a Face Less Familiar





Each of his fingers drummed out on the lacquered table, a checkered pattern stained in. He was anxious, restless, yet somehow content.


His eyes didn’t search the coffee shop. They didn’t pan across the patrons or linger at the door. The street outside held no interest to him today.

Instead, he stared at the white mug on the table. There wasn’t anything about it that was of particular note: just a white ceramic mug, with black Columbian coffee contained in its curves. He wrapped a hand around it, slipping fingers through the handle, and brought the steaming liquid to his lips. The two sugars made it sweet enough, but there was still some bitterness behind that front.

Kind of like Jack’s own.

A few moments passed, a few customers took their paper cups out the door into the street. Jack sat with his mug, unsure of whom he was waiting for.

Hey Jack, it’s Ashley. Coffee 2morrow? Txt me.

Heyy. Coffee? Fersuure. Red Brick at 2? Cheers.

Thats out ur way, rite? K. c u @ 2!

Two fourteen, and still no Ashley. Unless, of course, Ashley was one of the old ladies laughing around another table over tea. Jack sighed a quick laugh at the thought of it, at this “blind date” sort of situation he was in.

 And as all good stories go, a young woman walked in just as that moment, the bell above the door singing at her arrival. Her eyes, too, fell upon the laughing ladies, which brought a smile to her face. Jack didn’t catch this, though, as he hadn’t turned to the door when the bell had rung, and so hadn’t seen the girl who entered.

Without hesitation she moved to Jack’s table, and sat on the seat in front of him. ‘Ashley,’ she said with a smile, before excusing herself to grab something to drink.




A second white mug joined the first and Ashley sat back down. She sipped at her tea, a younger echo of the ladies in the corner. Jack took up his coffee: black coffee matched with black tea. Caffeine is still caffeine by any other name.

Now, it’s pointless to recount what happened there for the next few moments. There was an awkward silence, broken only by the sips they took from their respective mugs. Ashley would steal glances at Jack before looking out the window, or at the ladies in the corner, or at the stacks of pastries in the glass display.

I know that she had plenty to say to him then. I also know that Jack had plenty to ask. But Jack, as you’ve probably come to realize, was slow to ask anything. It was a by-product of one of his many philosophies: there’s no need to divulge anything unless asked. In his mind, there was no need to tell everyone he likes apple pie, unless he happened to want apple pie at that time. And at the moment, he didn’t really want pie of any sort.

Of course, though, words were exchanged. Small talk blossomed between them after some time, just quick questions about trivial things. One would almost think that they had already had the introductions and were two old friends, reunited long after their last meeting.

But finally, ‘How do I know you?’

Ashley’s smile vanished as the question left Jack’s lips. Her white mug was left suspended in midair, halfway from the table to her lips. It quivered in her hands.

With her loss, Jack smiled. His own mug tapped the table gently as he set it down, empty. He named her as Trevor’s sister, a fact that was stated without any recognizable emotion.

A relieved sigh, a nervous laugh, a slow nod. ‘Yes, yes I am his sister,’ she pronounced.  She was in mid-sentence when Jack added,

‘You look just like him, y’know. And act like him, too.’

Silence. The ladies had stood up and gone some time before, leaving the younger pair alone in the quiet coffee shop.

Again, there is not much to say about the moments that followed. However, that is not to say that nothing happened. It is merely that neither I nor Jack remembers fully the conversation that followed, or even the emotions that bubbled between him and Ashley.

That time is empty to us, just like the two ceramic mugs that peopled the table, white interiors stained with the residue of coffee and tea.

I remember, though, that Ashley left with a liquid shine in her eyes, unshed tears sparkling as the brass bell sang above her. Jack’s own eyes were fixed on the crescent of perspiration from the mug she had brought, the only sign of her being there.

I remember, but I hold that remembering from Jack. He’d hate to hear it anyways.

That was the moment I started keeping secrets from him, when we truly became different people.

The End

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