I guess you could say we're a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. Well, there would be some exceptions. Romeo never got his head stuck in a drive-through window, and Juliet definitely didn't deliver her famous balcony speech in a horrifyingly nauseating and sappy way at a public poetry reading. And no one dies at the end of our story, so unlike the classic romance heroes, we've at least got that going for us. Okay, I guess you could say our story is not at all like Romeo and Juliet, except in one regard: Our "families" hate each other.

But perhaps I should back up.

It was hot. That's what I remember most about the day I met Emma. The coffee shop where I work, Jack's Beanstalk, had just gotten a new A/C unit, installed by Jack himself. Unfortunately, Jack is a brilliant businessman and not a wonderful handyman. I guess it's a good thing he brews a better cup of coffee than he does fix an air-conditioner coil. But ever since our town's first Starbucks opened up on the North End, Jack has been really watching his costs. We have our loyal customers, but "corporate giants always sneak up on you to choke you out of business" was his operating mantra this semester.

Anyway, despite the heat, there were customers reading books and fanning themselves in our town-famous comfy chairs. One of them even ordered a latte. With steamed milk. Sick, if you ask me, but I'm lactose intolerant. And warm-natured. I was thankful when Jack finally let me just pin my "Her Supreme Awesomenss Melanie" name tag to the tank top I had been wearing under my work clothes.

I was producing enough sweat to fill a bucket, with straps sticking to me and criss-crossing my back. In other words, not attractive. As the "coffee heiress," as Jack liked to call me, or the "barista," in Starbucks Jargon, I am the face of Jack's Beanstalk. I come in contact with a lot of people, especially early-twenties hipster artsy college students. It usually takes a lot for someone to truly catch my attention.

It only took a glance with Emma. One glance, and my jaw almost hit the floor.

She wasn't a "conventional beauty;" she didn't have perfectly airbrushed skin that looked perfectly natural. She wasn't tall, skinny, and statuesque. She was...tiny. She had cropped raven hair that she could barely run her fingers through. She might have been five-one, if she was lucky. But something about her, her eccentric air and calm demeanor, struck me. She was gorgeous.

She's probably a bitch, I thought. She has to be if she's that pretty. Either a bitch or she's straight. Probably both.

"What do you want?" I croaked, somewhat exasperatedly.

"Err...small double espresso iced coffee. Do you have soy milk?"

"Yeah, but it's mine," I rolled my eyes at her.


"You can have it," I laughed, releasing some of the tension in my chest. Shit, I had been weird. She's probably a straight bitch, I reminded myself.

"That'll be two fifty-seven," I said, not looking up from the cash register as I punched in her extra charge for her special milk request.

"Wow. Cheeper than Starbucks, that's for sure," she muttered, then suddenly realised she'd said the wrong thing.

"Yeah. That's why we're better," I said with a half smile as I placed her change in her expectant palm.

As she turned away to sit down, something caught my eye. A flash of colour--a rainbow. She had a "fight for equality" button affixed to her khaki messenger bag. Huh. So she was gay. But it wasn't like I'd ever see her again.