Valerie could feel her heart rapidly beating in her chest. As much as she wanted to think it was just the coffee she was drinking and that everything was under control, she could not deny that her career was in danger. She and Emilio came into work before the sun even rose to discuss their failing business. They sat at the corner of the break room table, which was too big for only two workers. Valerie shuffled through their files related to Cafe En Gard.
“How do they expect us to do better when the restrictions only get in the way? It’s like this is designed for us to fail!” Emilio blurted out, breaking the silence. Valerie agreed. It all felt twisted and unfair. But she remained silent as her mind went in circles, desperate to find some way out of their current situation.
From the moment the idea for Cafe En Gard was conceived, Valerie had high hopes that it would succeed. She had whole fantasies of customers lining up out the door, expanding to multiple locations, and winning awards from critics. Unfortunately, the past year was not in Valerie’s favor. Perhaps there was a perception that a witch like her should be doing more magical ventures instead of food service. The Regulatory Organization for Supernatural Service, also referred to as simply the “Regulatory Organization,” placed Cafe En Gard on their watchlist after Valerie submitted their most recent financial report, and unless they meet a revenue threshold within the next year, Cafe En Gard will shut down for good. Valerie stared at the logo on her mug, a white lily centered in a black circle. Cafe En Gard was Valerie’s dream; she could not just let it crumble apart. A ring of a bell broke her out of her rumination.
“I can go get it,” Valerie said, putting down the papers she had been holding. The mail gets delivered every Tuesday morning. It was mostly advertisements, newsletters, and newspapers. If the Regulatory Organization or other major organizations needed to send something, it would come in the mail, too. These days, however, Cafe En Gard only gets junk mail. A cafe with no notable reputation was not worth any organization’s effort to advertise new stuff.
As Valerie picked up the mail from the cafe’s mail box, she looked through the letters as she walked towards the trash can. One of the envelopes caught her eye. University of Nascenshire, Valerie read. Where is that? Is Emilio interested in going back to school? Is he trying to quit? Valerie thought to herself. The cafe never got mail from universities. The idea of Emilio quitting his job made her a bit sad, but she wouldn’t blame him. All of the other staff in the cafe left after the Regulatory Organization visited to announce the unfriendly news regarding the state of the cafe. Valerie discarded all the mail except the envelope from the University of Nascenshire. She brought it with her to the break room.
“What’s that?” Emilio spoke before Valerie could ask any questions. The green envelope caught his attention.
“It’s from a school. The University of Nascenshire,” Valerie said, looking at the envelope again.
“Isn’t that kind of weird? A school sending us mail? Why would a school send promotions to a business?” Emilio inquired. Valerie supposed that Emilio wasn’t intending to go anywhere afterall. “Let’s open it up!” he chirped.
Valerie opened up the envelope and there was a letter inside. Dear [student], the opening read. What a sloppy marketing job, Valerie thought. The idea of sending out mail without having the mail recipient’s name filled in, albeit impersonally by a computer and a mailing list, seemed like a dumb mistake to her. The rest of the letter was a generic promotion trying to coax prospective students to send applications to the school.
“I’ve never heard of this school. It sounds like it’s far,” Emilio said over Valerie’s shoulder. She forgot to let Emilio see the letter as well.
“Sounds far?” Valerie chuckled. “What does that even mean?” She thought for a bit. “I think I know where Nascenshire is. It’s in the world of the humans.”
“I heard that human college students love coffee!” Emilio exclaimed. “They bring coffee to class, do their work in cafes, and they love it so much that they even drink it at night! Humans are supposed to sleep at night… Maybe coffee doesn’t keep humans awake?”
Valerie rolled her eyes, but Emilio’s words stuck with her. They love it that much? Part of her felt like Emilio watched too much TV and had his head filled with outrageous ideas about humans. At the same time, she thought about Cafe En Gard, and the possibility of having so many customers who loved coffee so much that they would come into the cafe and make the place feel lively. An idea came to her. She hesitated for a bit, but at the same time, she felt like it didn’t really matter. The cafe was already in danger. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain. She told Emilio her plan.
“Wait… but…” Emilio couldn’t piece together a full response. Valerie already knew what he was thinking.
“This is our only chance. If things continue as it is, it’s guaranteed we’ll have to shut down the cafe.” Valerie wishes she was as confident as her words. They sat at the table, looking at each other, until Emilio spoke up.
“Okay. Let’s go.” The firmness of Emilio’s words was enough for Valerie to throw out all of her qualms. Together, they were ready to take a leap of faith.