I was navigating through the city streets with a sense of urgency. I had an important meeting today that would shape the future of my career. Public transport, my reliable ally, decided today was the day to play hard to get, leaving me stranded on the rain-soaked sidewalk. With the next station seemingly light-years away, time wasn’t on my side.

The rain, relentless in its downpour, transformed the morning into a soggy ordeal. And to top it all off, I didn’t have an umbrella on me. Attempting to dodge the cold droplets proved futile and my clothes started to cling to me as the water seeped through my very not waterproof attire. I had to find a place to shelter myself from the rain if I wanted to look in any way presentable for my meeting.

“Perfect start to the morning,” I mumbled, the sarcasm evident in my tone. How had everything gone so awry in a matter of minutes?

The buildings in this part of town were dull and uninviting, with one exception – a small cafe that appeared like an oasis in the concrete desert. Spotting its warm glow, a decision was quickly made. The sanctuary beckoned, and without an umbrella on me, starting to get more soaked with every second, it was an easy choice. I headed straight for the welcoming haven, hoping to regain some composure within its walls before making my way to work.

Upon stepping into the cafe, a wave of warmth enveloped me, instantly dispelling the chill that clung to my damp clothes. The cozy ambiance was a stark contrast to the dreary exterior, with soft lighting casting a comforting glow across the space.

The interior held a rustic charm, a blend of wooden accents and muted colors that exuded a sense of familiarity. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee hung in the air, mingling with the subtle scent of pastries. Everything smelled delicious and my stomach let out a small rumble to remind me that I stubbornly skipped breakfast this morning.

Oddly, the cafe was mostly empty for this time of day, with only a few patrons seated at small tables, quietly sipping on steaming cups of coffee. The hushed conversations, the light music in the background and the occasional sound of a spoon tapping against a cup created a serene atmosphere that relaxed my senses.

Behind the counter, a man with black hair, seemingly absorbed in some task, caught my attention. He was focused and had deliberate and calculated movements. A small pull toward him prompted me to study him for far longer than I initially realized. His features were unassuming, yet there was something about the way he carried himself, an air of confidence blended with a hint of mischief. His hands moved gracefully as he worked, efficiently and skillfully.

Shaking off my momentary absorption, I scolded myself for the distraction. An important meeting loomed ahead, and my time was slipping away. The charming atmosphere of the cafe couldn’t overshadow the urgency of my predicament.

Approaching the counter, I was immersed in thoughts about how to arrive at work as soon as possible. The man with the black hair noticed my presence, his gaze meeting mine with a warmth that momentarily eased my hurried mind.

Noah – I had caught his name on the nametag conveniently pinned on his chest – observed my disarray with a gentle smile.

“Rough morning, huh? Caught in the rain without an umbrella?” he said.

“Yeah, it’s been one of those mornings.” I answered while nodding.

“How about a cup of something to warm you up? It might make facing the day a bit more bearable.” he offered with a gentle smile

“Coffee sounds perfect, actually.”

He swiftly prepared the beverage, the rich aroma filling the air as he expertly operated the espresso machine. When my order was ready, he gestured toward a cozy corner.

“There’s a seat by the heater over there. Might help you dry off a bit.” he shared.

I followed his indication and soon the warmth from the heater provided a welcome respite from the persistent dampness. As I settled into the chair, I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of gratitude for the unexpected sanctuary this small cafe offered.

I took a sip of my coffee and its warmth enveloped me, awakening my senses even more. It tasted good—no, exceptional. As I took another sip, the rich flavors danced on my palate, and I couldn’t help but savor the one silver lining in this otherwise tumultuous morning. This coffee was certainly the best thing that happened to me today.

With the cup cradled in my hands, I dove into the familiar routine of checking my phone for directions to work. Each notification, each route adjustment, served as a reminder of the ticking clock and the pressing meeting I was trying not to miss.

However, my attention kept drifting, inexplicably drawn to the barista. Whether he was serving a customer, wiping down a table, or handling the espresso machine with effortless precision, I found myself stealing glances in his direction. It was a distraction, an unintended deviation from my otherwise pragmatic focus.

I reprimanded myself each time, my mind scolding, reminding me that it was rude to stare. Despite my best efforts, my eyes seemed to have a will of their own, repeatedly finding their way back to him. Yet, with each accidental lock of our eyes, Noah responded with a friendly smile, an acknowledgment that brought a long forgotten heat to my cheeks.

“What is with this little school girl reaction?” I thought to myself. However, in those fleeting moments of eye contact, I felt like this was a bit more than just friendly customer service.

“Snap out of it, Ella! You need to focus on work now, not on handsome baristas.” my mind reprimanded me again.

As I sat there, contemplating my routes and the ticking clock, I hoped he wouldn’t misinterpret my distracted glances. I’m not usually like this, I reassured myself.

It was still a while until my next bus to work and it seemed like I was in luck, and able to arrive at my meeting just in time. However I didn’t have the time to prepare as much as I desired at the office, so I decided to start preparing now. As I immersed myself in the notes for the upcoming meeting, determined to regain control over the morning’s chaos, Noah’s unexpected presence disrupted my concentration. He approached my table with a friendly smile, catching me off guard.

“Is there anything else I can get you? Another round of coffee, perhaps?” he asked politely as he leaned a bit closer to me. A bit too close?

His approach carried a subtle flirtatious undertone, leaving me momentarily perplexed. Was I imagining things, or was there a playful spark in his demeanor? He was undeniably handsome, and here I was, a wet mess from the rain. Surely, he couldn’t be genuinely interested in me. “It must be part of his job to be nice”, my mind reasoned.

“Oh, no, I’m good, thank you. Just trying to stay focused on work.” I answered keeping a straight face while pointing at the table that was now full of papers and notes for my upcoming meeting.

Noah leaned against an adjacent chair, maintaining a friendly yet subtly flirtatious tone.

“I can see the weight of those notes on your shoulders. Just make sure your day isn’t all business and no pleasure. I’ll be here if you need anything else.” he said as he pulled away to check in with other customers.

His words lingered in the air and I think I internally gaped at what he just said. I couldn’t help but question the dynamics of our interaction. Maybe it was just his friendly nature, part of the job. Am I reading into this a bit too much? I shook this friendly distraction away quickly to turn back to my notes.

However, I gave into my curiosity and allowed my gaze to wander toward the counter a few times, where Noah continued his duties. There was no harm in appreciating a fine view, even if only for a moment. His presence seemed to calm my nerves a bit, offering a reprieve into the otherwise chaotic morning. Without his awareness, he became a silent accomplice in my quest for focus, each stolen glance somehow contributing to a sense of clarity.

Confidence surged within me as I prepared for the imminent meeting. Regardless of the circumstances, I was ready. The meeting was mine to conquer, and with a subtle smile, I gathered my belongings, grateful for the serendipitous distractions that, in an unusual twist, had become allies in facing the day’s uncertainties.

“Make sure you come back for another coffee sometime. We’d miss your company.” he shared quite loudly across the room, making a few patrons glance at us for a second as I was making my way to the exit.

His remark lingered in the air, and a subtle warmth spread within me. I hadn’t heard him extend such an invitation to anyone else during my time here. Were all the other patrons regulars?

Just as I was about to step into the rain-soaked world outside, Noah interrupted my departure once again, genuine concern etched on his face.

“Wait, don’t leave without an umbrella. It’s pouring out there. Let me lend you one.” he offered

I hesitated, initially refusing his offer, but Noah insisted, his determination evident. Eventually, I relented, grateful for the unexpected kindness.

“I couldn’t bear to see you getting soaked in this rain… again.” he said while briefly scanning me from head to toe. “I could sense you had important plans. Consider the umbrella my way of making sure you arrive looking as stunning as ever. Not that you need any help in that department.”

What? Is this still just friendly customer service?

With a sly grin, added, “And if you’re worried about it, feel free to bring the umbrella back next time you visit. It’ll be waiting for you.”

His words hung in the air, and for a moment, I felt a soft warmth spreading through me. His bold compliment caught me off guard.

“Thank you,” I answered. I could sense the faint heat rising to my cheeks, a sign of the blush I couldn’t quite conceal. “I do have some important plans today.” I answered and rushed out of the cafe without giving him a chance to see my flustered self. The cool air and the rain helped me to regain my composure, reminding myself of the imminent meeting awaiting me at work.

The successful work meeting turned out to be a pivotal moment in my day, and there were whispers of a potential promotion around the office. As the day unfolded, the routine tasks resumed, yet there were odd moments when the numbers 1111 seemed to follow me everywhere—on the clock, receipts, even a random license plate. A mere coincidence, I reasoned, though it made me feel eerie. Why was I suddenly noticing these things?

Amid the bustling day, my mind occasionally drifted back to the charming barista, Noah, and the unexpected sequence of events that unfolded in the small cafe. His smile, the remarks he made lingered in my mind.

Late at night, in the quiet solitude of my apartment, after celebrating with a bottle of wine the success of today’s meeting, my eyes drifted to the borrowed umbrella that stood as a silent reminder of choices waiting to be made. And a silent reminder of its owner.

“I don’t need to go tomorrow,” I reasoned, attempting to dismiss the subtle pull that piqued my curiosity. Other pressing matters needed my attention, responsibilities that demanded my focus. The umbrella, though a courteous obligation, need not be returned with haste.

Yet, beneath the surface of rationality, a quieter voice, the echo of my heart, whispered a different tune. It suggested that sooner rather than later might be the courteous choice. A question popped in my mind, almost accusingly: “Was I trying to avoid him?” The query, sharp and unrelenting, forced me to confront the hesitations that danced within my mind. I was uncertain—did I fear the possibility of a deeper connection, or was it merely a defense mechanism against the unexpected stirrings of my heart?

With a sigh, I acknowledged the delicate balance between desire and duty. The rational mind agreed that sooner was indeed better, a polite acknowledgment of his kindness. Noah didn’t do anything for me to be rude and avoid him.

As soon as I embraced the decision to return the umbrella tomorrow, my eyes, almost involuntarily, flickered towards the clock. 11:11. I frowned, a bit annoyed at the inexplicable repeated numerical alignment. What was this about? However, the responsible side of me, concerned with the early morning looming ahead, chimed in, urging me to hush these distractions and retire for the night.

The morning unfolded beneath the sun’s golden embrace, and I set out on my customary route to work, the weight of impending tasks already settling on my shoulders. Yet, amidst the routine, an odd sense of absence tugged at the edges of my mind. It was only when I had journeyed too far from home to entertain the idea of turning back that the missing piece clicked into place—I had left the umbrella behind.

Caught in the dilemma of whether to proceed with the day’s agenda or address the forgotten accessory, I weighed my options. Should I stick to the familiar rhythm of my routine, consigning the umbrella to the realm of later concerns? Or perhaps, a detour to the small-town cafe, a reassurance to the owner that his umbrella rested safely in my care, might be the more considerate course of action?

The choice between practicality and courtesy sparked a silent debate in my mind. Another distraction from my usual course of life. Would this be a day defined by adherence to the expected, or a day punctuated by a brief interlude of unexpected connection at the cafe? A bit out of character, I opted for the latter.

The doorbell chimed lightly as I entered the small-town cafe, the familiar aroma of freshly brewed coffee enveloping me and relaxing my senses. My gaze naturally sought out the counter, where Noah, with his warm smile and captivating presence, awaited my arrival. As I strolled up to the counter, his eyes lit up with a playful gleam.

“Look who’s back, right on time. Here to bring back my favorite umbrella so soon? Thought I’d never see it again, honestly.” 

I chuckled at his playful remarks and decided to play along.

“Can’t have you losing sleep over your precious umbrella. I aim to be a responsible borrower, you know.”

Noah leaned in with a sly grin.

“Responsible and punctual? You’re raising the bar high up here.”

“Well, you know, I like to keep you on your toes. Responsible, punctual, the whole package.”

Noah’s sly grin persisted as he leaned in a bit closer.

“Looks like I’ve got a high-achiever on my hands.”

I feigned a gasp of realization.

“Oh no! I actually forgot it at home today. What a disaster! I might be ruining my perfect record.”

Noah, still grinning, played along with the theatricality of the moment.

“A tragic twist in our umbrella saga. But no worries, you just gotta swing by again to drop it off. Is that a blessing or a curse? Your call.”

I chuckled and slightly rolled my eyes at this ridiculous conversation. Who just plays along with this foolishness?

“By the way, I never caught your name. It’s crucial information for our advanced umbrella borrowing documents, you know. Seems I have to keep a better track record of you.”

“Ella. Ella’s just fine.”

Noah, with a playful twinkle in his eye, teased, “Excellent. Now the umbrella bureaucracy is in order. I don’t mind having such beautiful borrowers from time to time.”

The compliment brought a subtle blush to my cheeks, but before the exchange could linger, I decided to shift the focus.

“Alright, Mr. Umbrella Lender, what would you recommend today?”

He began suggesting options as our conversation flowed seamlessly from our antics and back into reality. Eventually, I placed my order, and when Noah rang it up, the total came to 11.11.

I furrowed my brow at the oddly repetitive number, crumpling the receipt in mild frustration. I ignored it and got myself seated to enjoy my order. The delightful aroma and flavors were however temporarily eclipsed by a subtle wave of self-reflection. Noah seemed charming, had a gentlemanly demeanor, and the playful banter between us made me feel slightly attracted to him. Could something be between us? I found myself drawn to the idea but the prospect of a potential relationship felt like uncharted territory, a path I wasn’t entirely ready to explore. Not after my convoluted past with men.

Despite that, a rather unexpected and daring notion crossed my mind – a fleeting thought of a small fling, a momentary escape from the routine I created to keep myself safe from heartbreak. The mere idea of our banter continuing in a more private setting made my cheeks flush with a sudden warmth.

In that very moment, it was as if Noah sensed the shift in my thoughts. Our eyes met, and the mischievous glint in his gaze suggested a silent acknowledgment of the unspoken thoughts in my mind. Foolishly, I looked away immediately, embarrassment washing over me. Noah, seemingly amused by my sudden shyness, chuckled softly.

An internal battle ensued as I grappled with the unfamiliar territory of these thoughts. Such thinking wasn’t typical for me, especially with someone randomly encountered in a cafe. The whirlwind of emotions and the tug of attraction felt peculiar, different from other times a man caught my eye.

Attempting to rationalize the situation, I started giving myself reasons why he probably couldn’t care about me in that way. “He’s just being nice.” I thought, and it’s all part of the barista charm. But even as I constructed this mental defense, my eyes stubbornly searched for him in the room, the charisma he effortlessly exuded, and the undeniable chemistry that danced in our interactions.

Amidst the pressing matters of my daily life, Noah managed to carve out an uninvited space in my thoughts. I felt annoyed with the mental intrusion so I shot him an angry stare, half-hoping he’d sense my irritation. He didn’t meet my gaze, leaving me to jest inwardly with him about how he made himself an invited space in my mind. I smiled as I acknowledged the absurdity of my own internal dialogue.

I had to admit, I was facing an unfamiliar blend of frustration and attraction towards Noah. The absence of the typical fluttering sensation one associates with attraction only added to the confusion.

I attempted to break free from the perplexing thoughts by convincing myself that there was no way I could be genuinely attracted to him. After all, attraction should come with butterflies, shouldn’t it? The denial felt like a protective shield from these nonsensical thoughts. My mind yarned to go back to things as they used to before I preoccupied myself so much with the barista.

Despite my best efforts, my gaze continued to drift toward him as I enjoyed my coffee. His occasional smiles, a silent acknowledgment of our shared moments, only intensified the peculiar dance of emotions within me.

Why was he getting under my skin? Why did his presence occupy my thoughts in such a relentless manner?

I was confused by my own behavior and feelings, so I did what I knew best: I turned to the Internet! A somewhat ironic act that felt both adolescent and oddly necessary. What was I doing, seeking advice online about men, out of all things? This only seemed to fuel my irritation, a stark reminder of how Noah seemed to have momentarily unraveled my usual composure.

As I browsed through various blog articles, a part of me that wanted something a bit more from all of this started to rise up to the surface, intensifying my exasperation. The search, however, led me to a term I found both puzzling and laughable: Twin Flame. Supposedly, this elusive concept hinted at finding one’s True Love, the perfect partner.

I thought the very idea seemed ludicrous, especially after the string of failed relationships I had endured. My mind resisted the notion of a Twin Flame, dismissing it as whimsical fantasy. Yet, beneath the layers of skepticism, my heart tugged, whispering that maybe, just maybe, this was the missing piece.

I refused to give in to such romantic notions, so I continued scrolling, determined to remain grounded in reality. Yet, while continuing my search, the number 1111 invited itself into my consciousness, a recurring symbol that tugged at my heart and made my logical mind question. I remembered their odd occurrence and apparently, some people who meet their Twin Flame also started seeing these repeating numbers that have special meaning.

As I wrestled with the absurdity of the concept and the persistent appearance of 1111, a dichotomy emerged within me – the rational mind resisting, and the hopeful heart quietly yearning for something more. Reading more about this, a weariness settled over my mind. What had begun as frustration and irritation gradually morphed into a poignant sadness. I remembered about the once-buried memories of failed relationships from my past, bringing up emotions I had managed to tuck away for years.

I was caught off guard by my feelings. I hadn’t anticipated that this journey into the concept of Twin Flames would stir such deep-seated emotions. The very pain I had tried to bury beneath the busyness of my career had now surfaced, demanding acknowledgement.

An internal plea echoed within me: “I don’t want to face this. Why must you resurface? Just let me be. I am successful and happy with my career alone.”

As my heart grappled with the resurfacing pain, my gaze, almost involuntarily, returned to Noah. I stared, and my confusing internal feelings made me not care about being polite anymore. What did it matter anyway? The past, the pain, and the romantic entanglements were supposed to be distant echoes, yet here they were, demanding attention in the midst of a random cafe, with a random barista that somehow managed to catch my attention. Noah, unknowingly to himself, had become the cause of the unraveling layers of my heart.

As my gaze lingered, the inexplicable pull of my heart intensified. Love, or perhaps a yearning for what he represented in that moment, demanded attention. My heart, in its foolish determination, seemed resolute—insisting on him, or rather, the idea of my One True Love.

The internal battle raged on. My logical mind interjected with reminders of broken hearts and the need for practicality. “Be logical,” it urged, attempting to quell the rising tide of emotions. Yet, against my better judgment, I continued to stare.

Noticing my gaze, Noah, seemingly unfazed, approached me.

“Is there something you need?”

“Yes, you,” my heart commanded inwardly.

Grappling with my conflicting emotions, I replied with a dismissive tone, “Oh no, nothing.”

Noah, ever perceptive, observed, “You seem a bit off today. Everything okay?”

Attempting to lighten the mood, I chuckled and gestured theatrically towards the non-existent umbrella.

“I’m just a bit sad about forgetting the umbrella. I entered into this mysterious contract with it, you know? Now, who knows what kind of debt I’ll have to pay when I bring it back. One should be concerned in entering deals without knowing the full extent of them.”

“Don’t worry; I’m sure we can negotiate the terms,” he answered playfully. “Perhaps over another coffee?”

As I smiled at Noah’s playful suggestion, a mischievous thought crossed my mind.

“Well, considering cafes are your territory, how about we negotiate somewhere else? Maybe a place where I’m in charge this time.”

Noah’s eyebrows raised in mock surprise, and a playful glint danced in his eyes.

“Oh, challenging the barista on his own turf? I like the sound of that. Where do you propose, then?”

“How about the park? A neutral ground where neither of us has the upper hand.”

Noah chuckled at the suggestion, the idea clearly appealing to him.

“The park it is then.”

Did I just ask him on a date? Since when have I become so daring in speaking with men? These new feelings, reading about Twin Flames, the taunting 1111, made me act out of my well constructed character. But, to my surprise, I didn’t care that much. I was actually enjoying whatever this is between me and Noah. As long as I don’t make unnecessary expectations of myself or him, this can be a nice experience for both of us.

After the banter about the umbrella and a bit more playful conversation, Noah excused himself, leaving me to finish my coffee with a lingering smile. I lingered a bit longer but soon left as well since I still had work to go to.

– Fin for now –

Written by Alexandra Benzar

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