1: Semisweet Chocolate
But he didn't really notice.
There was only one thing playing in his mind on repeat:
"Shit shit shit shit..."
He barely even registered the building he entered; he just slammed his entire body onto the nearest table. Then he flipped the screen of his computer up with one swift motion, pushing the on-button over and over again while frantically trying to mop the rain off the screen with one of his sleYeves.
The computer flashed white, earning a choked gasp, then powered black, only showing his bewildered face staring back at him.
"No... this can't be happening! I have so many things due..." he said to no one, the feeling of immense dread entering his system.
He sunk into his hands, making the chair squeal against the tiled floor. Through the fabric of his coat, he tried to breathe in and out, eventually getting frustrated and burying his eyeballs deeper into the crook of his arms. The cadence of his breaths eventually broke, causing a fit of coughing, but still, he laid there on that table in an empty cafe with nothing but the hum of the overhead lights and creaking of the floor above.
He drifted deeper and deeper into his stresses, thinking of the carefully planned night he'd made the day prior. The pride he felt at having some sort of structure was always refreshing. Putting the pins in place made everything better.
Oh, if it had only gone to plan.
He thought of all the assignments he had piled up at the end of his desk, all the textbooks sitting next to his bed almost like a glorious set of steps. He thought of all the dishes he told himself he would do and the nearly empty chasm that was his pantry. So many things, so little time, piles and piles of deadlines. It made him want to tear all his hair out and scream for all the world to hear. But it was all locked in his mind as his whole body started shaking, then stopped.
Aimery jumped up when the back door creaked. Cracking his heavy eyes open, he remembered his panicked run from the park he'd been working at, and now the table in front of him, wet from the condensation of his breath. Rubbing his eyes, he took one look outside the cafe window and immediately wished he hadn't.
The last licks of the sun disappeared behind the line of buildings, clouds of pink and orange slowly changing to dark grey. The row of street lamps turned along with the lights of each lonely window, making the empty street glow.
Aimery groaned. Feeling the tug of lethargy, he reached his arms up toward the sky then reached to grab his slick computer when he felt a vibration in his pocket.
His phone. Of course.
He knew who it was; there was only one person who would call him at his weakest moment.
So he let it ring once, twice. When it finally stopped, he let out a taunt breath, running a hand through his long, messy hair before noticing something new sitting next to his computer.
A coffee cup, with tendrils of steam drifting skywards.
Face full of suspicion, he stared at it for a few seconds, just in case it exploded. But it just stared back at him. Remembering how dry his mouth was, he lifted the cup to his lips.
The warmth seeped into his bones, making him let go of his rigid posture and sink further into the chair. It reminded him of snowy days hurling snowballs at his sister. The two would run inside, the mush off their boots covering the doormat. Their mom would lightly scold them, but the two would just offer her matching toothless-smiles before running to the kitchen to see two cups of steaming hot chocolate on the countertop. He would always race to grab the one that seemed fuller, but his sister would always beat him to it. With a cartoon playing in the background and their mom sipping on her own cup on the couch, the two would recount their daring adventures while gulping down their own drinks. The hot cocoa would always bring the feeling back into his cold fingers, like a reward for his daring deeds, always making him feel like living through his own world was worth it.
Oh, how he missed that feeling.
Aimery hadn't drunk hot cocoa in years, yet the warmth was still the same.
Like a new breath of life.
He leaned over for a second, trying to get his face back in a neutral position, but failing. He couldn't let this poke a hole in his defenses; no, he was stronger than that.
But that's when he saw the receipt.
On it was a message written in a curly script:
Hot cocoa always makes me feel better when I'm down
I hope you feel better, just know that there are always reasons to keep going.
(Don't worry about paying, think of this as a gift!)
There was nothing hinting at who wrote it.
Only a smiley face.
Aimery stared at it dumbfounded for a few seconds, mouth open like a fish.
"Who on earth could've..."
Then he started laughing, earning another fit of coughs. But this time it didn't hurt as much. Almost like the bruises inside of him were healing. Maybe his hull hadn't been punctured, maybe it had been bandaged by the hands of a stranger.
Tucking his computer into his coat, he shut the door as quietly as he could, pausing for a moment to study the white puff of breath in front of him.
"Is this one of the reasons?" he whispered under his breath.
Before leaving, he took one last look at the sign above the cafe.
"Stardust Café" the lettering now glistening, with a trail of stars following behind.
He smiled to himself, then walked away, note folded neatly next to his heart.
Once again, the bell chimed above his head, but this time it was on a sunny winter's day after a layer of snow had appeared on the ground. Aimery hated the feeling of wetness seeping into the soles of his sneakers, but he still went out to the cafe like he always did. At the same time, on the same day of the week.
He didn't know why he did this. He thought it was a feeling, but he had given up on feelings long ago, so that couldn't be it.
Aimery gave his order to the redhead at the counter. He gave a smile like he knew exactly what the young man was thinking. So naturally, Aimery turned away as quickly as possible in order to avoid punching him in the face. He walked to the back of the cafe in what he hoped looked super cool, sipping his coffee while taking in the surroundings.
The cafe was packed today, people leaning against the walls with drinks or sandwiches in their hands, the hum of conversation filling the room. Only this area was relatively deserted; no one came to the back unless they wanted to study the mural of fallen stars and jewels in the corner or to put something up onto the lonely community board.
It wasn't a sight to be held, covered in various posters ranging from stand-up comedy auditions to shady coupons. The board looked old and weathered, the corners peeling off to show the wooden plank behind. But it still had that charm to it, a charm that no one but him seemed to notice.
Today he took the time to study all the scribbled things people had put on there, letting himself imagine what moment in their lives led them to tack the idea onto the board. While studying a flyer for a new bakery, someone else came up next to him, blonde hair stuck in a ponytail on the back of her head. She scribbled furiously on a Post-it note, stopping her walking just as she was about to bump into the wall. Aimery watched the girl through the corner of his eye as she stuck the note onto the wall, somewhat fascinated that someone had dared to walk back here to this old board.
When she left, he immediately leaned forward to read the message she had left, curiosity winning over the image he was trying to portray. It read:
No matter how bad the world may seem, light always shines through.
Just remember that there are always reasons to smile!
And she signed it with a smiley face.
He choked on his drink, earning a look from a couple sitting nearby, but he didn’t notice.
Frantically rummaging in the pocket of his denim coat, he pulled out the crumpled receipt that had sat in there for weeks. Sure enough, the script looked exactly the same.
That is when he finally realized why he came to this cafe every week.
Was she his reason?
The new desire to find her flowed through his veins, his heart threatening to run all the away across the country.
The sinking feeling in his stomach, the headaches he felt while he stared at the note at night, the lingering feeling of warmth left behind, it all made sense now.
It was his purpose now. To find a solution to this problem that had been echoing in the back of his mind since that fateful day.
With the roar of conversation in his ears, he scanned the crowd frantically until he saw the glint of blonde hair as she went through the back door.
He smiled, the same warmth that had filled him that fateful day in this very cafe pulsing through his veins.
"I've finally found you," he said to no one, savoring the words on his lips.
Quick note: this series is based off of my larger work, "Symphony of the Stars," a draft I hope to get published one day. This story is just a way for me to switch things up and find new ways to develop my characters. (I'll tell the original idea/prompt later, it has spoilers lol)
But anyways, I hope you love my sweet-tooth boy as much as I do! There will be an in-between part before part 2, it's gonna be really different.
Look out for that!