Heroism, and a Hot Cup of Borovan
“Your borovan, sir.”
The red Kougra at the table in the corner didn’t even look up. He kept his eyes fixed on his book as Jemmy, smiling to herself, placed a second porcelain cup and saucer on the table, so gently there was not even a clatter.
“I’m rather in the mood for a drink myself. Do you mind if I join you?”
This made the Kougra look up. He eyed the yellow Shoyru curiously. “Well, alright,” he said, after a bit of a pause.
Jemmy’s mother was in the backroom, starting on the dishes, which left just Jemmy and the Kougra in the main part of the coffee shop. The art gallery had already closed for the evening, and with it had gone the rest of Jemmy’s patrons. She could hear the voices of a few pets still gathered around the bonfire, echoing through the cavern as they spun stories of magic and grand adventures, but even they had dulled down to a whisper by now. Jemmy often found that she lost track of time during the workday, thanks to the eternal dusk inside of the Catacombs. It was the noise from the storytellers that reminded her of the world outside of her and her mother and their little coffee shop.
Taking a slow sip of her hot cocoa- she never had gotten a taste for borovan- Jemmy examined her companion. His fur was neat, if a bit sloppily trimmed, and his mouth was pressed into a tight line. He stared at his book, but never turned the pages.
He was quiet, but Jemmy was used to the quiet. She had, in fact, developed numerous techniques to handle the quiet.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” she said, “what are you reading?”
The Kougra looked up at her, seeming startled.
“Team Krawk Island: Journey To The Top,” he said softly.
Jemmy gasped. “Why, that’s expensive!” She’d never read it herself, but she knew that book had been given to only the most dedicated Yooyuball fans.
“Yeah,” he said. Jemmy noticed him gritting his teeth as he spoke.
“Well, why so glum, then?” she asked. “I know if I were reading such a rare book, I’d be just enthralled. I’d be rushing through each page, just to find out how it ends!’
The Kougra looked at her as if she was insane. Well, fair enough. It probably wasn’t every day he was bombarded with questions by a plucky coffee shop waitress. Jemmy had to work hard to keep herself from giggling at the prospect.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ve been told I talk quite a bit. But otherwise it just gets so dreadfully quiet in here. Am I bothering you?”
The Kougra seemed to take his time to answer that. “No,” he said, finally, as if making the decision just then. “You’re not.”
“So, would you mind telling me, then?” she asked. “Why you seem so down, I mean.”
He sighed and took a drink of his borovan, his shoulders rising and falling with the heavy breath. “It’s my sister,” he confessed. “She spilled nail polish all over my book. You couldn’t read a word.”
Jemmy tilted her head. “It looks just fine now.”
“Well, that’s the thing,” the Kougra said, a bit louder than before. “I had to buy a brand new copy! Set me back a million neopoints!”
“That’s quite a lot,” Jemmy gasped.
The Kougra nodded firmly- quite a lot it was indeed. “I want to make book award,” he explained. “I’d been saving that money for The Underdog Story. And now I have to start from scratch.”
“That’s a shame,” Jemmy told him. After another sip of her cocoa, she continued, “Those are both about Yooyuball. Are you a fan?”
“A big one,” he admitted, blushing. It wasn’t anything for him to be embarrassed about- isn’t everyone a Yooyuball fan?- and yet he was. Jemmy smiled at that.
“What’s your team?” she asked.
“Faerieland,” he answered.
“Mine too.” Jemmy grinned mischievously. “Tell you a secret?”
The Kougra looked intrigued. “What?”
“Do you know Elbin Kroe?” she asked.
“Of course! He’s only the best forward Faerieland’s ever seen!”
Jemmy leaned forward, to remind that what he was about to hear was strictly confidential- what you hear from the coffee girl is not gossip to be repeated to just anyone. “My big brother,” she offered, in a light whisper.
The Kougra’s eyes bugged out so far Jemmy wondered if they might pop right out of his head (it seemed a valid concern at the time; you never do know what kind of strange magic is at work in Neopia, after all). “Elbin Kroe is your brother?”
Jemmy nodded.”He’s off being a big star all over Neopia and I’m here, waitressing in the family business. Siblings, eh?” she joked.
“Siblings,” the Kougra agreed, smiling for the first time since he’d walked into the shop. Jemmy couldn’t help but feel proud of herself for that.
“I’m Jemmy, by the way,” she told him, holding out her hand.
The Kougra shook it. “Pax.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Pax,” Jemmy said. “Or have I served you before?”
He shook his head. “First time in these parts. I think I’ll have to come back though,” he said, once again a decision made on the spot. “If only for some more of this borovan.”
Jemmy beamed. “Well, my mother will be glad to have the business. You should try to stop by in the afternoon, when the art gallery’s open,” she suggested. “Their pieces are quite lovely.”
Pax smiled and nodded. “I’ll be sure to,” he said.
Jemmy gestured at his empty cup. “Would you like some more?”
Pax glanced around the empty shop. The voices from the campfire had faded out long ago. “Don’t you need to close?”
“Well, I can make an exception for a friend,” she said.
Pax smiled shyly. “Thanks, but I should really be going. My mom’ll worry.” He closed his book and walked to the door before turning back to look at Jemmy. “I’ll come back soon, though,” he promised.
Jemmy held up a finger, signaling him to wait, as she put a leftover Tigersquash Swirly Cake in a paper bag and tied it shut with a scrap of ribbon. “A good luck charm,” she said, placing the bag in his hands. “For the future recipient of the Neopian book award.”
The cake, she knew, would probably come out of her allowance- her mother had been stingy about giveaways lately, what with the Crumpetmonger in Neovia stepping on their territory- but as Jemmy stood at the doorway of the shop, waving good-bye to the last costumer of the day, she didn’t care. She could always tell her mother that, while they may come for the borovan, they stay for the exceptional service. And even if that didn’t work, well, there was a reason Bob from the coin shop called Jemmy “Little Miss Money Tree”.
In the vast lands of Neopia, there are many kinds of heroes- brave warriors, powerful faeries, beloved Yooyuballers. But should the harshness of Neopian life ever get you down, travel under the soil of Neopia Central to the small coffee shop hidden in the Deep Catacombs, where you may just experience another sort of heroism. For there, you will be greeted by a young yellow Shoyru, offering a smile and a hot cup of borovan to warm your weary heart.