As Shelly walked through the glass door and into the small cafe with its overwhelming coffee scent, she spotted Kyle. He was already standing in line.
The bubbly blonde barista was trying to smile sweetly as she took the order from the rotund woman in front of him. The customer was listing a barrage of components that were to accompany her super sized, def-caf, non-fat latte. Vanilla syrup, two extra shots and whip cream were punched into the register and the price rung up. The barista then slipped to the side and started the espresso shots and pulled out the gallon of milk for steaming.
Shelly glared at the younger woman’s immaculate hair. It was just in a pony tail but it bobbed cheerily in a way Shelly was sure helped draw some eyes. Eye’s like Kyle’s.
With a deep breath, Shelly swapped her leather purse onto her other shoulder. Her free hand stroked down the non-existent wrinkles on her blouse and she tucked imagined ebony tendrils behind her ear. As she walked across the terracotta tiles, she was silently thankful she had matched her bag, belt and ruby red flats. It wasn’t as if she always ran into Kyle but it was always a nice coincidence.
With Jerry now firmly out of the picture and having gotten through the first weekend that hadn’t drowned in Ben and Jerry’s, she felt the nerve to finally say hi.
But the customer at the counter slid by and the blonde barista did it for her.
“Hi, Mr. Johnson. The usual?”
Shelly’s blue eyes narrowed at the customer service. She took some heart in the fact that they weren’t on a first name basis. The fact that the barista knew his usual, a medium black with two pumps of chocolate, was more annoying.
Kyle’s reply was smooth and he was already digging his wallet out of the back pocket of his sand washed jeans.
The bell on the front door that chimed when someone entered, spurred Shelly out of her lingering gaze. She hurried into line before someone could jump in before her. Her swift steps nearly ran her into him before she could stop herself.
“Careful there,” Kyle said with that charming grin as he stuck out a hand as if to catch her.
“Sorry…” Shelly could feel the blush coming to her cheeks. Her eyes wandered nervously from his face to the floor. She wanted to kick herself for the stumbling entrance. She glared at the size 15 sneakers that came up in line behind her.
“Small cappuccino right?” Kyle’s voice was light and warm, like the sun falling on a playground. While Shelly kept her jaw from joining her eyes on the floor, she had a sudden flash of their children running along on the cedar chip mulch.
She swallowed a tittering laugh as her hands found a death grip on her purse’s straps. With a sharp inhale she prayed was more quiet than it sounded, she turned what she hoped was an equally charming grin towards his broad face.
“Yeah, that’s me.” She pointed towards the medium black with two pumps that the barista was capping on the counter. “Mocha without the milk?”
It was his turn to seem a bit embarrassed. “Yeah. Milk and I…” His words trailed off, she guessed due to the fact that their conversation had taken a biological bent.
“You could always try soy,” interrupted the barista.
Shelly tried not to glare as the younger woman broke in on her conversation.
The barista had it easy. She had a counter that people came up to and always had an opening for a conversation. Didn’t she realize how hard this was? She needed to go back to her steamer and mind her damn business.
“I heard it tastes…well…different.” Kyle ran a hand into his hair as again. He seemed to be looking for a way out of a conversation based on his digestive system.
The barista was about to jump in, but as she had done to the size 15’s that were starting to tap impatiently behind her, Shelly slid in first.
“It can take some getting used to.”
Her heart fluttered as Kyle turned his warm eyes back onto her. He was so close and hovered over her so that he filled up her entire gaze. “You’ve tried it?”
“Yeah. A couple times.”
“Well,” his smile broadened. “Maybe I’ll give it a shot then.”
Before she realized it, Shelly’s mouth kept talking. It was as if she was watching herself plow on without her brain. “How about I spot you one next time.”
His smile broadened further than she had ever seen it, even when that distracted couple had poured their half and half into his drink by mistake. Her knees wavered nervously as she basked in that moment. Thanks to her mouth, it might be the last moment she would ever have to talk to the striking man standing next to her.
Her ears heard the words and her mouth drooped into a floppy smile. It took a few more moments for the meaning to reach her brain. Kyle though didn’t seem to be having such difficulties.
“How about next Saturday?”
“Okay…” She felt her chest heave a bit as she remembered how to breathe.
“‘Round the same time?”
“Okay…” Shelly knew she had a bigger vocabulary but her internal dictionary was being embarrassingly elusive.
Kyle turned back to the counter, handed over the cash for his drink along with a nice tip and scooped up the cup in his broad hand.
“It’s a date.” He stepped to the side and Shelly could feel the barista’s tempered gaze falling on her. A surge of victory coursed through Shelly’s entire body and made her knees waver but this time with excitement. Her hand lay on the counter and she leaned on it as if she owned the place. She felt her hips swing out and was suddenly confidently aware of all of her body’s curves.
“I’ll look forward to it.”
He tipped up his cup towards her and his mouth broke into another broad grin. Shelly thought she noticed a bit of relief in their dark depths and a more relaxed slope to his broad shoulders. That might have just been her renewed breathing allowing oxygen back into her brain and countering the tunnel vision that had been encroaching over her eyes. It didn’t matter, all she could see, and ever really wanted to, was his smiling face.
“See you then, Shelly.”