You have an enthusiasm that defies even the cold, he told her. Most lose it, in this place.

She is smiling but stress pools in her eyes. She is in fact quite tired. The enthusiasm keeps her going. That and the books she carries. Each new book is a new world, and she gets to open the portals to those new worlds sometimes, when no one is looking, when she catches a few minutes alone. More and more often. She is skilled at manipulating time in ways that her superiors fail to notice.

You’ve complained about it, he says at her silence.

Well, there are many positives, you know, she essays. We’re explorers. We live newness even though it’s seen through a sepia filter here. I do exciting things every day. Even though it’s not exactly what I’d expected to be doing.

She’d never expected to be glorified book-bearer, shifting through opulent rooms like a ghost, then receding to her own, paler haunts after hours.

Maybe it’s the brown, she finally reflects. All this dusky brown everywhere. It makes me think of mud.

Or of coffee. It’s the colour of coffee.

Coffee. Ahhh. She sighs. She remembers the last time she had coffee. Now that intoxicating beverage is supremely difficult to find.

He smiles slyly.

You didn’t!

His smile widens.


I have my ways. He pulls her in towards him and kisses her but her eyes remain open and demand an explanation. He breaks off the kiss and laughs.

Did you know the beans are actually fruit seeds? There are two of these little seeds per red berry. They grow in faraway places. Under glass now, but it used to be that they grew in the mountains.

Yes! I saw vids when I was little.

Well, it was beautiful, there.

You’ve never been to a coffee plantation.

No. But I hold a piece of one of those fabled mountains right here. Look. Magic beans. He takes a bundle of brown fabric stamped with an airship logo out of his pocket and passes it to her over the table. She opens the packet to reveal a tiny coffee mountain. Not a very tall mountain, but enough for two cups.

Can we make this? At my place?

If you don’t mind having your coffee black, then yes. We can grind them up with that herbalist’s mortar and pestle you brought. (Why did she bring that? She can’t remember.) And then we can pour water over them and steep, and drink.

Later, they steep and they drink.

Nothing is as intoxicating as coffee.

Story © 2015 Clio Em.

Read all the other Airships stories here:

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