May 08

Short Story: Books and Coffee

A single college student sits with her legs crossed typing tentatively on her computer. The small coffee shop table is just big enough to hold her laptop, two opened notebooks, and a brown ceramic coffee mug. The chair across from her lies vacant, just the way it always has been. Silvia, the owner of this 24-hour café, walks leisurely to her only customer. She doesn’t even bother asking Arya if she wants more coffee; she just pours some into her mug. Arya looks up for a moment to see the clock on the far wall strike 9 p.m. Scanning the room, she realizes for the first time that she’s the only one there. Arya glances out the window to her left into the city street. The snow is falling down gently and sticking to the ground. Her eyes scan over the area across the desolate road. The few streetlamps illuminate the night just enough for Arya to make out some of the nearby businesses. She smiles looking at Lyon’s Library, a place she ventures often. Then she sees Take Note Music Store and mentally takes note to go there sometime soon. Her line of sight diminishes as the snow falls more heavily. Silvia hums to the soft music, drawing Arya’s attention back inside the warm café. Shrugging her jacket off, Arya feels more comfortable with just her grey tank top and black leggings. With a sigh, Arya goes back to typing an assignment for her writing class.
**********
                Dorian walks into the library and smiles. He takes his time wandering the bookshelves with no particular section in mind. After a few minutes, he notices he’s alone in the library other than the librarian, Lyon. Lyon is an older gentleman who always wears a suit. Today, Dorian stands there admiring his navy-blue suit with a blue stripped tie. As if sensing Dorians attention, Lyon looks up from reading his book.
“Anything in particular you’re looking for, Dorian?” Lyon says while finding a scrap piece of paper and using it as a bookmark.
“No, nothing in particular. I just needed to get out of my dorm and be around books,” Dorian replies, knowing the librarian would understand.
“Ah, is the college life getting you down? I remember those days. Books were always my savior,” he pauses for a moment then adds, “well that and Silvia of course.”
                Dorian thought about the sweet café owner whom he gets his coffee from every morning. “How did you two meet?”
“We met a year after she graduated college. I was working in this library for the previous owner and she was working in the café. I used to go in there every day before I came here. It didn’t take us long to fall in love. We both enjoy the simple things in life, like books and coffee,” Lyon smiles, no doubt thinking back to his youth.
                “Whenever I hear about you and Silvia, I can’t help but think you two live a fairytale. I want a love like that. But I can’t even make a friend, let alone a girlfriend. You have any advice?” Dorian sighs.
                Lyon thinks for a moment then says, “Nothing you haven’t probably heard from Silvia I’m afraid. Just be yourself, that’s all you can do.”
                “Thank you,” Dorian answers. Sensing that Lyon wants to get back to his book, Dorian turns and makes his way to the library door. He takes a final glace towards the librarian, thinking about his words. Opening the door, he steps into the snowy night.
                Dorian is about to head back to his dorm when he remembers Silvia’s words from this morning. "Here’s your coffee. You know, you should really stop by at night. I can tell you are not one for crowds and at night there are usually very few people. Just something to consider if you find yourself out and about at night."
**********
                An hour of tentative work and a drained mug later, Arya stares at a page only three quarters full, nowhere near the 10 pages it needs to be. She takes a deep breath and stretches, raising her arms as high as they will go. Looking back at the clock, it reads 10 p.m. Any sense of hope falls from her face, leaving behind a frown in its wake.
                Silvia, noticing Arya’s sinking expression offers, “Would you like a donut? You look like you could use something to eat.”
Grabbing her mug, Arya uncrosses her legs and stands up feeling every muscle ache from sitting for so long. She walks over to the bar-like high table that Silvia is leaning on.
                “Blueberry glazed, please,” she says while sitting on one of the stools and gently placing her mug on the table. She traces the wood grains with her left index finger until a donut is placed directly in front of her. Looking up, she sees Silvia pouring more coffee into her mug. “Thanks. I don’t know what I’d do without you or your amazing coffee.”
                “No problem,” she smiles, “By the way, I’m here if you need any help with anything. That paper seems to have you frustrated.”
                “Yeah, no kidding. I can’t seem to find the right words,” Arya mutters before taking a bite of her donut.
                Before Silvia responds, they hear a bell ring. On instinct, they look at the door to see who walks in. Silvia smirks and pours a new cup of coffee, placing it directly next to Arya.
                “Here you are, Dorian. Black coffee, on the house tonight,” Silvia declares, then turns to Arya who was still gazing at Dorian's strong jawline. “That goes for you too, coffee and donut are on me tonight.”
                Arya snaps out of her trance and mumbles a quick “thanks.” She looks down and continues to eat her donut. Dorian, wearing blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt, reaches for his mug and replies to the owner who’s already walking away, “Thank you, Silvia.”
                Arya could feel her cheeks blush at the awkwardness that fills the air between the two strangers. She finishes her donut and takes a swig from her mug before saying, “Hey, Dorian, was it? I feel like there is something Silvia is not telling us.”
                “What makes you think that?” Dorian replies in a very sarcastic tone, making both of them laugh. “So, what’s your name? And what brings you to this fine establishment on this beautiful snowy night?”
                Smirking, Arya turns to look at Dorian, taking a moment to admire how perfect his glasses frame his face. “I’m Arya. And this ‘fine establishment’ is my go-to spot for writing and good coffee.” Placing her hands in her lap, she begins to play with the hair tie around her left wrist. A nervous tick that always happens when she talks to new people.
                “Arya. That’s a nice name. By any chance were you named after the Arya in 'The Inheritance Cycle'?” Dorian ventures with a bit of hope in his eyes, trying not to sound too nerdy.
                “Oh my god, yes! You are the first person that I’ve met who actually knew my namesake. That must make you a bookworm like me, right?” Arya blurts out with a sudden burst of energy.
                Surprise crosses Dorian’s face that quickly turns to happiness. “Definitely! I love all things books! My name is book-related too. Can you guess?” Dorian questions as he leans on the table, relaxing his muscles. His smile widens when he sees Arya’s face scrunch up, thinking hard about his name.
                Suddenly, her eyes light up and she grins. “'Throne Of Glass Series'! Dorian Havilliard, right? Please let that be right. That is such a good namesake!” Arya nearly shouts, loving this topic of conversation.
                “Yep, I guess that means both our parents loved young adult fantasy series.” He chuckles. Both of them reach for their coffee and take a drink. Then Dorian says, “So, what are you writing about over there?” motioning to her abandoned laptop siting at the table a few feet away from them.
                “Oh, I’m trying to write a short story for my writing class, but I can’t seem to come up with anything besides the first scene. I just don’t know were to go from there. It’s really frustrating.” Arya’s smile falls looking over at the clock. Standing up and grabbing her mug she walks back over to the table with her belongings. “I should really get back to work, I’ve taken too long of a break.”
                Dorian follows and takes the seat across from her while explaining, “Maybe I can help. Or at least be someone you can bounce ideas off of.” Then he adds, as if remembering they are still strangers, “If you want me to. I don’t mean to intrude.”
                Arya smiles before venting, “So I want to write a thriller or ghost story. But I’ve never really done that before, I just have a really good idea that I want to expand. The first scene I have is about gathering the main characters in the haunted location. In this case, I picked five vastly different high schoolers that get locked inside their school. It’s kind of like a 'Breakfast Club' type of thing.”
                Dorian nods and says, “Ok, that’s a cool concept. The first thing that comes to my mind is they are trying to get out but something is keeping them in. Can I read what you have so far?”
                Arya hesitates before she turns her laptop around so Dorian can read it. Biting her lip, she looks around the room, not wanting to see his reaction. She admires the rustic vibe of the café design. The tables aligned branching off in both directions of the door. Farther in is the main counter that has several stools on the customer side. After what feels like forever, Dorian turns her laptop back around.
                “I like what you have so far. Have you considered making this more of like an escape room where whatever is keeping them in has them solve puzzles and riddles? I feel like you’ve set up your characters to be very smart and inventive,” Dorian ponders out loud.
                “Huh, I’ve never thought about that. Oh, maybe the entity that is keeping them in communicates through writing on the whiteboards! And that’s how they get the riddles…” Arya trails off as she begins to type furiously on her computer.
                “Glad I could help,” Dorian smiles.
                Arya looks up for a moment to smile back at him then goes back to getting all her thoughts on the page. For the next few hours, the two of them stay just like that. Sitting at the table, drinking coffee, and talking. Sometimes about Arya’s paper and sometimes about each other. The night ends with them leaving the café around 1 a.m. Both with a new number in their phones.