Marie hurried through the double doors and nearly walked straight into Dakota, who quickly grabbed her shoulders to prevent a straight-on collision. They stared at each other briefly in surprise before Dakota broke into a wide smile.
“Couldn’t get enough of me?” he asked jokingly. “I’ve never had a stalker, but it’s pretty flattering of you.”
Marie was thrown off guard, and blinked.
“No, this is my office building,” she explained, jerking her thumb back towards the Everline skyscraper. He looked up at it instinctively, following her motion.
“And of course I’d be stalking you, who else would I stalk?” she added coyly, a beat too late.
He shot her a sideways glance.
“Out for lunch?” he asked innocently.
“Care to join me?” he added.
“That was the plan,” she shot back. He chuckled and started walking again, Marie tagging along.
“Where do you work?” she asked, to fill the silence.
“You know the old library down on King Street?” he asked. Marie didn’t, but nodded anyway. “I work the special editions section, you know, all the really old or rare stuff. Cataloguing mostly, but some research stuff. It’s pretty fun.”
“So what are you doing in this part of town? King Street’s nowhere close to here.”
“I started a small publishing company a little while ago, and the office is just down the street from you.”
“That’s ambitious of you.”
“I suppose. I just wish I had more publicity. Business is slow.”
He stopped in front out of a small restaurant with Vera Jon’s painted above the door in a pink that stood out from the garrish green door frame.
“How’s this?” he asked, looking down at her for a reaction.
“Here?” she blurted out incredulously.
She shrugged, swallowing the words Because no one else will be in here and smiling.
Dakota led her into the small restaurant, which had a bunch of small wooden tables packed between it’s crumbly brick walls. The chairs and tableware were mismatched and brightly colored, and several surrealist charcoal drawings hung on the otherwise unadorned brick walls. It had the air of a coffee shop, complete with several college students poring over piles of books and a shy couple out on their first or second date.
The perky hostess, who wore a brightly colored scarf wrapped around her hair and had different colored fingernails, led them to a back table between a student reading Shakespeare and a group of middle aged women clearly on lunch break. She handed them each an organic looking menu with Vera Jon written brazenly across the front, told them her name was Shay, and left them to her own devices.
They flicked open the menus and read in silence for a while. The restaurant was advertised as a ‘Sand – Which’ shop, and the menu featured 3 or 4 pages of creative options. All could be eaten on gluten-free bread or as a wrap, and all could be halved and eaten with either a soup or a salad. The most expensive was 16 dollars and had lamb, avocado, basil, balsamic vinegar, walnuts, and pear slices between its two slices of challah.
“Ham and turkey on multigrain with cranberries, sliced apples, mayo, and cheddar cheese,” Dakota mused.
“Bacon and marmalade on pumpernickel?”
“Grilled cheese on country white with pesto, pine nuts, sundried tomatos, bacon, and garlic paste.”
“That sounds simultaneously terrible and amazing,” she said, looking at Dakota over the top of her menu.
“Most of these sound simultaneously terrible and amazing,” he replied. Marie nodded.
“But in a good way.”
“In a good way.”
This week I took a quote I liked from Pinterest- “Like, I just wanna make art, read books and find someone who likes me enough to kiss my face”.
“Life is so full of struggles sometimes,” Rebecca remarked to Maria as they were walking away from the countertop, coffee in hand. “Like, I just wanna make art, read books and find someone who likes me enough to kiss my face. Is that too much to ask?”
“I guess so.” Maria responded. This was not the first time they’d had this particular conversation, and with every reiteration, Maria found she had less to say.
They sat down at their usual corner table and waited for their food.
“Like, I’ve been single so long, I think three more species went extinct since the last time I was in a relationship,” Rebecca continued, oblivious to Maria’s lack of enthusiasm on the subject. She was into abstract metaphors lately.
“That’s such a terrible thing to say, Rebecca!” Maria exclaimed.
“Maybe, but I’m not wrong. I could look it up right now, want me to?”
“I think he gave me a full fat caramel caffé macchiato instead of a skinny one,” Maria said, by way of changing the conversation. She took the lid off of the cup and gave it a once-over, as if she could tell the fat content of her beverage by looking at it.
Rebecca, who was about to tell Maria she thought the guy sitting across from them was cute, fell silent and took out her phone as Maria kept poking at her beverage.
The guy sitting across from them, who had initially thought Rebecca was kind of cute, assumed that she had a boyfriend that she was texting.
Rebecca, who was just scrolling randomly through her Facebook feed, was trying to disguise the fact that she thought Maria was being a bit of a bitch.
Maria, who had lied about her suspicions about the skim milk in her coffee, put the lid back on and sipped as she watched the waiter cross the room with their food.
With nothing else to say to each other, the girls quietly ate their sandwiches and left, promising to call each other to hang out again soon, and knowing, in their heart-of-hearts, they would not.
This week’s prompt is from a fair hand – “There was a ring in his teacup…”
There was a diamond ring in the bottom of his cup of Earl Grey. It lay glinting in a small puddle in the curved reservoir, the top of the setting barely peeking out above the milky, opaque liquid. Paul had felt it there earlier when he’d stirred in his sugar, but he’d mistaken its weighty presence for the unmelted sugar cubes clinking against the side of his cup.
Now he was down to the dregs, however, and the presence of the delicately made band in his rapidly cooling beverage was unmistakable. Of course, there was nothing else he could do but call over the waiter and explain what had happened, and pretend to read his paper as the situation was resolved between the waiter and the young man at the table opposite his. Paul feigned indifference as the ring from his tea was placed on the slim finger of a brunette in a bright green sweater. For a brief moment, he considered that he might have proposed the exact same way if he’d ever had the chance, but he was not a young man anymore, and he was used to sitting in cafés alone by now.
As the clapping of the other inhabitants of the small cafe subsided, Paul reread the first paragraph of page 37 for the third time, and reflected that he would have liked to meet a woman like the brunette in green, who drank the same tea that he did, but for multiple reasons, it was probably too late.