The Line Incident
(This story takes place during the time between Echoes of the Past & Underneath It All.)
Once a week, on the walk home from the school bus, Binny would treat herself to one delicious extra fancy hot chocolate. Binny would try to time her indulgence for when the weather was at its cloudiest and wettest. On this particular afternoon, Binny’s mood was a perfect match for the foul weather.
School had been super annoying that day as Ms. Motz, the math teacher had embarrassed Binny in front of the class by claiming she’d spoken out of turn. But Binny was absolutely convinced of two things: her hand had been up first, and Ms. Motz didn’t like her.
Soul Repair, the former shoe repair shop in Madrona’s quiet downtown shopping area, was now a bohemian coffee and treat cafe. And while Binny hadn’t been on a global hot chocolate sampling tour, she was sure that the super fancy hot chocolate served at Soul Repair was second-to-none. A large mug of “drinking chocolate” as Kay Athanasios, Soul Repair’s owner called it, was just what Binny needed to make things in her world right again.
“Of course I can talk. I’m just grabbing a coffee.” Binny had been scanning the specials listed on the large chalkboard on the wall when a tall teenage girl with long straight blonde hair stepped in front of her in line. The sparkles covering the girl’s cell phone matched the sparkly diamond studs in her earlobes.
Binny tried to get the girl’s attention by giving her a look but the girl seemed oblivious.
“Oh, I know. Could you believe what she was wearing? She looked like a turtle!” The girl looked at her nails, at her own reflection in the glass separating the customers from the baked goods, and at a teenage boy sitting in one of the cozy corners reading a book. Everywhere but at Binny who was getting increasingly agitated at being ignored.
Binny tried coughing. Politely of course. Nothing. Binny’s cough grew more insistent. The blonde girl remained undistracted from her top priorities of picking apart some poor girl’s fashion choices and admiring her own in any surface that was the least bit reflective.
Instead of improving Binny’s mood, this little outing was only making her feel worse. Binny tapped the blonde girl on the shoulder. “Excuse me.” The blonde girl glanced at Binny briefly, pointed at her phone, and then resumed her conversation.
This was getting unbearable. When Binny had walked into Soul Repair, the thing she wanted most in life was a mug of Candy Cane drinking chocolate. Not only was the drink infused with peppermint, but a candy cane ring sat perched perfectly around the rim of the mug. Holes in the ring let the hot chocolate pass through picking up even more peppermint flavor along the way. At some point the candy cane would melt and dissolve into the beverage in pieces. Whipped cream flecked with sparkly red and white mint-flavored sprinkles wrapped up the experience. But now, Binny would gladly give up her drink to make sure the blonde girl didn’t get away with her brazen line cutting.
Binny tapped harder.
“Oh my god, some little girl keeps touching me. Gimme a second.” The girl finally turned her attention to Binny, “What?!”
Binny took a moment to breathe before she made her carefully rehearsed statement. “Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt your call. I’m sure it was an accident, but you cut in front of me in line.” Binny was angry but it was still important to her to be polite.
The girl raised her phone back to her ear, “You’re not going to believe this. I’m in line for coffee and this little girl is accusing me of cutting.” A moment passed and then she continued, “I know, right?” And with that the girl turned her back to Binny.
Binny could feel her face getting red. She was worried that tears weren’t far behind. This time she didn’t tap. She poked.
“Ow!” The blonde girl’s hair whipped around as she turned on Binny. “You poked me.”
“You cut me in line.”
“I did not. Stop poking me you little brat.”
Before Binny could respond she heard a young but confident voice from behind her, “You did cut in line.” Binny and the blonde girl turned their attention to a girl who looked about a year younger than Binny. The girl’s shoulder length copper hair just reached the collar of her puffy bluish-purple jacket that was zipped up to protect against the weather. Binny stood there with her mouth open surprised at her sudden ally.
The blonde girl responded derisively, “How do you know?”
The girl in the puffy jacket continued in a slightly louder voice. “Because you cut in front of me too. Should we ask anyone else what they saw?” The girl motioned around the cafe. The blonde girl followed the younger girl’s hand until she saw the teenage boy from earlier had stopped reading and was watching the entire incident intently.
Time stopped for a moment and then the blonde girl barked into her phone. “Ugh, this place is lame. I don’t want anything anyway.” And with that she marched towards the door, head held high.
Binny caught the boy refocusing on his book with a smile on his face as she turned her attention to the girl behind her. “Thanks. That was really brave. My name is Binny, what’s yours?”
“Oh. Thanks. I was annoyed too. And she wasn’t nice. My name’s Chloe.”
“Ok ladies, thank you for waiting so patiently. Things get crazy here when the weather gets bad. What can I get for you?” Kay addressed Binny and Chloe from behind the counter. Her voice was rich and friendly and knowing.
Binny took an extra moment to look at Chloe and then turned to answer. “Actually she’s first. She’ll have the Peanut Butter drinking chocolate.” Binny knew this beverage well as her father ordered it regularly. Not only was there freshly ground peanut butter mixed into the chocolate, but perched atop the oversized dollop of whipped cream was a generous sprinkling of the tiniest, most delicate, handmade peanut butter cups studded with little peanut slivers.
Chloe’s eyes grew wide, “How did you know what I wanted?”
Binny had a mischievous sparkle in her eye. “Oh, you just looked like a peanut butter and chocolate kind of person.”
“And the Candy Cane special for you Binny?” Kay glanced at Chloe and added, “She’s not the only one who knows what’s on people’s minds.” Kay winked.
Binny hesitated for a moment but then laughed at Kay’s comment. “Yeah, that’s my special skill. Knowing what hot chocolate everyone wants.”
Binny paid for both and the girls retired to a booth by the window to enjoy their hot chocolates. Kay even stopped by their table to top up their drinks with extra whipped cream and toppings when their drinks were only half empty.
The cold wet wind still gusted outside, but inside Soul Repair things were warm and sweet.