"Sage, can you take over the counter for me, please?" Beth asked, and I quickly nodded, setting off for the register.
"Small or medium?" I asked, with a monotonous manner, to a short young girl, who I assumed was a student just like her friends who stood beside her impatiently waiting to place their orders.
"Medium, please. I need a lot of caffeine these days." The girl smiled brightly at me, looking straight into my eyes. I pulled up the corners of my lips to indicate a smile for a quarter of a second but focused back on the screen to purposefully show disinterest.
Meeting someone in the coffee shop was one of the romance cliches in the student community. Sadly, once in a while, someone interested in that appeared and started showing up almost every day. It wouldn't be considered strange if their eyes were directed elsewhere but at me—or at one of my coworkers—believing that we couldn't notice; trust me, it was very obvious. It made me wary of any attempts at flirting with me.
Some may be flattered by this, but I found this type of behaviour bizarre and creepy. I didn't know these people, and I wished they would talk to me and ask me out, so I could reject them, and we could all move on.
"Medium cappuccino, please." I heard a smooth voice say.
"Sure, that'll be two-eighty." I pointed to the card machine, and the young man gently brought his phone closer to pay. I always noticed him when he walked into the store. Short dark brown hair with rather soft-looking features and a friendly smile- the type that blends in with the crowd.
Handsome, but not in the conventional way that fits into the pattern.
He was attractive enough for me to notice him. His manners and aura drew my attention whenever he entered the shop, and there weren't any other clients who were able to keep me captive for that long.
He had regularly visited the cafe for over a year now. Occasionally, he’d take breaks for holidays, other times, I wondered why he was absent. But I never asked for an explanation nor implied a wish to have a conversation with him.
It was a strange feeling. I knew that guy—but I didn't. I could say that I knew a few things about this man: I knew that he always ordered a cappuccino; or that he sometimes had dark purple bags under his eyes; and hair that was longer than how he would keep them normally. From time to time, I could see the sadness in his eyes. These days were usually quickly replaced by the usual ones or those when he would be extremely cheerful.
I knew him enough to recognise his mood the moment I laid my eyes on him. Strange as it could be, I felt a lot of people working in services were the same: you just knew our regulars. More so, I knew that he was familiar with most of the staff working in the shop. One morning, when I ran to my lecture, we passed each other in the university park, and he smiled at me. It surprised me, but looking back at it, he could have treated me like a ghost, but he didn’t. It was a polite gesture, and so was he.
I handed him his coffee, and he took a spot in the corner where fewer people were disturbing his movie break. He did that often while waiting for the lecturers.
I did that too, but never in the coffee shop. It was enough working in one.
I never got to know his name. I didn't know which course he was taking. I knew him, but, for a long time, I didn't know anything about him, except that he was a regular at the coffee shop.
I didn't like working there, but the pay was good, and time passed by in a blink of an eye with how busy I was—and that pleased me.
It was a typical cafe. Wooden bar. Wooden tables with black chairs. A bright interior, and few photos of landscapes hung on beige walls. Pretty potted flowers were placed near large windows overlooking the square. Completing the ordinary-looking two-story shop, there was the light marble floor.
We were located in the centre of Old Town. We were at the beautiful city's heart.
The neighbourhood was crowded, and so was the university. It was good for business, as there were rare times when the store had no walk-ins for more than ten minutes. We had an extra floor where students could study or work on their assignments. It was peaceful and quiet up there.
Downstairs, however, the majority of our customers chatted with friends or took time off between lectures. We had all sorts of profiles, from tourists to workers in the area, and a large mass of teenagers and students. Easy to imagine that it was loud.
"Oi, I ordered a latte, but this is a cappuccino." One of the girls who ordered her drink earlier came to the counter with a frown written on her face.
"Oh, I’m sorry about that. Let me fix it." I took the cup from her, discovering it half empty. I looked up, and she smiled at me. I couldn't point out whether she was embarrassed or aware of the absurdity of this situation. Judging by the emptiness of the cup, she definitely didn't hate her latte. But, as a professional, I made no comment, turned my back on her, and walked closer to Beth, who was operating the machine.
"Hi, can you make a cappuccino for that lady as she didn't like her latte apparently?" I whispered to Beth while showing her the half-empty cup before I threw it into the bin. She raised an eyebrow at me before she chuckled to herself and took another look at the cup.
I noticed a few clients waiting in the queue, so I asked the girl to move to the side before I started taking more orders.
Time passed quickly after that. Then, I headed straight home, even though my friends had texted and asked me to go to one of the bars nearby. I ignored them, pretending I hadn't seen the messages, content to send an apology from my bed.