She went daily to the café to order tea, read the paper, breath uncluttered time and catch glimpses of him. Her bronzed barrista. They exchanged anonymous small talk and smiles, hers experienced and knowing, his broad and untarnished by life’s failures.
He was no older than her son. Ah Max. For all the money and time she spent on him he’d grown up selfish and naïve. She loved him but worried for him.
She wondered how this café boy had become, instead, the uncomplicated person he seemed to be, always with a face to brighten the day, always with a clever line to laugh along with.
‘Let me guess,’ he’d say. ‘Peppermint tea, extra water?’
‘I know you’re just setting me up. One day you’ll surprise me.’
The private excitement of such exchanges gave her energy to face her days’ domestic necessities and her afternoons at the office. He made her feel attractive, lifting her above the inertia of her life before Terry left her.
She walked in one morning wearing a new outfit.
‘Heh, nice jacket,’ he chirped. ‘The usual?’
‘I’ve got a new job. It’s my last day.’
Charmian swallowed hard, cursing her daydream delusions.
‘We’re having a party when we close up tonight,’ he added. ‘I’d love you to come.’
2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)