The Coffee Shop
She felt a gust of cold air hit her face as she pushed open the glass door and walked into the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The bittersweet smell filled her senses as she made her way to the counter, smiling at the barista. He smiled back, for he had recognised her. He greeted her as he would any other customer, and took down her order. Like he remembered from before, it was an iced caramel macchiato. He respected this little routine she maintained on her weekly visits to the coffee shop. She respected the polite and accepting demeanour of its staff- kindness just short of interference. She'd often thought of how easy it was for people to cross the thin line between interested and nosy. She glanced at the assortment of pastries on display next to where she stood.
It was early in the evening, and the slices of banana bread that had so boldly endured the dry, preservative air had slowly begun to crumble. To her, they looked like autumn leaves crushing and breaking in the cold wind, one moment in the glory of their warm hues, the next moment like burning embers reduced to dust. The next tray held a single blueberry muffin, no doubt the last one left of the moist customer favourites at the cafe. They were dark temptations, these muffins, seducing the onlooker in their attire of chocolate coloured paper, and inviting little peaks of blueberry eyes under a baked veil. The ones sold at this particular shop, she noticed, were always coated with a layer of icing sugar, like sweet snow covering the mountains on a Christmas evening.
As she continued to observe the loaves get staler and the icing get harder, she heard her card being swiped through the slot in the machine. There was a whirring, followed by the crackle of tearing paper, after which her card, placed upon her receipt was slid across the counter towards her. It was a satisfying sensation, to make a purchase at this coffee shop. She ran her polished fingers, painted red for the season, along the marble top of the table counter. She watched how they left a trail of smudged fingerprints, as sweaty palms often do. Her beverage was prepared fairly quickly, since the staff were accustomed to her regular orders, and had taken to preparing an iced macchiato as soon as she walked in.
With her drink in one hand, her handbag hanging off her other arm, she glided towards the table near the window, in the southwest corner of the store. She always sat here when she came. It had become her seat, and everyone; including the staff and the other frequent customers and come to accept that. As the barista ended his afternoon shift, he glanced at her again.
To him, she seemed like less of a woman and more of a ghost. She had an eerie silence about her, speaking in nothing more than a smile, even her orders would be placed using a previously written note. She'd always sit there in her corner, sipping on her coffee every Thursday evening. She'd look out to the street, to the cars honking as they passed by, to the hurried shuffles of busy people, always going to or away from something. Her grey handbag would always be seen sitting to her left and a little further away from the edge of the table. The muted grey of the purse was an odd contrast to the varnished glossy wood. He realised how everything about her was muted. He'd never heard her voice, but expected it to be beautiful. He wouldn't call her pretty, but there was a certain muted beauty in her face, in her gaze. Her clothes were all muted tones; all sullen blacks and hushed greys, pale whites and quiet nudes. It was this muffled aura that radiated the loudest shine. The mystery that surrounded her sang loudly, splintering the glass that reflected the cars outside. She was odd indeed, he thought, but sublime in all her silence.
The coffee shop was her guilty pleasure. It was an escape from the noise, from the screaming chaos that her life was. It was only one evening a week, only an hour where she could be at peace with herself, but it was enough. She'd love to sit here in the pastel blue sofa chair, protected by the glass window from the outside world. It shielded her from its inhabitants, from reality and from judgement. It soothed her senses to forget herself inside this shop, as she saw the streets outside bustle with hundreds of other people. She liked to look at these people, it reassured her that she wasn't alone; that there were many who had their own troubles just like she did.
Ever so often she would hear the clamour from behind her reflection grow louder and louder, shattering the windows, and leaving her exposed to the polluted traffic of her existence. It would take her a moment or two before she'd realise that it was only a daydream.
The coffee shop was her refuge, keeping her safe from her overdue rent, her demanding boss, and the strangers that were her dreams and aspirations. It was her little snow globe; suspended in a dance as glitter raindrops waltzed around her. She held on to these Thursday evenings; coming here so she could live, and living only so that she could come back.