Coffee Shop Ollie
I dipped into a graceful curtsy, catching my reflection on the spotless marble floors below me. Though my eyes still were overshadowed with grief, my face was young, and my mouth was set determinedly. I glanced up at the distinguished ambassador before me.
“It is a pleasure to meet you.”
He extended his hand, the wrinkles around his pale blue eyes revealing his advanced age. “And may I say the same in return? You are the youngest queen I have ever met.”
I let my arm rest on the crook of his elbow as we crossed the great hall. People lined us on either side, with only the rustle of heavy silk skirts and feathery fans breaking the silence.
“Your Highness.” The ambassador bowed at the bottom step leading up to my throne.
“Thank you.” I acknowledged him, gathering one side of my dress in my hand so I wouldn’t trip on it going up the stairs.
The ambassador took a step back, melting onto the edge of the crowd as he called loudly, “Long live the queen, and may we ever serve her— Coffee!”
I jumped, sliding my laptop closed. “Excuse me?”
The cafe barista guy pushed the coffee in my face again. “You forgot this on the counter.” He smirked. “Normally, when people go into a coffee shop, they don’t forget to take the coffee.”
I reddened, reaching out to take it. “Sorry.” I breathed in the steam from the cup, and my glasses fogged over.
He shrugged. “It’s ok. Having to call you three times is a little annoying though.”
I looked away. “Sorry.” I mumbled again. “I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
“You sure weren’t—“ the guy snickered, hooking his thumb along his apron pocket . He glanced down at the cup. “—Jemima.”
I tried to hold my sigh in, but it escaped a little. I turned to him abruptly. “Ok, was there something else you wanted?” My eyes rested on his name tag. “Oliver?”
“Ugh.” he groaned, running his hand through his unruly brown hair. “Don’t pay attention to the name tag. It’s Ollie.” He slapped his hand into his apron pocket. “No, nothing. Guess I better get back to work.”
I nodded, popping my earbuds in. “Yeah, probably.” Opening my laptop again I stared at the screen, trying to figure out what I had meant to say instead of coffee in the last sentence.
Slowly I began to move my fingers over the keyboard, and slowly the story started coming once more.
Loud huzzahs filled my ears. I sat down in my throne and turned to the people.
“ I shall endeavor to rule as just and wise as my father before me. I will never hesitate to put on my armor to defend my country.” My throat grew tight, as my eyes burned. “If I can be like him, I will feel that I have done right.”
The people threw forth words of encouragement and I felt my heart growing stronger. I lifted my head higher. “Renald, please read my father’s last words to the people.”
Renald stepped forward, unfurling a paper scroll. “The late Your Majesty— God rest his soul— says the following. ‘For the people, provide continually. Seek to know their desires and troubles. Do not forget to fight to regain the lost fortune of the kingdom. When the people come to the court and say, Hey, did you want sugar—?”
“What?” I yanked the earbuds out and stared upwards. The cafe guy, Ollie, was there again, holding out five sticks of sugar.
“I said, did you want sugar? I forgot to offer it last time.”
I pressed my lips tightly together. “Um... sure. Only one.”
He handed it to me, but wouldn’t leave, shifting back and forth on his feet.
“Something else?” I moaned inwardly.
“Yeah.” He thrust a handful of creamers at me. “You might want these.”
“Right. Thanks.” I took them and lined them up alongside my laptop. “But you know I got a flavored coffee to begin with, don’t you?”
“Oh yeah.” Ollie chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. He grew a little pink around the ears. “Guess I was the one not paying attention this time.”
“Yeah.” I agreed. “I guess so.” I waited for him to walk off, but he didn’t. I propped my elbows on the table and buried my face in my hands. What happened to peaceful cafe writing sessions?
“What now?” I wailed, my voice muffled.
Ollie chewed his lip uncertainly. “Well, I wanted to say...” he paused, then began again in a rush. “I couldn’t help noticing what you were writing, and...”
My hands dropped along with my jaw. “You’re reading it?” I screeched, hugging the laptop closer to me. A couple people turned to cast a glance our way, then resumed their own business. I felt my face burning. The line of creamers got knocked catty-wonker and I flicked them back into place.
“I’m sorry if you didn’t want me to. I didn’t mean to, really.” His brow wrinkled. “But I wanted to say something. Don’t take it the wrong way.” He added the last bit hastily, almost with a bit of worry.
“Ok, what?” I finally let my shoulders drop. Nobody understands writers! I thought, but letting this random coffee house guy give me his “important advice” might just make him go away.
“Well...” he shrugged again. “Maybe you should write what you feel.”
“Huh?” I blinked. “Don’t you mean the whole ‘write what you know’ line?”
Ollie shook his head. “No, because most writers don’t know much firsthand to begin with.” He grinned. “Really, I’ve seen a lot of writers in here. Just like you... music playlists, laptops, coffee. Most of them haven’t been queens, or been to space, or gotten lost in the jungle.”
He cleared his throat, continuing, while I felt the criticisms beginning to form tears at the back of my eyes. He didn’t notice, though, or if he did, he plunged straight on.
“Write what you feel. Take moments you’ve experienced and expand them, using the emotions and reactions you actually have felt. That thing there— it’s stiff and kind of cliche, don’t you think?”
“Not really.” I snapped back, my cheeks aflame and my throat scratchy. “I kind of liked it.”
Ollie cocked his head. “Well, sure, whatever. I guess, who am I to try to give advice anyways?”
“Yeah.” I echoed, still upset. He just gave a friendly good-bye wave and walked off.
I opened my laptop a crack and peered through it at the document I had open. I sighed, the sudden urge to cry beginning to melt away.
Flipping the computer open, I closed the program and dragged the file to the trash can symbol in the corner. Adjusting my glasses, I double clicked the document application and a fresh white page popped up.
Glancing over the top of my computer at Ollie, now serving coffee again at the front, I began typing.
So what do you all think of "Ollie's" advice? I often feel as a writer that I should only write what I have actually experienced, which can be pretty depressing when I start thinking about it. :D But when you think about writing what you feel that changes everything.
You can take the littlest emotions and think "What if this was on a bigger scale?". It opens your eyes to how people actually react in situations, versus how you think one should respond in a book. It gives you a chance to remember that even though we may write about fictitious characters, they should still be believable... like you or I.
Let me know below in the comments what you think! If you like writing, has anyone ever told you to "Write what you know"?
Have a lovely day!