by Kathy Cano-Murillo
“You? Roller derby? Ha. No way, I’m not buying it,” Colin laughed as he snipped open a 5-pound foil bag of Sumatra coffee beans and poured them into the wood barrel. A few spilled over the side.
“Swear to God on my bejeweled star helmet,” Anjelica Chavez replied to her Cork and Cuppa co-worker as he tossed the empty bag in the trash. She prepped for the afternoon rush by stacking a pyramid of clear mugs on the shelf above the cash register. “My derby name is Gloria Esteponyou – you pass me on the rink and you’ll feel my rhythm of the beat! I’m the most feared jammer that Las Bandidas del Fuego has ever had. I’ve scored more points than Britney Spears’ driving record.”
“Cute.” Colin deadpanned as he wiped his hands on his apron. “Well, Miss Gloria – I’m going downstairs to hang the mistletoe above the wine bar. You know how rowdy the Christmas Eve Chardonnay crowd gets if we forget it. And I spilled some beans on the floor. You better sweep ’em up before you slip.”
Anjelica didn’t hear him. She opened a two-pack of chocolate graham crackers, leaned against the counter, and stared longingly into the eatery’s florescent lights. “I wish I could get lucky under the mistletoe tonight,” she cooed as she removed a treat from the cellophane sleeve. “Man, I’d do anything for a Christmas kiss from Kingston. I invited him to meet me after work, you know. I doubt he comes. He probably has a date with one of his cutesy paralegals.” She popped a cookie in her mouth.
Colin folded his arms and smiled as if he had just solved a Scooby Doo mystery. “Ahh, so that’s why you’re all Hollywood today in that Marilyn dress and set of hootchie heels. I thought you were miss hardcore roller derby queen? You should just clobber him and drag him to the wine room. Trip him under the mistletoe, and lay one on him. Point scored.” Colin playfully punched Anjelica’s arm, and dashed out through the door and ran down the outside stairs.
Anjelica may have been roller derby royalty by night, but by day the world knew her as the quirky coffee bar chick with pigtails, matte red lipstick, and polka-dot Converse sneakers.
Not tonight though, thanks to Kingston and his charming ways.
She’d had a mad crush on him for months. What a dreadful, delicious soul he was. He could pass as Ewan McGregor’s double, and even more lethal – he visited the coffee bar every other day and would hang out for her entire shift. And he walked her to her car. Oh, the torture! The two didn’t have a thread of anything in common, yet they never ran out of topics to argue or laugh over. She savored each minute with Kingston as much as she savored winning her roller derby bouts.
A solid 11 years older than her 23, Kingston ran a successful law practice as his livelihood, and she an espresso machine. Anjelica knew he ranked out of her league so she never felt intimidated around him. Still, she didn’t dare spill about her double life with Las Bandidas, although she figured he wondered where her bruises came from. He never asked. He probably didn’t take her serious as a milk frothing barista, much less the silly Gloria Esteponyou. She convinced him she worked on launching a line of graffiti dresses in her spare time, which she really did plan to do.
Yesterday something odd happened that made her insides quiver.
Somewhere between a discussion about London’s Covent Garden and the fate of Disney stars, he asked if she had a boyfriend. Where the heck did that come from?, she thought. She giggled and replied no, expecting him to inform her of his girlfriend or fiancé. Instead he raised one of his bushy eyebrows and suggestively winked. It caught her so off guard that she stiffened up like a drink stirrer. She grabbed a dishtowel, and nervously wiped down the counter top. She didn’t even notice the towel was peppered with coffee grounds.
“Uh, Kingston, I have a lot of work to do tonight. I have to – um, redo all the coffee bin labels in red and green markers for the holidays,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. She wouldn’t let him lead her on just for his own amusement. She bet he acted this way to every girl he knew. She didn’t want their friendship tainted and hoped by the awkward moment would soon be forgotten.
He stood up from the barstool and blinked at her with his signature droopy eyelids. “Sorry about that, Jelica. Didn’t mean to be nosy.” He reached in his pocket for his keys and shook them in his palm. “Well, guess I’m off then. Have a great Christmas, OK? Get away from that coffee for awhile and enjoy the holiday.”
Jelica? He called her Jelica? A nickname! Anjelica’s mind danced with the thought that maybe he might like her too. She glanced up at him. He towered in his crisp charcoal grey suit, smelling like expensive aftershave that made her tense up from the inside out. Nope, impossible, she concluded. He’d never dig on her. Sitting and chatting over a cappuccino and biscotti was one thing, but he’d never take her out in his scene.
“OK, cool,” she said, rinsing the towel in the sink. “Have a nice one too.”
He nodded, motioned a small salute and walked through the side door.
Chrissie Hynde’s haunting version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas piped through the Cork and Cuppa’s sound system. The lyrics “let your heart be light” seeped under Anjelica’s skin, and a tingling sensation spread across her face. She threw down the towel and raced out the door after Kingston. She stopped. He must have sprinted down the stairs and off the property, because she saw that he had already reached his car and opened his door.
“Hey Kingston!” Anjelica yelled from the upstairs balcony, cupping her hands around her mouth. Her knees knocked from both fear and chilly weather.
He stopped, turned and tilted his head up in her direction. “Yah?” he asked.
“I get off work at 6 tomorrow, and we always have a Christmas Eve party here. I’m making my famous champurrado con cafe. Wanna come?”
Where that came from, she had no idea. But the pause between her question and his answer came faster than expected.
“I’d like that! I’ll be here at 6. See you then!”
Anjelica told herself she could roll like Kingston, dress all slick and stuff. In fact, she used her roller derby routine for motivation – except she gave it the girlie girl twist. Her uniform tonight consisted of a cherry red clingy cocktail dress and embroidered leather stilettos to match. She unleashed her ponytails to let her naturally curly hair work it’s magic on her shoulders. Anjelica wanted Kingston to see her as someone more than just the nighttime coffee girl. And whether it was her hand, cheek or lips – she’d make sure she’d score that Christmas kiss. Just like the winning point at a championship bout. Maybe she’d even tell him about her alter ego too. Maybe not yet.
At 5:45, Anjelica went to the restroom for a quality control once over. She then manned her battle station at the coffee bar. Kingston always entered through the same side door, so at 5:55 she posed pinup girl style against the counter, ready to launch the shock and awe.
Through the door’s frosted window, she saw a shadow move up the stairs. She braced herself, let out an anxiety sigh, tossed back her tresses and let her inner seductress shine through. “Spanx, don’t let me down!,” she thought.
It opened, and Colin popped his head through the crack. “Hey, chop-chop. I need a double capp for a lady in the wine room! Damn girl, you look hot. If Kingston doesn’t give you a kiss tonight, he’s gotta be gay.”
“Hurry and get out! He’ll be here any second!” she snapped, shooing Colin away. She then heard a familiar voice come from afar.
“You talking about me over there?”
Anjelica gasped. Crap! Kingston had come up the stairs on the other side of the room. He had to walk a good 30 feet across the wood floor to reach her. She gulped, smoothed her dress and pivoted on her heel to meet him half way. “Think slinky,” she thought.
That would have worked well – except her heel crunched an espresso bean on the floor. She lifted her foot, regained her balance, just as her other shoe stepped on another bean. The movement reminded Anjelica of the time she played Twister with her little sister. Crouch forward… bend back… Anything to hang on to her dignity. No luck. She clawed at the air to catch her fall as her feet slipped out from under her.
She landed on her butt, legs spread apart, hands on her head. She squinted to see Kingston intrigued by a table display of Italian coffee mugs. He held one up and read the label on the bottom. Did he not see the fall, or did he pretend not to see it? She didn’t have time to think. She crawled like an escaped crab out the side door, hoping he wouldn’t glance her way.
Anjelica made it down the outside stairs and burst into the wine room, panting. Her legs wobbled like noodles, she held her shoes in one hand, and gripped the doorframe with the other, as if she had just survived a robbery. Dozens of patrons stopped their conversation and wine sipping to watch.
“Hide me, Colin, hurry!” she begged. “I don’t want Kingston to find me!”
“Oh my God.” Colin said, shocked. “You did trip him and kiss him, didn’t you? You really are Gloria Esteponyou! Woo-hoo, rock on!”
Just then they heard Kingston ask a female employee, “Hi, I’m looking for Anjelica, I just saw her upstairs and then she just disappeared…”
“Try the wine room,” the lady replied.
Anjelica noticed a tiny broom closet next to the beer case display. She quickly slipped in and put her finger over her mouth to shhh Colin. She pulled the door closed. Damn, it stank in there. She’d never get that bleach smell out of her dress! How would she explain all this to Kingston? Maybe that an emergency came up? Anything except that she fell flat on her ass. How friggin’ humiliating, she thought. Sure, the roller derby crowd saw her pull off that move all the time, but Kingston was not among them.
“Hey, is Anjelica in here?” she heard him ask Colin. “I’m supposed to meet her and I think she ditched me.”
She held her breath and swore to tell him the truth next time he came in the shop.
Outside the room, Colin decided to have some fun. “Hmm. Well. Why don’t I try her cell. Perhaps she is CLOSE BY,” Colin replied, clearing his throat. He picked up the phone and dialed Anjelica’s cell. Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” chimed from out of the broom closet.
“Aw, nevermind,” Kingston said, dejected. “I’m outta here. Tell her I said Merry Christmas.”
The sauced up wine crowd wouldn’t hear of it.
“She’s in the broom closet!” one of them whispered-shouted.
“Look behind that little door!” another slurred.
Anjelica rubbed her aching shoulder and rolled her eyes. “Damn those wine drinkers!” Just then, the door creaked opened and Kingston stood before her.
Anjelica let out a shaky smile and a mini-wave of shame. “Hi.”
He shrugged. “Anjelica, what’s up? Why did you run away? If you changed your mind, you could have just left a message instead of this.”
She climbed out of the closet and lowered her chin to stare at the ground. Colin picked a mop fuzzy from her now tousled hair.
“I saw you coming towards me,” she began to explain to Kingston. “And I started to walk, but I fell. Right there in front of you. It was awful. I thought you saw me, and I wanted to die. I wanted the night to be perfect. I wanted to be irresistible and classy so you’d see me as more than just your espresso enabler. And there’s something I haven’t told you yet about me —”
Kingston placed his hands on her cheeks, pulled her face up to his and greeted her lips with his. “I didn’t see it. And you are perfect. I know all about you, Gloria Esteponyou, Las Bandidas best jammer. And just for the record, I’ve seen you fall many times. I gotta say, you’re quite graceful on that track. Even when you get elbowed in the gut.”
Anjelica caught her breath and let out a confused smile. “Wha…How do you know?”
He tapped her nose with his finger. “My sister is Greta Von Clobberher, a blocker for the Busty Bruiserinas. I go to all her bouts. And… yours too. She told me you work here. I never brought it up because I didn’t know if it was top secret or whatever. I just knew I wanted to go out with you. I couldn’t figure out how to get through, you’re always so guarded.”
“So all this time we could have been kissing instead of drinking all that coffee?” Anjelica asked as she slid her hands up his chest.
Kingston scratched his chin. “Well, yah, we could have. But I’m glad it happened this way. Believe me. It’s every guy’s fantasy to kiss a roller derby girl under the mistletoe,” He kissed her again, this time twice as long.
Colin whisked by with a second round of Chardonnay for the anxious customers. As he passed Anjelica, he whispered, “Looks like someone got their Christmas kiss after all. And you didn’t even have to trip him!”
Copyright © 2007, Kathy Cano-Murillo.
QUESTION: Why didn’t Anjelica want Kingston to know she was a roller derby girl? The 10th person to email me (email@example.com) with the answer will win the prize!
Anjelica Chavez’s Champurrado con cafe (Mexican hot chocolate with coffee):
I N G R E D I E N T S
1/2 cup masa harina mixed with a 1/4 cup hot water (blended)
2 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 disk Mexican chocolate (Abuela brand)
1/3 cup brown sugar plus 2 teaspoons molasses
I N S T R U C T I O N S
Place the water and the masa into the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a medium sized saucepan.
Add the milk, chocolate, sugar, molasses combination). Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking until the chocolate and sugar is melted and well-blended. Serve hot, in mugs. Add one shot of espresso per mug.