Today is the big day. The grand opening of my coffee shop in the heart of downtown Transyl, Utah.

I had my doubts that I could pull this off after several delays of permits and the time it took to renovate the space, which, of course, took some time to get just right. I had chosen to break down the ceiling to keep exposed beams out, put in new flooring, and hired painters. I researched and bought fancy commercial espresso machines and presses that I would need and learned how to use them. I found a baked goods distributor and lined them up, and finally, picked my one staff selection, Dean.

I stare at my reflection in the bathroom mirror and am proud of the man I see. My grandfather’s long slender nose, known as the Adams family nose, not narrow, but not wide, perfectly proportioned with my dark eyes and not quite square jawline.

My grandparents bought the only uninhabited place around at the time, the Carpathie mansion. The Carpathie mansion sits on a large hilltop in the woods, just outside of town. Go figure that a count with all the money in the world decided to build a gothic-neo renaissance Tudor mansion in the middle of nowhere. He had only lived there for a short time, and it remained vacant for many years until my grandparents stumbled upon it.

My grandparents then built their own town around a lone but bustling general store, reminiscent of a European town center. The shops opened, and the tourists poured in. It was lively until a few years ago after my grandparents had gone on their tour of the motherland, better known as Romania, and my parents couldn’t help the recession. Most shops closed and tourists for the most part bypassed Transyl and headed straight for Burton, the quaint town that looks like a Hallmark movie, to ski the mountain. Or even bypass us to stop in the bustling city that sits between our two towns, Arachna, where there are endless places to eat, shop, and be entertained into the wee hours of the morning.

But on a day like today, I can feel it in my bones that our section of the Tri-City area is picking back up. We’ll be back as a main destination and everyone who comes will be refueled with my collection of brews.

A knock on the door lets me know it’s time.

“It’s ten ‘til six, Linc,” Dean says with another tap.

“I’m ready.” I fix the collar of my high neck black shirt, shuffle my shoulders, and yank my dark burgundy jacket so it sits just right. It’s not an everyday uniform, of course. Dean has his black work shirt on with black jeans, but it’s opening day, my big day, and a suit is what this day calls for.

I open the door to the smell of Arabica beans, caramel, vanilla, and subtle notes of citrus, cherry, and cocoa wafting through the air from the samples Dean and I made. I grip Dean’s shoulder, jostling him a bit, before making my way past the stack of free apple cider donut holes to the door.

When I go to open the front door, I situate my very own blend so that it faces just right when people walk up to the counter. My sister starts talking before I’m completely through the door.

“I can’t believe you pulled it off,” Lysses scoffs. She is my cynical supporter. The one who is always there for me to lean on, even if she’s telling me what I did wrong or could have done better. A little uptight, but you didn’t hear that from me.

“The sign looks great,” Dad says, with a pat on my back.

I turn to stand with them facing my shop. The smell of buttery pastries hovers in the air after escaping when I had opened the door. The scene was everything that autumn should be in one’s daydreams. The leaves have turned their various shades of colors. The familiar golds, reds, and yellowy greens float through the air with the slight breeze. The sun was only beginning to think about rising, breaking the sky with bursts of orange, pink, and yellow. It is the perfect day.

  “I like how you call it CafFEINated. It’s clever, darling,” Mom says, giving me a hug, then retreats right back into my dad’s hold. The morning air does have a nip to it.

“I thought it was fiend?” my brother Truman chimes in, giving me the hand clasp brought in by a hug move.

“I actually think it’s fien,” my other brother Grant says. Another bro hug. This time, it ends with a fist pat on my shoulder blade. The guy is like hugging a stone, but that’s an athlete for you.

“You know what, guys? It doesn’t matter,” I say. I didn’t know where my optimism was coming from, but it arrived in a heady dose a few days ago, and I am still being nourished by it. I was well aware that I looked like Clark Griswold staring at my massively lit up house, you know the look: the wide grin, hopeful eyes, and the feeling of awe that you have created something special, something meaningful and worth remembering, with your whole family in attendance. My optimism couldn’t be helped. I was nothing short of merry.

“I didn’t want to misspell caffeinated and have Lenni spread rumors about me being illiterate. People just get it, okay?” I say. Our heads are all looking above the awning to where my sign is.

“I would never spread rumors,” Lenni says next to me. She fixes her stud earring with her crooked finger like she still isn’t finished getting ready. I admit, it is early.

I jerk back from fright. If you’d never seen Lenni before, her appearance might startle you. But I was born and raised here, so Lenni’s very wrinkly face and stringy white hair aren’t things that scare me. She’s partially blind in one eye, giving her one creamy blue eye next to a light blue one that apparently sees everything. Her hearing makes up for it. The scary bit is how she seems to be everywhere and sometimes nowhere at all. I think it’s her daily to-do task to give someone a fright by sneaking up on them. Her deed today is done then.

“Lenni.” I smile, giving her a side hug. “You? Spread rumors? I was joking.” I look over her short stature, giving my brothers the crazy eyes that say, actually, Lenni, you spread rumors like a rash on my groin. They understand immediately and chuckle.

Lenni runs a small bar called Transyl Tavern, where she learns the secrets of every single person who comes in to drink. Whether they’re just passing through or they’ve been here forever, Lenni gets the people to divulge things they wouldn’t normally tell a soul. A superpower my brothers and I try to avoid.

Lenni glares at my brothers, but not at me. “I keep ‘em up late at night and you electric shock their nerves for daytime,” she says, placing her small hand on my stomach. Maybe the side hug was a little too friendly. I step out of it.

“It’s a stimulant shop,” my youngest brother Pierce says. He’s sixteen and everything is a joke about drugs, sex, or practically anything these days. Instead of calling him the whoops baby, we just torture him often with physical abuse, brotherly love type stuff.

“Headlock?” I ask Truman and Grant.

Pierce starts to run away as we go to grab him, taking turns torturing him. I notice my best friend Benji is also in the mix, fake jabbing at Pierce’s ribs, probably having no idea why we’re attacking him, but I applaud the camaraderie.

“Benj! I’m surprised you’re up this early,” I say, after departing from our quick embrace.

“Truth be told, I haven’t gone to bed yet.” He sends a hand through his copper locks, stopping at the crown to scratch his scalp.

“Oh, that’s rough,” Truman says.

“She likes it like that, though.” Benji jests without even a smile. The delivery of his dry humor is what gets me the most.

My dad clears his throat as if we all didn’t grow up around my grandparents’ business, and now their burlesque cabaret.

“Morning, Mr. and Mrs. Adams,” Benji says with a nod toward them. He fist bumps my brothers.

“What am I, chopped liver?” Lysses asks when he doesn’t acknowledge her.

That expression never sat well with our family because our cook frequented the dish at almost every major holiday dining experience, and we love liver, but Lysses apparently doesn’t care about heritage at the moment.

Benji looks at her sharply. “Not today, Satan.”

She rolls her eyes, and my brothers snort back their laughter. Except Pierce. Pierce makes a spectacle with baying out his comic relief.

“Open up already. I have to get back to Burton before traffic starts up.”

I turn around to face the deep gruffy voice. “Sass!” I could lose count with all these man hugs today. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Our cousin opens his own business. We’re here for it.” My six-foot three cousin from the other side of the mountain scoots over so I can hug the next several family members standing outside my shop.

“Seriously, open up Lincoln. It’s cold and I need my coffee,” his sister and my cousin McKinley says, blowing into her mittened hands. I can hear the eye roll in her voice but hug her despite the attitude because I’m freaking Clark Griswold today. Their older twin sisters Monroe and Milla hug me, then make their way over to Lysses to huddle in a tight gossip brigade.

I step back a little, sighing, as I take in my family and friends who are literally staring at me, wondering why I haven’t opened the door yet. My eyes sting and I take a deep breath. “I just wanted to say thank you all for being here. It means so much to me.”

“Look at you getting all sentimental in your old age,” Lysses teases.

“We’re all getting old just standing here. I have to get to school, Lincoln,” Pierce whines.

I grip the brass door handle, a gift from my mom, and pull it open in as much a dramatic fashion as I can, to the sound of several hands of praise clapping behind me.

My morning blurs by in a ferocious rush with the crunch of beans being ground, then pressed and brewed. There’s nothing like the sound of the whirring machines and the smell of coffee. I am reminded once again of my grandpa, who took his coffee very seriously. He would have a tiny cup in the mornings, pure black, and another after lunch with either a Romanian fruit cake or Romanian donut that their chef would conjure up daily and then another at night with cream.

Rituals. That’s what the experience is about. It even defines a part of our personality, saying this represents who I am. Every morning we wake with the anticipation of that first steaming cup. Nowadays, our espresso brew is tainted with creams, syrup flavors poured heavily, or steamed milks -almond, soy, coconut, oat- options are endless. No matter what you do with yours, it’s your ritual. Your daily ceremony that starts your morning, and it’s fascinating to see what people will concoct in their cup.

With it being autumn, today’s orders were choices of cinnamon, maple, pumpkin, and apple. The pastries I had delivered early this morning flew off the shelves with orders of apple fritters, cider donuts, pumpkin crème, and fluffy cinnamon twists disappearing by the dozens.

Dean and I lock up at two in the afternoon, completely sold out of pastry options. He heads out the front door, locking it behind him, and I head toward the backdoor.

Maybe after I’ve been open for a while, I can hire more people to be able to stay open a little longer, especially during the tourist seasons of spring and summer. But it’s the town over the mountain where my cousins live in Burton that gets the winter tourists, so I feel okay with my situation for now.

I throw the trash into the huge bin and walk around to the front of the store to take it all in. I notice the shop next to mine is missing the For Lease sign. My chest fills with pride that my hometown is being revived. It’s making a comeback slowly but surely.

I walk across the courtyard to a colorful row of buildings that host apartments and offices to my other part of the world, my apartment. I walk up to the third floor after having one of the best days of my life and am met with a brunette’s beautiful backside bending over. Could my day get any better?


My day has been crap. My hotel alarm didn’t go off this morning, my toast burned in the communal area, sending smoke wafting out of the little machine, and I didn’t have time to wait in line to make another. Then my coffee cup had a tiny hole that had slowly drizzled onto my cream top for twenty minutes without my knowledge until an older woman alerted me on the tram of the airport after I had checked in my luggage. Good times.

All the rushing had been for nothing, as my flight was delayed by two hours. After a turbulent flight, my two suitcases were lost but luckily found before I ripped my hair out.

As I pick up the stuffed suitcases, I want to cry. I decide not to look at the huge dent in the side of one that makes it impossible to wheel, opting to carry it along with my carry on backpack, like it is a choice.

I flag down a cab, but in doing so, drop my suitcase. By the time I pick it up, someone steals my cab right out from under me. I grit my teeth and flag another. When a mom with a screaming toddler comes out, without hesitation, I open the door for her. Then I wait almost fifteen minutes for another one to show up.

I arrive in Transyl, Utah, after a forty-minute drive that had me worried about the place I decided to move. I left the airport with a bright afternoon sun only to enter crepuscular skies and ominous back roads in a hilly forest that reminded me of fairy tales. But not the cutesy ones, the cautionary ones, with concrete gargoyles that turn into flying creatures ready to capture the town’s children with their sharp talons. Or thousands of hidden eyes within the dense forest that watch you as you venture through and give you that prickling feeling on the back of your neck.

I hold my broken luggage a little closer to my chest as the driver weaves his way through until we come to a light at the end. I relax when he circles around the roundabout that encircles the entire town center that leads to a vast parking lot. I remember that part of my research as a selling point. The town center, locally called the courtyard, is foot traffic only.

I tip the driver and step onto the smooth path that leads to an opening in the courtyard. I can see the tips of the mountain because, despite the cloudiness of the woods, the courtyard doesn’t have a cloud overhead.

I look at the white church next to me with brightly colored rooftops complete with cross spindles on the tops of three points. The windows at the top are illuminated within, showcasing a different saint in each slot. A bell sits outside the door with a sign of the times when it is hand rung. The plaque on the front reads, Look to the Heavens, non-denominational.

I step further into the courtyard, taking in the massive amount of shops. Most are vacant, but even so, I notice how beautiful the architecture is on each building. The large windows and statues adorned within the building fronts give it a romantic feeling with a tinge of something dark despite some of the colorings. For every coral or robin’s egg color, dark bronze or greenblack is never too far away.

The various flowers are striking shades of red, whether deep and dark or bright and almost pink, amongst shocking purple hues and black. I’m able to identify the popular ones like calla lily, iris, rose, viola, and petunia’s but there are others that I have no idea what they are, some otherworldly looking. Light and dark greenery fill giant pots that spill over with vines reaching chaotically toward the ground. I touch a partially hidden plant tag that reads Escargot Begonia for the unique plant that reminds me exactly of a snail. It’s just incredible looking. I snap a few pictures, knowing the two main people in my life will want to see my new home.

As I make my way past a clock shop, hearing the coo-coos inside chirping at the top of the hour, I get the distinct feeling that I’m being watched. It’s unnerving, but I don’t see anyone paying special attention to me specifically until I look up. The attic windows on several of the roofs look like sleepy eyes peeking over the courtyard. I don’t understand why they built them like that because it’s not the most comforting of feelings.

I walk past the enormous black fountain in the center, but not before leaning down to see the intricate damask detailing on the bottom. This place is unreal. I turn when I hear the bell being rung by an older man at the church I was just at. The chime is deeper than I thought a church bell might sound. This tone is more like impending doom, maybe purposefully to remind us sinners that the end is near.

I’m too early to meet the landlord and I realize I’m starving, so I look for a place to eat. I spot a huge colorful venus fly trap jutting out of a building with a burger in the mouth, ketchup and mustard dribbling down over the lettuce, and figure it will do as lunch. I notice the spooky-looking font on the sign stating that it’s aptly named The Burger Place. No mystery there.

Luckily, it has a push door, although narrow, that I shimmy through with my luggage. I’m embarrassed when all eyes are on me, realizing I might have been huffing my way in. To make matters worse, I drop my stupid luggage again, and as it clatters to the floor, it pops open, and to my horror, exposing top drawer type of things. TOP DRAWER!

I close my eyes to hold back the tears. Here I had thought my day was getting better.

“Let me help you, dear,” a low, friendly voice says.

I bend down quickly to help her shove my items back in. “Thank you,” I whisper.

The long-haired woman has a soft face, but I find her mysterious at first glance. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s wearing a long black gown, and she’s kind of pale, but it works in her favor. It’s dazzling. She has youthful pink cheeks, and deep red lips with dark eyes that feel like they’re luring me in as the seconds go by. I blink and close my suitcase with a grunt. We stand and someone who I assume is her husband comes to her side.

“I take it you’re new in town?” he asks with a genuine smile. He puts his arm around his wife’s waist.

I look at my luggage and nod.

“Welcome,” the woman says, rubbing her hand on my shoulder. I must look a mess if a stranger is deciding to touch me in such a reassuring manner.

“Thank you.” I fiddle with my fingers, a habit I’ve been trying to stop. I put my hands to my sides.

“Just passing through, or is this your final destination?” the husband asks.

“Staying, actually.”

“Well, I hope Transyl has been good to you thus far. Could we buy you lunch?” The man offers.

“Oh, no. I can manage.”

“I insist,” he says. He lifts his hand to someone behind the counter without words, but the communication is clear. The waitress nods once and disappears into the kitchen.

“Hope to see you again soon,” the woman says. “Come by the Carpathie mansion anytime, on the house.”

I force a grin, not knowing what the statement means. But she was kind, nonetheless. I find a seat next to the door and fight the urge to kick my luggage to fit under the table with all the trouble it has caused me. Within minutes, I’m served a mammoth burger, curly fries, and a strawberry shake. It’s exactly what I would have ordered if I had looked at the menu. I pocket that coincidence, as maybe my day is making a turn for the better.

I grab a clean shirt from my suitcase and freshen up in the restaurant bathroom with a hairbrush, toothbrush, and a quick touch up of my make-up.

I go across the courtyard to a tall pale-yellow building that is my new home. I meet the landlord, Karloff, who has me sign some papers, takes a copy of my photo ID, and wishes me luck on my new place. He offers to carry up my belongings, but I decline. It’s three flights up and he doesn’t look like he could actually manage the trek.

When I reach the platform on the third floor my now moist fingers slip the hold I have on my non-broken suitcase and watch as it tumbles down the stairs cracking open, and dispersing my clothes, books, and a few knick-knacks down the flight of stairs.

I throw my head back. “Why?” I shout. I throw my backpack at my door, regretting it as soon as it left my hand because my toiletries are in there. But I have no second thoughts when I kick my first broken suitcase down the corridor as it skids to a halt upon contact with my backpack. I fly down the stairs and grab my belongings on the way up.

With a shaky hand, I put the key in, ready to open the door figuratively and literally to my new life. But it couldn’t be that easy, could it? I turn, I jiggle, I take it out and reinsert it, but the key won’t unlock the door. I bend down, getting eye level with the keyhole.

“Look! I’ve about had it with this day. I just want to come in and take a long hot bubble bath, unpack, tape up my poster of Patrick Wilson to have a chat with him, and sip a steaming mug of tea, but I can’t do that if you don’t open. Help me to help you to help me.” I thud my forehead against the door.

Behind me, I hear a laugh. I shoot straight up, twirling around fast. His tall frame is wearing a wide smile with his hands in his suit pockets as he rocks back on his heels. “Can I help you with anything?”

The inclination in his tone lets me know that he heard everything that I had just said. I nervously tame my shoulder length hair and step aside to showcase the key that’s now stuck in the lock. “I can’t get it open.”

He gestures with his hand. “May I?” His voice is a beautiful tenor that is soothing to my ears, so it takes me a few seconds to respond.

He steps closer after I nod several times. I decide to imagine that he didn’t hear anything that I said to my door and verbally let him know that I tried the key fifteen times before it eventually got stuck.

He wiggles it out with ease. Annoyance shoots through me, but his luck is my gain, so I smile, relieved.

“Let me run this down to Karloff,” he says. “I think maybe in his old age he gave you the wrong key. I’ll be right back.”

“I can do it.” I reach out my hand, but he swiftly pulls back.

“It’s no trouble,” he says, already barreling down the stairs.

I watch as the handsome stranger goes to make my life easier. I sit down, defeated and tired. Thoughts swirl through my mind of how cruel life is that I would happen to live next door to an insanely beautiful man who probably has a sexy goddess of a girlfriend. My mind creates scenarios now where they’re cooking in the kitchen and in his jovial mood he makes her laugh while he’s sauteing vegetables and beef and she’s pouring wine. The kitchen timer that’s shaped like an egg goes off and she takes a cherry pie out of the oven and while it cools, they have amazing hot… I blink several times as he bounds up the steps, taking them two at a time. The leg muscles he must have.

“Yep, wrong key. Let’s try this one.” He inserts the key but then steps away. “I’m guessing you’d like to do the honors.” His dark eyes and slight head nod toward my door, signal me to step forward.

I stutter into action, standing back up. “Yeah, thanks.” I turn the key and open the door with a little shoulder power to a furnished one bedroom that I get to call my own. I walk in, surrounded by white walls and nice natural wood furniture. Creams and blues are the color scheme for the apartment.

It reminds me of home. And not just any home, but my childhood home out by the beach in South Carolina.

A noise from behind me stops my second attempt at tears today. The kind stranger brings my luggage and carry on in and places them in the corner without a struggle.

“Oh, thank you. I could have gotten those.” I turn back toward the door.

“It’s no problem. I’m Lincoln by the way. Your neighbor.” He points next door. “There’s another woman and her roommate across the hall. Desi works at the general store, One Stop, and will probably bring you a gift basket once she knows you’re here. And there’s a guy at the end, he usually keeps to himself.”

I peer through the door, sharing the space with him so I can look out to see where he’s pointing. When I look over, I notice that we are way too close for comfort, and I step back into my apartment. I clutch my purse strap and smile. “Nice to meet you.”

“Do you have a name?” He smirks, the right side tipping up. He puts his hands back into his pockets and leans along my doorframe.

“Uh, Jenna. Thank you for your help.” Silence sits between us for a few seconds before I extinguish it. “I have a lot of things to do…” I say as he, too, speaks.

“Do you want to go for a drink?”

Okay, so maybe there isn’t a goddess girlfriend. I look at the clock, thinking it’s a tad early for that. He seems to catch on.

“Later,” he says. “I’m celebrating tonight and since you’re new here, I could introduce you to some friends and you can celebrate your new digs.” He nods toward the room.

“I have to meet with someone later.”

Different parts of him move simultaneously. His eyebrows separate, his shoulders square back, and his lips twitch before speaking. “Oh, right. Right.”

“Raincheck?” I offer up.

“Sure. Sure. Won’t get too many of those.” He chuckles.


“Rainchecks. It rarely rains here.” He points into the air. “Leeward side of the mountain.”

I nod. I had looked that part up after I decided Transyl was going to be my new home and found it to be near Corbin Mountain.

After another round of silence, he stands up straight. “Welcome to Transyl.” He dips his head and walks backward out the door.

I lock it after he clicks it closed and turn, resting my back against it. I take a deep breath and take in my new life. My new home.

I hang up my clothes and unpack the few belongings I brought with me. I tape up my poster and have a much-needed conversation with Patrick. He likes my apartment but is leery of Lincoln. Makes two of us.

I close the door with my foot, hefting the giant basket that my neighbor Desi just gifted to me onto the kitchen table. I open the bag of caramel corn drizzled with chocolate and go to town, shoving in handfuls at a time. As I chew, I sift through the items and smile when I come across a tube of oil. I have over two hours until I have to meet the property manager, so I start a bath and dribble in the oil, along with my special suds that I brought all this way.

I heavy handedly pour the bubbles in, and watch as they come to life. I send a quick text to my mom to tell her I’ve arrived and will check in later with a phone call.

I strip down and sink into the tub. I make a collage of the pictures I took of today’s travels, including the pictures of the courtyard, and send it to Mom and my best friend and cousin Caleb. He will get a kick out of seeing the historic buildings and fountain. His dream is to travel while writing articles and taking photos for a travel magazine that hasn’t fully committed to hiring him. But I have faith. He will make his mark somehow and they’ll beg him to work for them.

Within minutes of soaking, my body starts to get hot, and I feel an uncontrollable, itchy feeling all over. I look down and see a fiery redness all over my body. I drain the tub and rinse off, wondering what the heck happened. I throw on a knee-length long-sleeved dress, pop an allergy pill, grab my purse, and head out to get itch cream.

Just as Lincoln is opening his door, I race out of mine. I run down the stairs and speed walk to One Stop, the general store I saw upon arrival. I return home with a tub of soothing cream and lather it all over my body. I lay on the bed naked, cursing the worst but possibly best day of my life.

After a long while, I check the clock and groan. I get ready for my meeting and head out the door a few minutes before seven.