Finally, new Inkling. In which Grays brings a stranger home– or is it that his home is stranger?
(If you need to catch up, you can always read the full story (for free!) here: Inkling )
by Reesa Herberth
“You live in a coffee shop.” Collin raised his eyebrows, glancing from Grays to the incongruous Victorian bungalow tucked amidst the stucco grandeur of downtown Mesa. The pale yellow siding had faded in the sun long ago, and the gingerbread trim must have been white at some point, but was edging closer to dusty clay now. Wrought iron café sets graced the brick courtyard leading up to the steps, many of the seats taken by people sipping from huge mugs while they read or talked to friends.
“Yup. There’s a pretty roomy cabinet under the espresso maker, and it makes it easy to run the I.V. coffee that gets me up in the morning.”
Collin looked, at least to Grayson’s unfamiliar eye, like a man who wasn’t sure whether to believe what he was hearing or not. “Technically, I live behind a coffee shop. Which, as soon as you’ve wished in the fountain, you can see for yourself.”
Through the white picket fence, under the arbor that cast more doubt than shade, and the second Grays breathed in the honeysuckle, he felt home. Fairy lights twinkled from every tree, an effect Grays remembered disparaging in his dorm, but one that works here, because the place is an anachronism, a slice of Wonderland grown out of a prairie dog hole.
The fountain is a sculpture made of stacked and broken flower pots, copper hammered out to look like broad leaves, tea pots, coffee pots, porcelain pitchers, clumps of quartz and amethyst the size of fists. In a fit of superstition, and knowing the money got scraped up for the local food bank, Grays tossed a coin in it every time he came home, just a tiny thanks for the ambiance. Some days he wished, some days he didn’t, but today he threw a quarter up into the air, watching it land in the bubbling water at the top before pinging back down the side of the fountain, and he wished for safety. It seemed like it couldn’t hurt.
He didn’t ask what Collin wished for, but they both stood there a second too long, breathing in the honeysuckle and listening to the water.
“Come on, I’m starving.” Entering through the wide front door, Grays sucked in a lungful of coffee fumes. The main room was empty, but he could see a short line at the counter, and he led Collin around the side, into the sun porch that had long ago been turned into a library and game room.
Chandeliers made of inverted teacups hung from the ceiling, along with a fully set table, suspended upside down from the rafters. A white rabbit, or at least the back half of one, disappeared into a dark hole cut in the wall, and the entire floor was a mosaic made of broken plates. It crept up the walls to about waist-high, a forest of crockery and china shards, and a few mug handles stuck out from the wall, threaded through with strings of fairy lights and bells.
“Sometimes when the shop is closed, I come in here to draw. I can never decide if it’s beautiful or creepy, but I’ve settled on thinking they aren’t mutually exclusive.”
“This place is kind of ridiculous. In a good way, but still. I don’t even know what to look at.”
Grayson nodded, heading towards the back door. “I have a friend who comes here to write, for just that reason. She says there’s so much to look at, she can’t process it, and it forces her to pay attention to her story.” Down a short set of steps, and into another courtyard, this one a little more sedate. The inlaid labyrinth in the brickwork had been worn smooth by hundreds of seeking feet, and he noticed Collin walking around the edge, rather than straight across it.
Once upon a time, his apartment had been a summer kitchen, and maid’s quarters. Since then, it had been everything from a storage shed to a yoga studio. Brick, glass, bright painted windowsills fronted the tiny cottage, and an equally tiny garden grew in the beds that set it back from the courtyard. Sliding his key into the deadbolt, Grays opened the door with more flourish that it probably required, and stepped side to let Collin enter. “Here we go. Home, sweet home.”