Hugh walked up to the counter. The young man at the cash register broke into a big grin and exclaimed, “Mr. Toussaint! How good to see you. It is always a pleasure to welcome you into our establishment. How may we be of service today?”
Hugh stood at the counter. The young man at the cash register was turned away busily trying to steam some milk for a latte. He glanced at Hugh and said, “Just a sec.” Hugh waited patiently until the man had finished the latte and placed it on a side counter where a woman picked it up. “What can I get you?” said the man turning back to Hugh.
“I’ll have a medium” Hugh looked up at the menu. “Ah, I mean a grande.” He could never quite get the Italian terms correct.
“Two nineteen,” said the man.
Hugh passed him a five dollar bill. The man made change and handed Hugh his money and a cup.
Hugh walked over to the service area to get some milk. He always liked to put the milk in first so that when he put in the coffee, it was better mixed. “Hugh, what a pleasure,” said the older woman standing next to him. She smiled with a certain admiration. Not only was Hugh charming, he was not bad looking either. He was the son she wished she could have had.
The older woman was stirring her coffee. Hugh reached for the milk while saying to her, “Excuse me.” She didn’t bother to look at him. Hugh selected a lid and took the couple of steps to the coffee urns. He looked for a dark and strong roast then filled his cup to the brim. He put the cup on the flat surface and pressed the lid into place.
Hugh turned back to the room and looked for a place to sit. Spying a vacant seat at a table on the other side of the room, he walked the length of the counter towards the front of the shop. As he passed the cashier, a young woman ordering a coffee stopped to look him up and down. She smiled seductively and said, “How ya doing handsome?”
Hugh had to walk around the woman at the cash register. She was studying the overhead menu so intently; she was completely oblivious to being in Hugh’s way. Hmm, busy shop. Walking around the tables, Hugh found his seat. Looking down, he realised somebody had placed a briefcase on the chair. A student at the adjacent table jumped up. “I beg your pardon, sir,” the young man said to Hugh as he reached for the case. “Let me remove that so you can sit down. I’ll just put my things by my own chair and keep them out of your way.”
Hugh stood by the chair staring at the briefcase. He looked around wondering who the owner was. Nobody moved to claim it. Everybody seemed to be completely occupied by whatever they were doing.
Hugh saw another seat and walked off to see if it was free and not holding a briefcase or some other belongings. The chair did seem to be unoccupied but there was a woman sitting at the table typing away on a Blackberry. “Is this seat taken?” said Hugh to the woman. She looked up at Hugh and gestured towards the empty chair.
“Please join me. I would love some good company. A café, a cup of coffee and some conversation; I can’t think of a better way to spend the day. Don’t you agree?”
Hugh repeated his question. “Is this seat taken?” The woman seemed to be in the midst of thumbing an epistle on her hand-held device and only had the multi-tasking resources to mumble a barely audible “No” at Hugh. Hugh placed his cup on the table and sat down. He looked up at the counter to verify the time. He just had ten minutes to kill before his appointment.
Hugh took a sip of his coffee then absentmindedly looked around the café. He didn’t look at anything specifically. He just let his eyes glide over the various people. Hugh took a bigger sip then gulped because the coffee was very hot. It stung his tongue and Hugh paused for a moment waiting for that pain to diminish. He then took the top off of his cup and blew on the surface to cool the coffee a bit.
Hugh’s eyes were focused down on his cup but as he waited for the coffee to cool, they wandered to the legs of the woman sitting at the table. He first studied the woman’s high heels then let his gaze wander up her legs. She was wearing a dress that had ridden up her thighs somewhat when she had sat down. As Hugh’s gaze arrived at the thighs, one of the woman’s hands reached down to lightly caress the exposed skin below the hem of the dress. Then ever so slowly, the hand inched up the thigh slightly pulling the edge of the skirt even higher to show more leg. Hugh looked up. The woman stared at him directly in the eye. She had a somewhat sly look about her and then, with just a hint of a smile, she winked at him.
In his reverie, Hugh had not realised he had been staring at the woman. Even though she was busily typing away on her Blackberry, he suddenly realised she was aware of him looking at her. She never looked directly at him but Hugh sensed she was annoyed. She grasped her Blackberry with one hand then with the free one, tugged at her skirt trying to bring the hem down to cover up more of her legs. Only partially successful, she then pivoted in her chair so that now, she was completely facing away from him. Hugh could now only look at her back.
Hugh could feel his neck and his face flush as his embarrassment grew. He had been caught red-handed and summarily rejected. Did she think he was some sort of pervert? He glanced at the wall clock and decided it was a good time to escape. He only had a couple of minutes until his scheduled appointment.
Hugh set his coffee cup on the table and pressed the lid back on the cup. He stood up then picked up his coffee and headed towards the front door. A group of people were coming into the café so Hugh patiently waited for them to come in. He turned back to glance at the room. A couple of the wait staff behind the counter waved at him while the guy at the cash register yelled out, “Have a nice day, Mr. Toussaint.” Several people in the room looked up from their newspaper or computer to smile in his direction nodding in recognition.
The group of people passed Hugh as he looked at the room. The wait staff was busy behind the counter preparing beverages and the clientele all had their noses buried in some literary activity. All were totally oblivious to the comings and goings at the front. The door had a pneumatic mechanism to force it to close slowly and Hugh, perceiving a window of opportunity, tried to scurry through the narrowing gap. Unfortunately, he misjudged the space and caught his right shoulder on the edge of the door. His body jerked as it hit the door and a splash of coffee came out of the cup onto the front of Hugh’s shirt.
Hugh stopped on the sidewalk looking down at the moist brown stain on his shirt. A couple of people walked by him glancing at his shirt but not stopping. Nobody said anything. Nobody offered any sympathy; nobody offered a Kleenex or anything to help him clean up the stain. Hugh sighed resigning himself to his predicament. He walked away from the café to his appointment.
Click HERE to read more from William Belle
Article viewed on Oye! Times at www.oyetimes.com