Chapter 1 – The Fool
Leo was never a morning person. He’d struggle even to make it to a 10am Media Studies class at college. It’s probably why he flunked his A-Levels and is right here at the crack of dawn with his boss, opening up the coffee shop he’s now working at in the heart of London’s “Silicon Valley”. Digital media-types can dress it up as much as they like but it’s still “Old Street roundabout” to most Londoners, including Leo.
His parents had put an ultimatum on him. Leo’s mum, Audrey, had paid for him to go to an independent college after he failed his three A-Levels at school. It was one of those crash course colleges where you can re-take your A-Levels in a year. Leo came out with a “D” in CDT (Craft, Design and Technology). The other A-Level results weren’t worth a mention, according to his mum. In her rare moments of making light of the situation, albeit unintentional, Audrey said her son’s grades summed up his love of sleep, “ZZZ”. That was £10k out of Audrey’s ISA account and just as Leo’s dad, Salvo said, Leo wasn’t going to hear the end of it.
Leo still had sleep under his eyes. He tried to remove it with his index finger as he picked up a large sack of fairtrade coffee with his other hand, before proceeding to follow his boss into the store. He acknowledged that the large sack of coffee he was carrying was so light and soft – it would make a perfect pillow for him to rest his head on while getting some shut-eye, in the broom cupboard-style staff room, during his morning break. “Wishful thinking” Leo thought, not with his battle-axe boss Graham throwing his caffeine-fuelled weight around.
Anyway his stint at Citizens of Coffee was a minor pain in the proverbial butt so he could earn some “wonga” to pay his mum back. Leo was hoping he would then find his “steez” and get on with his life. Leo wasn’t one for exams or academia. He didn’t really need to prove his knowledge or awareness, he felt. “School of Life” was where he was at. Besides he was “good with his hands” as he liked to tell people, especially the ladies.
Leo was a charmer. With his short black hair, sometimes raised in a Neymar-style Mohawk, and his big dooey hazel eyes, it was like his face hadn’t outgrown his baby days in all of his 19 years. Fresh faced and not to mention his fake Italian accent that he would put on when out in the clubs to “chirpse the beauties”. “Ladies love a good Latin lover,” Leo said. He put it down to generations of Casanovas in his Italian family.
Leo didn’t mind pandering to the “Italian Stallion” et al stereotypes, and neither did Graham. It sold coffee as far as Graham was concerned and Leo kept the ladies as well as the gay following coming back to the store regularly. But in spite of Leo’s pseudo-Lothario pretence, he always had this knowing that he belonged to “one chica only” and that “one chica” he hadn’t met yet, but again he had this heart-felt knowing that he would sometime soon, and he would give his life for her. In spite of Leo’s “naivety” in some respects, his take on love was mature, unconditional, admirable and full of wisdom. If only Leo’s mum was aware of that, she’d be yelling at him to apply that wisdom to his studies.
Graham opened the shop doors bang on seven am. A flurry of suits came in. Leo wasn’t too keen on Citizens of Coffee’s morning regulars, and didn’t feel the need to woo with his pretend Italian accent, so resorted back to his London-something vocals. The suits barely cracked a smile and weren’t the politest of people either. He preferred the digital media folk that scurried in from eight am, kitted out in their geek chic garb, and then there was the hipster-bearded gang with their turn-up jeans and waistcoats, finished off with a tweed blazer or Barbour jacket. They were the Google Campus lot. Leo admired their style and was fascinated by their facial hair. He would often talk at great length with these young men, barely as old as Leo, as to how they could go from bum fluff on the chin to full-on grandpa-style, preened-and-coiffed beard in such a short space of time. Leo didn’t even have a single sprouting on his chin to be proud of yet. The disadvantage of having a baby face, he believed – slow facial hair growth.
Then there was the yummy mummy brigade at 11am, who would discreetly breastfeed their babies. But to Graham they were shamelessly “baring their breasts in public”. Graham was older than his 32 years – a “miserable son of a gun”, according to Leo. If evil presented itself in physical form, Leo was convinced Graham would make a police line-up. He told one customer that “baring saggy breasts in the store is unacceptable and is putting customers off their lattes” and that she should leave.
The customer complained to the big boss – she called daily for days, weeks in fact wanting to speak to him. She finally caught Mehmet on one of the rare occasions that he made it to the shop. Mehmet told the woman that he would discipline Graham. Mehmet’s discipline came in the words of: “it’s ok if she wants to flash her boobs in the shop, it may bring in more customers innit. Go easy on dem mammaries next time.”
Mehmet was of the same ilk as Graham, “serving the baddest of bad” as Leo put it. Mehmet couldn’t have given a toss really. Besides Citizens of Coffee was just one of his “investments” to cover up his mafia dealings. When Leo came in for an interview for the position as ‘Full-time Barista’, Mehmet even asked if Leo had mafia links because of his Italian heritage. “You better bloody hope so,” Mehmet said in his cockney-come-Turkish accent, as he buttoned up his pinstripe jacket. “Nobody messes with this bad boy,” Mehmet sadistically chuckled to himself.
“What a twat”, Leo thought as he stared at the gap between Mehmet’s teeth past his right fangs, wondering why whoever took the first tooth out hadn’t considered taking the whole set.
Oh well, mafia-fronted shops, miserable suits and bearded-hipsters were all part of the make-up of the “multi-dimensional” holy smoke they call London, or LDN to the fashion wannabes who flooded the coffee shop with their selfie sticks at lunchtime. Leo wanted to meet like-minded folk like him – he knew he was different. “Not just the charm and good looks” he cheekily told himself. He sure was different to most city dwellers. Truthfully, he was one in a million. Leo had a lightness, a goodness, and unconditional love in abundance. It was like a light shining from above and beaming down from the skies onto Leo.
As twilight came, Leo had lost count of the number of coffees he’d made. It was that time of day where he would drift off wondering what his destiny was, midst milk-frothing. He turned his back to make a flat white for a customer when he heard a loud, authorative voice call “Leo, Leo Maestri, is that you?” He turned round to find a bearded fellow – not a hipster beard mind, this was the beard of a fully-fledged adult male or English gent as Leo put it.
The white bearded gent dressed in a trilby hat and country-style blazer was the “real deal” when it came to tweed-wearing and all that jazz. Maximum respect – it was his CDT teacher, Mr Ronald Parker, otherwise known as “Sir”, otherwise known as “The Magician”.
- Twins At Work are a writing duo. ‘Tarot Tales: The Mirror’ is inspired by the world around them, its inhabitants and life lessons. See how ‘Tarot Tales: The Mirror’ unfolds here at Ravenhawks Magazine.