A/N: This was originally posted in 2011, but I took it down when I started working on a real manuscript using its premise. Ultimately, I scrapped the manuscript, so I'm putting this story back up. Unlike most of the other stuff on my profile, this one was written post-college, which means it's not as absurd as the rest. But only by a little bit.


- I -

He selected a small glass and threw in a handful of ice cubes before pouring in the freshly brewed peach tea, taking care not to fill it all the way to the top. The steam rose and surrounded him with the fruity aroma, which calmed his frayed nerves as the little girl in the dining area continued to throw an ear-splitting tantrum that even her parents stood no chance of abating. The other patrons in the café were quickly growing irritated at the banshee-like screams, and the staff hurriedly swarmed the tables, offering free samples of cake in order to buy some time.

He finished making the drink and grabbed a pink straw on his way out of the kitchen. His long legs allowed him to maneuver quickly across the floor, reaching the source of the café's misery within seconds. With a polite smile, he offered the drink to the child, whose gaping maw finally clamped shut at the sight of the glass of tea. She stared at it inquisitively, taking in the fresh peach slices floating on top of the ice cubes next to the parasol drink umbrella. After nearly a minute, she reached for the glass with chubby little hands.

The silence was deafening. It seemed that everyone in the café was holding their breath, waiting to see whether a Shut-It-Up potion had been concocted. The girl brought the straw to her lips and took a sip. Everyone watched her warily as the moment of truth came upon them.

Suddenly, her expression brightened as she broke out into a cheerful smile. "Yummy!" she exclaimed and proceeded to practically inhale the beverage through the straw.

There was a unanimous sigh of relief throughout the café, and the other patrons turned back to their own tables to talk amongst themselves again. The staff returned to performing their duties at the normal pace, glad for the reprieve.

"Well, I'll be damned," the father muttered in a thick Southern accent, watching his now-silent daughter in astonishment. He swung his gaze to the young man standing over them. "I'm impressed, son. What's that drink you gave her?"

"It's peach tea with honey, lemon juice, and peach slices. I thought she'd like it," he said and gave the girl a friendly grin.

She beamed up at him, looking much more adorable now that her face wasn't contorted with rage.

"You've got yourself a fine eye for calmin' the young'uns," the mother piped up. "Took one look at my Angela and knew exactly what to bring her. What's your name, darlin'?"

"Hakan Kramer, ma'am."

The father regarded him with a genial expression. "I'll tell you what, Mr. Kramer. If you could bring out your manager or supervisor or even the owner if he or she is available, I'd like to recommend you for a raise."

Hakan could barely conceal the amused note in his voice as he said, "Well, sir… if it's the big boss you're looking for, he's standing right in front of you. I'm the owner of Whiskey Tea Café."


"Hey, good job shutting up that little brat earlier," Luke remarked, wiping down his last table. "Jesus, that was a prime example of why I hate kids. I told you opening a bar instead of a café would've been a better idea. That way, we wouldn't have to deal with people's annoying spawn."

Hakan laughed as he swept the floor around the entrance. "Give me some credit for at least having alcohol here. Bailey's Irish Whiskey will always be a staple for the signature drink."

"Whiskey tea does not count as an alcoholic drink. Half a shot of Bailey's? Come on, that's just sad." Luke straightened and grinned impishly. "Just say the word and I'll go out and grab a handle of Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey for the café. Fix that wimp-ass tea crap right up."

"Dude, the drink is whiskey tea, not whiskey with some tea," Hakan declared. "If you haven't gotten over the partying scene, you can still hang out with your frat brothers as an alumnus, you know."

"Yeah, but making the hour and a half drive to Pensacola on a Friday night just to get busted with under-21 sorority girls is so not worth it," Luke grumbled, running a hand through his cropped blonde hair. "That's why I was looking to party it up with you here in Destin, but you're lamer than ever."

"That's harsh, man," Hakan said lightheartedly, throwing a pen at his best friend. "How am I lame?"

Luke dodged the writing utensil and fixed him with a flat look. "You spent college maintaining a 4.0 GPA, never bothered with women and dating, and now you're running this tea-and-crumpets gig like one of those creepy guys you see in Japanese anime with maid costume fetishes."

Hakan snorted and went to the storage closet to put the broom away. "I'd like to point out that most of my staff is male, and none of you have been assigned uniforms even close to maid outfits. Though now you're giving me punishment ideas for underperformance."

"And the thing with the predominantly male staff! Are you actually gay, bro?" Luke peered at him, his blue eyes narrowing in suspicion. "Not that I'm a homophobe or anything, but come on. A tea café? Who opens a friggin' tea café?"

Hakan had to chuckle despite himself. He didn't expect others, even Luke, to understand his reasons.

"Luke, you joined a fraternity while I stayed out of Greek affairs. So out of the two of us, you're the one with sausage-fest experience, not me," Hakan told him, smirking. "Who's gay now?"

"Hey! Brotherhood is a sacred bond that has spanned the length of history," Luke retorted indignantly. "It has nothing to do with homosexuality!"

"Right… whatever bromance bullshit they filled your head with during chapter meetings and keg stand rituals definitely comes out when you're on the defense." Hakan was now trying not to snicker.

In a grand display of mock outrage, the other male threw his rag down and stuck his chin in the air. "I quit! I don't have to take this from some tea-making, cake-baking pansy who has never gotten laid and doesn't—"

"Your internship doesn't pay you enough for rent."

"Oh, you're right. Never mind. Bros for life?" Luke back-pedaled immediately.

The two young men stared at each other for several seconds before bursting out laughing.

Their friendship had gone through its share of ups and downs throughout middle school, high school, and college, but the same could be said of any long-term relationship. Hakan saw Luke as a brother borne not by blood, but by kindred spirit. They had worked hard to get to where they were now, and if Luke hadn't been a pillar of support for him all these years, he probably would have ended up somewhere very different.

"By the way, you know 2-Gen Alpha is gonna be in town next month?" Luke asked as they straightened the chairs.

Hakan glanced at him, recognizing the name of the hard rock band that had catapulted to fame two years prior after their debut album, Wingless Hybrid, topped the charts and went platinum. He had heard their music, but failed to find their sound as staggering and groundbreaking as Luke and the rest of the country did.

"I'm guessing you're going to be in the front row, trying to grab the vocalist? What was her name again?" Hakan inquired, conjuring in his mind the image of his friend attempting to molest the attractive singer.

Luke huffed. "Avery Fawns, and no, whatever sleazy thing you're imagining me doing, you're completely wrong." He took off his apron and tossed it onto the servers' station. "But I need to get home so I can order the tickets early online. You're coming to their concert, too, right? They're playing at that premiere beach club on Okaloosa Island. You know, the Swamp?"

Hakan thought about it before shrugging. "Sure, but can you afford going? We still have bills to pay, and that last chick you brought to the apartment stole the cash out of your wallet."

"Yeah, man, I'll just skip groceries this month and I should be good," Luke said eagerly. "Let's hurry up and get outta here."

Hakan's gaze was full of pity. The fact that his friend was willing to starve to save money for rock concert tickets was kind of pathetic.

Once they finished closing up, Luke went ahead to their apartment while Hakan decided to stop by Crystal Beach to get some writing done (and to avoid Luke's loud fanboy tendencies). It was six in the evening in the last week of July, so he had approximately two hours of daylight left. Ensuring he had his notebook in his backseat, he started his car—a pampered and well-maintained 2008 Nissan Altima—and pulled out of the café parking lot.

Not for the first time, he asked himself why he had chosen to relocate to Destin, a tourist town known for its crystal blue-green waters, white sand, and notorious traffic on Highway 98. It was easy to spot which vehicles hailed from landlocked states due to their desperate clustering at the intersection to the nearest beach. Hakan took one look at the congestion up ahead and immediately veered off the highway to take the back roads and save himself a half hour. Such were the benefits of being a local.

Although he had moved to Destin just three months ago, he had been residing in the panhandle of Florida for the past six years. He and Luke had recently graduated from the University of West Florida in Pensacola. However, after he followed Luke to Destin in the hopes of landing a job relatively soon, he discovered that the college graduate unemployment rate was still at an all-time high because of the recession.

While Luke had a low-paying internship at Eglin Air Force Base nearby as a civilian computer engineer, Hakan struggled in his job search due to the lack of an immediate professional network. His in-college internships had been in Pensacola, and none of his previous supervisors could help him out with positions in Destin. As the last of his leftover scholarship money depleted, Luke suggested that he become a male escort. He shot that idea down in less than a second.

As he ran out of options, he had no choice but to put his business degree to good use. After conducting extensive research, going through many headaches, and exerting the last of his effort, he succeeded in arranging for the grand opening of Whiskey Tea Café.

Hopefully, he would be able to keep the café afloat at least until the recession ended.

He drove down Old Scenic Highway and parked at the closest open space to the Crystal Beach entrance. Grabbing his notebook and pen—he was old school, so sue him—he exited his car and made his way to the ramp, pausing to remove his flip flops. There were still quite a number of tourists scattered about the beach, and many watched him in interest as his tall form trudged through the sand, the wind ruffling his dark locks and clothes.

He had changed out of his uniform white dress shirt and black slacks and into a faded sleeveless T-shirt and dark blue board shorts back at the café. His alabaster skin reflected the orange tint of the setting sun, and as he glanced down at his white arms, he figured he should probably spend more time outside to replace the pallid color with a healthy tan.

Finally, he reached a secluded spot and plopped down on the warm sand, taking a moment to breathe in the salty air. He loved living this close to the water. Early evening at the beach was the most peaceful time to write, read, or relax. He flipped open his notebook and turned to the first blank page, and his throat tightened slightly as he poised the pen on the sheet. It was certainly helpful to be surrounded in a soothing and calm atmosphere. He needed it to be able to write this.


I hope you're safe and well. Looking at the date of the last entry, it's been about three weeks since I've been able to sit down and write you again. I've been really busy… you have no idea.

Just want you to know that I didn't end up wasting my scholarship tuition money. I started my own business, a tea café. It's still really new, but I've had a lot of customers, tourists and locals alike. The awesome thing about it is that I get to call the shots. I hired my own staff and everything, and Luke is helping out, too, as a part-time server.

It's called Whiskey Tea Café, and true to its name, we specially serve whiskey tea. Don't worry, I'm taking the recipe to the grave… even the staff members don't know exactly how to make it.

Mom would have been proud.

He hesitated, his hand hovering over the page as his eyes remained glued to the last sentence. Setting his lips in a straight line, he willed himself to continue.

Well, it's been nearly two years since you disappeared, old man. I'm still kind of pissed that you missed my college graduation, but thanks for leaving me the Altima… I'll just assume that's your graduation present to me. I got rid of that crappy old Mustang and have been cruising in (relative) style.

Still no girlfriend, still by choice. I have way too much going on to focus on a significant other right now, but if I meet a nice, quiet girl, I might change my mind. They're hard to come by these days.

But anyway…

I still don't get what you had to go after so badly that you vanished without warning. You could at least write or call, you know. I realize it was just the two of us for a long time, and the Kramers are pretty hardy, but it's a lot tougher when it's just me. Not to whine or anything, but I'm pretty much alone since I never got to know any of my relatives.

No family, no nothing.

By the time you get this, I hope you're loaded with so much guilt that you buy me a new sports car. Preferably a Nissan 370 Z. Hey, I graduated with summa cum laude honors, so I'm entitled, right?

A knot formed in his stomach as he wrote the next part.

But all humor aside, I hope that wherever you are, you're okay. None of the investigative teams I sent after you turned up anything, so you're either damn good at hiding or…

Well… if you're not okay, I hope you're livin' it up in heaven with Mom. And I hope you guys are rooting for me.

Take care, Dad.

He stared down at the page grimly, letting the pen drop from his hand. This was the fortieth entry in his notebook. Deep down, he admitted that he held onto a somewhat childish hope that diligently writing to Joshua Kramer for years after his disappearance would bring him back somehow. Only Luke knew about his situation, as he hadn't told anyone else.

It had been right before his sophomore year of college that he found the note in his father's house:


I'm going away for a while to take care of some long-overdue business. Please don't look for me. Be good, continue your studies, and make me proud. I'll come back someday.

He never saw Joshua again.

Stretching, he forced the rising feelings of depression back into his subconscious. There was no point in mourning. He just had to live his life and trust that his father had chosen the right path. This optimism was what kept him going in the worst of circumstances.

He had been writing for about an hour, and he surmised that this would probably be enough for today. As his rumbling stomach demanded dinner, he moved to stand. However, as he did, a chill promptly descended over him. Brow furrowing, he looked around and was surprised to find that he was alone on the beach even though it was only seven o'clock. A layer of stratus clouds had snuck in while he was distracted and covered the sky in a gray film, dispelling the earlier relaxing mood on the shore.

What the hell? The weather was supposed to be clear all day, he thought in bewilderment. And where'd everyone else go?

Save for the sound of the rushing waves, the area was eerily quiet. None of the usual noises were present—voices, vehicles, or music. An unsettling feeling raised the hairs on the back of his neck, and he cautiously began to walk back toward the ramp leading to the parking lot. There was something wrong here.

He felt eyes watching him as he made his way across the sand, though from which direction he couldn't be sure. Paranoia wasn't a usual trait of his, but the drop in temperature and sudden change in weather unnerved him. A foreboding aura seemed to follow his steps. His pulse racing, he gripped his notebook as he hurried toward the ramp. When he reached it, he chanced a glance behind him.

His breath promptly caught in his throat.

In the far distance, on the horizon line of the ocean, he saw a figure hovering over the surface of the water… with large, torn black wings protruding from its back.


A/N: Yikes, I took out about 600 words worth of useless exposition from the original version. But hey, I'd say that means my writing style has evolved in the past two years. Thanks for reading, and I'd love any feedback!