By sheer luck Kate arrived early, thanks to nabbing a parking spot just a few doors down from the cafe. He had suggested meeting here, and though it was not a place she knew, she’d agreed, and now she prayed it wouldn’t be unbearably hip; she hadn’t dressed for that. After checking in the visor mirror for lip gloss on her teeth, she summoned what faint hint of optimism she could, launched herself from the comfort of the car, and scanned for a “No Parking” sign or red curb she might have missed. Once on the sidewalk, she noted the sun breaking through the morning haze, and regretted not wearing shades. She didn’t look her best while squinting in the sun, then considered that it didn’t matter. The odds were, she wouldn’t be trying to impress anyone today. And anyway, focusing on looking her best all the time was a habit she was trying to shed, in favor of, “this is how I look, take it or leave it.”
She tried to be inconspicuous while sizing up the patrons at tables in front of the cafe. Was Alain one of them? Relieved, she saw he was not there yet, which meant she was not being sized up herself. A brief reprieve. She stepped into the cafe, the fragrance of fresh pastry and ground coffee washing over her. There were wood beams high overhead and a wall of floor to ceiling glass revealing a massive coffee roasting apparatus. A low murmur of conversation filled the room, as customers sipped their coffees, studied their computer screens and phones, and took little notice of her. There was no sign of Alain, and Kate went back outside to wait. Maybe he wouldn’t show, and that would be a relief. Certainly she’d be angry, even disappointed for a couple of hours, but it would be short-lived. At least she would not have to provide engaging small talk and politely continue a tedious conversation with someone she’d be happy to never see again. Yes, she concluded, a no-show would be fine, and I can get on with my day.
But looking up from the seat she’d taken near the cafe entrance, she saw Alain walking toward her. So here we go she thought, it’s showtime. She smiled despite herself, what an absurd endeavor to have gotten myself into. At least I won’t watch him all the way up the sidewalk. That’s simply too painful, for both of us. I’ll pretend I haven’t seen him yet, and then I can act surprised and pleased when he’s within greeting range. And so she did. Alain was better looking than his photos, and he had an easy, relaxed stride. Well, you never knew, now did you?
Inside, perusing the menu displayed in black letters on the brick wall behind the counter, they began the predictably awkward sequence of ordering their drinks, with someone you have only just met, who you might never see again, or who you might decide you want to know for the rest of your life. Then they settled at a table in the sun, together with her cappuccino and his pour-over, black. She decided she would see this coffee date through, since he wasn’t a no-show after all. There was just a glimmer of interest and hope rising in her chest, though she dared not allow it room to breathe. Not yet..
About the author
Carrie Kartman is a writer, actor, and educator, with an MFA from San Francisco State University. Her writing has been published in The Crone's Words, Gambles and Balances, Wingless Dreamer, The San Francisco Review, Curves on a Sidewalk Street, Twins Magazine, and CitySports Magazine.
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