I see them come here together, as they always do on a late Tuesday night.
The two go straight to the display case, giggling like schoolgirls, pointing at the pastries and looking over the menu. They don’t crowd the counter though, and always let customers pass while they consider their choices.
But the truth is, despite taking their time, they always get the same thing: a hot white chocolate, an English Breakfast latte, and a slice of chocolate cake.
They take turns paying, and today, it’s the curly haired girl’s turn. They come up to the counter, address me with a familiar smile, and I ring up their orders.
But there seems to be something off today, something different about the air around them. She pays me, drops a generous tip in the jar, then thanks me with a smile. There is a falter in her voice, discernible through the slightest tremor, but only for a moment. She nods at me, and I prepare their orders as they head to their usual spot.
In the corner of my eye, I watch them settle beside each other on the sofa, chattering away. Then – and this is my favorite part – they each take out their phones and engross themselves in it, sitting together in different worlds, enjoying companionable silence. Every so often, one would show her phone screen to the other and they would laugh together, their voices ringing in the near empty coffee shop.
I put the drinks and the cake on a tray and head to their table. I enjoy serving these two, especially on nights like these when the cafe is empty but for them. They would ask me to sit down and share a cup and a story, inviting me to share in their companionship.
Tonight, however, when they look up at me, I see a restraint in their eyes and a quiet protest on their lips. I set down their cups and plates and withdraw quietly, respectfully.
As I walk away, I hear sobs and quiet murmurs.
“I’ll come back in a year, I promise. We’ll stay connected. You won’t lose your best friend.”
There is a whimper and more sobs. I take a deep breath, but make my way back to the counter.
The crying and consoling continues for a while, so I do the only thing I can do during these times: I choose the right track.
A soft, nostalgic song plays from the speakers, and I see the two stop and listen. It’s their favorite, I know, and they would always slow down when it played.
I see them turn to me, thankful. I nod at them as I see them relax and wipe away their tears. They hug each other in a sisterly fashion and lean back on their seat. I smile to myself and lean back on mine, enjoying the atmosphere of a companionable Tuesday night.
Image source: deviantart.com/pajunen/art/Chocolate-cake-and-coffee-484949724
First written March 13, 2018.
In The Coffee Shop, #13