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I walk into the same coffee shop every Sunday at the same time, always pressed between a work deadline and a headache that seemed to be ever-present.
It was a quaint place, and it was the modesty I loved most about it. They were located on the corner of a very busy street, traffic always there, along with the constant pressure of modern ways. The first day I discovered the business was a sunny day. The unforgiving light pressed down on the newly paved sidewalks and there was a brisk wind that threatened to tussle my hair, slicked down with pounds of products.
My heels echoed against the pavement and I walked straight through the door, stressed beyond belief from a new job and the lack of a Starbucks in the area was quickly becoming a pressing issue. I ordered a Grande mocha-whatever with three shots of whatever would keep my energy up, but, as I waited patiently in the corner inspecting my manicured nails, all I got was a throaty laugh and a cup of hot chocolate.
My smile was annoyed beneath the layers of lipstick and my eyes were deadly underneath the thickly applied eyeliner. I purposely stomped louder than necessary over to the too-vintage sitting area, which I quickly realized had one other occupant. So in the choice between a too-squishy chair that would no doubt wrinkle my dress-suit beyond reasonable hope and a small loveseat that had the legs of a man I had never seen before dangling casually off the side of it, I chose what was sure to cause my iron a whole lot of grief.
My bottom was almost to the ground when I sat down and the sunlight danced off the wind chimes placed in the windows and directly into my eyes. The sigh that followed couldn’t have been helped. I placed down my bag and looked around the room, intentionally avoiding the curious eyes of my company. The walls of the coffee shop were painted dark red or purple; I would argue maroon to anyone who cared enough to debate. Faithful slogans and words seemingly picked randomly out of a romance novel dotted the walls, letting you know that friendship was the most important ship you would ever sail on. I grew increasingly bored with the decor, and my gaze traveled to the side table, which donned a magazine, out of date by two years.
My fingers glided over the fake leather material of the chair and I decided that it was time to take a sip of my hot drink. As soon as my tongue touched the scathing liquid, I had held my hand high, making obvious noises of dissatisfaction. My notions were obviously not clear to the man sitting to my right, though, as a whispered chuckle made its way through his lips. I decided, for both our best interests, that I would ignore his obvious slip up, and carry on with my problem.
“Excuse me, Miss?” I called to the woman who handed me the cup, a woman an inch or so shorter than me, with graying hair and a smile that dipped down at the edges, but was nonetheless sweet. “This is scalding hot!”
She smiled her dipping smile. “Dear, it’s hot chocolate. Would you rather it be cold?” Her smile did not falter, though a twinge of annoyance touched the corner of her eyes.
The whisper chuckle sounded from beside me again, and I whipped my head in its direction to give the man a glare as hot as the liquid in my cup. But he was innocently sitting on the couch, his feet still dangling off its edge, reading the out of date gossip magazine.
I couldn’t help but notice how dull he was. His pale skin made the messy mop of brown hair on his head stand out, but it seemed nothing more than lifeless. His eyes were the most typical of browns, which I could see from behind his thick lashes. The smile that was stretched across his face in the most careless sort of ways was lazy and mocked my every move without even being directed towards me. I hated the man without even talking to him.
I forced myself to look away without saying anything to the man. I instead turned my attention back towards the old woman. “Nevermind. It’s probably cooled by now anyway.”
I sighed and took another sip, the liquid still burning my tongue, but not finding enough energy to care. I felt two sets of eyes on me and I felt like an idiot, just sitting there with nothing to read, no purpose except to stare everywhere but at the man next to me.
Unexplained anger welled up inside of me at that man. Who was he to show up and make me interested in his dull hair and his lazy smile? Who was he to stare at me? I turned to him, fully intent on vocalizing the questions, and saw his eyes. They pierced straight through mine and twinkled, though I rationalized that it was probably the sun. I felt the urge, which I probably carried from my awkward, horny teenage years, to whip out the compact mirror I kept in my bag and check my hair. I instead quickly looked away.
Another casual sip of my drink, maybe get him to forget my flustered moment of anger. I was right. It had cooled.
I quickly gathered up my bag and my drink and the little that was left of my pride and scurried out the door.
The next day, I passed the coffee shop during my lunch break. I spotted a head of brown hair facing away from me, but it wasn’t nearly dull enough to be him, so I hailed a cab and paid the outrageous fare to the nearest Starbucks.
The outrageous fare wasn’t nearly extreme enough to keep me from my Starbucks on Monday through Saturday. But the next Sunday, I couldn’t find a twenty in my bag, and maybe I was just too curious, so my boots found themselves walking back into the coffee shop and right into him.
Curiosity killed the cat, but knowledge redeemed it. So I ordered the too-hot hot chocolate and sat down in the too-squishy chair and looked into his too-brown eyes. He kept making attempts at conversation, but eventually gave up, seeing as all he got were one word answers. It was probably because I was too caught up in his hair that didn’t seem nearly as dull as it did a week ago.
Modern coffee beckoned me once again the next day, but Sunday I was back and waiting for him in the too-squishy chair. The bell on the door rang, a loud and screeching sound, and he walked in. His hair shined in the sun and I had to lift my foam cup to my mouth to hide my smile.
This time, I offered most of the small talk, mostly comments about the weather and the wind that was getting a little colder every day. His eyes twinkled at me again as he answered my standard questions eagerly. I was starting to think that maybe his smile wouldn’t be so lazy against mine.
The next Sunday I wore my best skirt and put on too much makeup and got to the coffee shop a little bit early. But it seemed that he was there earlier. As I walked in, smoothing down my pink blouse and pulling at my skirt, he smiled at me. I think he knew.
The Sunday’s went on and on and he never missed one. My heels got higher and higher, but he never asked. He never scooted closer, nor offered to me the spot next to him on the couch. I had thought he knew.
On maybe the twelfth Sunday, I got sick. The rain pounded outside unforgiving, and the trees cast shadows over the dampened ground. The wind was now at its coldest and it found its way into my lungs. My eyeliner all ran off my face and I found no reason to put on lipstick or heels. My nose puffed out and shone at its tip, matching my blushed cheeks. But it was Sunday. And he was waiting.
So I put on a pair of jeans, using all of my self control to ignore the neatly folded skirt on my bed, and threw on a shirt that was years older than me. I hailed a cab to the coffee shop and walked in timidly.
He was there. He always was. The rain had washed away all the hairspray and gel in my hair, and it gently framed my face. I was glad for the partial shield. His eyes still pierced into my head, though I turned away from him. I sniffled, and the whisper chuckle sounded again. After a few moments of silence and embarrassment, I heard him speak.
“Hey, do you want to get some coffee tomorrow?”