Ethan let out a sigh as he walked along the flooded city streets. The momentary black cat, usually a seemingly ordinary man, felt his whiskers twitch from the cold as he whisked his tail around in the frigid wind. His fur, which was actually the same color as his usual human hair, became ruffled in the wind as his silver eyes pierced through the falling rain and crowds of people. All shapeshifters knew that days like this called for fur and a small stature to get through the traffic and cold, but today Ethan’s fur didn’t sprout thick enough.
Maybe I should stop and get something warm to drink . . . He considered. He knew there was a new coffee shop waiting on the next street corner, one he had yet to visit. That’ll be fine.
The crowd seemed to become thinner and thinner as Ethan approached his stop. By the time he reached the small, pathetic shop wedged on the corner he had found that he was entirely alone. He stepped under it’s tattered awning and felt the painful repercussions of his temporary transformation. Sharp teeth sunk back in to become more human, fur retracted back beneath his skin, his claws flattened to become fingernails, his bones and skin morphed and crackled as he stood formidably again, this time as a human. The only thing that didn’t change was the slitted irises of his eyes, which were perpetually feline. With a newly formed hand he had seen a million times before, he reached over to push the door open and shook his head to get rid of any remaining water.
Inside the shop was warm, cozy even, with inviting yellow walls, ivory floor tiles, and table and chairs scattered everywhere. There were at least three baristas working behind the ordering counter, but only one of them caught his eye: a blonde 19-year-old boy working at the far right of the shop. Ethan scratched the back of his head, fingers intertwining with his wet hair, as he approached the counter.
“What can I get for you today?” the teen asked, flashing Ethan a bright smile.
“Witch’s Brew, straight black,” Ethan ordered.
The shapeshifter was in complete awe by the teen before him. It was obvious that the barista was a wizard-in-training by the way he held his intricate wand in his hand. A porcelain mug remained on the counter before Ethan as the boy turned away and pointed at the coffee brewing in a nearby pot. The boiling liquid adhered to the boy’s silent command and a stream began to flow through the air, leading straight to the awaiting mug and filling it almost to the brim.
“You just want black coffee?” the barista inquired again. “As in no creamer at all?” Ethan squirmed nervously when the teen turned his head to glance at the shapeshifter from the corner of his emerald eyes.
“Yeah . . . some creamer would be nice,” Ethan mumbled in reply. The barista simply nodded and repeated the same action he had done with the coffee, but this time with creamer, and Ethan’s eyes widened in surprise when the shorter blonde etched the design of a cat into his drink without even looking at it.
“Do you like cats?” The teen turned around to eye Ethan uncertainly, an expression of worry on his face.
“Oh, yeah, I’m sorry. I should have asked–”
“Don’t be sorry,” Ethan interrupted with a grin. “I love cats.” The teen’s face began to burn red as he nodded quietly, looking down at the floor. “Real quick, what’s your name?”
“Lance.” That’s when Ethan took his drink and held out a hand full of bills to the blonde barista.
“My name is Ethan. Keep the change.”