extremely comfortable, but she did try to save it for when she was the only one in the cafe. It didn’t help that there was a slightly embarrassing number of stickers on her computer. Many of them book quotes and the writing competitions she entered.

Which was why she was surprised to see after the stranger had ordered his coffee he made his way over to her. She placed a smile on her face that she hoped her mom would be proud of. 

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“Is this seat taken?” He asked she couldn’t help glancing around at the completely empty cafe before replying 

“No” her voice was slightly confused as he pulled out the chair across from her. She had no idea what to say to this bold stranger. She had literally never seen him before and was just caught so off guard that all the possibilities of a conversation starter left her head. He too seemed to be increasingly awkward, until he glanced down and saw her cup, still half full and coated with the remnants of whipped cream. 

“What kind of coffee do you like?” For a second she considers lying to preserve what dignity she has left, but she felt the wrongness of it and says, 

“It’s not coffee, just hot chocolate. I don’t drink coffee. It’s a religious thing” After years and years of saying this, now it just rolls off the tongue. He seemed taken aback, as most people are, but she couldn’t imagine living her life any other way. Trying to lower the tension she politely asked, 

“How about you? What drink did you order?” He seemed to relax a little bit. 

“Black expresso” she laughed, she may not drink it, but she knew it was extremely bitter.

“You not a sugar person?” She felt ridiculous after she said it, and could not help thinking of her close friends who said it isn’t “real coffee” if there was sugar. He laughed. 

“Now that’s a loaded question, to the rest of the world I get it completely natural, but between you and me I often add a little sugar, just to lighten it a little bit,” she laughed lightly, thinking of how her friends would react to that. 

“Your secret is safe with me. Though, I have to wonder, does that even change the flavor at all?” genuine curiosity has taken hold of her. Coffee in general was a mystery, being surrounded by it but never knowing what it tasted like. Other people can describe it to you. Tell you that you would like it, or that you wouldn’t. They can describe the taste and texture down to the most minuscule detail, but it is not the same, and you have to be okay with that. Even though, over time it may become something people notice about you, even your defining trait. Some of this may be in your head but slowly it seems to morph until it becomes a part of who you are. 

“BLACK ESPRESSO!” The barista shouts. The stranger gets up and says 

“Sorry that’s me, I’m already super late and got to run, but it was nice meeting you!” He snatches up his briefcase then, after grabbing his coffee, runs out the door.

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