Welcome to another week of IndieInk.org Writer's Challenge II. The folks at IndieInk.org are always welcome to new people joining the fun. You can sign up to do it just once, or you can keep coming back week after week - no pressure, no huge commitment. If you feel like giving it a whirl, click the link here. Pairings are randomly generated, but you never know, you just might be responsible for giving me my next prompt!
This week my prompt comes from Evie, who writes here. The prompt is, "Go to a local watering hole or cafe, pick someone at random, watch them for 2 or 3 minutes and write about their "secret life." What you see isn't always what is under the surface..."
Here we go...
I watched him watching her. He didn't know. Neither did she.
She didn't know that he'd been leaving for work an hour early every day this month, driving out of his way, just to stop in and order coffee from her. He was impressed with her ready smile, her energy, her ability to not just remember her regular customers' coffee orders, but their names too. Every morning she greeted him cheerfully, "Good morning, Mark. Triple shot latté?" He always answered back, "Mornin', Kate. You got it!"
He really couldn't afford the morning coffee - he still had student loans to pay off, his new apartment had cost him more than he'd anticipated, and moving expenses had taken up most of his savings, not to mention the added expense of the extra gas needed for his daily drive to the coffee shop. The new job was good, but he could have done better. Still, he'd taken it on a long shot, and decided to make do on the limited budget. With any luck, it would pay off in the long run.
Pretending to yawn and stretch, he looked around the coffee shop, casually glancing at her. It wouldn't do to stare. He adjusted his tie, one of ten that he'd purchased for a dollar at Value Village, against his clean, pressed white shirt. He sipped at the latté and hit the refresh button on his email. He should have said something to her weeks ago, but having been shuttled around from one foster parent to another during his childhood had given him a profound fear of rejection. So, he just sat every morning, checking emails on his laptop, and stealing glances at her whenever he got the chance.
She was beautiful, with her almond-shaped hazel colored eyes, light freckles and long, thick chestnut hair. He watched her move with the grace of a ballerina as she lined up coffee cups, steamed milk, and poured espresso shots. He knew the sound of her voice now, heard her tease a co-worker about spilling an entire sack of beans on the floor, her light laughter like music.
He really needed to just talk to her. He needed to tell her what was on his mind. Really, what was the worst that could happen? Well, the worst was that she'd tell him to go to hell. The worst was that she'd tell him to never come here again. That would be crushingly painful. Then again, he'd dealt with that kind of heartache before and survived it, right? Right. He ran a hand through hair too short to need smoothing. With a sweaty palm he ironed out an invisible wrinkle on his khakis.
He decided he'd had enough. Enough torture. Enough wondering. Enough acting like some skeevy perv of a stalker. He closed the laptop and gulped down the last swallow of his latté. He stood and adjusted his tie one more time, then ran his fingers through his hair again. He slowly moved toward the counter, as though each step was carefully considered.
She was scribbling something on a notepad, but looked up as he approached. She smiled at him. "Hey, Mark! Don't tell me you're back for seconds... that stuff will have you dancing the jitterbug all day!"
He looked down at the empty cup in his hand, then back at her. "No.. uh... no. I just. It's just that... I was, I mean... I wanted to talk to you for a minute."
She stood straight, hands in her apron pockets. Clearly he wasn't the first guy to approach her, to think that her coffee making skills and quick smile were the answers to his dreams. She said, "Oh. Okay. Well then, shoot. What's on your mind?"
He cleared his throat, trying to buy time. "Well, Kate. I. Um...." He sighed in exasperation. "Oh hell... Kate... I think you're my little sister."