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Midnight at the Calla Café

Chapter 1

By Loryne AndaweyPublished 22 days ago 14 min read
Image made with NightCafe Creator

Every night at midnight, the purple clouds come out to dance with the blushing sky. The Calla Café boasted premium views of the purple clouds and photos from their terrace graced luxury magazines worldwide. Which is why it had a reservation list two months long.

Maly Kong wove through the rooftop terrace, setting down ube-filled pastries and lavender-vanilla lattes. She collected plates and new orders, exchanged greetings and wiped spills. All this with a professionally attentive smile.

Until she slipped behind the safety of the café counter and allowed herself to breathe.

There was always a frenzy leading up to midnight with the patrons demanding perfection. Maly counted three bachelorette parties, twelve couples (five of which looked like obvious proposals) and two minor celebrities on a cursory glance alone. Everyone else was some sort of influencer, tarted up and ready for their upcoming post.

And all of them were watching the sky.

“Excuse me.”

Professionally attentive smile.

“Yes?” Maly turned to face two girls - any woman younger than 25 was a girl in Maly’s books - with perfectly styled hair and dressed in sequined bodysuits. Dark silk capes with ornate pauldrons hung from their shoulders, their lengths falling past their silver high-heeled boots. They placed their branded purses on the counter.

“We’ve been waiting for two and a half hours and there’s a table right there.” The girl who spoke flicked her wrist out to point, but Maly didn’t have to look.

She knew the table in question. It sat in the centre of the balcony section and while half of the rooftop terrace was covered by a glass dome the empty table sat exposed to the sky.

It was also the most expensive seat to reserve.

“I’m sorry, but that table’s been reserved for 11:30,” Maly said.

“Yeah but it opened up ten minutes ago and no one’s here yet.”

“It’s only 11:23.” Maly glanced at the clock beside the checkout monitor. Every table had a small clock and all of them ticked in time with the large one that hung behind the counter.

The girls huffed. “Can we at least take it at 11:30 if they don’t come?” the second one whined.

“I am sorry, but not until after 11:35 may I release it.”

“That’s not fair!” Wrist-Flicker - as Maly decided to name the first girl - leaned over the counter. “You said their reservation is at 11:30. If they’re not here, then they’re wasting everyone’s time.”

Maly drew in a breath. “Reservations for the balcony terrace require a deposit of $500.00 while the one at the centre of the balcony requires a deposit of $1,000.00. Included in securing the reservation is the promise to provide a 5 minute grace period.” Maly felt her smile widen. “Shall I add both of you to the waiting list?”

At that moment the kitchen called, “Hands to pass,” and Maly swooped in to take the plate.

“One minute,” she said over her shoulder and before Wrist-Flicker and her friend could protest, Maly left them behind.

Maly gave herself a mental shake. She came way too close to being petty back there. After seven years of putting up with the midnight rush and all their airs she found herself more tempted to snap back whenever guests were being rude. It’s one thing to have coffee at midnight in the Calla Café, quite another to feel special about it. After photos and videos circulated online showing monks in Kathmandu calling down the stars, everyone thought that maybe they were that special too. While it was good for business - and tips - the already entitled clientele had managed to get more conceited and flamboyant ever since.

For where better to call down the stars than at the Calla Café?

Maly passed by the empty table on her rounds and wondered who the mystery guest would be. They would have to get in soon. She kept an eye on the clock as she worked. 11:25…11:26…She picked up plates from one table and set down a tray of bonbons at another…11:28…11:29…

She was heading back to the counter at 11:32 when she noticed her co-worker, Natalie, waving her over. Moving closer Maly noticed a tall and lanky man standing at the entrance. He wore a deep navy turtleneck beneath a fitted brown blazer and matching slacks. He looked to be in his early forties, though his trimmed beard and wavy locks were flecked with silver. But what captured Maly’s attention were his eyes. They were hidden behind dark, round sunglasses.

In his right hand he held a thin white and red cane.

“Mr. Lasko, this is Maly,” Natalie said once Maly was in earshot. “She’ll be your server for tonight…”

Maly watched Natalie’s eyes dart over to the ladies at the counter. Wrist-Flicker was watching and was starting to look more outraged than shocked. With a short nod, Maly gave her space to run interference, leaving her alone with the man.

“Good to meet you, Mr. Lasko,” Maly said. “May I assist you to your table?”

The man smiled. “That would be gracious of you.”

He spoke with a light accent, his words rolling with a soft purr. He reached out just as Maly offered him her arm. His fingers settled upon the crook of her elbow.

Maly led him through the terrace. Heads turned as they passed, followed by soft titters and bemusement.

Maly nearly frowned. Having led patrons dressed in outlandish costumes before, laughter - and judgement - was commonplace. Even she had to stifle her own reactions from time to time. But this. Maly felt her smile sharpen. This was uncalled for.

Be professional. Be attentive…

A louder than normal scoff sounded somewhere to her right and Maly turned to glare. Silence followed. She glanced up at the man but saw no reaction. From the placid look on his face Maly doubted he even heard the ripples he was making.

She led the man onto the balcony and to the centre table.

“May I offer you a beverage, Mr. Lasko?” she asked as he settled into his seat. “Would you like me to review the menu selections with you?”

“Just coffee,” he said, “and please, it’s Solomon.”

“Certainly, Solomon.” Maly liked the sound of his name. It fit him. “How do you take your coffee?”

“Black, thank you.”

“I’ll be just a minute.”

She was true to her word and with practised movements Maly set the white ceramic cup and its saucer down with a soft clink. She watched as Solomon’s fingers traced over the table, following the sound. He soon found the cup and lifted it for a sip.

“Perfect,” he said.

“Is there anything else I can get you?” Maly asked. “We have sandwiches and pastries.”

But Solomon shook his head. “This is fine.”

“Okay. Enjoy your coffee. I will check in with you in a few minutes.”

“I’ll raise my hand if I need anything,” he said. Maly nodded, murmured her assent, and left.

Natalie was at the counter when Maly returned. Wrist-Flicker and her friend were nowhere in sight.

“Handsome bloke,” Natalie said. “Wouldn’t mind getting to know him.”

“You like everyone who sits at that table,” Maly pointed out. That earned her a smirk.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with saying hello. Although,” Natalie’s brow furrowed. “I’m not sure how he’ll enjoy it. Sitting there, I mean.”

Maly looked towards the balcony. In the glow of the outdoor fairy lights Solomon cut a graceful figure. He had leaned back in his chair and was tilting his head from side to side. Maly realised that he was listening. Concern fluttered through her and she scanned the seated crowd. Were they still whispering about him? But then she saw the small smile playing on Solomon’s lips and she relaxed.

“I think he’s enjoying himself just fine,” Maly said at length. She massaged the tension forming at the back of her neck. It was not like her to feel defensive for her patrons.

“Well, he looks a little lonely.” Natalie tossed her thick, auburn locks over one shoulder. “Maybe I’ll swing by.”

Maly glanced at the younger woman. She didn’t mind working with her, but for some reason Maly didn’t like the thought of her approaching Solomon. She wasn’t his waitress. And besides, it was Natalie’s turn to greet the line of guests at the entrance.

“It’s almost midnight.” Maly gestured to the door. “Can’t have anyone tripping in.”

“You mean super-bitch and her whiny sidekick?” Natalie waved dismissively. “I’d love to see them trip past security.”

Maly shook her head and busied herself with a tray of cups.

“Did you get his first name?” Natalie asked after a moment.

“Hmm? Oh, yes.”

“Did you give him yours?”

Maly shot Natalie a look.

“Yeah, I get it, it’s unprofessional,” Natalie said. “But you still look great.”

“Great?” Oh, this night just got better. She turned to fully face the younger woman.

“Well you don’t look 35!”

Maly let her jaw drop. Almost immediately, Natalie blanched. “I didn't mean it that way,” she sputtered. “You know, I - ”

A small chime rang through the café followed by a gasp of silence. All eyes turned to the big clock behind the counter.


Maly darted onto the floor, Natalie scurrying away just as fast. She would have to chat with her later. Right now was the final rush and every table had to be perfect.

Slapping on her usual smile, Maly started collecting cups. Guests began preparing themselves, some rushing to the restroom for last minute preening, others arranging themselves for the perfect selfie while others set up real cameras aimed at the sky. The couples Maly pegged as proposal dates looked especially animated, with one partner palming something in their pocket and the other trying not to look. The minor celebrities looked fashionably bored.

Maly had deposited a tray-full of dishes and was filling up her second when she noticed Solomon’s hand rising up.

“Give me half a moment,” she said as she collected his cup. Solomon nodded and settled back.

Maly set the dishes beside the sink. 11:56. The staff were starting to gather by the counter. Unless specifically asked by a guest they were not to set foot onto the floor while the clouds were dancing. But there was still time…

Maly hurried onto the balcony.

“How can I help you Solomon?” She kept the breathlessness from her voice but inside she was calculating. It didn’t take long to make coffee. She could fulfil that order so long as he still wanted it black. Or perhaps he wanted a pastry? Maly recalled only seeing a few croissants left. Maybe…

“Is it really that beautiful?”

Maly blinked. “I’m sorry?” For a second she thought she didn’t hear right.

Solomon gestured to the sky. “Midnight,” he said. “Is it really as beautiful as they say?”

Maly opened her mouth, the stock description of the Calla Café on the tip of her tongue, but she paused. Was it? She gazed up at the sky. It was still dark with pin pricks of starlight peeking through. She had worked through midnight countless times or slept through it when she was off. Perhaps when she was younger midnight was magical, but now…

“It is beautiful,” she finally said. “You don’t see much of it in the city centre though. Too many buildings. I heard it’s better to watch it out in the country, or on a high rooftop. Or on the rooftop terrace of the Calla Café.”

She said that last bit with a smile and hoped he heard it in her voice. But Solomon didn’t return it. Instead, he appeared thoughtful.

“I see,” he said. Though he kept a calm and proud composure Maly could sense his disappointment. She kicked herself. What kind of description was that?

Then to her shock he asked, “would you stay and describe it for me?”

Maly looked back towards the counter. The rest of the staff were lined up behind it and all of them were looking at her curiously. Above them the large clock kept ticking.


“Certainly.” The word came out unbidden and Maly wondered at how quickly she had agreed. But then Solomon’s face brightened.

“Thank you,” he said, and the sheer joy with which he spoke filled Maly with warmth. “Come, sit.”

“Oh!” Maly hesitated. She had intended to remain standing. Anything less would be -

“Please sit. That way I can hear you better.”

“Of course.” Maly sank into the seat in front of him. It felt odd sitting at the centre of the balcony. She looked about her but no one seemed to pay her any heed. Another glance at the counter showed midnight to be a mere seconds away.

That, and Natalie looking very interested.

Professional. Attentive. Smile.

A second chime rang through the Calla Café and the murmur around them hushed. Solomon tilted his head.

“Is it starting?”

The fairy lights within and outside the café dimmed leaving them wrapped in darkness. “Yes,” Maly said, and she looked up. Softly, she began to speak.

“Midnight comes with a swirl in the sky…” and for the first time in decades she watched it change.

She watched as the night began to thin, easing apart like silk to show patches of rose and pink. Blooms of coral came next, nearly orange and ruby red. Wisps of cobalt softened the palette, cooling the sky into a dusky lilac.

The colours then spilled into the darkness, painting the velvet edges in shades of plum and wine. As the patches began to blend, the clouds, now visible, rushed in. They danced in the in between, picking up light and dark. Their pale billows swirled, turning purpurescent and streaked with threads of gold.

Throughout it all Maly continued to describe the sight, painting what she saw with words as best she could. She dimly noticed the flashes of light as cameras clicked and people got up to pose. Somewhere inside there were shouts of “I do!” and rounds of cheers and applause. Maly ignored them all. So focused was she in describing the scene above that when she took a second to glance at Solomon, she stumbled.

His face was turned up to the sky, the colours undulating across his dark lenses. The light fell upon him in shifts, at once roseate, then navy, then lavender and back again. His lips were parted in a small “o” and Maly noticed a glistening trail on his cheek.


“Is it over?” Solomon whispered. Distress threaded through his voice. Maly watched him swallow it back.

“No.” Maly shook herself and looked back up. “It’s still going. The sky doesn’t go completely pink or purple. There are still bands of night in between. The stars still shine there and…”

Maly squinted. The stars still twinkled but for some reason they appeared brighter. Usually they faded against the light of the sky or got obscured by the purple clouds. But as Maly looked closer she realised neither was happening.

In fact, more of them appeared.

An excited buzz rose around her. Chairs scraped back and there were calls for people to stay calm. Meanwhile the bands of night filled with starlight.

“What’s happening?” Solomon asked. He turned about in his seat.

“It’s just the stars,” Maly said. She kept her voice light, hoping he did not hear through it. “They’re shining really bright right now. We don’t usually see this happen so it’s quite special…” Maly’s voice trailed off as the stars began to shift. They swayed in their fabric as if rocked by a celestial wave and then -

As if the bottom of a glass gave way they dropped, spinning through the blushing sky. They spiralled through the purple clouds then funnelled into a single stream. Maly tracked their course in awe, stammering as she fought to describe it. But before she could complete a single, coherent sentence a wind from nowhere blew and the stars banked towards them.

Cries of alarm rang out.

Then silence.

Maly watched, dumbfounded, as the first stars skimmed over the balcony floor. They twirled upon landing, scattering like spilled diamonds but made no sound. Maly lifted her feet, but it didn’t matter. They caught at her legs, clinging like glitter before circling. Soon, the table was surrounded by a drifting globe of stardust.


Maly tore her gaze off the shimmering wall and looked at Solomon. He sat rigid in his chair, one hand gripping his cane, the other patting at the table. Maly reached out and when their fingers touched he covered her hand in his. His voice, when he spoke, was deliberately calm.

“What is happening now?”

Maly watched as stars drifted over his shoulders. Some clung to his suit, others dusted his hair. One fell upon his hand and lingered before winking out. And still the veil around them swirled.

“Holy shit.” The words escaped Maly in a single breath. “You just called down the stars!”




Thank you for lingering.


About the Creator

Loryne Andawey

Health, Happiness & Abundance.

Currently enjoying the company of Francis, Mike, C.H., Gammastack, Michelle, Cosimo, Kristen, Bronson, Bella, Talia, Sean, Babs, Kelli, Rick, Dharrsheena, Heather, Gina and many, many more!

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (10)

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  • Heather Hubler17 days ago

    You never fail to amaze with your gorgeous descriptions and keep me entirely engaged up to the last word. This was fantastic. I didn't want it to end. Excellent work :)

  • Whoaaa, such a magical story! Solomon called down the stars! That is so cool! Loved your story!

  • R. J. Rani21 days ago

    Your story took me on such an unexpectadly lovely, magical journey, Loryne! I simply love the way you describe what's happening - I can see and hear and reach out and feel what's happening. And the ending took my breath away. Thank you for leaving me with such an incredible image :)

  • A wonderful story and the image you made is a perfect complement to it

  • You just rocked my world! I have too much priase to fit on a page. So suffice it to say that I would pre-order the whole book. This is why you are my "sun", a writer who helps illuminate my path to becoming a better creative writer.

  • Jordan Twiss22 days ago

    This was absolutely beautiful. I was captivated by the masterpiece you painted with your description of the change in the sky, and Maly was such a great character. Really well done!

  • Loryne, your writing is absolutely breathtaking. You have a gift for painting vivid and intricate pictures with your words, and I felt like I was right there in the Calla Café, watching the midnight sky unfold alongside Maly and Solomon. The way you described the atmosphere and the patrons was so immersive, and I found myself feeling both frustrated with the entitled customers and protective of Solomon all at once. And the way you captured the magic of midnight was truly enchanting - I was swept away by the beauty of the sky and the warmth of Maly's description. Your writing is truly touching and evocative, and I can't wait to read more of your work. I would love to hear your thoughts on my take on this challenge:

  • Breathtaking. Reminded me of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ... but more magical :)

  • Donna Renee22 days ago

    Omg this was absolutely mesmerizing!!! I opened it to read later and then I started and I just couldn’t stop. Your descriptions were stunning and your characters felt real and well developed…. and this didn’t feel forced to fit the prompt AT ALL. I love this so much! And now I’m gonna be late for daycare drop off but I don’t care! haha

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