Table For Two
She did have to admit, it had been some time since she had been there. Maybe business had slowed down since her last trip to the donut shop. It was hard to imagine though, given just how good VG’s was.
Halfway between her car and VG’s front door she noticed there wasn’t anybody inside the shop either. The counter was bare and the open kitchen where the donuts were made was completely empty.
Julie decided to walk up to the window of the shop, just to make sure that her eyes were not totally deceiving her. They weren’t. The closer she got, the even more barren the little shop looked.
The voice came from a small man at the end of the building. His slim frame was standing just outside a door Julie had never noticed before. He looked friendly, and it was impossible to really tell just how old he was. His clean white uniform and little paper hat gave him the look of a young man working at an old soda shop. And his cheery smile and perky face did little to age him past a teenager. But there was still something about his voice that strong and reassuring, like somebody much older.
Julie realized she was staring at the young man when he turned his head and raised his eyebrows. She couldn’t muster a response, and barely a smile formed on her face, but she nodded and walked past the “Hot Coffee” sign and toward the door.
The young man grinned from ear to ear and held the door open as she strode inside the small coffee shop.
“All handcrafted,” the young man said, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking.
Again, Julie managed a slight smile and a little nod. She wasn’t one for talking. Once she had been outgoing, her ex-husband had even once labeled her an extrovert in a magazine quiz they had filled out together. But that was a lifetime ago.
“Looks like you two won’t be the only ones here this morning. The others are right on time.”
Julie wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but she saw him open the door again, and in came two more people, a handsome blonde man in his early thirties, and an elderly black woman. They must have been regulars given the worker’s words. She on the other hand had never even noticed the small coffee shop before. Her and Andrew must have passed it dozens of times on their beach donut dates, as he would call it. She had never been drawn in before. That made sense given the only sign on the window was a small “Hot Coffee” script that did little for customer engagement.
As Julie looked around she noticed that the inside was pretty plain too. Despite the beautiful woodwork that coated the walls, there was little else that drew the eye. In the whole place there was only one small frame hanging up. It was on the far wall, near the window that looked out on the beach. She couldn’t make out what it was, but Julie was hardly the type to look at the overpriced art that hung in restaurants and shops. Instead she stood near the counter waiting for the young employee to take her order and ring her up.
“Miss Julie, if you’d like you can take a seat over there.” The young man gestured toward the small table in front of the window. “He said you’d like the artwork and the view.”
Again, Julie didn’t know what to say. This time she didn’t even nod. She just strode over to the table and sat.
Meanwhile, Tim walked up to the counter where the young man who opened the door stood and looked at him, smiling. Tim opened his mouth to order, but was cut off before he could get a word out.
“Let me guess, Americano?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?” Tim replied.
“You seem like an Americano kind of guy.”
“Because I’m dark and bitter?” Time said with as much of a smile as his rough morning would allow him.
“Just look like you’ve had a rough morning. Looks like you could use something strong while pondering a deep thought or two.”
However this barista had gained the skill of knowing his customers’ drinks, whether experience or observation, it was impressive.
“If you want to take a seat there at that table, I can bring it over for you.”
“Sounds good. How much do I owe?”
“No charge, sir,” the man said with a smile. “Like I said, rough morning.”
Tim was in no mood to debate. Usually he wouldn’t accept such a gesture. He had worked very hard for his money. And although he didn’t make a show of it, it was something he was proud of. He came from nothing. Raised by a single mother, with a deadbeat father who left when he was eight, Tim had endured what few had, only to make something of himself as a program engineer at a successful software company. He had also considered himself a good husband, although his wife, Rebecca, had wanted more of him than that. She wanted something he wasn’t willing to give her. That was the reason he was here. That was the reason he was having a rough morning. And that was the reason a barista at a local coffee shop had offered him a free drink, and why Tim hadn’t refused.
“That is one beautiful car you have there, Miss,” he said with the widest of grins.
“Well, thank you. It was my late husband’s.”
“Well, for you just giving me the honor of looking at that fine American classic, I will bring your tea to you at that table. Would you be liking English Breakfast or Earl Grey this morning?”
Dorothy was a bit caught off guard at first, but smiled and answered, “Earl Grey sounds good. Thank you.”
“Of course. He said you would be having that. If you want to take a seat there at that small table for two, I’ll bring your drinks right over.” He motioned at the only table left in the small cafe.
Again caught off guard by the young man’s words, Dorothy looked at him surprised and asked, “Who said that?”
He just smiled and looked past her at the pretty red car in the parking lot.
Dorothy smiled and started to make her way to the table the man had gestured to, before she processed his words. Drinks? Table for two? She looked around the small cafe and noticed that there were only three tables in the whole coffee shop. At each one of them sat one person. And across from them, an empty seat.