“Dammit!” she yelled, pushing her chair out from under her with her bum. She reached across the small round table to retrieve her industrial-sized paper cup. After burning her tongue on the first sip, she had set it a little too close to the edge to cool off and now its contents and its cheap plastic lid were in a pool spreading ever so quickly to a black-haired man’s left foot. How he didn’t notice the commotion when everyone else in the bookstore coffee spot flipped around to share squinted eye stares was a mystery.
“Excuse me? Sir?” she yelled toward him while exchanging knowing looks with the guy behind the counter. “Hello?”
He looked up from his newspaper crossword puzzle and flashed her the same glare that everyone else had offered a few moments ago.
“Yes?” His deep blue eyes focused on hers, which were slightly hidden by rectangular black frames. He put his pen down, exchanging it for his own industrial-sized cup and sipped.
“Just some hot tea inching toward your foot there,” she said while pointing to the floor. He yanked back his foot, and the guy from behind the counter arrived with a mop just in time. The leather loafers were safe.
“That was close,” he said and put down his cup, still glaring. Then he smirked, grabbed his pen, and scribbled something on the puzzle without looking at her.
“Yeah, sorry,” she said and sat back down at her table, wishing for another glance at those blue eyes and a few more words of his Irish accent.
She wondered how she didn’t notice him when he came in, but apparently she had been too absorbed in her research on Academy Award history. Wasn’t the most exciting assignment, but playing around with the winners’ names would be later. She just needed to make sure all the dates were right.
She rearranged her coat on the back of the chair, loosing a grip on her green silk scarf. As she secured it under the collar of her coat, she glanced up at the counter guy; he responded by reaching for an Earl Grey tea bag. Then she settled back, crossed her arms, and focused on Crossword Guy.
He must’ve felt the attention because he looked up straight at her.
She shot her head down, covered her forehead with her hand, and flipped open the book where her pen had kept her place. She tried to focus on the words so she could continue picking and choosing, but she kept getting sidetracked by stories of illicit Hollywood romances along the way. And by stolen glances of the dry-loafered Irish guy a few feet away.
She turned around and scanned the area behind her. Nothing much happening there. She tried to push her curly brown hair behind her ears, but it wouldn’t cooperate. Then she turned back around and again exchanged an eye-to-eye moment with Crossword Guy. Instead of looking away, she let her eyes travel past him as she looked toward the counter, and, wait, did Crossword Guy just look down quickly? Huh.
She tapped her pen lightly on her notebook while reading about “Wallace and Gromit,” but stopped when she heard an “ahem.”
“Your tea,” said the counter guy.
“Thanks,” she said, and could’ve sworn that Crossword Guy was staring through the space between the counter guy’s arm and body.
She pulled the book onto her lap and placed her tea in the center of the table. With her eyes looking so far down at the book, she figured, she wouldn’t be so tempted to stray.
In fact, she didn’t even look up to grab her cup while she took off the lid. Still looking at the book, she brought the cup to her lips but stopped short. The steam fogged her glasses, reminding her just how hot the tea inside really was. She put the cup back down, still without looking. She wasn’t about to burn her tongue again.
“Excuse me?” Crossword Guy said, foiling her plan to not look at him.
“Yes?” He was blurry through the moisture, but she acted like his image was crisp.
“You don’t happen to know an 10 letter word starting with G for ‘the place to be’ do you?” he asked.
“Oh,” she said feeling a little deflated that this was the reason behind the repeated glances. “I mean, of course. It’s ‘Green Acres,’ an old television show.” Her mind’s capacity for useless trivia had only been expanded by her job.
“Brilliant!” he said, writing furiously. “Finished!” He shoved the puzzle back into its newspaper and tucked everything into his shoulder bag. He got up, slung his coat over his arm, pushed his chair toward the table, and smiled as he walked by.
Then he stopped at the exit of the coffee area a few feet behind her and turned around.
“Same time, same place next Sunday then?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said looking straight ahead. Then she turned around to meet his eyes with hers and added, “You bring the puzzle.”
Writing crossword puzzles for a living has some perks after all, she thought as she sipped her tea, which was now the perfect temperature.
[tags]sunday scribblings, puzzles, crossword puzzles, writing fiction, short stories [/tags]