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.