Lately, Laura had taken to flights of fancy that took her far beyond the confines of the coffee shop. The monotony of her time at ‘The Daily Grind’, coupled with the limited society that her working environment offered, meant that an hour seldom passed when she wasn’t engaged in the sort of boundless reverie that could quite simply transport one anywhere. Thus for every gentleman who crossed the threshold, Laura entertained a particular notion; that they all came looking for love, never just coffee beans.
Even in the beverages Laura made, she deduced the very essence and shape of a gentleman’s character. The choice of Cappuccino showed a classical taste and even temperament. A Latte presented a kind hearted, most feeling man. But it was the ordering of a Double Espresso that captured Laura’s imagination above all else, for it revealed a cosmopolitan, urbane type, possessed of a passion that she was quite powerless to resist.
Laura was snapped from her thoughts by the intruding vision of a gentleman who was a regular presence in ‘The Daily Grind’. Tall, handsome, with tousled black locks, he was a great favourite of Laura’s for a more dashing, daring figure she could scarcely imagine.
“Sir, may I… what, what would you like, your usual?” She smoothed her regulation apron, colour rising in her cheeks.
“A large black. Extra shot, extra hot. And quickly.”
What was more, he always, always, had his coffee just as described, which, for Laura, made it a very dangerous choice indeed. She blew a little air between her lips and concentrated hard on giving him the right change. She prepared his coffee, her heart quickening, her head bent to fasten the lid of the take-away cup, struggling a little as it refused to sit happily.
“Don’t take all day, I’ve a meeting at nine sharp, hurry can’t you?” He snapped, snatching the coffee from her, a little of it spilling from under the lid in his haste.
“And still I admire you” Laura whispered to his impatient, swishing coat tails, as he turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him, “for I am a fool indeed”.
Thus engaged, she scarcely noticed the other gentleman before her, that is until she heard a gentle clearing of the throat.
“Oh indeed, forgive me! I had not seen you!”
It was evident that the stranger did not belong in the morning rush of the business crowd, for he wore casual clothes that gave no suggestion of him earning nearly enough thousands a year. His charming countenance and easy manner were not yet enough to convince of his comparable merit.
“That’s quite all right”. He paused. “Pray, what do you recommend?”
“Recommend?” she puzzled, “ Why, sir, this is a coffee shop. People come in every day, and tell me exactly what they want in no uncertain terms.”
“Perhaps so” continued the young gentleman, “But I should appreciate it very much if you would make a suggestion. What is it that you would like to make for me?” He smiled, and Laura rather thought that he was making fun of her.
“Do you tease me, sir? If you wish your coffee black, then tell it to me so. If you wish for milk, then say if it is to be soya or skimmed or whole. Acknowledge to me the size of the cup and I shall oblige. I need not continue sir, for you mock me, I am certain”.
“You mistake me. I would simply rather bow to your good judgement. I have no preconceptions of what drink I should like, only that I should like you to serve it to me.”
“Oh, it is too much. Reprehensible behaviour indeed!”
“I assure you, I speak only the truth. I watch you through the window every day as I pass, but I have never dared ventured in. You see, I do not… care for coffee.”
“Do not care for coffee…?”
“No! Ever since I was the smallest of boys and I tasted it – it was so awfully bitter I thought that I should never clear the taste from my mouth. So… what should I do coming in here, a coffee shop, and looking nothing but a fool? In the end however, I was powerless to resist. For your charms, I laid my prejudices aside.”
Laura waved a hand, “we sell muffins…” she croaked, quite uncertain of a suitable response. For it was true, they did sell muffins. “Or…” she paused a moment, collecting herself, “or, perhaps I could make you a drink that may change your mind altogether.”
“Pray continue” levelled the stranger, whose relaxed attire had now become so much more pleasing than any suit.
“For you” said Laura, boldly looking into his eyes which were suddenly all the more appealing for their bright colour and fair brow, “I could make a lovely, hot, frothy, sweet cup of coffee with a drizzle of the finest hazelnut syrup. It is my favourite sir, and I promise it will tempt you, despite what you say.”
“Then I should be very pleased if you would,” said the gentleman, who had now become altogether very handsome indeed, “for I can see already that it will be very much to my liking. Pray, at what time do you finish today?”
And thus, with much care and more than a little admiration, Laura made for him the sweetest, warmest, most comely drink she could, giving no further thought to the black moods and dark looks that had formerly filled her mind. In this blissful state, it was all she could do to resist dropping a kiss into the cup, as she ducked behind the counter to froth the milk.
For it is a truth universally acknowledged, that if a gentleman shows first a weakness then a little sweetness, a lady will melt quickly, like syrup into hot coffee.