One Week Later

Ben was starting to get slightly annoyed. He had just left his fifth interview and for the fifth time, he had been rejected. Some thought he was overqualified, judging by some of the information he put down on his CV, others were suspicious that he had come to Chicago for no discernible reason, they were worried that he might leave soon after starting a new job.

Still, Ben was confident that something would turn up, if only he looked hard enough, bet you Peter never has this problem. He walked towards the student area again, hoping to take another stroll through Hyde Park, but he never reached there, his stomach started growling and he remembered that he hadn’t eaten any breakfast this morning.

He was just passing what looked like a café so he pushed open the red oak doors and stepped into a quiet, bright and cool little coffee shop. The sign outside read “Coffee Mill”. A long oak counter ran most of the length of one wall, and the rest of the floor space was taken up by round tables with ornate metallic chairs. Along the wall with the window were several booths. Ben sauntered up to the counter and sat on one of the wooden stools. Seconds later, a small woman appeared from the kitchen area. She was a good head smaller than Ben, with dark blonde hair tied in a ponytail. She was full figured, although not by any means fat, just naturally curvy. She smiled as Ben rested his elbows on the counter.

“What can I get you?” she asked pleasantly.

“Something strong, considering the day I’m having.” Ben replied wearily.

The woman smiled again, “You know we only serve coffee, you want alcohol, go to the student’s union up at the university.”

“Nah,” Ben said with a dismissive tone, “one drink and I’m climbing the walls…literally.”

“Espresso then?” The woman asked.

“Yep, hit me.” Ben looked up and smiled. Okay, so he was still unemployed but life wasn’t that bad, you had to work at it, things didn’t just fall into place right away.

“Are you a student?” the woman behind the counter turned to face Ben.

“No, bit long in the tooth for that now.” Ben replied.

“You don’t look that old. So, tell me, what’s troubling you?” Ben couldn’t help but smile at the woman, she was trying so hard to break his mood.

“The great hunt of jobs. I’m just plain unemployable.” Ben sighed. “Moved here a week ago, have had five interviews so far, and nothing.”

“Do you have any idea why you’re being turned down?” The woman paused to hand him a cup of espresso.

Ben gratefully took it and sipped the hot liquid. He felt the heat flowing through him and the bite of the caffeine. “Overqualified, the bane of my existence. Seriously, half think I’m too good for the job, the others are suspicious that I’ve put in for a job they think is beneath me.”

The woman offered him a sympathetic smile. “Don’t let it get you down, you’ll find something. You only just moved to Chicago. What brought you here?”

Ben took another sip of coffee. “I was in Europe for a couple of years, working abroad, but my contract was…terminated, so I came back to the States.”

“So, you’re a native then?” the woman set about cleaning cups in a small sink behind the counter.

“Native New Yorker,” Ben replied, “Raised in Queens.”

“Used to live there.” The woman replied. “Then I got married and moved here.”

“Cool.” Ben said. “How long have you had this place?”

“About three years now.” The woman answered. “My husband and I separated around then, I used the divorce money to fund this place.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Ben said with sympathy.

“These things happen. People fall in love and then when the emotion cools, they find there are differences there.” She paused, a sad look on her face. “I don’t regret my decision.” She finished washing the cups and picked up a towel. “So, what are your plans?”

“Dunno,” Ben said. “Keep job hunting. Funny thing is, I’m a whiz with biochemistry, microelectronics, and molecular biology, and the happiest time I remember was working in a coffee house in New York.” Ben stopped talking as the memories flooded over him again.

“You worked in a coffee shop?” the woman asked.

“Yeah.” Ben replied.

“Then get you ass round here and make me some coffee.” The woman said, motioning for Ben to come round the counter.

Ben looked up, disbelief colouring his features. The woman smiled at his bemused expression, “I usually hire one of the arty students from Hyde Park, but I had to let one go last week ‘cause he was trying to rip me off.” The woman offered Ben her hand. “You need a job? I might be able to help, it won’t be glamorous but if you’re good, I’ll pay well. I’m Jenny Willis.”

“Ben, Ben Reilly.” Ben shook her otustretched hand. Suddenly, life had turned a corner. Ben smiled as he shrugged on an apron and gratefully took up his place behind the counter. He set to work immediately, brewing a cup of coffee for his new boss and tidying up around the café. Several hours, and many customers later, Ben was feeling very happy. The Coffee Mill reminded him of his old life in New York, although this was a new beginning in a new city.

The door rattled open as a young woman wandered in. She was quite tall and slim, with long curly brown hair tied back in a messy ponytail. She had earphones plugged into a portable CD player and was bopping away to the sound. She sidled up to counter and looked around.

“Where’s Jenny, and who are you?”

“Ben, I’m the new guy…” He was interrupted as Jenny returned from the kitchen.

“Kitty, good to see you dear, haven’t heard from you for a few weeks.” Jenny greeted the young girl.

Kitty replied, “Haven’t been myself lately but I’m mending.”

Ben took his leave and ducked into the kitchen. He hung up his apron and returned to the counter. “Jenny, if you don’t need me, I’ll head home.”

“No problem Ben, I’ll see you tomorrow at eight.” Ben was halfway to the door when Jenny called out, “And good work today Ben, you’re a natural.”

As he left the shop and closed the door behind him, the woman known as Kitty Pryde turned in her seat and spoke “Who on earth was that?” She asked.

Jenny just smiled, “That was Ben Reilly, dear. I just gave that boy a new beginning.”



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