Sugar, Milk, and a Touch of Curiosity This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 14, 2013
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Rich, pungent aromas, dotted
with swirls of hazelnut, caramel, and cinnamon hanging like a morning fog
amidst the bubbling and simmering of waiting customers
with a quiet, low jazz tune tying the atmosphere together
into its secluded yet charming self.

The whir of a cappuccino machine,
the drip drops of dirt colored liquor,
the clank of a ceramic cup,
as streams of light begin to flood the dismal windows,
and light up the open sign outside the coffee shop.

Nestled in his usual corner,
a small espresso decorated with a cream leaf at hand,
James sat in his daily spot as he always did at
6:42 am each morning, to sip his coffee, watch the sunrise,
and slowly creep into the day.

Did he always sit alone?
A glimpse into his past chapters would reveal a series of affections
But James had been in love a couple of times before with the girl next door,
only to find out that she was another lovely lady
set out to break his delicate heart.

That was long before today.
And regardless of James’ changes,
the espresso tasted parochial,
the sun rose each day,
and he still found himself alone.

Staring into the distance,
James meddled with his past
praying for a sign,
a clue to the scent of his happiness,
when a splash of white flashed before his solemn eyes.

He forced his eyes out of their sluggish vision,
and perceived a young woman,
perched in front of a towering window on the other side of the coffee shop,
her gaze tilted downward into the spine of a novel,
the pages of which were slightly yellowed, the title faded from the cover.

Her form was framed by a natural painting of browns,
spotted with crimson, yellow, and orange
that highlighted her copper tresses
that flowed down and enfolded her shoulders,
blending into a brightly colored scarf wrapped over a cream lace dress.

But it was not her hair, or her dress,
or even the subtle freckles beneath her black-framed glasses
that caught James attention;
it was her smiling face,
tickled by the words in front of her, radiating her inner spirit.

In a blink of his own eyes,
James realized his own senses again,
the glossy cup warming his hands,
tiny swirls of steam floating up
and curling under his nose.

His lips spread gently into what started as a slight grin
and grew into what once was a forgotten natural beaming smile.
He couldn’t help but mirror her genuine bliss,
Her magnetic pull drew him in, cascading tranquility over him,
leaving him amazed at how a man like him could feel this way.

Swept in the moment, James cautiously picked up his bag and his cup,
as if not wanting to startle a delicate animal,
and traversed his way to the other side of the coffee shop,
deciding maybe he needed a fresh perspective from the one he’d been stuck in.
Nobody could have told him he was doing wrong with her smiling face in his sight.

Engrossed in her book, she didn’t sense his presence
until he was standing right in front of her.
Her confusion reflected in a sweet little pout that turned him inside out,
there was just something about her, he didn’t know what it was,
like he couldn’t remember where he was
or what brought him here,
or if he had any other purpose besides just speaking to her.
Like the changing of seasons,
the confusion of what to do,
the lost feeling as the surrounding settings shift,
but whatever the feeling,
he knew he couldn’t have been doing wrong.

For years and years after that,
they talked of that first day they met,
she would ask “What was it you saw in me on that ordinary morning?”
But for him the answer was easy,
“It was your smiling face.”

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