The café door greets me with a cheerful ding! as I push it open. She’s the first thing I notice when I walk in. I pause for a moment, unprepared for her presence. She’s sitting by herself at a table next to the window, the sun spilling onto the textbook resting in her lap.
I pull myself out of distraction and find a place in line. There are a handful of people in front of me and only one person working behind the counter. I steal another look at her while I wait.
Wavy strands of auburn hair escape her messy bun. Messy, but still perfect. She reaches out sweater-sleeve covered hand to grab her mug and takes a sip, glasses sliding down the bridge of her nose as she does so. Her index finger repositions her glasses in one fluid movement so that they sit directly in front of her brown eyes. They’re like gingerbread–initially spicy and demanding your attention, but then unraveling into layers of secrets and unsaid feelings that maybe one day, I’ll be lucky enough to figure out.
“Next!” the barista calls out.
How long was I staring at her?
Did anyone notice?
I order a cappuccino, hand the barista my money, and give him my name for the order.
“It’ll be ready in a few minutes,” the barista says with a smile.
In the meantime, I take a seat at a table near hers, hoping she might notice me. I glance at her, but she’s engrossed in her reading. A sigh escapes my mouth as I pull out my biology notebook, intending to study for the upcoming final.
I mindlessly flip through pages of notes covering photosynthesis and mitosis. It takes me a bit to realize that my mind is wandering, wandering back to the first day of the semester when her and I were assigned as lab partners.
Right from the start, I could tell she was different from all the other girls. She emanated kindness, but a certain aura of mystery followed her around. For the first few days, she was quiet; we both were. But it wasn’t long before I got to know her bubbly laugh of hers.
My thoughts are interrupted by a voice. Her voice. I turn in my chair to face her.
“Hey, fancy seeing you here,” I remark, acting surprised.
“Back atcha,” she giggles. “I was just studying for finals.”
“Oh yeah? What class?” she asks.
“Biology,” I answer.
“Oh man, I heard that final was hell,” she laughs again. It’s so cute.
“We should study together sometime,” she says suddenly. I’m completely caught off guard.
“Ye-ye-yeah,” I stutter, trying to mask my excitement.
“I actually have to get home now, but want to meet here tomorrow?” she asks.
“So it’s a date,” she confirms. She looks directly at me. My heart flutters. I hold her gaze as her eyelashes bat over her gingerbread eyes. All too quickly, she flashes a smile and walks away. She glances back at me from over her shoulder before pushing the door open and stepping outside.
“So it’s a date.”
Her words play over and over in my mind.
“I have a cappuccino for Katie!” the barista calls.
My drink is ready.