Farewell to the Coffee Lands
When I saw that sign, hidden behind the bushes and trees looming overhead, I knew I had reached it – the middle of nowhere. "Welcome to Oak Harbor." I had never felt more unwelcome in my life.
Greta awoke to a strange feeling of emptiness. Her hands were tucked under a pillow that smelled like cinnamon, covered in a thick, warm blanket. She sat up and realized she was in a bedroom. In a bed. That didn't belong to her. She looked around her for a moment, puzzled, then looked at the clock on the little table by the bed. Three. Three in the morning? She wasn't sure.
Greta climbed out of the bed and peeked out the window above the bedside table. It was pitch dark outside. Obviously it was three in the morning. She listened for a moment but heard nothing and assumed no one was awake. She tip-toed to the bedroom door and eased it open silently. She had to find a bathroom soon or she knew she'd pee herself. The hallway was pitch black and Greta prayed there was no one in the hallway on the off chance someone had decided to sleep there.
Every step was taken with utter care and her heart pounded with anticipation, as though she expected to meet someone in the hall. She finally reached a door and peeked inside. As her eyes grew used to the darkness she was finally able to tell where she was. It was another bedroom and from the two lumps in the bed she decided it must be where Julian and Tempest had gone to sleep. She looked at the end of the hallway and realized the bathroom must be back there. With her eyes adjusted to the darkness she walked faster with ease and as she looked into the room she knew it was the bathroom. She flicked on the lights and locked the door before she went to the toilet.
She was wide awake now. Should she bother trying to go back to sleep, she wondered, or maybe walk home and just leave a note saying where she'd gone. But the thought of walking home alone at three in the morning, even if it was just in little Oak Harbor, was not a pleasant one and Greta dismissed it immediately. As she washed her hands, Greta was sure she heard something in the kitchen and heaved a sigh of relief. Someone was awake. Lo and behold, as she left the bathroom she saw the dim glow of lights coming from the kitchen.
Standing in the kitchen, holding a kettle in one hand and a package of tea in the other, was Gabriel himself. He smiled when he saw Greta and motioned for her to sit down. "You're awake," he observed. "Want some tea?"
"Sure," Greta said with a shrug. She wasn't usually a fan of tea but somehow it sounded good at three in the morning.
"I hope you like chai tea," Gabriel said. "It's my favorite."
"I've never had it," Greta admitted with a sheepish grin. "I usually don't drink tea. I'm more of a coffee person myself."
"Coffee? Blegh!" Gabriel chuckled. "You're definitely from Seattle. Chai tea is wonderful, you're going to love it, I promise. We'll get you away from that coffee faster than you can say 'cappuccino.'"
Greta giggled and settled into one of the seats at Gabriel's small dining table. "I guess I really am a typical Seattle resident. I'm addicted to Starbucks and I'm not awake unless I've had at least one cup of coffee." She paused a moment then added as an afterthought. "And that's on an off-day." Gabriel laughed and joined Greta at the table.
"Sorry we had to move you," he said motioning at the couch apologetically. "Darius has work tomorrow though so he couldn't stay. I'll give you and Mo a ride home tomorrow morning."
"Oh, thanks," Greta said. "I didn't mean to fall asleep on Darius…" She trailed off a moment and tried to remember what they had last been doing. "I guess I was more tired from the trip up here than I thought I was."
"Well you just got up here," Gabriel said logically. "I was actually really surprised Mo wanted you to meet everyone at once already. You haven't even really moved in yet and he already wants to party." He rolled his eyes and smiled. "That's Mo for you, though. He'll take any excuse to get us all together with beer. It was a lot easier when we were a band but now…we've all got our own jobs and stuff."
"You don't call yourselves a band anymore?" Greta asked curiously.
"Not since Ross left us," Gabriel said, shaking his head. "We haven't really been the same since then, and now that we're looking for a girl we're sort of incomplete."
"Ross?" Greta repeated. "I thought Darius was your old singer?"
Gabriel didn't answer for a moment, but frowned slightly, then nodded, as though he understood what Greta was thinking. "We tried with Darius as our lead for awhile, but it didn't really work. His style of singing works great for really metal bands but I didn't want that. Ross was perfect, but now I want a girl and if there's something Darius isn't – it's a girl." He paused a moment, studying Greta, then asked, "You don't sing, do you?"
"No," Greta said hastily. "I'm a painter, not a singer."
"Yeah, it'd be a bit too cliché if you became our singer," Gabriel said with a nod. "Too easy, of course. I guess we'll just have to keep holding auditions till we find the new girl. Summer's coming up, though. That'll be good for us. A lot of the Navy families start moving up here during the summer so their kids can start school at the beginning of the year. We'll get a bunch of Navy brats to choose from."
"Navy brats?" Greta repeated, feeling slightly taken aback.
"It's a term," Gabriel said, waving it off. "You obviously haven't lived in a military town."
"This is a military town?" Greta asked doubtfully. Oak Harbor seemed so small and peaceful, it was hard to picture the military having anything to do with it.
"Yeah, I guess it doesn't look like it, does it?" Gabriel chuckled. "The base is actually just about five or ten minutes up the road. I've lived in Oak Harbor all my life and it's always been a military town. People come and go, they usually only live here about three years, six tops. It sucks but it's true."
"And they're called Navy brats?" Greta asked, still slightly put off by the expression.
"Yup," Gabriel said, nodding. "I can't believe you've never heard that before."
"I've lived in Seattle all my life," Greta said with a shrug. "I've lived in a big city but I guess I'm actually pretty sheltered. All I know is Seattle." She was about to go on when suddenly a loud, high shriek cut her off. Greta froze in her seat, her heart skipped a beat. Gabriel laughed.
"It's just the kettle," he said with a mischievous grin. "Chill, girl."
"Oh." Greta laughed and let out a breath of relief. Gabriel stood and poured two cups of water into the mugs.
"You still want the tea, right?" he asked her over his shoulder. Greta nodded. A few moments later Gabriel appeared back at the table. He placed a mug of brown liquid in front of her and Greta wrinkled her nose. This was chai tea? This was what Gabriel had made such a huge deal over? She stirred the tea a bit to stall from actually drinking it. "So," Gabriel continued. "You lived in Seattle yet you call yourself sheltered? That's a bit of an oxymoron, don't you think?"
"No," Greta said reasonably. "It's not like I grew up in downtown Seattle with a bunch of druggies and hippies around me. I lived in a nice neighborhood, went to a nice school. We just…the people that I hung out with were really cool, but we just talked about our favorite writers all the time. We never even worried about the Navy or anything. The closest we got to that was talking about the war and even that wasn't something we talked about a lot." Greta looked down uncertainly at her drink. The steam still rose off the surface. Too hot to drink. Or at least that was the excuse she'd use for now.
"I can't even imagine not talking about stuff like that," Gabriel said, shaking his head, though not in a disapproving way. "I get in conversations about current events all the time."
Greta nodded understandingly and looked down at her tea again. She took a deep breath and raised the cup to her face and breathed in the scent. It was strange, yet delicious. She had never smelled chai tea before. In all her years of visiting Starbucks the idea of tea had never appealed to her. She closed her eyes, a strange habit she had whenever she tried a new drink, and took a sip. The spiciness took her by surprise and for a moment she wasn't sure if she liked it or not, but after a second sip she knew she was leaning toward liking it.
"What do you think?" Gabriel's voice interrupted Greta's thoughts and she looked up at him, startled, as she realized he had been watching her every movement the whole time.
"It's…good!" Greta said, surprised. Gabriel laughed and Greta felt the return of the cliché warmth. For the next four hours the two sat there, talking the night away. Greta felt herself growing more and more comfortable in Gabriel's presence. He listened to every word she said, nodding his head, smiling and frowning at the appropriate times. She told him everything about herself. Her dreams as a painter, the fact that despite painting was her one passion she had never taken the time to admire anyone else's work. As time went on, she even went so far as to tell him how hurt she felt that her parents had gone to Europe without her, the almost abandonment she felt. Throughout those entire four hours, Greta learned nothing about Gabriel except that he was a good listener. The next morning she'd think it was because she talked too much, but looking back, she knew it was just because Gabriel wasn't the type to bare his heart and soul so easily
"I think my favorite Shakespeare play is Romeo and Juliet," Greta said thoughtfully. She vaguely heard a beeping noise coming from somewhere but she ignored it as Gabriel started laughing. They'd been laughing all night. She wasn't sure if it was because they got along or if it was just because they were both so tired they had reached the point when everything was funny.
"Romeo and Juliet?" Gabriel repeated. "But it's so…"
"I know, I know," Greta said dismissively. "It's the play everyone knows! It's the one you have to read in high school, blah, blah, blah. I think it's a beautiful play and I have a crush on Tybalt."
Gabriel laughed again, sounding slightly hysterical.
"How're ya doing, lovebirds?" a groggy voice interrupted them. Gabriel's hysterical giggles were cut off immediately and he looked up in surprise, then grinned. Greta turned and saw an exhausted looking Mo standing in the kitchen doorway. Half of his blond hair was plastered against the side of his face, the other side frizzy and wild, slightly resembling an afro. He was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes when he pulled up a chair next to Gabriel and lay his head on the table. "Morning," he muttered.
"What're you doing up?" Gabriel asked. "It's only…" He paused a moment and checked his watch. "It's seven in the morning."
"Your fucking alarm clock woke me up," Mo said, his voice muffled against the table.
"Oh…" Gabriel's grin was wider than ever and it was obvious he was holding back more laughter. Greta wondered if it was healthy to laugh so much. She had read somewhere that laughing was actually good for the abs.
There was a long moment of silence and Greta suddenly stood. Gabriel jumped slightly in his seat, obviously surprised, and Mo raised his head, staring up at her through bloodshot eyes. "I have to pee," Greta said seriously, and ran down the hall toward the bathroom. She heard Gabriel laughing in the kitchen but she didn't care. The tea had finally hit her.
When she returned the kitchen, Mo was pouring himself a cup of orange juice and Gabriel was nowhere to be seen. She looked around, puzzled, then looked at Mo. "Where'd Gabriel go?" she asked.
"He's warming up the truck," Mo said. "He's gotta go to work today so we've gotta get going. I just have to wake up Tempest and Julian and then we're leaving."
"Okay, cool," Greta said. She was actually glad that she had an excuse to go back home. She needed a good night's sleep. She couldn't believe she'd spent half the night talking to Gabriel.
Gabriel appeared in the front doorway a moment later. "You guys ready to go?" he asked Mo. Mo swallowed the rest of his orange juice in one long gulp.
"Hold on," Mo said. "Lemme go wake up Tempest and Jules." He scurried off down the hall and Greta looked uncertainly at Gabriel.
"Where do you work?" she asked him curiously, trying to picture Gabriel working behind the counter at the local Safeway.
"I work in a bookstore," Gabriel said with a gentle smile. "No one ever really goes there, but it's nice. You should stop by sometime. We could go for tea." He winked. "If you liked the chai tea, just wait till you see what they have at the coffee shop down the street from the bookstore!"
Greta smiled back and nodded. "That'd be cool," she said. There was a moment of silence and Greta tried to think of something to say, but before the silence became too awkward Mo reappeared, followed by Tempest who looked strangely alert considering the time.
"Hey Greta," Tempest said, her voice softer than it had been last night. "I just wanted to say it was nice meeting you!" She wrapped Greta into a quick hug. "I'll see ya later, okay?"
"Yup," Greta said.
Mo linked his arms with Greta's and led her out the front door. "Come, friend Greta," he said enthusiastically. "Let us go home and we can sleep together and play naughty games!" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and planted a friendly kiss on her cheek. Greta laughed and followed Mo and Gabriel out the door.
The ride back to the apartments was completely silent. Greta didn't mind. She curled up in the back seat of the truck and closed her eyes. She didn't realize she'd fallen asleep until Mo woke her up again, about five minutes later. She dragged herself to her apartment and threw herself on the bed Grandma Flo had gotten for her. Mo lay down next to her, both still in their clothes and shoes.
"How come you called us love birds?" Greta asked softly, feeling herself drift off as she closed her eyes.
"What?" Mo asked, his voice equally exhausted.
"This morning when you came into the kitchen. You called me and Gabriel love birds." Greta rolled over and faced Mo, opening her eyes. Mo lay on his side, his large blue eyes still slightly bloodshot, staring back at her. She smiled and closed her eyes again, pulling the blanket up to her shoulders.
"Well, you have a crush on him, right?" Mo said matter-of-factly. "So I just thought I'd kind of hint you two together."
"Do you always play matchmaker?" Greta asked, recalling her conversation with Tempest last night. She had said that Mo had gotten Julian and Tempest together. Now he was trying to get Greta and Gabriel together. No wonder he didn't have a girlfriend, he didn't allow himself one.
For a long time there was only silence and finally Greta opened her eyes. She smiled again. Mo's eyes were closed his mouth slightly open, breathing slowly yet steadily. He had fallen asleep. Greta closed her eyes again and decided that sleeping sounded like a very good idea
When Greta woke again, the sun shone brightly through the open window. She wasn't surprised to find Mo had left – almost relieved, in fact. She glanced at her watch. It was one in the afternoon. It was hard to believe that at the same time yesterday she had been thinking that moving to Oak Harbor would be the worst thing that ever happened to her. Now, only twenty-four hours later, she had already met five people she was comfortable with, so comfortable that she'd fallen asleep against one of them and slept in the same bed with another. She had never felt so welcome, so accepted, by anyone in her life. And she had certainly never been so comfortable with anyone else after only twenty-four hours of knowing them.
She lay in bed for a few more minutes, loving the warmth of her bed, but she quickly grew restless. She changed out of her wrinkled jeans into a pair of loose sweatpants and pulled on a black tank top. She thought for a minute about what she had to do. Look for a job was one of the first things but she had just woken up and she certainly wasn't about to leave the house yet. She looked at the suitcases on the floor, then at the bookcase she and Mo had painted yesterday.
With a sigh, Greta got on her knees and began unpacking the suitcase of books. As she put the books on the shelves, alphabetizing them by author as she had always done since she was eight, she thought back on the evening. She hadn't gotten any sense that she wasn't welcome. In fact, she'd felt the opposite. She'd arrived in Oak Harbor feeling more unwelcome than she'd ever felt in her life, though she had to admit that was probably because of her bad attitude upon arriving, and now she felt completely at home, more at home, in fact, than she'd felt in all her nineteen years of living in Seattle.
Seattle had been cold and gray, as though the weather made the people in its image. Greta hadn't necessarily felt like she didn't belong, or that she was out of place, just that she wanted more than that cold and gray life, living off Starbucks and the mini market down the street. Moving to Oak Harbor was a breath of fresh air. She already liked the people, or at least the people she'd already met, and so far the town itself was proving to be pleasant. She considered for a moment that maybe moving to the little town wasn't as horrible as she'd thought it would be.
By the time the books were on the bookcase, Greta was starving. She hadn't had any time to go the grocery store yet so she took a quick shower, threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater over her tank top, and decided to run out to one of the cafés down the street. Grandma Flo had mentioned some cute shops down the street, there would have to be at least one that carried sandwiches.
Though the sun was shining, as Greta stepped outside she was immediately greeted by the cool, crisp air. The ocean across the street glittered, as though a thousand jewels were hidden beneath the surface. Greta crossed her arms across her chest to keep her warm and started walking in the opposite direction Mo had taken to get to Gabriel's house. There wasn't much traffic, a few cars passed her every few minutes, but not a constant flow as there was in Seattle. A few people on the other side of the street walked their dogs along the beach, looking at the ocean as they went.
After about ten minutes of walking, Greta saw a sign that said "Whidbey Island Coffee". She grinned. Where there was coffee there were other shops. The little coffee shop didn't look too promising so she passed it. A long line of small, yet cute shops kept coming. Most were antique or thrift shops, but she spied a few promising shops as well. Suddenly a sign caught her eye. A bookstore. She grinned mischievously and walked casually into the shop. Sure enough, there was Gabriel behind the counter. For a moment he didn't seem to notice her, then he grinned.
"Well, hello there," he said smoothly. There was only one other person in the shop, a young man, probably a few years older than Greta. He looked up for a moment, then realized Gabriel was talking to Greta, and promptly started reading the book he was holding again.
"Hi," Greta said, acting surprised.
"Miss me, much?" Gabriel leaned forward on the counter casually, tapping his fingers on the edge.
"I didn't know you'd be here," Greta said, still feigning surprise. "Why didn't you tell me the name of the bookstore you worked at?"
Gabriel chuckled. "This is the only bookstore in town worth going to," he said, rolling his eyes. "I knew you'd come here. You want a coffee?"
"Exactly. We sell coffee here," Gabriel said cheerfully. "So, do you want one?"
Greta shrugged. "Why not?"
Gabriel smiled, obviously pleased with himself. "Sit down," he purred, motioning to one of the chairs in front of the display window. "Cream or sugar?"
"Both," Greta said. "I thought you wanted me to drink tea, not coffee."
Gabriel turned away as he made her coffee. "Sadly, coffee's all we sell here," Gabriel said mournfully. "But hopefully I'll be able to convince Angie to serve tea as well."
"It's a great idea, though," Greta thoughtfully. "And I'm sure it helps business."
Gabriel nodded. "Yup, we're a regular old Barnes & Noble rip-off, but whatever, we're the best guys in town so it'll have to do!" Greta laughed and Gabriel turned around and handed her a coffee along with a handful of creamers and sugar packets. He took a seat across from her and looked at the young man in the back of the shop. "Hey, if you need me just tell me!" Gabriel called to the man. He turned back to Greta and flashed her a charming grin. Greta felt herself melt inside. "So did you have fun last night?" Gabriel asked Greta seriously.
"Yeah, it was great," Greta said, smiling. "You guys are a pretty unique bunch of people."
Gabriel smiled and his eyes seemed to look through her for a moment. "Yeah, we are," he said, his voice just barely softer than it had been a moment ago. "I've got some pretty great friends." He blinked, then focused back on Greta and grinned again. "I can call you a friend, can't I?" he asked.
"Only if I can call you one," Greta said teasingly.
"A new friend!" Gabriel exclaimed, and suddenly extended his hand toward her. Greta laughed and shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, not as a stranger, but this time as a friend!"
Greta laughed and nodded. "It's nice to meet you too, friend," she said.
Gabriel pinched her cheek playfully. "It's always nice to meet me."
Smiling slyly, Greta didn't dare tell him just how true that statement was turning out to be.
Author's Note: Okay, oops. I know I promised that I would update every Saturday, but obviously that hasn't happened, so I've changed it to every other Saturday to see how that works. If you want to know why this hasn't been working, check the News section of my profile or ask in your review. Hopefully you guys have gotten the replies to your reviews, if not just tell me and I'll figure it out. Another chapter comes and goes, sorry this one is short (it's two pages shorter on Microsoft Word) but I'll try to make it up in the next chapter. Please review :)
Music inspired this chapter.
Van Halen (1984)
Lacuna Coil (Comalies)
Nightwish (All albums)
X Japan (Art of Life)
Lacuna Coil (Unleashed Memories)
Children of Bodom (Trashed, Lost, and Strung Out)