She hurries into the dimly lit coffee shop with a battered laptop pinched between her elbow and side, shedding raindrops from her jacket. Taking her place in line behind an elderly man with a soggy newspaper, she inhales greedily of the familiar air infused with hints of freshly ground coffee and notes of burnt everything bagels.
The line moves quickly and it’s her turn to order now. The employee (not a “barista”- they don't like that word here) smiles at her questioningly and she nods. He knows. She is perfectly predictable and hasn’t had to actually order in a long time. The total pops up on the screen which beeps when she taps her card. She selects a nice tip, and smiles her thanks at him. He's quite cute... handsome even, in that very specific, shaggy haired, local coffee shop kind of way.
Her favorite corner table by the rain-streaked window appears to be taken, a faded green hoodie cast over the chair and a stained white mug in residence. Damn. She loves that spot. There is an old wooden bookshelf behind the table with contact cards and flyers from local businesses. She's found a few character names in those cards for her stories over the past few months. There is even an outlet behind the shelf, one of the few in the shop that is accessible to patrons. Damn, she thinks again as she realizes that she forgot her charging cord. This will be a shorter stay than usual.
She turns to find another spot to post up in for as long as her battery lasts but then he swoops past her with a grin. He grabs his hoodie and mug, motions for her to take her seat, and hurries back to the counter. She smiles. He saved her table. He knows her order and her schedule at this point. She feels comfortable here, always, and especially this morning.
A few minutes later, she is deep in her work and he watches her from the counter. He is fascinated by the way she melts into the atmosphere of this café, typing away on that beat up laptop. He wants to go over on his break and find out what she’s so focused on... He assumes she is writing something big, maybe a novel? She never wears the university colors so he is guessing that she isn’t a student working on a term paper. Term papers don’t usually make people smirk or giggle anyway. He’s also seen her cry over whatever it is though, so… hmm…maybe a term paper? The only way to find out would be to go over there and ask. He's too nervous to do that though. He has another plan.
Her order is ready and he's supposed to call out her name. Not today though. He downs a shot of espresso for courage, grabs her cinnamon dusted oatmilk latte and a pumpkin muffin and hand delivers them to the table. He places a napkin under the muffin plate and opens his mouth to speak... she looks up from her work just as his nerve runs out and he rushes off before she can thank him.
She watches him scurry away, feeling a bit disappointed. He's so kind to her and he even saved her favorite spot and delivered her order today. He never seems to want to just chit chat with her though...even on the days when the coffee shop isn't terribly busy. She had wondered the first time they interacted at the counter months ago if there might have been a spark but he must have just been doing his job. Or maybe there was a spark and he was just shy?
Two hours later her laptop battery finally gives up the ghost. Time to go home. She closes the lid and looks up for the first time in over an hour. She scans the room, noticing that he is out from behind the counter clearing some tables. Their eyes meet and he gestures for her to leave her dishes at the table. Usually she brings them to the plastic dish bin by the trashcan but a quick glance shows her that it is overflowing already.
A wild idea pops into her caffeinated head. Maybe it's the romantic story she was writing today or the moody, rainy weather but she feels the urge to step outside of her usual comfort zone. She grabs a pen from the bookshelf behind her and scrawls her number on the front of the unused napkin that he left under her plate earlier. She regrets it almost immediately as she heads for the door. She swears to herself that if he doesn't text or call her today then she is never coming back here again. It would be mortifying to face him at the counter after rejection!
He watches her hurry from the café and back out into the pouring rain. He looks at her abandoned table and notices with a sinking heart that she left the napkin with the note and his number scrawled on the back. Maybe she hadn't seen it? No, he'd seen her looking at the napkin right before she ran out. She had to have seen it. Damn. That stings. It was going to be really awkward the next time she came into the café.
He sighs sadly. It had been worth a shot. She was so cute and very intriguing. She always smiled at him at the counter and he'd thought that there might have been a spark between them at one point. She always tipped well too which he had thought might be a sign of something... Oh well... He'd better go clear her table, it really is the best one in the place and someone else would want to sit there soon. He heads toward the corner table to collect the dishes and the stupid napkin. He's going to shred it into tiny pieces. How embarrassing. This is why he never puts himself out there.
As he heads towards the corner table, cheeks burning, his coworker comes out of the kitchen with another empty dish bin. She waves him off and starts clearing it herself. He watches as she places the empty mug and crumb covered plate into the bin, crumples the napkin and pumpkin muffin wrapper together into a ball, and tosses them into the trashcan on her way back to the kitchen. Good, he thinks. That's for the best. He didn't want to ever have to see that stupid napkin again.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
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Writing reflected the title & theme
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