3.010 by Thomas Leuthard. Some Rights Reserved. (CC BY 2.0)
There’s a girl. Well, there’s always a girl, I guess. This one was different. She was smart and beautiful and kind. And I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh, I know that girl!” But you don’t.
She came into my coffee shop on a day the news declared that the heat warning was still in full effect and to go outside at your own risk and to not take your dogs for long walks. “Health hazard heat” was what the paper called it. But she braved out the sun and entered my shop, beads of sweat dripping along her dark hairline. She ordered a bottle of water and an iced tea and went to the tables by the front window. She spread books out across two tables and looked outside expectantly.
After about ten minutes she opened two books in front of her and buried her nose into the crevice. The books on the table next to her laid untouched and each time she turned the page of her own she glanced out the window. One girl walked past the shop but the street was quiet. Most people had taken the heat wave as an excuse to spend Saturday indoors by the television. But years of experience told me nothing good played on Saturday afternoons.
Another half hour passed and still the girl sat. She flipped the page, looked up, looked down, read, and repeated. Her iced tea was empty and I had not had many customers so I brought her another. She seemed startled when I approached but gave me a crooked grin.
“Hot out there,” I said. I knew it was obvious but I was bored and she was pretty. It was worth some small talk.
“Yes,” she agreed, and looked back down at her book. I took the cue and started to turn and go back behind the counter to wipe it down for the hundredth time. “Wait,” she said. “I need to pay for the tea.” She rustled around in her purse.
“On the house,” I said. She stopped and looked up at me and her forehead furrowed questioningly. “I’m sure!” I insisted. And she smiled again.
“Well thank you.” She took a large gulp. “I’ve walked by this shop a thousand times. This is my first time coming in.”
“I’m glad you did! Jack’s Beanstalk would be nothing without its customers.” I can’t believe I said that. Like some schmoozy salesman. “What are you reading?” I asked in recovery.
“I don’t know. I don’t speak Spanish,” She said. It is rather disconcerting when you get an answer to a question so completely different from anything you were expecting. It leaves your mouth hanging open like a goldfish. She must have taken pity on my guppy expression and she laughed. “I was waiting for a friend to show up help me with it. I was just looking through the Spanish English dictionary to try and make a sentence for when he arrived.”
“Oh! That makes more sense,” I said. “What are you going to say?”
“I was going to tell him he was late,” she said, covering her mouth with her dainty fingers to hide the squeaky giggles. I laughed too and sat down across from her at the table where the untouched books still sat.
I cleared my throat majestically and read from the page. “Como… estás?” I said. She let her laughter out this time. Her laugh just made her prettier. “Como te…llamas? What? Llamas! Like the animal?” She continued to laugh as I was flipping through pages in the book reading random words that I saw.
“Estoy bien, gracias,” she said when she caught her breath. My heart skipped a beat when she rolled the ‘r’ sound. She smiled at me still. I set the book down and leaned across the table.
“What’s your na –” The bell on the door dinged obtrusively as a lean dark skinned man entered.
“Sorry I’m late babe, I got caught up,” he said and planted his lips on the girl. I stood up and wiped the cushion down and straightened the napkins on the table.
“Good afternoon, sir. What can I get you?” I asked him.
“Hot day, I’ll have an iced cappuccino with whip,” he said. As I walked to the counter to make his drink I heard him say he would help her as much as he could before his next class but he couldn’t be late to it. I heard her tell him it was okay.
His cup on a napkin on a tray on my hand, I returned to the table. He slapped a five dollar bill down and said keep the change. The girl looked at him and then smiled at me. She was so pretty. She looked like a different person when she was looking at me. Of course, I wanted her to look at me differently so it may have been my imagination.
“Perdone?” I said, feeling the crisp roll of the ‘r’ at the end of my tongue, turning to the man. The man looked up from flipping through the book. “Yo no soy tan afortunado,” I said. Then I turned to the girl and said, “Fue un placer conocerte.” She started flipping through her dictionary. The man just said thanks as I returned behind the counter.
The girl glanced over her shoulder a few times at me as the man pointed out good practice activities from the book and such. And when they packed up their things the man took her hand and rushed out the door. But she stopped right as the bell dinged on the door and said, “It was nice to meet you too.”
And then she left. I know what you’re thinking – that I’m acting like some love struck teenager who melts into the eyes of any girl who glances at him. But she was worth melting for. I hope she comes in my shop again. Maybe next time I’ll get her name.