I am jarred suddenly from my writing, leaving a streak of black ink across a part of the page.
"Oh, sorry, uhm..."
"Declan," I finish, smiling.
"Right," she smiles back. "And I'm Emmy, by the way. I don't think I properly introduced myself the other day."
I turn on my stool slightly when she sits beside me. "Short for Emily?"
She blushes. "Mary-Ellen, actually."
"Ah, M. E., I get it."
She laughs a little at my remark, that sighing laugh so unlike Lily's.
"So how's the book? Any surprises?" I ask with a chuckle of my own.
"No," she starts, "it's all unfolding just as I expect it to."
There are a few moments of silence, and then, "I'm going to grab a refill. Would you like anything?"
I'm surprised to hear the words come from my mouth, and apparently so is she, judging by the way she fumbles for a response.
"Uhm, sure, yah. I'd like an, oh, peppermint tea, please. Bag out, no cream or sugar."
I repeat her request before going to the counter to relay it once more, empty mug in hand. Questions with obvious answers run through my head: Why'd you offer her a drink? You only just met her the other day, and learned her name just now. Do you like her? Like, like like her? D'you think she likes you back?
I lose the chance to answer the last question when the barista asks me another.
"A refill, Declan?"
"Please," I reply. "And a peppermint tea. Black, or whatever the tea equivalent is."
She repeats the order, as I had done for Emmy, smiling as she says "black."
"Oh, and bag out, please."
Emmy thanks me when I drop the mug beside her, and greets me with an observation. "There're a lot of certainties in our lives, y'know?"
I assume my place beside her and take a cautious sip from my coffee before answering. "I guess. I'm here every morning, same spot, same drink." I pause and laugh. "And you've got that book of yours, eh?"
She smiles back. "Yah, I do." We sip in silence before she continues. "My day usually plays out the same way. Just as I expect it to, that is."
I glance quickly at my laptop bag, the computer inside not having been used yet today, and then back at Emmy.
"Would you like to do lunch, then?" I offer. "Something different. Spontaneous."
"I'd love to, Declan. Where do you suggest?"
"There's an Asian-inspired take-out place a few blocks away that I've been to before." I'd last been with Lily. "Care to give it a taste? We could carry away our food and wander until we find a place to eat."
She doesn't answer immediately, but I can't turn my attention away. "Let's finish up here, and then you can lead the way."
I smile and turn back to my coffee, eager to finish the scalding beverage. Eager to leave with Emmy. Eager to leave in case I'm visited by Lily Christianson.