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When I was 20 years old, the man I loved died. And, although that may often feel like the end, there is so much more to a love story than that. There was mystery and horror, angst and love, coffee and...blueberry muffins.
It all started when I was 18.
He passed by everyday, his hands in his pockets, and sweatshirt pulled tight to his body. Every once and a while he would glance in, and smile. Every time he did, I wondered why. It had been this way for close to six weeks, without fail he would pass by. Always.
It changed on that day. It was cold, I remember, the clouds hid the sun and let the snow fall gently. It was later in the morning, and he still hadn't shown up. I found myself looking out the large windows by the front of the café almost constantly.
It was my café, my little slice of heaven. A heaven that smelled like roasted coffee and cinnamon rolls. It was barely lit, and usually empty, but it was mine. Well, not really, I wasn't the owner, but I was head chef and best friends with the owner. This was perfect for me, especially because it was my dream and I had achieved it at the age of 18.
The shop was even more empty now than usual, and I hadn't really had to cook anything, so instead I choose to chat with the few costumers that we're there. I looked up from my inciting conversation about comics with a teen girl that sat in one of the cushioned seats by the fireplace, as the bell jingled on the door telling me that someone had just entered.
It was him, he pushed his hair out of his eyes, which glimmered in the low light. He was lovely, in every sense of the word, I knew that I wasn't supposed to consider men lovely, but with his light brown hair circling his slim face face, no other word could do him justice.
"W-welcome." I stuttered. Seeing him through the window had nothing on standing face to face with him. I couldn't help but wonder what we looked like, with my messy, dark blonde hair, short stature, and flour stained, baby blue t-shirt, and his tall muscular build and perfect hair and clothes.
"Hello," Even his voice was like honey, it was smooth and sweet. "Um, do you have a menu?" He asked, I nodded quickly and rushed off to get him one. As I leaned under the counter to grab one, I took a moment to steel my features and get the burning blush off my face. What was I? A fifteen year old girl. I wasn't, despite my young looks and childish voice.
"Here you go." I said, handing it to him.
"Thanks" He told me, there wasn't really anything in his voice other than the words he said. He sat down at the counter and looked through the menu. After looking it over for a few minutes he sighed and put it down. “Can you just surprise me?” He asked, I smiled.
“That's my specialty.” I turned around to face the coffee machine, I looked around and found a blend of coffee that I thought he might like. I smiled to myself as I read the name: Vanilla snow. I thought it fit perfect for the weather outside. It was a heavily brewed coffee with a hint of vanilla cream. I glanced over my shoulder into the display case where we kept our breakfast foods. I saw that the freshest looking thing was the blueberry muffins.
I pulled one out and set it on a small plate, pulling the coffee cup out and adding a little bit extra cream and a dollop of honey.
“Here you go.” I said, setting the plate and cup on the counter in front of him. “I'm Beth, by the way.”
“Jacob.” He said, already starting to drink his coffee, I heard him hum in approval. “This is good.” He told me, smiling lightly.
Then he picked up the blueberry muffin and peeled off the paper wrapping before taking a bite. I watched closely for his reaction, blueberry muffins were my specialty so I really hoped he liked it.
“This is delicious.” He said, a dumbstruck look on his face. “Where did you get these?” He asked, I blushed even harder at that, that he thought that we had bought it from somewhere.
“I made them...” I was still embarrassed at how much he liked them. Jacob looked up at me like I had three heads.
“Excuse me, Beth?” I looked up to see an elderly women, who I recognized as Mrs. Thompson, in front of me. I looked back to see her husband sitting at there regular seat.
“Oh! I'm so sorry!” I cried, rushing out from behind the counter. “Sorry about that.” I said once more looking down at the elderly couple.
“What can I get for you?” I asked in my most polite voice.
“Well, dear, can I just get a coffee? And one of your famous muffins.”
“You're to sweet.” I smiled. I looked over at her husband. “And you Mr. Thompson?” I already knew what he was going to say, he never ordered anything different.
“Just a coke and a muffin.” He grumbled. To most people it would have sounded rude, but from what I noticed, it was just the way he talked. I smiled, and wrote it down anyway.
I walked over to the teen girl by the fire and asked if she needed anything else, she said she was fine.
“Oh, Maddie, come in again tomorrow, I have something I want to show you.” I told her, as I took away here empty plate and cup.
“Okay, Beth, I'll come in after school.” She said, I smiled as she left, waving goodbye.
I worked my way back over to the counter, slipping under it.
“How is everything, Jacob?” I asked, he looked back up from the newspaper he was reading. I saw that he was already done with his muffin, and his coffee was almost empty.
“Real good, thank you.” He said, I got to work on the Thompson's order, pouring coffee and pulling out two muffins, one blueberry and one poppy seed. Finally I pulled out a Diet Coke, popped the can, and poured it into a glass.
“Didn't he want a regular coke?” Jacob asked, glancing up.
“Yeah, but Mr. Thompson has problems with his blood sugar levels, so he's not supposed to drink sugared things.” I said, placing everything onto a tray.
“Oh, and that's why you give him a different muffin too?” He asked, I smiled at my tray. “No, he told me once that his mother used to make him these, so I thought I would try, and he liked them so I just make one for him each morning.” I told him, slipping out from behind the counter again. I lifted up the tray, bringing it over to the couple, who seemed to be emerged in a thrilling conversation about the hat shop in there old town. I placed their order in front of them.
“Oh, thank you dear.” She said, patting my hand.
“Anything for you Mrs. Thompson.” I said, I smiled once more at them, before turning back to the counter.
I felt the smile fall from my lips as I saw that Jacob had already left, and went to clean up his spot.
As I was cleaning, I saw something written on his napkin.
'See you tomorrow, Beth.' I smiled to myself, before throwing everything out and wiping down the counter.
I found myself smiling a lot after that.
The days passed, then the weeks, and months. Each and everyday he would come in and order the same thing, what I had come to call the 'snowy day special.' We would always get caught up in conversation. I had learned many things about him.
He was 22, he worked at a construction store down the street, he was apparently an architect. He had one younger brother named James who was 20. His birthday, favorite colour, band, sport, and many other things.
I didn't know exactly when it happened, but one day, I realized that I had fallen in love with this man.
“Hey, Beth, do you maybe want to get some dinner later?” H asked me, not even looking up from his newspaper. I felt myself blush, and I looked at my feet.
“Yeah, I would like that.” I finally told him after a moment of silence. I smiled at the look of surprise that crossed his face, before it lit up.
“Cool, are you free at eight?” He asked, I smiled and nodded. “Great, I'll see you then. I'll pick you up here.” He said quickly before standing and rushing off. I felt myself still smiling as I walked over to The Thompson's regular table.
“Did that boy finally get the guts to ask you out?” Mrs. Thompson asked, I blushed. “I'll take that as a yes.” She said.
The rest of the day took what seemed like forever to pass, I got off work at seven, and I ran up to my apartment that was on top of the shop.
“Hannah!” I screamed, pushing the door open, to surprise my best friend and room mate Hannah.
“Jesus, Beth,” She touched her chest, sighing. “What?” She asked looking at my beaming face.
“Guess who's got a date!?” I said, standing proudly.
“No way! That Jacob guy finally got up the nerve to ask you out?” Hannah asked, she may not seem like it, but that girl was practically gossip central. “Great, I'm so proud of you!” Then a look of horror crossed her face.
“What? What's wrong?” I asked, feeling my stomach drop.
“What are you going to ware? You haven't been on a date since high school.” She meant to say it as a fact, but it came out more like an insult.
“Thanks, I hadn't realized.” I said, scowling at her. “And I have plenty of clothes to ware.” I said, I then walked into my room, digging through my closet, and pulling out what was either a long shirt, or and insanely short dress that Hannah had insisted I buy. I then grabbed a pair of black tights and boots. I threw them all on, and them went back out to the living room.
There I found Hannah with an entire box of what I figured was makeup.
I just shook my head.
“No, I don't wear makeup.” I said. Hannah rolled her eyes.
“You also don't go on dates, but hey, sometimes things happen. Now get your butt over here.” I shook my head again, and Hannah got a fierce look in her eyes, then she jumped up and grabbed me. She then pushed me into the couch and sat on top of me, smearing my face in all kinds of makeup.
“Alright, alright, you can put makeup on me, just get off!” I pushed her off me. It took her nearly a half an hour to finish, and by the time she was done, I had to go downstairs and meet Jacob.
“Beth-” He cut off as he saw me. I blushed and looked back at my feet. “Whoa.” He said, grabbing my chin and lifting it so that my blue eyes met his hazel ones. “You look beautiful.” He said, I felt my face heat up even more.
“You- You look good too.” I was telling the truth, tonight he was dressed a simple white t shirt, with a blazer pulled over it, and he had on tight black jeans. I was almost embarrassed because he looked better than I did. I thought, not for the first time, why this beautiful man had taken an interest in me. I was short, and had a high voice. Not to mention I worked in a coffee shop and didn't have any other plans for my future. I had thick blonde/brown hair, that hung just bellow my shoulders, and blue eyes.
I was pulled out of my thoughts by Jacob grabbing my hand and pulling me. He released it as we made it to a sleek, black car. He opened the door for me.
“Thank you.” I blushed again as I got in. He smiled and fell in to the drivers side.
For the car ride we sat in a comfortable silence, before pulling up to nice looking restaurant.
I opened my door and stepped out of the car, and looked over at Jacob as he offered me his hand, I took it, and he pulled me close.
The date went well, we had mostly small talk. We were on dessert when Jacob asked the one question I wished he wouldn't.
“So, got any siblings?” He asked, I knew he was just trying to get to know me better, but I felt as tears sprung to my eyes.
“I had an older brother.” I said, he looked up at me and swollowed.
“Had?” He asked.
“He died a couple years ago.” He gave me a look of pity.
“That must have killed you and your parents.” I flinched at the word parents.
“Nope, just me.” I told him, looking down at my plate.
“What do you mean?” He asked, I could hear the fear in his voice at what my answer would be.
“My parents died when I was 15, after that it was just me and my brother.” I told him.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up painful memories.” He said, I smiled at him.
“It's fine, I'm fine.” I said, after that the waiter came with the bill, and I pulled out my wallet, but he placed his hand over mine.
“My treat.” He said, I looked at him.
“I-I couldn't.” I said, he shook his head. “At least let me pay for the tip.” He looked me in the eyes, he must have seen that I wasn't backing down, because he just nodded and let me.
After that, Jacob drove me home, and walked me to the building.
“I had a good time.” I smiled, it felt awkward standing there, I didn't know what to do, so I just leaned in, gave him a quick peck on the lips and ran inside, not even wanting to see what his reaction was.
I guess it wasn't good, because he didn't show up the next day. Hannah tried to tell me he was probably just sick, and I nodded, not really believing it.
But he didn't show up after that, not for days, then it had been a week since the date.
That was when it happened, the mail arrived one day, and in it was a letter for me. I opened it, thinking that it was just a normal letter from a friend back in my home town or something, but when I read the first line, I froze.
Dear Elizabeth Lorner,
We're sorry that we have to send you this invitation. The family of Jacob Rorter would like your presence at his funeral. It will be on Tuesday, September 6. Thank you, and we are sorry for your loss.
“Beth, what is it?” Hannah asked, stepping up behind me. I handed her the letter not saying anything. I couldn't feel anything, I was frozen in shock.
Why? Why did this always happen to me? What was it that I did that made the world feel the need to kill everyone I love? Why can't I be happy for once? Was that too much to ask?
“Beth...” I heard the pity in Hannah's voice, she knew how bad I took loss, how much it hurt me. I felt Hannah's arms encircle me. I felt he whisper something into my ear, but I couldn't feel it, I couldn't feel anything.
Then, it all hit me at once. I couldn't breath, and I fell to the ground, a sob breaking through my body.
“Why?” I asked to no one in particular. I felt myself fall on to my side. It hurt, it felt as if my entire heart shattered. I recognized the feeling well enough, but that didn't stop the pain, nothing really did. It was a pain that you live with forever.
I no longer felt things, I couldn't. I continued to work at the cafe that I once saw as my little slice of heaven, it was no longer like that, I forced a smile for The Thompsons and I still talked with Maddie about her comic books and Manga, but nothing was the same, not really.
The light that I once had in my Coffee heaven was gone, I didn't have anything. No one who came in ever sat in his spot, like we all had some hope that if we left his seat open, it would all be some awful dream, and one day he would come back and sit down, and whisper those words he did everyday.
I found out when we were at the funeral, that Jacob had died in a car accident.
It was a semi truck that hit him. They found that he ran a stopped light, and smashed into the driver's side of the car.
We wish we could say that it was an instant and painless death, but we realized that it probably wasn't. The doctors said that the cause seemed to be bleeding. It broke me even more, I always thought of it, what it must have been like to be sitting in his car, alone, bleeding.
I imagined how his usually tan skin would turn pale. And just like that, he would be gone.
It was strange how life worked, that one second you could be happy and smiling and in love, and the next you were alone. Dying. But that was cruel reality of life, it starts, and then right as it gets good, it ends.
I snapped out of my thoughts as the timer went off on the oven, letting me know that the blueberry muffins were done. I pulled them out, setting them on a plate.
As I brought them out, I saw Hannah standing behind the counter, taking the order of someone, smiling and laughing. I set the muffins in the case, and turned to walk back to the kitchen, when the bell chimed on the door.
I had long since stopped looking over, in hopes that it might be Jacob, I knew now that there was no point. It never was.
I heard the person's footsteps, and I heard them fall into a chair.
“What can I get you?” Hannah asked, in her normally cheery voice.
“Can you just surprise me?” He asked, I stopped in my tracks, rushing out from the kitchen. I stopped short right in front of the man, panting slightly. The man's dark hair was different, but when he turned to me, and I saw his golden eyes, I knew who it was without even meeting the man before.
“Jacob?” I knew that wasn't possible, but I couldn't stop myself.
“Beth, you know it's not him.” Hannah said kindly, touching my shoulder. I felt tears come to my eyes, she was right, I knew it, but it still hurt.
“Huh, that was my brother's name.” He said, a sad look creeping into his eyes.
“Your brother...” I said, feeling my head reel. “James?” I breathed, he looked at me quizzically, running his hand through his hair it what seemed like such a familiar gesture.
“Yeah, how do you know my name?” He asked, looking at me confused. His eyes were so much like his brother's. I felt my heart break again.
“Beth.” Hannah said, but it was to late, it was like finally someone was here that could know how I felt. I didn't even think, I felt myself launch forward, and wrap my arms around James' neck. I felt tears come to my eyes, and I couldn't hold them back, so I just let them flow.
“Your name is Beth? You were that girl that Jacob always talked about.” He said, I let out a sob. I felt his arms wrap around me as well. “You loved him, I know that, I'm sorry.”
I knew that it was weird that I was hugging this man I just met, but I couldn't stop myself.
Once again, I had a mysterious boy in my life, and once again I couldn't stop myself from falling for him.
At first I told myself that I just liked him because he looked like Jacob, but it didn't take long to realize that they were really nothing alike. James was his own person, but I was okay with that. It didn't take long before I became friends with James.
I learned that he was working down the street at the hospital. I learned that he wasn't a doctor, but he worked there helping in the children's section. He was just there to keep them company. To tell them jokes, and read to them. He was only a year older than me, and he really loved blueberry muffins, which I guess was the only thing that was the same between him and his brother. He drank his coffee black, and sometimes he would order tea instead.
I realized for the first time in life, that sometimes death isn't the end of things, that it can be the beginning.
James and I will be getting married next May, and we plan to adopt a child after that. For once in my life, I had someone who was as scared of loss as I was. So, we were in this together.
I learned that death is never a good thing, but sometimes it can be an event that leads to a bigger picture. And for that, I have to thank Jacob. Once again I had a light in my heaven of coffee and blueberry muffins.