Not like I'd ever see her again. How cliche'. Isn't that how it happens in every Lifetime movie? A chance encounter, serendipity, and then a beautiful love blossoms forth from seemingly out of nowhere?
And they all live happily ever after. Except Romeo and Juliet. They die together. How optimistic our culture is about love! Our two stereotypes are polar--either you're entirely unrealistic and live happily ever after, or you die. Peachy.
To be honest, I didn't see her for a long time. It wasn't until the summer heat had faded and Jack no longer needed the A/C fixed for our guests to be comfortable in his Beanstalk.
A cool wind rolled in and rustled the pages of open books. Once a month, Jack's Beanstalk holds a community poetry reading. I personally think it's cheesy--a bunch of tall artsy chicks in black berets sitting on a three-legged stool, reading from their Moleskine notebooks something they wrote when their ex left them. No, thank you.
But I'm a loyal employee. And by that, I mean that I need the money I get from my job to pay for college. So I man the fort with the "coffee diva," Stephanie, while Jack listens in, and periodically shares some of his poems.
Oh, and Stephanie and I have a history.
What is it about the job opportunity of working at a coffee shop attracts lesbians? I still haven't quite figured out this stereotype, despite being part of it. Regardless, it's a good gig and Jack pays well. I don't have morning hours--the morning crew happily gets here at six and is absolutely beat by three when my shift starts.
But only about forty-percent of the morning shift is comprised of lesbians. Unless my data has changed since last week. But then again, knowing the morning crew, it could have. The afternoon shift, thankfully, has far less drama. Usually someone is crying softly in the bathroom when I get here at three. They're usually gone before four-thirty, when I have to refill the paper-towel dispenser and the cream and sugar dispensers after the tweens have had their way with them. What's the point of trying to look grown up by drinking coffee, then dumping half a pound of cream and sugar in it?
"Hey Mel," Stephanie shouts to me as I produce more grounds in the coffee grinder.
"Hey Stephanie," I yell back, somewhat sarcastically as she wraps her purple apron around her waist and affixes her name tag to her white collared shirt.
"I miss when you used to call me Steph," she mutters, erroneously thinking I can't hear her.
"You miss back when we were dating. You miss when your parents didn't think you were straight, so you didn't have to have a boyfriend. Admit it, you miss a girl's kiss..." I flit by her. I'd always had the habit of being a bit too honest, especially around people I'd dated previously. The truth is, if Stephanie had had the guts to tell her parents that yes, she was in fact gay (or, at least, bisexual) before they found out we were dating, she probably wouldn't have had to date a guy on her parents' suggestion, "just to try it."
Her parents had a habit of not taking no for an answer. She'd tried Stewart out for a week, then came running back to me. Unfortunately, her lying about telling her parents we were dating was too much for me.
Ever since, we've had an awkward sexual tension between us. We were both really uncomfortable around each other, and both too polite to tell Jack to switch one of our shifts.
Jack stepped behind the counter for a moment to grab some extra packets of pure-cane sugar.
"Hi, Steph. Hey Mel," he waved. At thirty-five and about as hipster as you can legally be, Jack was always trying to keep up-to-date with his "coffee mistresses" that were nearly half his age. He placed a copy of Paste on the counter and told us to pop the CD into the stereo for "mood music."
"It's poetry night," he said excitedly. "And I have created the Independent Haven for undiscovered artists." He raised his hands into the air in a half-sarcastic praise fashion.
"More like undiscovered fashion rules. Jack, who told you that you were allowed to wear green corduroy?" Stephanie smacked his rear playfully. I became a little sick to my stomach.
"What? You mean this isn't...ugh, to be young and youthful and hip again!" He ran off to the bathroom with his backpack.
"I love watching him do that," Melanie giggled. I rolled my eyes.
Seven-o-clock chimed down from our somewhat grungy antique grandfather clock. Jack sounded his mini-gong and took the mike to begin the poetry reading. Stephanie and I hopped up onto the counter of the coffee bar to sit and observe. I bent back once the lights had dimmed to find the book I was reading in my messenger bag and almost lost my balance. Stephanie caught me with a fierce grab of the hand and pulled me back up.
She didn't let go.
"Stephanie, I..." I tried to get her to let go, but she held fast.
"Shh. You'll interrupt the reading."
So we sat there, hands entwined in a random splotch of light, listening to poem after poem, some accompanied by interpretive dance or, in one case, the banging of a spoon on a metal pot. Butterflies gathered in the pit of my stomach.
Four poems in, she entered, hurried. It was her, the girl with the pin on the messenger bag and oh G-d I'm holding Stephanie's hand. Her eyes flickered from Stephanie to me, then to our hands. She smiled, then proceed in to the circle of comfy chairs.
After about a half-hour, I found myself laying behind the counter. I don't remember what I had said or done, but Stephanie's hair was falling into my face, around it, framing it in a gold fringe as she kissed me.
I looked up to see the raven-haired girl's face looking at the menu, then down to where Stephanie and I lay. We continued kissing, but the butterflies in my stomach knotted and flew with leaden wings, pounding. But still our lips moved on.
Clearly, I have made some bad decisions.