The cafe had seen its share of wanderers: the usual hipster crowd, the visiting consultants, even the long-term migrants stopping in for a sandwich and coffee. Said always told Michy to give them a discount, that the shop could spare the money “in exchange for the good word”. Michy had always thought Said must have grown up poor, but then she found out that his mom was a dentist and his dad was in marketing—the picture of upper-middle class. So much for that theory.
The cafe had wooden walls and floors, but a line of uneven black bricks paved the way from the door to the counter. The other bit of charm was a potted tree sitting dead center in the middle of the room, blocking the view from behind the counter of most of the tables. Add that to the glare coming through the west-facing floor-to-ceiling windows, and it was a wonder anyone ever managed to see anything the customers were doing.
(When she had gotten hired, Michy had told her friends that she’d be working at “the place with the inconvenient tree”. The name stuck better than the cafe’s actual moniker, and now the whole group referred to the place as “The Inconvenient Tree”.)
It was a weekend, a bit after the lunch hour, and Michy had just been shifted onto the cash register so Jene could take her break. The heavy door swung open, the hanging bell dingling…
…and Michy felt her mind wake up, her eyelids rise, and an instant flush spread across her face as he walked in.
She blinked and shook her head a bit, both trying to clear the feeling and hoping her hair would fall a little more neatly. He walked up to the counter, already pulling a bill out of his thin black wallet. “Large coffee,” before she could even welcome him to the store—which might have been a good thing, since she wasn’t sure she could speak right now.
Wait. “What kind?”
“Whatever’s best,” after a short pause. He raised his eyebrows, and she turned her head very slightly and looked at him sideways. Automatically she put in a large latte, and the cash register rang up $4.35. He turned away from the counter; she looked down and found that her hand had already taken his five-dollar bill.
She continued to run on autopilot as she made the change anyway, the extra 65 cents ending up in the communal tip jar. She would have done that regardless—Said was too nice a man for Michy to think of taking advantage of the shop—but right now her mind was busy with other things. Was it weird to ask someone out while you’re working? Would he find it weird to have a girl make the first move? Could she even make the first move?
Now the latte was in her hand, and she started to walk, stepping out from behind the counter and then shifting around that effing tree. He was at the table by the front window, but standing, not sitting, looking at something on his phone. As she walked up to him he put out his hand and lifted the cup of coffee from her grasp. She was startled to realize that they were about the same height, even though she was wearing flats today. Somehow that hadn’t registered when she was behind the counter.
The bell dingled, and he was gone. And she hadn’t said anything.
Blah blah heteronormativity blah blah.
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