As usual, the coffee served at the corner cafe tasted like hundred year old ass, so bitter it took your breath away, and no amount of sugar or cream could ever conceal it, but I deftly took out eleven of the sugar packets from the holder at my tiny table in the far corner anyway. I don't have to ask Christina, the waitress, to bring me fifteen cream packets along with my cup of Morning Shit, as I affectionately began to call it, anymore - the were lined up beside the overstuffed sugar holder every morning.
I stirred my eleven packets of sugar and poured nine of the fifteen packets of cream before I took a cautious look outside the window. There were relatively few people walking around at this ridiculous hour, and when I didn't spot him, I took out my book from my tote bag under the table and began to read in the early (too freaking early) morning sunshine.
I think I come here out of sheer habit now - it's hardwired into my morning routine thanks to Jake. I'm not a morning person at all - ever. Even now, after nearly four months of coming to this godforsaken coffee shop, I still can't open my eyes all the way until after my third cup of Morning Shit. And I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for Jake.
I used to wake up at a more decent hour than this. To be specific, I used to wake up approximately ten minutes before class started, throw on my university's sweatshirt (the only school spirit I have) and a pair of jeans and then I'm out the door. That was what I call the Golden Mornings.
But Jake started asking me if I wanted to go out for coffee a little bit before school and I have this inexplicable lack of the ability to tell him no, and so he brought me here, to the Morning Shit Hole. He informs me that he likes the "quirky" taste of the coffee here and that's why he picked this pathetic place, but I know better. He can't afford Starbucks now that his friends stopped allowing him to mooch off them.
That one morning turned into a couple mornings a week, which turned into several mornings a month, which now became every single morning. And every single morning he's late, by about ten or twenty minutes, give or take how many times he slammed the snooze button.
Why I don't just do the same and get an extra fifteen minutes of sleep, I don't know. But every morning now I drag myself out of bed an hour and a half before class starts so that Jake and I can have "bonding time".
I sighed irritably and glanced outside the window again. No sign of Jake. That was fine with me. I had reached a good part in my book.
I had cleverly disguised the paper covering of the hardback book by trading it with one from a Stephan King novel, but I was still a little nervous, and my ears were keen to hear the bell tinkling everytime the door opened, ready to stuff it back into my tote bag faster than the Flash. There was nothing especially shameful about the Nanny Diaries, but it wasn't a book that a woman with my reputation would ever be caught dead reading and if Jake did . . . well let's say I would rather bathe everyday in a tub full of Morning Shit.
The switching of the book covers was a rather brilliant move, I thought, and it was a pity that I didn't think it up. It was, in fact, the brain child Christina the Waitress, who was fully aware of my addiction to romance novels. Not the kind with titles such as A Rouge's Seduction, which feature half naked men on the covers, phrases such as "devilishly handsome" and "searing kisses of liquid fire" and sex scenes in ever other chapter. And I stay the hell away from The Notebook (though I did read A Walk to Remember). But I can't stop myself when I see a light, funny romance, and my fingers snatch off the shelf almost of their own accord.
I read them with fake book covers because one morning Jake was unexpectedly early. I didn't even hear him come in, or even notice him sitting down in the chair in front of me.
He leaned in really close before asking me very loudly. "Whatcha readin'?"
I jerked backwards so far that I slammed my head into the wall behind me.
"Jake!" I rapsed, gaping for air. Without even marking my place, I threw the book down under my chair. "Shit. You scared the shit out of me."
Jake leaned back into his chair and laughed. "Was that a good book?" he asked, a twinkle in his eye. "You didn't even notice me come in."
I glared at him. "It was nothing. Just something for English."
His eyebrows shot up. "English? Really? What novel?"
I sped frantically through all my memories of Wishbone for a novel. "The Three Musketeers!" I crowed, triumphantly.
"Uh huh," Jake said, unconvinced. "That's strange because you're taking American Lit this year."
Shit. I forgot that he knew my schedule from snapping it up the first day of school and comparing it to his to find out when we could both have lunch.
"It's, um, an extra credit assignment," I said lamely, my face flushed from the fear that he would find out.
Jake shrugged, not entirely satisfied, but he didn't push it. "To compare Dumas with an American Author right?" he suggested wickedly.
I took the bait and nodded. "Exactly."
After he finally got up and left, I slumped onto the table in relief. Oh my freaking God, that was close. Christina was watching me with amused and knowing eyes and then suggested that I put a fake cover on what I was reading in case I'm ever surprised like that again.
Which I was determined to not be. Good God, if Jake ever found out he'd never let me hear the end of it. He'd probably think it was pathetic and lose respect for me. Hell, I'd lose respect for me if I ever found out the biggest tomboy I knew owned three bookshelves full of girly romance novels.. And I don't know how I'd handle being laughed at or criticized by Jake. I don't think I'd take it very well.
But the Nanny Diaries proved to be more suspenseful that I had anticipated, and soon I was raptured, so raptured that once again, I didn't hear the tinkling bell on the door. I didn't notice, even, that someone had come up behind me and was reading over my shoulder.
" . . .who's Harvard Hottie?"
I admit it, though not proudly, I screamed.
"Jake!" I shouted, horrified. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"
He ignored the question, and instead, snatched the book from me. "Stephan King? That's odd, the title page says the Nanny Diaries.
I froze, horror-struck. Shit. Shit shit shit. I couldn't talk my way out of this one - I was totally screwed.
Jake smirked knowingly. "Is this another extra credit book?"
"What? No! It's, um, It's well . . ." I struggled for words, but could not find them.
Jake chuckled softly. "There's no need to freak on me. You like chick lit, so what? It's cute."
Cute. The word both enthralled and horrified me, and I could feel a small blush blooming on my cheeks. "I'm not cute," I hissed, attempting to cover up my moment of girliness by trying to be a badass. "Don't insult me."
"Would endearing be the preferable terminology?" Jake asked as he lazily rifled through the pages of my book. He flipped over to the last page and read the ending - something he does with every book.
"I would prefer if you forgot you ever saw this in the first place!" I said angrily, snatching the book away from him.
Jake remained calm in the heat of my tirade. I had never been able to intimidate him. "Do you want me to forget the three bookshelves full of chick lit I saw in your apartment a few weeks ago as well?"
My eyes widened in total humiliation,and I buried my head in my arms to prevent Jake from seeing my cheeks as red as the sunset.
"Awww. Is little Emmy embarrassed?"
"I hate you," I grumbled. "And don't call me that."
Jake laughed again, and patted the top of my head. "No worries. Your secret's safe with me."
"That doesn't make me feel better," I muttered.
I heard Jake sigh. "Fine. You want some collateral?
I nodded, head still buried.
"My favorite movie is not, as I have led the public to believe, Fight Club," Jake said. He hesitated. "But, instead . . .The Sound of Music."
I jerked my head out of my arms to give him a look of blatant disbelief.
"The Sound of Music," I said flatly.
Jake nodded. "Can sing every word."
Against my will, I began to snicker as I pictured Jake spinning around in font of the campus, belting out, "The hills are alive!"
"See," said Jake, patting my shoulder. "You shouldn't be so embarrassed. Everyone has their guilty pleasures."
The relief that Jake was taking this so well, that he wasn't laughing in my face, or making fun of me, was overwhelming. I couldn't think of anything to say as he reached over and took a sip out of my cup of coffee.
"This coffee tastes like shit," he said.
I rolled my eyes. "You just figured that out?"
Jake cocked his head to the side and gave me a probing look. I began to feel self conscious. Did I have something on my face?
"What," I said wearily.
"The coffee tastes like shit," he stated, and he held one finger up. "You could totally afford the Starbucks on the corner beside campus." He put up another finger. "You have to get up extra early to come here, even though you hate that. And you sit around and wait for me because even though I told you to come here at seven every morning, I'm the one who's always late." Two more fingers shot up.
"Okay . . ." I said slowly. "Your point?"
"Why do you bother coming here every morning? he asked bluntly. "Why aren't you like, 'Screw you Jake, I'm taking my ass to Starbucks and getting an extra hour of sleep every morning."
For you, I thought, but I wouldn't dare ever tell him that. I was finding myself getting ridiculously attatched to him, and I dragged myself out of bed every morning because that meant having him all to myself for an hour.
"Habit," I said with a careless shrug. "It's burned into my routine now. I wake up at six thirty every morning whether I need to or not thanks to you. I doubt I could sleep in anyway."
He could never, ever know the real reason why I drink Morning Shit every day, but from the look he was giving me, I suspected that he already knew.
Jake shrugged and didn't ask anymore questions. He tipped his chair back, and laid his hands behind his head.
"So, you're never going to believe what went on in Professor Tabor's class yesterday," he began. "I swear to God that man is totally insane. . . ."
We chatted for a while and then I gathered my stuff and we left. As we were walking to my car, Jake suddenly grabbed my hand. I pretended like I didn't really notice what was going on, but inside my heart sped up. However, I didn't say anything and Jake didn't say anything, and soon he was closing my car door and waving at me as I sped off.
I never knew just what it was about this old coffee shop I love so much . .
All of the while, I never knew . . .