You might actually be surprised if you knew how many people come into this coffee shop and order plain black coffee. In fact, I make it a game with myself to try an guess what each customer will order before they even start talking. I get it nearly right most of the time, which in my mind is something to be proud of.
You had me confused though, when you first came in. I completely had you pinned for a London Fog, or perhaps some other sort of milk-infused tea, but you smiled very sweetly and ordered a medium black coffee. I was surprised, and said so, and that made you laugh. You took the cup that I handed you, sat down at a corner chair, and started to read. But you intrigued me, so since it was slow that day, I watched you. You sipped the coffee at regular intervals, balancing the book on the edge of the chair’s arm to turn the pages, but I could see that the corners of your mouth screwed up a little at every sip.
You came back every days. In fact, you still do, and that first time was over six months ago. You must really like this place, and I certainly don’t mind the regularity. At least once a week you order that same black coffee, sometimes choosing a slightly different blend. Other times you choose something from the menu, or ask me for a recommendation.
I learned your name – Jacqueline – and then learned how to spell it. That process gave us more than a few laughs. I learned the general pattern to your orders, but it wasn’t easy, and even now you like to choose something at random just to throw me off. I guess you think its amusing that I try to memorize people’s patterns.
There was the one time when you didn’t come in for two whole weeks, and I got a little concerned. I mean, I’m just the barista at the local coffee shop and I don’t even know your last name, so its not like I have any business being concerned, but I still was. When you walked in on a Monday morning after the break, you seemed a little off kilter, and even though I tried to keep my mouth shut, I just couldn’t resist asking where you had disappeared to.
The answer startled me.