Imogen had spent the entire day getting ready for the Cool Beans house warming party that Friday afternoon. She had closed the store at 3:00 to prepare for the party starting at 7:00. Her coworkers Naomi, Bella, and Calvin were helping her prepare. Naomi was in the kitchen preparing appetizer tables and glasses of coffee. It was encouraged to BYOB for spiked coffees, because the café was unable to sell alcoholic beverages by law. Bella was in charge of arranging the seating and setting the stage for the small concert. Imogen and Calvin were diligently decorating and adorning the walls with original artwork.
“Wow, Imogen you are so talented.” Calvin said as Imogen hung some art she had made in college. “You could easily become a professional artist.”
“No way!” said Imogen. “It’s not even that original. I just copied photos of faces.”
“You are so wrong. Your art is the best by far.” Calvin said surveying the collection.
“It’s okay.. I wish I was so much better though.” Imogen replied. She had appreciated Calvin’s comments way more than she had let on, basking in the praise which made her feel as if she had worked astonishingly hard on her art. She had worked hard mastering painting and drawing. But when she was in college. She hadn’t actually completed a full work of art in 8 years, yet artist was one of the words she loved using to describing herself unable to escape the idealistic visions from her youth. There were other ways in which she could present herself to others, but she had not yet let go of her art even though she wasn’t currently an artist. Maybe if she repeatedly told everyone she was an artist than she would become one again. Or maybe the pressure from other people would motivate her to create. It wasn’t like she was a failure or anything, she had hobbies like running and reading. Obviously, she had work ethic seeing as she was able to open her own coffee shop. But the reminder that she no longer was producing artworks that people could appreciate ate at her pride and ego. Whenever she would meet new people, she would show them photos of the old art she had made as if they were new creations.
Calvin was 7 years younger than Imogen and he was always praising and complimenting her. Usually when he was doing this, she felt annoyed and wanted him to leave, viewing it as inauthentic flattery. But whenever he stopped or gave another coworker a lot of attention, she would miss it and do something to attract it again. She wasn’t sure if he liked her or not, but if push came to shove she would say yes. At least she hoped. She didn’t have feelings for him at all, but still relatively felt close to him anyways. He was a calming presence in her life, always optimistic, always bringing people up. He was the nicest person she knew. Maybe too nice. Maybe she would have had feelings for him if he would just get angry or snap and show some kind of weakness. But he was Calvin. The perfect angel boy.
Imogen grabbed a ladder and began drawing colorful spirals in chalk by the entrance. She wanted the spirals to form the title of the event she was hosting. She could see the reflection of the setlist in the window by which she worked. Nicotine Rhino was the last act to play music for the evening. They were probably the only reason people would show up to this Imogen thought. They were a 4-piece electronic dreampop band out of West City. They were famous around the area, constantly shuffling around the local bars. It wasn’t often that they left West city however. She had also got the bands Kable and Jimmy Danger to perform as well. But they weren’t as enticing as Nicotine Rhino. The past couple of days she had gotten texts from various people saying they’d like to perform jokes or skits. One of Georgie’s friends had even asked if he could rap over a mixtape. So, she had decided to give all volunteers 10 minutes each to perform a quick set before the featured artists came on.
She looked at her phone. It was a text from Liam Normandy. He was the lead singer of Nicotine Rhino.
“Hey Imogen. You want anything to drink ;)?”
Imogen requested gin and tonics. She was a little nervous to see Liam Normandy, but she knew as soon as she was talking to him, she’d feel fine. His crystal light blue eyes glimmering from the stage lights, his charming smile flashing, and his over active hands expressing themselves like no other. But as soon as he was away, the uncertainty would return. Liam Normandy had that effect on her. When she was with him, she felt like she had his complete attention and focus, but as soon as he left, she had no idea what to make of the interaction as if Liam Normandy had revealed nothing at all. If you asked anyone, they’d say Liam was a social butterfly, extremely talented, and so charming and handsome. But Imogen just couldn’t pin him down. It was as if he had never once shared a truthful thing about himself, using his charm to disarm everyone into being obsessed with him. Imogen and Liam had gone on several dates over the past two years, but it hadn’t amounted to much. Liam Normandy wasn’t the type to settle down, choosing to explore his sexuality instead. Imogen shook herself getting the chills of regret when she remembered making out with him and giving him a hand job on a dirty old mattress after some West City party. He was in an open relationship with 3 other girls at the time. He asked her to be his fourth, but she declined. She used to spend a lot more time with him. Him and his crew. But she no longer yearned for those type of interactions, labeling them as superficial and immature, even though those people identified as creative nonconforming people and looked down on the “normies” that threaten to destroy good culture. Imogen fixed her hair in the window reflection. She still wanted him to work his charm on her. It was hard to resist Liam Normandy.
It was almost 7:00 and the guests would soon be arriving. The 4 baristas stood back and admired the work they put in. Calvin even took a selfie and immediately sent it to all of them accompanied by 2 heart emojis. She sat down and zoned out to the music as people started coming into Cool Beans. The song Dreams by the Cranberries was playing. It was one of her favorite songs. Her dad would always blast it when he drove her to school, however it was Calvin who had selected it for the group Spotify playlist. She looked at her phone, no texts from her friends and none from Liam Normandy. Imogen wondered why she was thinking so much about boys, she always made fun of the girls who only talked about crushes and intimacies. She always felt deeper and more intellectually because she didn’t openly discuss her sex life. But maybe she was just repressed and hadn’t been held by someone who loved her in over 3 years. It usually took her a long time to get comfortable with guys and sometimes she’d take over a year to decide whether she had a crush on one or not. She started to observe the crowd more as she escaped her all-consuming thoughts.
She walked around to different tables offering food and drinks and discussing the new coffee shop. She wasn’t sure if people even knew whether or not she owned the place. it wasn’t very obvious and it was not as if she openly broadcasted it. In the newspaper interview, the reporter basically talked to Calvin the whole time. Imogen didn’t like to be interviewed like that in a formal way. It weirded her out, but she was probably just too shy. The other guests seemed to be enjoying chatting with Naomi and Bella. They were a lot more extroverted than Imogen and were most likely the presumed owners of Cool beans. Maybe she could tell one of them to let people know she was the owner. She had the urge to be recognized for all the work she had down to make her dream a reality, but at the same time was sickened by that urge. As guests started to perform at the open mic, she noticed Liam Normandy for the first time. He was wearing black skinny jeans and a vintage blue suit jacket with no shirt underneath and kept fixing his long messy brown hair as he told a very entertaining story to a group of 4 girls. She heard the front door open and saw Georgie walk in. She wanted to wave and smile at him, but she restrained herself. His little African American friend was with him along with a girl, a redhead she hadn’t seen before.