A little something from the cookie jar.
Fine. If you want to know the whole story, here it is. I guess it’s a relief to have a chance to say some of the things I’ve wanted to say and tell the secrets I’ve been keeping, though I was keeping them from you. Yes, I cheated on you. Yes, I am a dog. And I’m going to miss you a lot. But I can’t say I’m sorry.
All of the light in the coffeehouse is fluorescent first thing in the morning, spotlighting trays of scones and coffee cake in the display cases. I like to ease into the day at one of the tables that’s still only half-lit at this hour. It’s quiet enough to hear the other early bird customers’ shoes echo on the wooden floor. They order their drinks and pastries softly, like we’re all here for a solemn occasion.
As dawn pulls itself together, the street on the other side of the window fades in, becoming a lighter gray. A careworn waiter carries a sandwich board out of the restaurant across the street. More of the people walking past are on their way, to work or whatever. The door opens every few minutes. I’ve got a good caffeine buzz by this time, catching up with the world’s faster pace. The kid at the counter turns up the classical station with a puff of static.
I loved watching her come into What Might Have Bean toward the end of the morning rush. She’d glide from the street to the counter in one motion, without slowing down or speeding up. The door offered no resistance, like it might as well have been open already. I noticed that she was there almost every day, and I started looking forward to that flash of brown and gold when she arrived.
She always looked so together. She dressed like she was going somewhere nice, wool over silk in earthy colors, never anything brighter than a respectable orange. She had a face that you wouldn’t dare tell no without a good reason. She sat near the front of the shop to catch some of the morning light, typing on a laptop computer. With the computer, her brown skin, and her gold glasses, she stood out, though she was trying not to. She must have an important job and a college degree like most of the other customers, I thought, so I was really more out of place than she was. I was just there all the time.
I caught myself thinking about her in the middle of the night a week or so after I really noticed her. I only knew a few things about her. She looked good, dressed well, and drank espresso straight. She seemed smart, serious, and independent. She probably had money, and she definitely had class to burn. She might have been mean or crazy or married to a jealous man on top of that – it didn’t matter. I was wrapped up in a crush. I know that sounds ridiculous, but that’s the best way to describe it. Even now, I don’t know where it came from. I thought I’d grown out of crushes years ago, in high school … and you usually at least know a person’s name first.
All the same, there it was. I thought it would either sit harmlessly in a corner of my heart or dissolve over time. Nobody else was involved, so I wasn’t hurting anyone. Plus, with Paulie and the business plan, I had plenty of other stuff to think about. Why not let this mystery woman take up some space in my head too, if she was there in front of me anyway? Soon, I was making sure I brought a book from the apartment so I could watch her without being too obvious about it.