Chapter 3 : Wednesday
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The redheaded young woman seems sad this morning. It has been many months since she first walked into the coffee shop, and the barista has become accustomed to seeing her walk in every morning with youthful energy, an energy which the barista has noted appears to baffle most of the morning patrons, given the early hour. While most of the other patrons blink owlishly and fight yawns, she bounces in with a smile on her face and her eyes shining, fresh with the promise of a new day.
The barista has owned his small coffee shop for several years now and has many regular customers who greet him with friendly smiles. There are also many who come in for a quick caffeine fix one morning, never to be seen again. The barista is careful to pay attention to each of his customers, regardless of whether he knows them well, and always speaks to them with a smile on his face and wishes them a good day. No matter how curt or short a customer is with him, the barista knows from many years of experience that a small smile from a stranger such as himself can brighten anyoneís day. And, though it can be difficult to sometimes keep a cheerful exterior when a stern looking man is yelling at him for not mixing enough sugar into his cappuccino, the barista is always of the mind that, as long as remaining pleasant to his customers will do no harm to him, he will continue to do so.
There are, of course, the customers that the barista is always pleased to see. One boy in particular, who the barista surmises has only recently graduated from school, never fails to amuse the barista. The boy dresses in the strange way that much of the youth appear to dress these days; his jeans ride much too low on his hips, the barista is baffled as to where the bow of the boyís shoelaces disappears to and it is evident the boy spends a very long time carefully grooming his hair to make it look as though he spent no time on his hair at all, something which also confuses the barista to no end. If the barista were to pass this boy on the street, the barista would never expect the boy to venture into his small coffee shop. Much of the morning crowd is made up of those donned in suits and tailored dresses with neat hair and leather briefcases, who only stay for a few minutes before rushing off to work,. The coffee shop is the last place the barista would expect to see such a boy. However, the boy is sure to visit the coffee shop several times a week and the barista always spares a grin for the defiant look the boy gives those patrons who raise eyebrows at his appearance. What the barista finds the most amusing is the carefully bored demeanour the boy always has. At first glance, the boyís disinterested sighs and slouch could fool anyone, but the baristaís trained eye has not missed the way the boy watches the barista work. The boy may not realise that he is fascinated by the art of coffee making, but the barista recognises the hunger in his expression, and he is patiently waiting for the day when the boy asks for a job at the coffee shop.
The boy is among many people whose presence the barista looks forward to, though the barista will easily admit that the redheaded young woman is one the baristaís favourites. The barista enjoys the way the young woman presents herself to him every morning in her usual haphazard manner and chatters away while he makes her coffee. And, of late, the barista has enjoyed the developing story between her and the young man who still, without fail, makes his way into the coffee shop every morning to watch the young woman laugh and playfully tease the barista.
This morning is different. The young woman is quiet and reserved. Her eyes have lost part of their usual sparkle and her greeting to the barista is lacking its usual cheerfulness. Her smile is small and the barista notes that her clothing is unusually neat.
The barista is accustomed to seeing her clothes hanging slightly off-centred on her slim body and unkempt as though she pulled them on in a hurry which, given the way she usually rushes out of the coffee shop, the barista knows is quite likely. She is always sure to wear one item of clothing which does not quite match the rest of her outfit. The barista, by no means, thinks of himself as particularly fashionable, and he has spent many weekends patiently following his wife as she drags him from shop to shop in an attempt to interest him in his appearance, but even his untrained eye can pick out how a bright pink scarf clashes with a tailored black skirt and sensible heeled shoes. This morning, however, her clothes are immaculate and not one strand of her usually wild hair is out of place.
The barista points his wand and murmurs an incantation and waits patiently for the young womanís cup to be slowly filled with steaming milk. Keeping one eye on the cup, he glances at the young woman who is leaning against a wall, her eyes staring into the distance. The barista is used to the young woman leaning against the counter, talking non-stop as she watches him make her coffee, but today she gave her order with a small smile and quietly walked to the wall where she is now without another word. Used to hearing the young woman chatter away, the barista is surprised at how much he misses her daily spiel about whatever is on her mind. The baristaís own daughter is much more reserved than the young woman and, though the barista was initially unaccustomed to hearing long monologues from a girl of her age when the young woman first came to his coffee shop, he has now grown fond of her pleasant voice chattering away every morning and he is only now realising how much he enjoys it.
The cup has now filled with milk and, as the barista wipes the leaking spout with a damp cloth, the barista turns to the next customer to take their order while he waits for the milk to settle. A smile spreads across the baristaís face as he is greeted with the now familiar brown eyes of the young man who is so obviously besotted with the very young woman who the barista cannot help but be concerned about this morning.
The young man approaches the counter and gives his order in his usual soft voice. Nodding at the young man, the barista turns to add coffee to the young womanís cup as the young man fumbles in his pocket for change. The barista exchanges the coins from the young man with a small token and turns to levitate a new bag of coffee beans from a high shelf down to the counter. As he prepares the young manís coffee, he hides a smile at the way the young man freezes for a second when he notices the young woman standing quietly against the wall. The young man swallows slightly before nervously shoving his hands in his pockets and stands next to the young woman hesitantly as though his presence will hurt her.
The barista cannot stop his eyes from rolling as the young man stands against the wall, his eyes fixed at a spot ahead of him, his face filled with panic. As amusing as the barista finds the young woman and his deep affection for the young woman, the barista is losing hope the young man will ever pluck the courage to speak to the young woman, let alone look her in the eye.
The young woman is oblivious to the young man beside her. It confuses the barista that she has not picked up on the young manís obvious affection for her. If the drunk look that sweeps across the young manís face every time he glances at the young woman was not obvious enough, the barista would have thought that a bright girl such as the young woman would have noticed the way he quietly watches her every morning. At the very least, the barista would have thought the young woman would have noticed the man next to her today, unusually still, his face pale with nerves. But it seems as though the young woman has other things on her mind. She misses the way the young manís body jumps when his fingers accidentally brush against her thick coat and the way the young man steals a glance at her every few seconds.
What has made the young woman so quiet this morning, the barista does not know. She looks exceptionally tired today. Perhaps she had a late night and is simply exhausted and wants nothing more than to climb back into her bed. Or, perhaps she is in for a long day at work and is growing tired of feeling unappreciated in her workplace. Though she appears to lover her work, the barista has not missed the comments she makes about how political her boss can be or the way her face falls when she tries to brush off being given a smaller project than her co-workers. Or, perhaps, and more likely, the stress of her older sisterís wedding plans is too much for her. Though the barista is well past the age of young love, he is not old enough to forget the importance the youth place on relationships and love. Over the last few weeks, the barista has noted how the initial excitement the young woman had for her sisterís wedding has slowly grown to dread and reluctance. Reading between the lines of her daily chatter, the barista has surmised that the young womanís main problem stems from watching her older sister find happiness in love and wanting it for herself. Whether the redhead is aware of this, the barista does not know. What he does know is the way her voice becomes soft and wistful when she speaks of the way her sisterís fiancť does small things to keep her sister happy, and the small sighs she gives when she happens upon a young couple in the coffee shop.
The barista finishes the young womanís coffee and secures the lid tightly onto the cup. He reaches for his wand but pauses before tapping the cup. He looks at the two standing next to each other for a moment. The young man, still terrified at the prospect that he is finally in close proximity with the woman that the barista knows fills many of his thoughts. The young woman, her eyes sad and staring at nothing in particular, completely oblivious to the man next to her.
The barista closes his eyes, sighs and places his wand back down on the bench and reaches for another cup. Shaking his head slightly, he decides he is frustrated and fed up with the two young people before him and starts to make the young manís coffee. The barista has never thought of himself as a matchmaker or well versed in the way that love can bring two people together, the barista is only well versed in one thing: the art of making the perfect cup of coffee. The barista figures that if he is able to nudge the two together through something as simple as placing both their orders together on the counter, he may as well give it a try. Whether the two talk to each other, walk out of the coffee shop with holding hands or simply share a smile, the barista does not care. All he wants is something, anything, to end both of their miseries. He feels too vested in their story to let it stall as it is doing this morning and has been doing for many weeks.
The barista works quickly but with care while preparing the young manís order. Though the young man is probably never going to remember the taste of his coffee this morning, the barista is not willing to accept this as an excuse to prepare substandard coffee. Ever since the baristaís fussy wife proclaimed his coffee to be the best she had ever tasted many years ago, he has taken care to make sure that each cup he has made since reaches her same high standard. This cup is no exception.
Quickly shaking a few cinnamon flakes into the young manís cup, he waits for the last of the froth to settle before placing the lid on to the cup. The barista places both cups on the counter next to him and gently taps the side of both cups with his wand. The barista grins at the way both are startled out of their thoughts as the tokens in their hands suddenly glow.
The young woman is first to move, blinking a few times as if shaking herself out of a daydream. She walks forward, listlessly drops her token into the jar on the counter and reaches for one of the two cups. The barista returns her small smile with a smirk, noting that she has taken the wrong cup. The young man is quick to follow, walking rather quickly to the counter for someone who has spent the last few minutes too petrified to move. He picks up the lone cup, surveys the small parchment next to the cup and a crease appears on his forehead. The barista, who is now wiping his bench as an excuse to momentarily take a break from serving customers to watch the growing story unfold in front of him, is pleased to note that, though it appears the young man may not appreciate coffee the way the barista feels it ought to be, he has enough knowledge to know that the cup he is now holding is not what he ordered.
The young man looks at the cup in his hand, at the young woman who is now putting her gloves on a few paces away from him and back at the cup. The barista cannot help it this time. He rolls his eyes, still wiping the counter, as the young man visibly swallows and pales at the thought of speaking to the woman for the first time. How times have changed. The barista remembers all too well the sudden dumbstruck feeling when he first saw his wife, but he never shared the young manís nervousness in approaching her. He certainly did not wait weeks before plucking up the courage to speak to her. From what the barista has seen of the current youth and the candid manner in which they carry themselves, he is surprised at how polite and hesitant the young man is. Time and time again, the barista is continually surprised as to just how confusing the current generation is.
As the barista watches, the young man appears to have an internal battle with himself before walking the few steps to the young woman who is pulling on her second glove. Slowly and timidly, as though he will be punished for doing so, the young man gently taps her on her shoulder. The young woman turns and stares at him with vague interest for a moment or two. The young man gestures to her coffee cup, then to his own and looks at her expectantly. The barista has to let out a chuckle at the blank look on the young womanís face. The young man is obviously hoping his small gestures will convey his message to the young woman without words.
Continuing to wipe the spotless bench, the barista watches as the young man simply smiles before he picks up her coffee cup and replaces it with the one in his hand. The barista marvels at how his earlier nervousness has all but disappeared in a matter of a few seconds. Perhaps it is finally making contact with the young woman, but the young manís entire demeanour has changed. Gone are his shaking hands and pale face. The young man now stands tall and his eyes are sparkling as he gives the young woman another smile before turning and walking to the exit of the small coffee shop.
Before he leaves, he pauses for a moment, turns and smiles at the young woman once more before taking a sip of his coffee and turning into the chilly morning air. Oddly proud of the young man whose name the barista does not know, the barista folds the cloth in his hand and moves to levitate a cup down to the bench but stops short at the look on the young womanís face.
While her face was devoid of all emotion seconds ago, it is now filled with the same curiosity that filled the face of the young man the first morning he saw her. And, as the barista stirs in some sugar into the cup in front of him, he wonders if there may be hope for the two after all.
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