Chapter 4 : Thursday
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The small coffee shop is unusually quiet this morning. Mornings are easily the busiest time of the day for the barista and he has become accustomed to the usual frantic few hours of the day as heavy-lidded customers stumble their way into his shop for their early morning fix. The barista has never been one for crowds, he prefers to lead a fairly simple and quiet life, but he has learnt to thrive on the busy activity of the coffee shop. He enjoys the hustle and bustle, the dull roar as people talk over one another, the constant tinkling of the bell above the door as it opens and closes; more, he thrives on it.
However, while nothing thrills him more than being caught in the confusion of the early morning rush, he still enjoys quiet mornings like this one. They do not come very often, but the barista welcomes the rare one that does creep along every so often.
There is something magical about the ambience of a quiet coffee shop, a solitude, a sleepy tranquillity that the barista has never been able to experience elsewhere. The slightly bitter yet somehow sweet aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. The delicate clinking sound of spoons as they are placed on saucers. The warmth radiating from the heat lamps which gently levitate below the low ceiling. The soft rustle of a newspaper as a customer turns a page. The slight hiss from the froth nozzle of the coffee machine. The barista knows that if he were able to bottle the delicate peacefulness of the coffee shop on a morning like this one and sell it, he would be a very wealthy man.
The barista is seated at a table in the back corner of the coffee shop. Normally, he likes to take his breaks standing just to the side of the counter so that he is still easily at hand should he be needed, but the coffee shop almost runs itself on quiet mornings like this, and the barista has faith his two youngest staff members can handle the coffee shop for a half hour.
After a few months of casually loitering around the coffee shop several times a week, the teenage boy, who had caught the baristaís attention from the morning he had first entered the coffee shop with his scraggy jeans, tousled hair and air of nonchalance, had done exactly as the barista had expected and asked the barista for a job. The barista, always one to give people a chance, especially young ones, had agreed. And if the boyís performance that morning was an indication of his future work ethic, the barista has made the right choice in hiring the boy.
If nothing else, the boyís appearance has had a large effect on the feisty young girl who, despite her habit of never asking his permission to take her breaks as she pleases, has been uncharacteristically shy this morning. The barista, who is used to her heavy sighs and eye rolls whenever the barista asks her to do anything, has enjoyed catching her stealing glances at the boy who was charming the customers in the shop while refilling their coffee cups, lingering at any tables where young girls were seated.
The boy had spent a particularly long time at the young redheaded womanís table as he had handed her two pieces of toast. The barista had admired the boyís nerve at attempting to woo an older woman, but he supposed he could not blame the young boy. He was hardly the first man who had been awed by the young womanís stunning, yet simply beauty. But the young woman had barely spared the boy a second glance and all but ignored all the attempts the boy made at conversation with the young woman. The barista had enjoyed the miffed expression on the boyís face as he walked back to the counter, coffee pot in hand, and had let out a smile when the girl had stopped her scrubbing of the counter and turned red when the boy had accidently brushed against her on his way to the back room.
The cup of coffee in front of the young woman has now become cold and the barista is unsure why the young woman is seated at a table this morning, but the barista can sense that the young woman is tired from the way she rubs her eyes with the heel of her left hand, the other listlessly stirring the cup of coffee on the small table in front of her. Perhaps she is dreading the thought of another long day at a job that she finds every moment to complain about to the barista. Perhaps the young woman spent the night at her best friendís new flat in the heart of muggle London, helping her settle in, a flat that the young woman has spent the last week describing in great detail to the barista while he patiently makes her usual morning cup of coffee. Or, and the barista suspects this to be more likely the case, perhaps her sisterís wedding preparations are taking their toll on the young woman.
In between her daily anecdotes about her friends and family, the barista has still noticed the young womanís slightly saddened look when she talks of her sisterís upcoming wedding celebrations. Though she is clearly ecstatic for her sister, the barista can sense that the young woman is eager for the same love that her sister shares with her fiancť. The baristaís own daughter has recently begun a relationship with a mild mannered man and the barista has seen the joy the man has brought into his daughterís life, despite his wifeís reservations about the man. The barista can only hope that the young woman is able to experience the same joy.
The barista, immersed in his silent perusal of the young woman, is startled when the tinkle of the bell above the door rings throughout the otherwise quiet coffee shop. A burst of air gushes in as the now familiar young man bustles into the coffee shop, laughing at something that he reads from a piece of parchment in his hand. Walking to the counter and placing the parchment in his pocket, the young man greets the girl at the coffee machine with a smile as he orders his coffee. The girl gives the young man a look of obvious appreciation while giving him his coffee token, a look that the young man does not notice. The girl, slightly taken back at the young manís ignorance of her, turns to the coffee machine with a frown, but the young man takes no notice. He is, like every other morning, sweeping his gaze around the small coffee shop, searching for the one thing that will surely brighten his day.
His green eyes fall on the young redheaded woman who, bless her, has no idea that she is being watched. As the young manís eyes light up at the sight of her, the barista wonders at the young womanís obliviousness of the young manís affections towards her. Since the morning a few weeks ago when the young man had switched their coffee cups and left the coffee shop with a smile, the barista was sure that the young woman would finally begin to notice the young man who has long since memorised every inch of her face.
But the young man is no different from any other man whose eyes linger on the young woman. She does not notice their admiring gazes as she sweeps into the coffee shop every morning, her clothes in their usual disarray. Even now, as the barista watches the young woman, her beige jacket is hanging off the back of her chair, precariously close to the edge. The barista who has been witness to many conversations of his daughter and wife about the importance of maintaining clothes, is not surprised that the young woman does not realise her jacket is seconds away from falling to the floor. His daughter would be horrified at any of her numerous clothes falling to the floor of the coffee shop, despite the numerous times the barista has informed her the floor is perfectly clear, but the barista surmises that the young woman would not share his daughterís concerns.
The young manís coffee token lights up, he accepts his coffee from the counter with a smile and turns on his heel while taking a sip of the warm liquid, oblivious to the slightly glazed look on the girlís face behind him. The barista cannot blame the girl for the looks she has given the young man. The young man gives off an air of quiet strength, an air that the barista has noted over the years is one that draws women to men. However, the young man only has eyes for the redheaded woman who is now absently stroking the edge of a messily folded newspaper on the table in front of her.
The barista can see that the young man is torn. This is the first time he has seen the young woman sat at a table and it is the perfect opportunity to attempt conversation with the woman he cannot take his eyes off, yet he still has the same reluctance he has had in the last few months, the reluctance that continues to frustrate the barista. As the young man watches, the young woman pulls the newspaper towards her and begins to scan the front page for something that might spark her interest. Intent on her perusal of the small black writing, she shifts slightly in her seat and does not notice as her jacket falls silently to the ground.
The young man immediately takes a step towards her, pauses for a moment, before visibly taking a deep breath and slowly walking towards the young woman. To the baristaís amusement, he does not walk a direct path to the young woman. Rather, he walks in a curved path along the wall of the coffee shop and approaches the young woman from the side.
A few steps away from the young woman, he pauses for a few seconds in which the barista hopes the young man does not lose his nerve. This moment has been building for many months now and the barista is far too involved in the developing story between the two young people before him to be content with the young man walking away.
The young man takes another breath before taking a small step forward and bending to retrieve the young womanís jacket. He slowly taps the young woman on the shoulder who is startled as if she does not understand where this man suddenly came from. The young man holds her jacket out to her which she stares at for a moment, before accepting it with a smile and places carefully on her lap. The two look at each other for a moment, the young man with hope, the young woman with slight apprehension, and the barista cannot help but think that if the jacket had not fallen to the ground, he himself may well have placed a careful spell at the jacket in order for it to do so, so happy he is to see the two finally interact with each other.
A moment passes as the two continue to hold each otherís gaze before the young man speaks his first words to the young woman. He gestures with his hand at the empty chair on the other side of the table as he speaks and the young woman, initially slightly surprised, cautiously agrees to his question with a small nod and quick smile.
The young man slides into the chair and the barista chuckles as he sees the momentary panic on the young manís face. It is not easy thinking of conversation in the presence of such a beautiful girl and the barista remembers all too well his own fumbling attempts to coerce a girl to speak with him in his younger days.
However, the young man recovers quickly and points out something in the newspaper the young woman is resting her hands on. The young woman lets out a small laugh and the awkwardness between the two is broken. As the barista watches, the two begin to converse lightly over their cups of coffee.
To the bystander, the two would seem like good friends sharing a morning meal together, but the barista can see the way that the young man gazes longingly at the young woman as she throws her head back in laughter at something he says, a smile slowly playing on his lips. The young woman recovers picks up her coffee but before she takes a sip, she catches sight of the young man gazing at her.
The young man, rather than turn away in his affectionate observation of her, continues to stare at her, unabashed. A second passes before the young woman, coffee cup frozen in the air, stares back into the young manís kind eyes before smiling back at him.
The two stare at each other for a moment before the young woman clears her throat slightly and quickly brings her coffee up to her lips. As she sets the cup back down on the table, the barista is pleased to see a small blush appear underneath the list dusting of freckles on her cheeks.
And, as the barista stands up and stretches, his break now over, he glances at the young couple once more before walking away with a smile on his face.
Perhaps there is hope for the two after all.