A short story I wrote back in 2011.
The strong scent of freshly ground coffee wafted through the air, piquing the curiosity of the senses. Smooth, freshly polished, brown floors glistened in the overhead lights. The whole atmosphere was warm and inviting, coaxing people in with its irresistible charm. Tall tables, the color of hazelnuts, were set up in various locations around the room, each with its own set of either stiff wooden or plush, couch-like chairs.
People milled about the room, filling the whole place with the buzzing of chatter and the clinking of white porcelain cups. There were women and men, all dressed up and ready for business, and teenagers who laughed with their friends or sat snuggled intimately with a special someone. This place was teeming with a diverse assortment of life, all the different colors of the world.
I sat at a table in the far corner, watching the world go by through my dark, thick-rimmed glasses, writing each person’s life story in my mind as I sipped my coffee. Occasionally, I would run my fingers through my short, carrot-colored hair, making sure it still looked good—or at least reasonably presentable. I glanced down at the bag of technology that was constantly by my side, then back up to the entertainment of human drama playing out before me, pushing my glasses up my nose. My scrawny body shifted uncomfortably in my seat as I went about blending into the background, trying my best to become invisible—as usual.
“Excuse me?” A gorgeous, fair-haired woman in a beautiful red summer dress was standing, or more like towering, in front of my table.
“Um…yes?” I answered, hearing that typical awkward noise I called my voice escaping from my throat while my heart raced in my chest. How long had she been standing there?
My verbal abilities seemed to pack up and leave whenever a woman was near me, followed closely by my brain. “See ya, bud. You’re on your own.” Then they walked off together, laughing at me tripping over my tongue. Wait, what the…? Focus!
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Are you using this chair?” she repeated after a slight roll of her eyes and a nearly inaudible sigh.
I stared at the chair across from me for a second, figuring out whether someone was in fact going to come back over and sit in it. Processing…Processing…
“Oh, um, nope,” I replied in a sudden stroke of poetic genius, my cheeks burning like two tiny fires. “You can have it.”
“Yeah—thanks,” she said slowly, raising one eyebrow and glancing to the side at two other girls while an all too familiar half smile, half sneer crept across her face. It was the expression I was used to getting, especially from girls—the one that said “Wow, what an idiot. Can’t wait to tell all my friends about this and have a good laugh at his expense!” But even though I expected it, I felt a little twinge of pain in my chest anyway.
She dragged it back to her table, and a few seconds later, I heard her laughing with her friends whom, I assumed, she had just told about me. I sunk back down in my chair, running my hand through my hair another time—it seemed to be turning into a nervous habit of mine. My palm came out glistening wet in the lights of the café.
After a minute, I sat up straight once again and grabbed my laptop from my bag, ready to start the work I came here to do in the first place. College papers come before wallowing in embarrassment.
I was sitting in front of my laptop over in one of the corners of the packed room, my long, jet black hair pulled back in a hastily formed bun and my baggy gray sweater wrapped tightly around me. Chewing my nails as I stressed over my thesis, I tried not to get distracted by the life playing out around me. However, it was just too tempting. I decided I’d take a “well deserved break” after my ten long minutes of working and lifted my head to observe the crowd.
Resting my chin on my hand, my eyes began to scan the room, surveying the various scenes that were playing out within the shop. There were some friends sitting around a circular table, giggling at inside jokes with laughter that tinkled through the air. Over to the right, an older couple held hands, smiling with the warmth of a lifetime of love and whispering sweet phrases to each other. I sighed quietly, feeling slightly lonely without anyone to fill up the empty seats around me.
I threw myself back against my chair, sighing once more and smoothing my hair. I was about to go back to my essay when my eyes locked onto one more person. There was a young man, probably about my age, sitting in the corner on the opposite side of the coffee shop. His short ginger hair stuck up slightly at the top, no matter how many times he brushed his fingers through it, and his glasses kept slipping down to the tip of his nose. Something about him made me want to take care of him, to protect that lost soul with the innocent face. Actually, he was attractive. In fact, he was kind of—well…cute, for lack of a less juvenile term. I caught myself beginning to smile.
A tall, blonde woman walked up to him; my heart started pounding and began to sink. Is that his girlfriend? Does he know her? Wait, why am I worried about this? I don’t even know the man.
But a few seconds later, she wandered away, taking his empty chair with her, and giving him a rather impolite look, which made a sudden feeling of annoyance well up in my chest. Reaching her table, she whispered with her friends, giggling and rolling their eyes as they glanced back at him. I hoped he hadn’t noticed, but I knew by his reaction that he had.
I realized I had been holding my breath and began to relax, once again confused as to why I was acting this way about a stranger I had been stalking in a coffee shop. Well…stalking is such a harsh word…
All of a sudden, he raised his head and our eyes locked. A smile began to cross my face once more as I filled with warmth. He looked startled, jumped slightly, and knocked over his coffee, his face blushing bright red as the dark brown liquid spread over the table, narrowly missing his laptop. He hurried to pick up the cup and throw some napkins over the mess. My smile grew bigger and I began to chuckle into my hand as he looked back at me. A shy grin spread across his face, placing dimples in his cherry-colored cheeks. Then our eyes parted and the loneliness from before came back, though I hadn’t noticed until now that it had gone away in the first place.
For the next few minutes, I attempted to concentrate on my work, but I kept looking up across the room, longing for that warmth again, eager to welcome the inexplicable connection I had felt just moments before. He was doing the same, and I found myself hoping it was for the same reason. Our eyes would meet, we’d smile; neither of us was getting any work done. Finally I made up my indecisive, incredibly jumbled mind.
Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! She’s watching.
I rushed to clean up the coffee I had just knocked over onto the table. I was too terrified to even look back up in fear of catching her eye. For the second time today, here was this beautiful girl looking at me, me of all people, and what did I do? I went and spilled my coffee because I was startled by the fact that this was basically double the amount of attention girls usually gave me in a year. Real smooth…
Eventually, I brought my eyes back up after throwing some napkins down on the coffee. She was still watching me but—wait—she was laughing? And not in the cruel way? Slightly confused, I started to smile back at her, which took way more confidence than I had ever had in my entire life. Losing that abnormal amount of confidence as quickly as it came, I turned my eyes back to the table and my laptop, which I had just barely managed to sweep heroically out of harm’s way, and continued with the task of cleaning up my spill.
However, I was intrigued by her; she was the first girl to ever react to my clumsiness in a way that didn’t drive the proverbial dagger into my microscopic self-esteem. Usually they just gave me that “you’re a major dork” look and walked away, cackling out a taunt or two, which was subsequently seen by their friends as the wittiest phrase a human ever uttered. But not this girl. I kept looking up to study her and noticed she was doing the same. This carried on for a few minutes and I could no longer focus on my writing.
I went to look up once more and all of a sudden she was standing right in front of my table, laptop and school bag in hand. I jumped for the second time that day and nearly went tumbling out of my chair in shock.
“Hi,” she said, sounding as shy as me and giggling lightly at my reaction. “Is—is there anyone sitting with you?”
A giant and hopelessly goofy smile crossed my face and I lit up with happiness and excitement. She wanted to sit with me. She wasn’t running away from my—my geek cooties! My heart was jumping with joy.
“Um, n-n-no, nope, no one.” Wow, is that really how I sound?
“Would you mind if I joined you?” She grinned hopefully at me.
“N-no,” I answered, trying to keep from sounding too eager as the pitch of my voice began to ascend.
“I-I mean, no I don’t mind…y-yes you can j-join…me…” I sputtered, correcting myself. I didn’t want to ruin this moment. It felt like it was delicately balanced and one false move would break the dream that I was living. Oh no…
“Oh gosh, I—I gave away the second chair.”
“Hold on a second,” she said, turning around.
I walked up to the table of the rude woman who had taken my mystery man’s chair, hoping my dad was telling the truth all these years when he said I had lots of “spunk”.
“Excuse me, but that’s my chair,” I said to her, trying to sound as snotty as I possibly could, making my voice into what sounded like a “how dare you assume he was sitting alone” kind of tone. Or at least I hoped that was what I was doing.
She gave me a confused look, which quickly changed into a look of disgust as she eyed my bedraggled appearance, wrinkled up her nose, and then glanced at her friends in a sly way. “You expect me to believe someone was sitting with him. Why would anyone want to sit with…that?”
She smiled smugly at me, narrowing her eyes. Excuse me? Did she really just say that? I knew her type; I knew she was just trying to get a rise out of me…and she succeeded.
“Well, I was sitting with him.”
“Figures. Two of a kind…” She rolled her eyes yet again which, I thought, dangerously pushed the limits of the amount of times one can perform these ocular acrobatics before one’s eyes become permanently lodged in a state of constant sarcasm. She continued to laugh with her friends, making my jaw tighten with building irritation. Two could play this game.
“Well, I’d rather be sitting with him than you. My condolences to your hostages,” I said, gesturing to her two girlfriends that sat across from her.
Her jaw dropped and she gasped indignantly, scowling at me. On the inside, I was just as surprised at my words as she was, but I went with the flow, maintaining the best “mean girl” stance I could. As nauseous as the idea made me, I had to stoop to her level to get across to her; I threw in a good bratty smirk and disdainful eye-roll for good measure.
“Come on, girls,” she barked, and they all flew up angrily out of their chairs, storming off.
Grabbing my chair, I dragged it back over to the table, feeling victorious.
I stared, completely stunned at what had just transpired. Wow, she’s…she’s wonderful. She grinned mischievously at me as she walked back to the table with the chair, the prize from the fight.
“Wow,” I chuckled, aloud this time.
“Thank you. Thank you,” she said, taking a couple of exaggerated bows—to which of course I applauded—before taking a seat and sending a smile my way that made my knees go weak.
The warm sound of her voice caused my heart to sequentially stop, pound harder, nearly burst from my chest, and finally melt, a series of events that seemed remarkably unhealthy, yet felt absolutely perfect. In fact it was nearly enough to convince me that this was actually the correct way that a heart was supposed to work, and that I had just been lied to all these years. Out of everyone in the bustling little shop, she chose me to talk to. Excitement rushed through me, and no, it was not just the “holy crap this is the exact opposite of high school gym class” feeling. I felt like I was in love, but no—no that was crazy. Absolutely insane. …Wasn’t it?
His laugh was gorgeous, musical, just like a song. It made my heart pound faster as a pleasant tingling ran through my body. His kind, lovable face drew me in with its dazzling white smile and soft, caring eyes. I pulled the chair up to the table and sat down across from him. Was I in love? No—a crazy thought. I barely knew this guy. In fact, I didn’t know him at all. But what if…
“My name’s Amy.”