He wouldn’t have noticed her if she hadn’t been smoking a cigarette. That she was doing so while seated directly under a sign that read ‘Thank You For Not Smoking’ made him feel strangely anxious.
The barista announced that a flat white was ready for ‘Kyle’. This was the incorrect interpretation of his name that he had by now learned to listen for. This made him a better listener than the very high “dude” taking orders but that was of little comfort on this particular morning.
He claimed the mislabeled cup and scanned the room for an available seat. There was a vacant stool across the table from the smoking girl but he wasn’t particularly interested in sharing a table with a stranger and he was less interested in sitting within her cloud of smoke.
Rough timber boards traced the bottom of the walls, giving way here and there to too-small seats attached to the wall with too-rusty hinges that looked ready to buckle at any moment. The interior designer responsible for all of this had overshot both ‘authentic’ and ‘vintage’ and landed instead on ‘dilapidated’.
Not one of these rickety seats was empty. Nor were any of the cushioned couches that lined the wall just inside the door of the café. Nor were any of the milk crates that doubled as furniture on the front sidewalk. Annoyance blossomed into heartless surrender as he accepted that the stool across from the girl was the only free chair in the cafe.
He turned to reassess the stool’s availability and saw that the girl was watching him with a placid expression. She took a drag and then exhaled smoke, studying him dispassionately all the while. After a few seconds she motioned to the stool with the hand that held her cigarette. To not join her now would be deliberately rude.
She watched him take the two or three steps across the wooden floor and she kept her eyes trained on him while he sat his coffee on the small table and leaned his bag against the legs of the stool. He finally sat before her, unbuttoning the jacket of his suit as he did so.
[contentblock id=1 img=gcb.png]
[contentblock id=2 img=gcb.png]
[contentblock id=3 img=gcb.png]
[contentblock id=4 img=gcb.png]
[contentblock id=5 img=gcb.png]