It’s more the habit that takes me to the café the next morning, I don’t even need the Wifi today. But there’s not much else to do and maybe I can catch Anna on Skype. My project is stagnating until I can get hold of Sam and so far there is no text, no call, no email. Nothing.
“Hey,” I greet Miho, trudge to the counter to take the cup of coffee she is brewing for me.
“Why the long face?”
I grunt, sip my coffee and slide onto a seat at the counter. “Small towns suck.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
The sound of my spoon stirring in the cup buys me some time to get my thoughts in order.
“You know why I always wanted to leave? Because everyone always got their nose in your business. You can’t tell anything to anyone without it coming back to bite your ass.”
She raises her eyebrow at me, leans over the counter with a grin.
“And what, pray tell, came to bite your derrière? Excuse my French.” She snickers, proud of her joke.
“That one was really bad,” I let her know, ignore the actual question in favor of keeping things light. “Was Jared already here today?” I say his name in a singsong voice, just to mess with Miho who promptly curls up her lips in a pout.
“No, he wasn’t. And I would be surprised if he came again after you tried to poison him with what you dare calling ‘coffee’ yesterday.”
“Hey, I know how to drink it, I don’t have to know how to make it. At least not with this abomination you call a coffee machine.”
We banter back and forth until the bell signals the arrival of a customer. To both our disappointment it’s not Jared, but some elderly lady ordering some cake for her birthday party next week. After that the mood has changed, sobered, so I decide to boot up my laptop and check my mails. Still no word from Sam.
Looks like I have to bite the bullet and ask Anna to contact Sam about the texts so we can get on with it. As if my life wasn’t hard enough already.
I’m still struggling with how to tell Anna when the bell chimes again.
I know that voice and glance towards the counter to see the same transaction like the last few days. Jared takes his coffee, Miho takes the money and he’s off. Before he can reach the door though he stops, sips from his coffee as if to make sure it’s good and nods. I would feel offended if he wasn’t right. Miho snickers and from my place I can see Jared grinning before he leaves for real this time.
Over an hour later and I still haven’t written the mail to Anna. How to tell her that I can’t get hold of Sam anymore? We are supposed to be lovers after all, at least that’s what our friends think. What I liked to think for a ridiculously happy time.
I groan, push those thoughts aside and myself up from my chair.
“I need a break,” I loudly announce, not that anyone but Miho can hear it.
“You want some cake? Or a cookie?”
“Don’t tempt me, coffee enchantress.” I feign a heroic pose but shuffle towards the counter anyway. “What have you got?”
“Apple pie, chocolate tart, vanilla salt cream pie. And lemon meringue.”
I mentally check the contents of my wallet. Usually I don’t spend money on needless things that I can get at home for less. Especially since I don’t even have a job.
“That meringue looks incredible,” I admit and with that my decision is made.
The first bite takes me right to dessert heaven, it’s sweet and sour, soft and a bit chewy.
“Wow, were did you get this?” It’s rude to talk with your mouth full but I’m so in love with this flavor, I don’t care for manners.
“I made it,” Miho casually answers and gets a slice for herself. “I make all my cakes. That way I can be sure they are exactly how I want them to be.”
“Control freak baker, huh? You won’t hear me complaining.”
We eat in comfortable silence and it’s hard to believe that we only started talking three days ago.
“So, it’s Friday today. Any plans for the weekend?” Miho keeps poking at her cake and I have to think about her question.
“Not really. Mom will have to work and I will need Wifi. Are you open all week?”
“No, I’m off on Sundays. You will have to find another place to leech of the Wifi there.” She grins and finishes her cake, but looks past me when the door opens again.
“Wow, that’s the busiest I saw this place so far,” I mutter but freeze when I turn to look at the customer.
Two days in a row? Really? I have managed to avoid Ben for years now, but it’s like I’m cursed. I can’t just pretend not to see him, not after we had eye contact.
“Benny… wow, what are you doing here?”
He waves at Miho who looks back and forth between us and simply vanishes into the backroom.
“Mads wants some cake from here for the weekend. Figured I could pick it up for her.”
In his baseball jacket he looks like back in High School, leans on the counter like he has always leaned on the counter in the cafeteria. A strange déjà vu.
Miho comes back with a box in her hands, slides it over the counter.
“Here you are, blueberry cheesecake. Can I get you anything else?”
“Nah, that’s all. Thanks, Fujiwara, see you next Friday, I guess.” He flashes her a bright smile and hands her a 20 dollar bill, pats my upper arm.
“Jayjay, if you got time tomorrow, how about you join us for dinner again? Dad was so happy to see you last night and Mads kept asking me stuff about you. She wouldn’t shut up.” He chuckles, his hand lingers on my arm and my face explodes in a bright blush. One that doesn’t go unnoticed my Miho.
“I was really surprised to see her there, but I’m happy that you are happy. Together.” As if my red cheeks aren’t telltale sign enough, my voice is shaking, too.
“Yeah, she’s really great. Can’t believe I never noticed her in school.” He shrugs, his hand falls away from my arm and I can breathe again.
“Let’s be honest, you were pretty occupied with baseball.” I try to smile but my face doesn’t listen to my brain.
Miho’s snorted chuckle sounds like a ‘Ha!’ and I turn towards her, puzzled by the bitterness in her voice.
“Well, I still am,” Ben points out. “But honestly, have dinner with us tomorrow. There will be cake for dessert.” The box dances under my nose up and down.
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” My lacking enthusiasm doesn’t seem to register with him, satisfied he got the answer he wanted he nods and pulls the cake box back.
“Great. Dad and Mads don’t have much to talk about so I hope you will liven things up a bit. See you at 8, okay?” He waves and rushes out, leaves me feeling hung-over.
“So, you had dinner with the mayor and his family last night? Is that related to your ass being bitten by something you said to an earlier time?”
Miho’s smug tone rubs salt into the wound and I slump down on the counter, my forehead connects with the wooden surface with a loud thud.
“One of my former best friends dates my – former best friend,” I mutter.
“Best friend, my ass. Ben Rosenfeldt might be a lot but he never was any girl’s ‘friend’. The question is, did you bang him or did you only dream of banging him?”
Is there a use in denying? At this point I’m sure there’s not, so I admit it was the latter.
“But that was five years ago, I’m totally over him.”
“Sure, keep telling yourself that and maybe your face will get the memo next time and not erupt into 5o shades of red when he touches you.” She opens the register and puts the money away, doesn’t even pay attention to my frantic attempts of denying.
“It’s not like that anymore!”
Her annoyed sigh sounds as if she’s scolding a child for the umpteenth time about the same argument.
“Oh please! The problem with High School crushes is that you can’t get over them that easily. They have burned themselves deeply into your hormonal and emotional history and your body is unable to separate the guy from your physical response. Or in short: if he made your knees weak and panties wet with 16, he will also do so with 26 and probably even with 36. No idea how it is once menopause shreds the whole hormonal balance.”
My eyebrows shoot up, my jaw drops. “Wow, that is – a wild hypothesis. Any back up data for that?”
“Only rational thinking and the experiences of hundreds and thousands of women before us,” Miho lets me know and clears away my plate and cup. “But on the bright side, now you know what you will do this weekend.”