If you don’t want blood stains on your coffee cups, then don’t come to my café.
I’m not saying it happens often, but if you get the mug with the red painted roses… Well, you’ve been warned.
If they knew, my customers might say I make a mean cup of coffee for a faerie.
My boss says I make a mean cup of coffee for an assassin.
I like what I do, and I’m good at it. Every morning I wake up to smell pastries baking in the ovens downstairs. I train with Juna until one of us is bleeding- the loser has to do the dishes for our first shift at the café. We work for a few hours; feeding our regulars, feigning smiles and laughing at over-told jokes, sweating over steaming milk with coffee-stained fingertips.
Later, I shed my slow, heavy human body in favour of tiny translucent wings and toothpick limbs. I keep a doll-sized outfit in my apron pocket and mini daggers dangling from a chain around my neck. Being a faerie comes in useful, you see. I can sneak up on my victims like a spider on your sleeve. Juna calls it cheating, but that’s just because she’s jealous.
My father was an erlking faerie; ugly and callous with a rigid wooden heart. He took me from my mother, a fox-tailed faerie with hair like a sunset, and sold me to the café. At least, that’s what the boss tells me. All I remember of my parents is a flash of soft red hair and arms of splintered twigs. I was raised by killers and bakers and, honestly, I like it.
Liska is a show-off.
She always has to be better, you know? I make coffee but she makes some fancy-ass, chocolate sprinkled, unpronounceable shit. I slip some loser a poisoned drink and she beheads ten guys, bringing the severed heads into the place where we serve food. Make coffees and kill people, they’re simple enough jobs, there’s no need to turn it into some fucking showcase.
I was ten years old and I’d already been here three years when the boss dumped this tiny blonde toddler on my lap. She thought she was so damn cute turning into a thumb-sized firefly with golden curls and sparkly wings, like a regular fucking Tinkerbell. I’d try to train her and she’d cry at the first sight of my daggers, flying away until I caught her by that scruffy little fox tail.
And now, do I get any credit for turning her into a decent assassin? No, of course not.
I can see her now, wide-eyed and smiling as always, winking at the customers who always request that she make their coffees. The boss gives her the best jobs, the kitchen staff give her the least stale pastries. Hell, I bet every one of her victims has fallen to their knees and begged her to be the one that ends their sorry lives.
A little healthy competition never hurt anyone. Do you really think Juna would be half the killer she is if I didn’t constantly pit her against Liska?
Ah, but I really struck gold when I landed my Liska.
I’d never been so surprised in my life as when I saw her pitiful fool of a father appear at my window. He was no bigger than my thumb, a twisted and gnarled little figure, like a chess piece that had been stamped on, with wooden limbs and a leaf tangled beard. I was convinced my drink had been drugged when he materialized before me, full-sized and flesh-skinned, with a child held tight to his chest. He begged for me to take her, to keep her safe. He kissed his daughter on her rain-soaked forehead and left her.
I don’t know if he ever planned to come back for her, but over these years I have made her into my beautiful little weapon and god help him if he thinks I’ll give her up easy.
I saw her, and only her, when I died.
She was my last thought, my only thought; as she had been since the day she was born. Before that, it was her mother that filled every crevice of my mind. Tenacious, intelligent, and the most beautiful… the most loved. I would have died each time she laughed so that her laughter was the last thing I heard, died each time I saw her so my eyes would never be spoiled by any other image.
Had it been only the two of us, I would have taken her secret as my own and bloodied my hands and my very soul to keep her satisfied.
On the day that everything changed, I decided I could no longer stand the sharp stench coming from our basement, her personal quarters. I opened the creaking door and stepped inside and slipped on a puddle of blood. Small, gnawed bones and child-sized skulls were scattered across the floor and I vomited over neatly cut flesh.
So, I stole our daughter away. I left her somewhere to be safe, where she could learn to save herself.
And when I died, I thought of her.
I killed the man who loved me.
He didn’t cry, I had to respect that. He bled sap and stared into my eyes.
I had to do it. Could he really have loved me if he ran away from the darkest parts of me? If he assumed the worst of me, if he stole away my own flesh and blood?
He really was a fool. He really imagined that I would not find her.
I ought to thank him. He made my daughter into a creature far deadlier than I could have dreamed. I cannot wait for the day I tell her that she’s mine.
I sit in the corner of this café, as I do every morning, and I smile as she pours my coffee.
A short story by Holly E. E. Garrow
Featured image by Matthew Knapp