This is part 6 of the Jerry Saga. Find the rest here.
Jerry sat at home after a long day at work. He sighed. He hadn't wanted to see it, but he hadn't been able to stop himself from walking by either. His curiosity had won out over every other signal in his brain.
After selling Coffee Snobs Unanimous, he'd returned to his office job, not knowing what else to do. Most of the people he'd worked with back then had moved on -- retention had never been their strong suit. He was back at his old department too, doing literally the exact same thing he'd done for years before leaving to start Coffee Snobs Unanimous.
Luke was still there, though, and had very happily made sure Jerry was rehired. This wasn't a major task for Luke, since he'd become team lead of his very own team since Jerry had been away, and had major hiring privileges as a result. "He's very experienced, and he already knows all our systems," Luke had said, according to Luke. "Sure, he's had some run-ins with coworkers in the past, but he's changed, I vouch for that", was another thing Luke said he'd said.
Jerry didn't care. This was an act of desperation and he knew it in his bones. He'd been away for almost a year, and he'd been pleased to see that the old coffee machine had been replaced. The new one had a grinder and used beans instead of prepackaged dirt like they used to have. It wasn't perfect, but it would get him through the day.
But at the end of the day -- like he was now -- he was usually still unhappy. Something bothered him every day, but especially today he was especially bothered.
He'd heard the new Java House was opening. Big ceremony, balloon arches in front of the door in the Java House colors (yellow and black, very cheap-looking, he'd thought) and vouchers for a free coffee. He remembered the discount booklet Rebecca had shoved in his hands to spite him a few weeks ago. It was in his other bag, probably, since he'd stuffed it in there and never taken it out again. He hoped it had been ruined by rain, or by being crumpled, or something. He just hoped it was ruined.
But now there was Java House. Back at its old location. Coffee Snobs Unanimous' old location. His old location.
As he stood in front of the entrance, he ground his teeth together until he thought they would chip. Rebecca had won. Again.
He wondered why it was that she got to him so much. Why he let her frustrate him as much as she did. He decided it was simply because she was just such a terrible, spiteful, horrible, despicable person. And that he -- rightfully, he thought -- had no patience for terrible, spiteful, horrible, despicable people like her. He was above people of that deplorable level, and as such he simply could not stand them.
That was it, he decided. For certain.
He had grabbed one of the free drink vouchers, closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
He was better than this. He had always been better than this, and always would be better than this. He would go in, get a coffee, and not get bothered by anything. He would show Rebecca what it meant to be strong and resilient. Sure, he'd lost everything, but he was doing okay. He was fine. He was better than fine, he was good!
He smiled and stepped through the gaudy balloon arch and went through the front entrance.
Immediately Kate stepped in front of him.
"Hi, boss!" she said cheerfully with that annoying little grin he had always hated so much.
"Hi, Kate," he said, biting back the biting sarcasm that was bursting to get out. "I just wanted to come by and see the new place."
He smiled, and he felt it was probably genuine enough. He wasn't sure, though.
"That's great! As you can see it's a massive improvement over how it used to be here," she said, still grinning, raising one eyebrow to see if she had gotten to him yet.
"I wouldn't say that," he laughed, "but it looks real nice, you're right."
"Oh, um, yes, it does," she said, the grin dissipating as she spoke.
Then she looked like she had a revelation. She turned and shouted. "Dave! Look who's here to see us!"
"What? Who?" Dave's voice shouted back.
"Oooooooh!" Dave said as he came out from the back room. He wiped his hands on a tea towel and walked towards them.
Jerry repositioned himself a bit, to stand with more authority, a habit he'd gotten into while still having a team at CSU.
"Good to see you, boss," he said with the same shit-eating grin that Kate had sported up until just now. Kate's grin returned.
"Hey, Dave, like I just told Kate, I like what you've done with the place," Jerry said as sweetly as possible, but not so sweetly it would be uncharacteristic of him. He thought.
"Oh," Dave said, looking at Kate, who shrugged as if to say "Weird, right?"
Jerry looked around the Java House and returned his gaze to Dave and Kate.
"Is Rebecca here? I want to congratulate her on the opening," he said.
"Uhm, yeah, she's in her office," Kate said.
"You mind getting her?"
"Sure? I guess?" Dave said, turning to do so.
Kate looked at Jerry, started to say something, changed her mind, started to say something again, sighed softly, and walked away. Dave had by now knocked on the office door, and had gone in. After a few seconds, he had left the office and went back into the back room, not even looking at Jerry.
Rebecca came out of the office afterwards and walked towards him.
'What's with the stupid grins today?' he thought to himself as he realized Rebecca was sporting one too.
"Jerry! Good to see you, old friend. Here to use those discount vouchers I gave you?" she said, her voice an evil sing-song.
"Truth be told, I'm not sure where those are. Probably in a landfill somewhere," he said, realizing too late he'd let his sarcasm slip through. "No, I'm here to congratulate you on your grand opening," he continued more earnest-sounding.
"Ah, how gracious of you," she said, her grin still in full force. "I'm sure it's difficult for you to see it as a Java House, after it was CSU for... What was it? Nearly a year?"
He almost slipped. This was a trigger for him, he realized, and he stored it away as something to not give in to.
"It was almost a year, yes. Things go as they will, I gave it a shot and sadly it didn't work out. I'm glad I tried, though. Now I won't have to wonder how it would go anymore," he said, smiling.
"Oh," Rebecca said, her grin now losing some force. "Yeah, I get that, I guess."
"I gave it my best and it wasn't enough. But it's good that there's still a quality coffee house here," he added.
Rebecca's grin cracked. Her face got more serious.
"Absolutely. We try to offer the same quality we've always offered."
"Look, Rebecca, we may not always have seen eye to eye, but to me, providing quality coffee was always the main goal. CSU and myself may no longer be a part of that, but at least someone is."
He smiled broadly and extended his hand.
"Congratulations, Rebecca," he said. He nodded a little nod. "And I wish you nothing but the best."
She was silent and unmoving for a few seconds, and Jerry noticed. He'd won. This encounter was his to claim. She was surprised. He could see in her face that she wasn't sure what to do, but her arm went up and her hand met his. They shook.
"Thank you," she said, sounding like the Rebecca he'd met here, so very long ago, when he'd come in to get his first sip of Tibetan Highland blend coffee, also known as Himalayan.
"Now, I think I've got a voucher for a free drink here. And I think we both know what I'd like to have."
"One Himalayan, no sugar, no milk, coming right up," she said with a completely different grin on her face this time. This grin was friendly.
He had walked out of the Java House with a cup of freshly made Himalayan.
It had been delicious. He had not lied, Rebecca knew how to brew a good cup of coffee.
And when he came home, he had sat down and contemplated the day.
It had burned once. It could burn again.
Author's note: This is part 6 of the Jerry Saga.
Part 1: Coffee (2008)
Part 2: Something about Coffee (2015)
Part 3: There he goes again (2016)
Part 4: Coffee Snobs Unanimous (2017)
Part 5: Corporate Coffee (2018)
Part 6: One Free Coffee Voucher (2019)