Coffee shop (2748 words)

She was all alone in the corner of the coffee shop. I couldn’t really see her face, half hidden by the book she was reading. A small fraction of it appeared from time to time when she turned a little so she could seep her coffee. She loved it black with a lot of cinnamon. I liked that. Most of my customers were all for light coffee with cream and a shit ton of sugar. I was a purist, I liked my coffee as black as my soul. Kidding, but my coffee was always strong and would have let someone awake for the rest of his life when it could barely keep me up for a couple of hours.
Still, she was here, reading as ever another book. Everyday the same routine had come between us. Not like if there were something between she and I, no, but everyday she would arrive at 8 a.m., ordered her traditional coffee and a small pastry and will seat in the same corner for half an hour before leaving, crossing the street and working till 5 p.m. at the bookshop in front of my coffee. One time she smiled at me before putting a tip in the jar on the counter. Not kidding, it lighted up my day.
I don’t really remember when this has started, but I do remember I wasn’t the first to make her order. It was Samuel, the tall blond Australian guy I hired two years ago. When I came out of what we call our “kitchen” he was all fluffy and giggling.
‘What happen again? Did the dog’s lady is back again? You know how much I hate when she let her dog running everywhere between my legs.’ I said with a gasp.
‘Not at all. We have a new customer.’
‘And I guess she’s cute.’
‘She’s girlfriend material.’ Replied my superficial colleague.
A month had passed since the first time she came. And I still didn’t know what was her name. That’s why I was looking at her as I was arranging the lemon pie on the counter, which was one of my favourite part in my job. From where I was I could read the title’s book she was reading, Crime and Punishment, wasn’t it a book written by a Russian guy? It seems pretty long and boring, but she was smiling at it. An hour later she stood up - only a few pages hadn’t been read how could she manage that? – and left. Samuel came beside me.
‘Still crushing on the bookworm?’ He asked me with a smile on his tan face.
‘I’m not crushing, I’m not a teenager.’ I said, already annoyed by his stupid humour.
‘No, you’re a grown up who’s not able to ask a girl out.’
‘We can’t go out with our customers, you must know that.’
‘But you want to.’
‘Absolutely not.’
‘Don’t be stupid, you know you want it. Besides, I’m sure Natasha would say yes.’
‘Natasha?’
‘Yeah, that’s her name. Don’t you ever asked her?’
I must have looked like an idiot at this moment because he started to laugh so hard I thought he was on his way to pee.
‘Really guy, you must stop being all about rules. Be wild and talk to her, she’s nice.’
‘Go back to work.’
So, she was Natasha, not just incredibly-beautiful-and-smart-blond-curly-girl. Natasha. I liked her name, that sound foreigner. Natasha. That was a little cold but also a little charming. I said it softly as I pick up a cup to make a cappuccino for the dog’s lady (her chihuahua was already barking between my legs and I wanted to kick it to his master but finally thought about how miserable I would feel after this).
The next day was a Sunday and, as his name said, it was a beautiful day. I didn’t expect Natasha to come, she didn’t habitually, but there she was, in the line with the other customers, a bouquet of sunflowers in a hand and a book in the other. This time it was Alice in Wonderland. I couldn’t wait to take her order and mentally repeat to myself what I would say to her: ‘Hello, how are you? Still black coffee with cinnamon? Samuel told me you’re named Natasha. Can I ask you if you want something else?’ Not too personal but not too professional too. When she reached the counter, she closed her book and smiled before waving. I start to blush. Was she waving at me? I turned and see Samuel waving back at her. Shit.
‘Hi, sorry, Samuel waved so I had to reply.’ Said she before smiling a little more. ‘Are you ok? You seem a little paler than usual.’
I had to swallow. That was the longest conversation we’d ever have and I had nothing in mind.
‘Adam? You know, the courtesy wants you to respond.’ Said Samuel with a wild smile. Screw him, I hoped he will roast in hell.
‘Yeah, no sorry, that’s ok.’ Brilliant Adam, you’re not even able to talk now, you wait an eternity for this moment and that’s all you can find? Ridiculous. ‘Same order as ever?’ Shit, that’s sound cynical.
‘Hum ... How is your pumpkin pie? You’re going to say “great” isn’t it?’
‘If we want to sell it we must. But -it could be my unique chance to say something clever- I must say it’s not the best treat we have here.’ I heard Samuel giggling in my back, pretty sure he had a nasty thought. ‘Can I recommend you our apple pie?’
‘Really?’ She took a second to think about it. ‘I must say, the last I ate had been made by my mother and she’s the queen of apple pie, you take a risk by recommending this one. What if I don’t like it?’
I could practically feel Samuel's glare on my back. I knew I had to play right this time, another chance could take another eternity to show itself.
‘Let’s make a deal. If you like it, you’ll take a coffee with me tonight.’
She smiled with her eyes and blush a little.
‘What will be my prize if I don’t like it?’ Asked she.
‘Anything you want.’
‘Ok... I’ll try it then.’
I looked at her in shock. Did she said what I thought she had said? Samuel must had cleared his throat so I could come back to Earth and start to make her order. My hands were shaking and I had to try three times before making a proper cup of coffee. In her corner, Natasha stared at me behind her book, I spotted a smile as I throw the second cup. I was so nervous and it was just a coffee. A DAMN COFFEE. I made that everyday, every minute of my damn life since I was nineteen!
‘Adam’ I jumped, Samuel was so closed to me I could feel his breath on my cheek. Damn, he should have taken a chewing-gum ‘You are making a latte.’
‘No, I make a black coffee.’
‘In this cup?’ I looked at it, ok it was definitely not a cup but a glass. Fuck he was right. ‘What are you doing dude, it’s just a coffee.’
‘No, it’s a potential date with Natasha.’
‘Just coffee. I bet she’ll be indulgent if you screw the coffee but give the best slice of apple pie we have. Not to mention the way you’ll kiss her tonight.’
‘Shut up. I’m not gonna kiss her tonight.’
‘Yeah? I bet you will. And if you do so you’ll give me five bucks.’
‘Asshole.’
‘Not hearing that.’
He goes back to the sink, still giggling and looking from time to time to Natasha.
Finally, I make a proper coffee then goes to our “kitchen” and take a fresh slice of apple pie I’d made in the morning and goes to Natasha’s table. When she saw me with her plate and cup she smiled wildly at me.
‘I know what I want if you lose.’ She said with sparkles in her eyes.
‘Am I gonna regret my bet?’
‘I don’t know. Do you like literature?’
‘It depends. I’m not a huge reader but from time to time ...’
‘Anyway, there’s a lecture in one of my favourite bookshop next week. You will escort me.’
‘To a lecture?’
‘Yeah, it’ll be fun. It’s a science-fiction’s author.’
‘Deal.’
I gave her the coffee and the apple pie and I was leaving when she dared take my wrist.
‘Still, if you lose or won we’ll go on a date.’
I froze. How did she had known? Well, ok, it was, maybe, a little bit obvious when I ask her out for a coffee but still, how did she know how much I wanted to go out with her?
‘You’re not very discreet when you look at me from the counter.’
‘How do you know? You are always reading.’
‘I’m multitask.’ She took a small bit of the pie. ‘And besides, I’ll come at six.’
‘Excuse me?’
‘Tonight, for our coffee. At six p.m. I’ll be here.’
‘O-Okay ...’
I was walking back when I heard her saying ‘Great pie by the way.’ Then I manage to embarrass myself by tripping on a chair and almost falling on the dog’s lady’s chihuahua. Shit. Did she saw that? Of course she did and she was laughing behind her book. She wasn’t the only one, beside the sink, Sam was almost on the floor rolling. I was on my way to kill him.
‘Don’t you have work to do?’ I asked him.
‘Beside laughing at yourself? Absolutely not. What did she say?’
‘Well, can you close the shop tonight?’
‘YEAH! You rock dude. I’ll definitely do that for you. Bro must help each other.’
‘Since when are we bro?’
‘You’re not fun Adam.’
At five o’clock I left Samuel behind the bar and climb the stairs to my apartment. Yes, I was leaving upside the coffee shop, pathetic I know, but I adored this flat and it was simpler. Guess why I was never late at work? Plus, it was cheaper. I took a shower and changed my clothes. After that I had a few minutes left so I decided to add at the cliché and run to a florist. When I asked for sunflower the seller looked at me in shock.
‘Sunflowers? Sir I’m sorry but it’s absolutely not the season and we grow all the flowers we sell.’
‘But I’ve seen a girl with some.’
‘Well, it’s definitely not fresh flowers.’
Instead of sunflowers I take a bouquet of snowdrop and ran back to the coffee shop, just in time. Natasha was crossing the street when I spotted her and waved. She smiled and ran to me. God, I’ve never realize how good she smelled, something like the ocean.
‘Do you take me to your coffee shop?’
‘No, I ... Wait, you really thought I will take you to the same coffee shop you go to every day?’
‘I’m not going to lie but your coffee isn’t the best coffee in town. I come only for the view.’
‘For the view? On your shop?’
‘Let’s say that.’
I looked at her. Ok, she wasn’t ready to tell me everything. That was fine, I didn’t want to tell her everything yet too.
‘Is that for me?’ She asked pointing at the flowers.
‘Yeah, I want to buy sunflowers but ...’
‘It’s not the season. I know, my sister grows her own in a glasshouse. Thank you.’ She said as she buried her head in the flowers.
As we walked down the street, we talk about everything and nothing. I acknowledge she was from Holland and she discovered I was born in London and I’d always live there. She was in last year of literature and want to become bookseller, that was why she was working in the bookshop. As for me, I wanted to be a teacher but failed the exam and had to pass it again next year. That was essentially small talk, it was nice to be with her, she was like a breath of fresh air in my life, something that wasn’t about teaching or coffee.
‘What will be your domain of teaching?’ She asked me as we came in a small restaurant in front of the Thames. ‘Something about coffee?’
‘In fact, that could be fun but no. I would like to teach geography.’
‘Really? What is the capital of... Let me think about something difficult... Ok, what is the capital of Honduras?’
I laughed a little before replying ‘Tegucigalpa. You know geography isn’t just about capitals.’
‘I know, it was just for fun. Why do you work for a coffee shop if your dream is to be a teacher?’ Asked she after ordering a glass of rosé.
‘Because nothing else was offered to me. At first it was just to reimburse my tuition fees then, well, I failed at my teaching exam so I just stay.’
‘And you’re going to do it again this year?’
‘Yes.’
‘Why don’t you try to find a job in education?’
‘Cuz I fell in love with the coffee shop.’ I replied with a laugh. ‘Actually, I’m not as sure as I was in the beginning to become a teacher. I mean, I love making coffee. You meet great people.’
‘You could meet great students.’
‘You’re not allowed to date your students.’
She laughed so loud I thought she will cry but she stopped and blushed.
‘So, this is really a date then?’
‘What else could it be?’
‘You could be testing your competitors.’
‘You don’t sell win in a coffee shop.’
‘Except if you are in France. There is always wine on their menus. Even in a tea room.’
‘That’s because French are wild alcoholics.’
‘What make you think so? Your geographic knowledge?’
‘Just a tentative to be funny.’
‘Then you failed.’ She laughed.
The rest of the evening was just about us being silly about our lifes in general. She was cute, like, really cute. She had a way to laugh that makes you laugh too. Her cheeks could turn red faster than a red light and she was really smart. At first, I thought it was just a style she gave herself but, on this night, I discovered we could talk about politics or sciences even about theology and she would always have something to say.
At 11 p.m. I walked her home and stay at her door to say goodbye. She was frozen but declined my coat on our way to her home and even when we were in front her door. We were talking about how stupid books are always better than their adaptation in movies when she turned to me and asked:
‘Are you going to kiss me?’
I step back and looked at her. Was she serious? God yes, I wanted to kiss her but I thought it was too early to ask her. After all, it was our first date and we had our first proper conversation in the morning. I’d been raised in a really conservative family so I found that inappropriate, even for a guy who rebel against every rule in his family when he was fifteen and left his house to go live with his unconservative uncle.
‘I thought it’ll be to soon on a first date.’
‘Not if I ask you. Did you really believe me when I told you I came in your coffee shop for the view on my bookshop?’
‘Was it a lie?’
‘Kind of, I do come for the view but not on my bookshop.’
‘On what then?’
‘On you, stupid idiot.’ She laughed.
‘On me?’
‘Don’t make me repeat, please. I’m already ashamed. I wanted to talk to you a long time ago but couldn’t find the courage so I talked to Samuel instead. He convinced me to try to talk because, and I quote, “it’s not his shy-as-fuck ass who will make the first move”.’
‘Thanks Samuel.’
When she looked up at me I cupped her face between my hands and kissed her softly. That was the beginning of the end, I was definitely in love with her.
Forty years later, as I watched our memory-book, I can still remember the taste of her lips on mine as I first kissed her. Forty years later and Natasha and I now have our own coffee shop.

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So this is my "short story" for the 15 days Writing Challenge, I know 2748 words is not really a short story but, trust me, I had to restrain myself for not developing this one. Still, I hope you liked it.
Kisses

-Gaëlle