Nanoprep 2021 Day 20: Coffee With an Old Friend
By Robin de Voh on 2021-10-29
This is part 8 of the Jerry Saga. Find the rest here.
The knocking on his door repeated itself, but Jerry didn't respond at all. He couldn't. Instead, he closed his eyes tightly, hoping it would just stop. Rebecca had said the police was on their way, and he really didn't want to deal with that right now. His heart rate was still up, and his thoughts were still jumbled at what he'd attempted to do.
Burn down the Java House. He couldn't remember when that had seemed like such a good idea, that feeling was so far away from him now.
"Jerry, open up. We know you're home."
He opened his eyes. He knew that voice. He hadn't heard it in a long while, but he definitely knew it.
"Open up," a second voice said. "This is your only chance, Jerry. It's this or things are going to get a lot worse."
His face immediately turned sour as he recognized that voice as well. Rebecca. The harpy. Suddenly he also realized the other voice wasn't a cop. It was... Luke? From his previous work?
"Fuck off, Rebecca," he said. "Haven't you ruined my life enough?"
"Jerry, it's this or I call back the police and actually press charges."
"Go ahead, you coffee witch, I don't care anymore."
There was a pause, and then the voice that could be Luke spoke.
"I know things are pretty hectic right now, Jerry, but please, open the door. Let's just talk."
"You know what? I'll let you in, but Rebecca needs to leave."
He heard some murmuring from behind the door, and then hasty footsteps retreating.
"It's just me now, Jerry, please open up."
Jerry thought for a second, but then got up. On his way to the front door, he made a small detour to the kitchen to turn on his electric kettle. He also flicked on the coffee grinder, which was set to a specific (15 grams) amount of coffee to grind. He might be in trouble, and he may have lost his way a little, but he's not far enough gone to invite someone in without at least the intent of offering them coffee.
When he opened the door, it was indeed Luke. He hadn't seen him in about a year, ever since he'd quit his job to start Coffee Snobs Unanimous. He motioned him inside, then stuck his head out the door to make sure the hag was gone. "Good riddance," he quietly muttered to himself.
"What?" Luke said as he turned back to Jerry.
"Nothing. Now, why are you here? We haven't seen each other in ages."
"I think you know the direct reason I'm here, Jerry."
"So I tried to set fire to Rebecca's coffee house, what's it to you?"
"Remember when you went to Coffee Snobs Anonymous? And that you needed a sponsor to keep you 'coffee sober'? And I was
actually there for the first session?"
"Shit, you know Kate and Dave," Jerry said as he closed his front door.
"Exactly. And Rebecca and I have talked in the past on how she should deal with you and your... Oddities. Kate and Dave very happily put us in touch, Rebecca being someone who had to deal with you, and me being someone who's known you for a while."
"Oddities," Jerry repeated sarcastically. "Like what."
"You thought Walmart coffee with a different label on it was specialty coffee for years, yet felt too good for Starbucks."
The kettle clicked off. Jerry turned back into the kitchen and grabbed his V60 and handily folded the filter for it before dropping it in.
Then he sighed. Priorities were with coffee, as always. But he still didn't like Luke being right.
"Fine, I have some odd tendencies when it comes to coffee. So? She contacted you about tonight?"
"You know, you treat Rebecca like she's a complete bitch, but when the cops showed up she said it was a false alarm. Sent them away. Then she called me, and given what happened, well, here I am. She wants me to help you."
"No thanks, I don't really drink coffee anymore."
Jerry blinked a few times.
"No, you know what? It's fine. I'm not going to freak out about that. You do you."
Luke smiled and took off his coat. Jerry pointed towards the coat rack and at least made himself a coffee. Luke hung up his coat and sat down on the couch, facing the kitchen. Meanwhile, Jerry washed the filter, emptied the coffee cup afterwards and put the whole deal on his scale. He then put the ground coffee in and poured just enough water to let it bloom for 40 seconds or so.
"Look, Luke, I know I made a mistake tonight. I'm happy Rebecca didn't actually sic the cops on me, but you have to
understand just how much she's been like chalk on my chalkboard. Just grating away at my sanity. She took my own coffee
house from me, you know that?"
"I do. I also know you got a fair price for your failing business."
"Pff, by selling to the she-devil, the price would've had to be way higher to make that fair."
"Which is exactly why she didn't let you know it was her. You would've torpedoed the deal, and CSU would have simply went bankrupt without anything for you to take from it."
Jerry scoffed. He used his gooseneck kettle to pour about 100ml water into the V60 and stirred it a little.
Luke had a point, obviously. Jerry knew this, and he'd had enough time to consider it. He'd never have sold CSU to Rebecca, whatever the price. But he would have enjoyed playing a game with her, countering her offers every time, frustrating her attempts to buy him out. And Luke was also right that he would have taken that to the finish line. He would have pushed that up until the point she was ready to walk away from the deal completely, and then he would have almost inevitably pushed even further. It was a character flaw he'd actually accepted months ago, but now he was forced to deal with it again.
Because, as today had made obvious, he wasn't as okay with it as he had convinced himself he was.
"Look, it all went so fast, Luke. From losing my place, to finding out she was the one who bought it, to her taunting me
about it," Jerry said as he added another 100ml to the V60. He set the kettle down. "I went to her new place and she
gave me a damn voucher for free coffee. Like I couldn't afford my own coffee. Like she was the powerful one between us.
I don't know, something cracked somewhere, and I don't know what came over me. All I saw was vengeance, I guess?"
"For what, though."
"For her screwing with my shit, Luke. For almost a year by now?"
"So what did she actually do?"
"She..." Jerry stared off into the distance, then remembered his coffee should be done by now. He took the V60 off and set it in the sink, then took the cup and sat on the chair opposite Luke.
"Look, I can't recall every single thing, but it's multiple things. The point is that she's not someone I want in my
life, and I just want it all to go away."
"She wants the same, Jerry. So stop looking her up. It seems to me, going by what you've told me and what she's told me, that you keep looking for excuses to find her and interact with her. For that vengeance you mentioned, maybe."
Jerry took a sip of coffee and looked deep in thought. To Luke, this seemed like a good moment to press a bit further.
"All Rebecca wants is for this all to stop. She won't call the cops on you, but you need to stay away from her and Java House. It's better for both of you."
Jerry's brow furrowed even further. To Luke, this meant that right now, he needed to let up. Jerry shouldn't be pushed too far. I mean, it was only an hour or so ago he'd tried to set fire to a coffee house he'd once owned.
A few minutes of awkward (to Luke) silence followed. Jerry slurped his coffee, and Luke sat, trying not to fidget too much. Luke's phone buzzed. He checked carefully, and it was Rebecca asking how it was going. Whether Jerry had already pissed him off enough to want to choke him. He carefully typed 'working on it' and sent it.
"I see what you're saying, Luke. These past few months have not been great. CSU was something I was intensely proud of
-- a culmination of so many things. I think the loss of it just got to me in the end. And I blamed Rebecca. Maybe
because I got used to seeing her as the enemy. I mean, who drinks expensive, rare coffee with milk and sugar?"
"I dunno, but should you really care that much?"
"I guess I shouldn't. Thanks, Luke. I think I needed someone to talk to about all this. It's been lonely since Dave and Kate abandoned me for Rebecca."
Luke ignored the subtle slight against Kate, Dave and Rebecca. This was not the moment to push Jerry into defensive mode.
"Hey, no problem. You can always come to me. And you know, CSA is still there for you if you want. I heard they have better coffee now, shouldn't trigger you to get even more snobby about coffee this time."
Jerry laughed, and so did Luke.
"I might consider it. Hey, to celebrate this moment of clarity on my point, and seeing each other again since a year,
are you sure you don't want a coffee? I've got a really special Hawaiian Kona single origin."
"Sorry, Jerry, I really can't. I gave up caffeine months ago. Blood pressure was up a bit due to work stress after you left, and it wasn't doing me any favors."
"Ah," Jerry said, sounding a bit sad.
"But if you have decaf, I wouldn't say no?" Luke said, smiling.
Jerry's jaw closed with a snapping sound. A vein started throbbing on his forehead and he stared at Luke intensely. He lowered his gaze, making the normally inoffensive-looking Jerry look a little bit menacing.
"Uhh, Jerry? You good?"
Jerry breathed heavily through his now flared nostrils. Then he spoke in a staccato rhythm, his building anger evident.
"Saying no to a cup of coffee I can accept. Not drinking coffee? Sure! Not wanting caffeine because of health reasons? I
can rationally understand and empathize."
"Okay?" Luke said, turning his head and squinting his eyes in confusion.
Jerry carefully, but still seething, put his cup of coffee down, then suddenly got up with a jerk.
"But decaf? DECAF?! That sort of bullshit has NO place here! Get the hell out of my house right now."
"Whoa, buddy, if you don't have it that's fine. I really don't need it."
"It's not that I don't have it, Luke, it's that I refuse to have it. It's a disgrace to coffee, a puritanically reduced abomination! You asking for it in my house is heresy and you should know that, if you know me even a little."
The last words were almost spat out.
"Jerry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by it."
"I don't give a flying fuck, Luke, get out of my house right now."
Jerry pointed at the door resolutely.
"And tell Rebecca I don't give a damn what she wants. This isn't over."
Luke got up and grabbed his coat, then turned back.
"You know that means she'll call the cops and press charges, right? I just need you to understand that."
"I'm looking forward to it," Jerry said sarcastically, even faking a smile.
"Your call, man. You're making a mistake. But this is the last time I try to help you."
"Good, Decaf Man, see you never."
Luke sighed and opened the front door, then went through and slammed it shut.
Jerry let our a roar of frustration. Then he fell back into his chair and picked up his coffee again. He hadn't felt this angry and frustrated since that first time, in the Java House, when he and Rebecca had had a nice chat, and then she'd ruined everything. He was proud of himself that he at least hadn't gotten violent this time, but it had been close.
Sending an old friend of his to do her dirty work, she really was the worst.
But as he drank more coffee and his thoughts continued, his adrenaline levels went down. A fear started forming in his mind. A fear very similar to what he'd felt about an hour ago, when he had just returned from trying to burn down Java House, failing only because Rebecca was now prepared against fire.
The next knock wouldn't be about just having a conversation.
What the fuck did I do? he started to think again, as sweat broke out all over his body all over again. He shivered, and even the warmth of his Kona couldn't keep it at bay.