Ok, this is it. Stay cool, but not too cool. Smile, but not too much. You can do this.
These were the thoughts whirring around Ben’s head as he approached the counter. He did this to himself every day, but it was worth it. The customer in front turned away with his order and now it was Ben’s turn. He took a step forward.
“Oh, hi!” He said, smiling too much.
“Good morning, sir” The young lady behind the counter replied. “Large cappuccino, whole milk?”
His heart sang, his ears rang, and his eyes nearly watered. She remembered. She had noticed him. His stomach did back-flips, and his feet did something not unlike a salsa. He had been coming in every weekday for the past month, and it had been more and more because of her than the coffee, which was actually pretty good.
Lisa. She was there every morning with a smile that did not appear forced and eyes that sparkled with the genuine satisfaction of a job well done. She just seemed, well, nice. But not just nice, really really nice, you know?
He hadn’t summoned the courage to engage her in meaningful conversation, though last week she’d mentioned the rain and he’d spluttered to agree without actually making any words. That counts, right?
“That’s right, yes” he surprised himself with what appeared to be a full sentence. His tongue had often gone on strike when he replied to her, leaving his jaw and lips to flail wildly.
She turned to perform her magic on the mysterious knobs, handles and valves of the coffee machine. He admired the skill and dexterity of her fingers. He found himself lingering on the nape of her neck, which was really quite lovely. Rarely had he seen a nape so appealing. He didn’t consider himself much of a ‘nape man’, but he felt he could certainly be converted.
The moments that contained handing over cash and receiving his drink blurred slightly and then he was looking into her eyes.
“Thank you.” she beamed. He swallowed hard.
“Thanks.” he managed. He carried on looking at her. Her eyes drifted away from his and slid sideways and behind him.
“Good morning, sir. Double espresso?”
Ben started to turn and then stumbled. His eyes glazed over, and he entered autopilot. A few seconds later he was sitting down.
It wasn’t just his order she’d remembered, she remembered all her regulars. Of course she did, she was bloody brilliant at her job. He looked over, and there she was smiling and chatting to all of her customers like she had with him. His stomach had stopped doing back-flips to catch its breath, and was now punishing him with a dull ache.
He slumped his shoulders, and gripped the cup. As he lifted it to his lips, something caught his eye. On the bare white of the cup, something was written. He had almost dismissed it as just being a description of his order, but no, she had made it right in front of him. Well, her back was turned, but no one else touched it. Come to think of it, he hadn’t even looked at the cup until now.
It was a number. It was in a very familiar format, a mobile phone number. A mobile phone number. His stomach was now doing back-flips again, this time with triple twists. He looked up suddenly, and saw that she was looking at him already. He met her gaze and she laughed lightly, then carried on serving.
Once again, he was in autopilot.
He snapped himself out of it as he was reaching to put the cup in the bin. He quickly withdrew his hand.
“See you tomorrow” said a voice over his shoulder. He turned and saw her watching him. She nodded at the cup.
Tomorrow? But tomorrow was Saturday, and he never came in the shop on Sa-… Oh.