She sits in the corner booth of a busy French bakery. The giant picture window behind her lets in the cloud-filtered light of an early afternoon while families bustle outside shopping, laughing, walking in the nearly Spring weekend. Nestled into the corner ignoring the cafe au lait set on the table in front of her, she stares into the pages of classic prose and soaks in the imagery of time past. A pile of books claim her spot in the corner as couples enjoying their meals and meetings with important clientele cycle around her. An older couple to her right discuss the weather and gossip about the extended family between bites of brie sandwiches and nicoise salad and the old friends to her left chat with the ease of knowing each other before gray hair and accessories took over their neatly arranged styles. A family, perhaps out for the first time with their small baby girl wrapped up in a pink blanket, try to juggle sandwiches and iced teas as they pass the little one back and forth attempting not to wake her and an older woman wearing a bright red skirt and turquoise jewels sits alone with soups and salads enough to serve two or three. She makes her excuses as if everyone were looking to her to explain “It is way more than I expected!” The couples and friends move on to the next plan and new conversations while others find their way to the back of the cafe.
Still, she sits. She reads. She ignores her coffee.
He takes his short break from the kitchen down the street to walk in the almost sunlight and detach from the stress, the mess, the pressure of working too hard for no recognition. He wonders along the shops and dodges the children running and skipping as they take over the sidewalk to head into the popular french bakery where he can grab a coffee and bite to eat before the few free minutes are over. After staring through the glass at neatly arranged pastries, breads, desserts and sandwiches he orders a black house coffee in a to-go cup. He grabs the hot drink and pays the woman, mindful of the long line forming behind him and the waning time.
He glances out of the giant picture windows to see the clouds starting to settle in and fears the rain will hit before he can make it down the street and into the back doors of his own busy restaurant. The line behind him is filling with those wanting the warmth of lavish desserts and good company in the sight of the darkening sky.
His glance back towards the front door stops at a pile of books in the dark corner booth.
She is nestled there with a smile that plays across her face as she looks towards the words on the page. Her arms are wrapped around one knee, pulled up onto the seat with her as she leans into the story not noticing those around her.
Memories of her in the sun with laughter and stories to tell dance in his mind. The feel of her hand in his, the perfection of her pulled in close as they walk and the anticipation of what could be come back. He notices that he is staring at her as others are trying find their way around him, running in from a downpour and soaking through, slopping their wet shoes on the tile and shaking their newspapers and bags out as the heat of the cafe calls them inside. Someone runs into him and he lurches forward, instinctively reaching up to hold the lid on his coffee…