The girl at the café didn’t notice me at first. She didn’t realize that I lived right around the corner and that I stopped by almost every day after work to stock up on enough caffeine or sometimes beers to get me through my homework, if not the evening as a whole. Sometimes I brought a friend or two along and we’d put our heads together and power through whatever new horror our bosses had assigned us that day. But I always seemed to get sidetracked and I’d prop my chin up in one hand and send more than subtle glances in her direction as the girl at the café steamed milk and stirred lattes, every now and then smiling her gentle, off-hand smile. It seemed like everyone knew, that everyone had heard how one day she would look over and see me and I’d walk right up to her and tell her how beautiful she was and how she haunted all my waking dreams with her quiet, mysterious air and deep green, thoughtful eyes. Although it didn’t exactly happen that way, it was pure chance the day we met, for even then she didn’t believe in fate.
“You come here a lot, don’t you?” I can’t help but say that I nearly choked on my Guiness Black Lager. She was speaking to me, noticing me, acknowledging my existence! And as I have yet to assume otherwise that people do anything but splutter like an idiot when first interacting with the love of their life, I feel like I set a good first example.
“Yeah, I live around here.” I gestured vaguely around us with one hand, wincing slightly as I lost my grip on my pencil and it clattered the floor beside me.
I wish I could say that she’d laughed, but I suppose I was the only one who found my stupidity amusing at the time. She mere offered me a small grin and a raised eyebrow as she leaned forward against the counter, propping her chin up in one hand, studying me. “Around here, huh?”
I nodded, deciding that for the time being it would be best to leave my forgotten writing utensil lying where it had landed and rolled under the table for, all my stupidity aside, we were having an actual conversation! I opened my mouth again before I really knew what I was going to say, but she saved me from further humiliation as she continued, reaching up to push a lock of short brown hair out of her face.
“I just moved. We’ve been here since the end of the summer and really all I’ve seen so far is the inside of a café.”
But the strange thing was that she didn’t sound disappointed by that, or sarcastic. It was as if in her mind, if all she saw for the rest of her life was a café, that was okay and she would eventually learn to make the most of it.
“Well maybe I could show you around some time.” The words were out before I could think, before the influence of her quiet, lovely beauty could make me hesitate. “You know, so you could see something other than the inside of a cafe.”
“You? Show me around?” Again, I couldn’t tell what she thought of my offer, so I got defensive.
“I mean, do you happen to drink coffee everyday?” I asked her beyond my curiosity.
“Not really, I drink whatever I had in mind.” She shrugs her shoulder lightly, and I notice her sense of vague.
“Really, so here’s my question; coffee, tea, chocolate or beer?” and there goes my lines, watching her every inch of moves before I found out her answer.
“Let’s see. All those were my favorite drinks, exclude the chocolate-“
“Why?” I cut her off again and it took all I had not to breathe a sigh of relief after she put her genuine smile on her face.
“My life’s just too bitter to taste sweetness again.” Whisper her quietly, knowing that she made me more curious in that state of mind. “So I guess, my answer depends on who am I drinking with.”
“What if it’s me. What would you choose when it’s me your drinking with?” and I keep on asking her, like her lines were just never enough to stop this conversation.
“Coffee then.” She said, sipping on her latte, “Because it suits you the most. Hot, smells good, and I kinda want to keep my nervousness insides.”
There goes me speechless hearing her answer. It took a millisecond for me to realized that it was a warm compliment for me. A genuine one, I’d proudly say.
“Okay, can I get a beer, then?” I asked, pretending to keep my wide smile unnoticed.
“Your call. But may I know why?” I could guarantee that she expects a good answer from her question so I was thinking hard to reply her with a smart answer but I just couldn’t dig it inside my brain.
“Well,” said I, “to loosen up the nervousness”. Hell yeah. A pretty smart line, I assumed. For I saw her smile follows after.
“Nice try, but I have to tell you in advance. Whatever you might choose, the nervousness will stay as long as it’s me you’re drinking with.”
She teased me. She, was, teasing, me. Could it be more obvious than this?
I laughed along with her reply, as I was really glad this conversation went smoother than what I had in mind since long ago.
“Indeed,” I added to the laugh, “and it’s already started.”
“Really?” She cut me off again with her raised eyebrows.
I stood up, making my way back to the counter where I came to a halt in front of her, rolling my eyes ever so slightly at her curious face.
“Ye…” I would have continued, but before I realized what was happening, the girl at the café had reached over and grabbed my hand, pulling it up onto the counter in front of her. She grabbed a pen from beside the register and bent down to scribble something across my palm (left handed!). The smooth tips of her fingers felt cool and tingly against my skin as the ballpoint formed a small, loopy number nine near the pad of my thumb.
“My number.” She said, “And I did nothing yet, though.”
She was smirking while continue to walk to her table as I stood there like a statue. Then she looked back at me, waved her left palm and said, “I’m Scarlett, by the way.”