Writing Prompt: Go to a cafe and closely watch two people interact. Then write a scene about two people in a cafe.
Ok, so…I didn’t go to a cafe. And I didn’t closely watch two people interact, but I had read this writing prompt a few days ago, then woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I didn’t remember all the details of it (like it being between two people) but the point of writing prompts is to get you writing! So…here is what my brain produced at 3 (or was it 4?) in the morning. Too often, I think I’ll remember a good idea (because it’s too good to forget) and then completely forget, anyway! So yes, I did get up right then to write it.
The coffee shop was busy but she managed to find a bar height table and silently stole a third seat from a couple who were practically sharing one seat between them. She would have asked first, but they had their faces melded together with their mouths, eyes shut, so she figured they wouldn’t mind. She plopped her purse onto one and her legs onto the other before she realized she procured a table and chairs and forgot to order coffee. Too late now. Not that it mattered, really. She was running high on her excitement.
The clinking of spoons hitting the sides of eclectic coffee cups, the slurping of hot coffee and the clunk of a mug when it hit the enameled wood table tops made a sort of soothing symphony, an overture for her morning. She breathed it in, eyes closed, the surrounding cloud of coffee practically giving her enough caffeine, all on its own.
She took out her compact and checked her eyes. A little red, but mostly normal. That was good. She didn’t want to look as though she had been upset when they got here. She wasn’t upset at all. Excited and nervous…maybe a touch sad, but only tears of joy had fallen down her cheeks.
A tall man in a business suit talking loudly into the air gestured to take one of her chairs, but she flung her body across the table and yelling no loudly. He glared at her (along with a few other customers) and then walked away explaining, still into the air, he wasn’t the one yelling. Bluetooth headsets.
She checked her watch. They weren’t late, yet. Looked again at her face in her compact. Watched the suctioned to each other couple un-suction their mouths long enough to take a sip of coffee and then go back at it.
Her best friend got there first. In all manner of speaking, five minutes late was on time for Corrine. This was a good sign.
“You had to pick this coffee shop, huh?” She shoved Aria’s legs off the stool and plopped herself down, purse on her lap, a huge mug of coffee already in her hands. “It’s either full of pretentious snobs or,” looking around her and settling on the couple in the corner, “the obligatory make out session.” Her hair was up in a bun, small pieces of her naturally curly, red hair falling down around her face, no make up on. She wasn’t going to like that.
“Did you just roll out of bed?”
“Obviously not. Hello?” Corrine held up her coffee with both hands.
She looked at her best friend and bit her lip. “Ok, besides the fact that you brought your own coffee to a coffee shop…um…Danny’s coming.”
“Oh, you have got to be freaking kidding me, Aria. Are you serious? Why didn’t you-“ Her coffee sloshed around when she slammed it down, cutting off the coffee shop orchestra as everyone paused to look at them. Corrine shrugged her shoulders at them and gave a snide “sorry” to the general populace. When the rest of the patrons went back to their morning ritual, she turned to Aria and glared. Symphony resumed.
“Seriously? Do you see me right now?” She gestured to her hair and then to her body, which was still clad in pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt. “I mean, I barely put on a bra this morning. You’re welcome, by the way. Good thing I didn’t wear my bunny slippers.”
Aria stifled a laugh, knowing Corrine did not think this was funny in any way. She hadn’t meant to embarrass her by inviting Danny, but he was her brother and she needed to talk to the two most important people in her life. “I’m sorry. I really am…Your bunny slippers would have gotten really dirty and gross, anyway.”
“She still has those things?” A deep voice broke through their conversation.
“Danny!” Aria jumped up from her chair to hug her brother. On her toes, her eyes just barely peeked over his broad shoulder to see Corrine take a sip of coffee while simultaneously rolling her eyes. She glared at her with a clear message: behave yourself. Corrine half shrugged.
Danny stumbled back a bit with the hug. “Hey there, we just saw each other two days ago at Mom and Dad’s. You ok?”
Aria adjusted his tie, tears misting her eyes, mumbling that she was just fine. Fine. Good, really. Great.
Danny took his seat, setting his phone on the table, ignoring Corrine. “I can’t stay long. I have a meeting with a client this morning I need to finish in time for a lunch date.”
Corrine snorted into her coffee mug. He finally acknowledged her, looking her up and down. “Corrine,” he nodded in her direction, “I see you’ve dressed for the occasion.”
For the second time in the span of two minutes, she slammed down her mug. “You know, just because a bulk of my life happens to take place while you are saying good night with all the old, boring people of the world-“
“Oh, yes. I had forgotten how your night life is exhilarating. How much money in tips did you make last night? I mean, bartenders make so much-“
“I bet you tucked your pretty little British Barbie in at a whopping eight o’ clock at night, you wild man!”
The entire symphony wasn’t coming to a crashing halt, but the strings section had definitely stopped playing.
“First of all, some people have real jobs.”
“Get a new argument, Danny. You’re a lawyer, I’m sure you can fabricate one!”
“Second of all,” he went on, “She’s French.”
Corrine threw up her hands as the percussion stalled and said in her best French accent, “Oh, well…French! Pardon me, mon amour, I did not know she was from a country full of spineless, cheese eating-“
“Corrine.” Aria put her hand on her friend’s leg. “Please?”
Corrine rolled her eyes and flared her nostrils, but finished her nasty thought process in silence.
“Your French accent is awful, anyway.”
Aria shot Danny a glare that said he should shut up, too.
“Can you guys please work out your…uh…petty ex squabbles later? I actually have something I need to talk to you both about.”
The door to the coffee shop opened and a whole new slew of customers barged in, taking the attention off of their trio. A loud male customer shouted his order and, like on cue, the coffee shop orchestra struck up again.
“I’d rather not talk to him at all, later. But yes, I at least know when to stop talking.” Corrine didn’t look in his direction. She knew he would be clenching his square jaw and narrowing his brown eyes laced with long black eyelashes in her direction. She didn’t even bother trying to hide the smile on her face. “Now tell me why you dragged me out of bed at this God-awful hour.”
“Literally, dragged…from the looks of it.” Danny quipped as he checked a message on his phone. Corrine smiled at Aria, but kicked Danny under the table with her flip-flops.
“Right. So…I’ve kind of done something. I’m excited about it…really excited…but it’s a big change…and I want you to think before you respond to me, ok?” She barely took breaths in between her words. “You know how my company has been dinking around with me about promotions and raises…gave that big account to ‘Slimy Sal’ even though it was my idea…and blah, blah, blah…well, I have that online resume account…and a company expressed interest… had a series of phone interviews, sent them my portfolio, gave them some referrals…and…well…they liked me and thought I was really good…so….I’m moving to New York as a marketing director at Random House. Yay!”
Aria looked from Danny to Corrine. Neither was returning her smile. Arai sighed and counted to five before the barrage of questions and comments started rolling in.
“When are you leaving?”
“Random House? Is that like…a kid’s store?”
“It’s a publishing company, Corrine…a kid’s store? Really?”
“Hey, kids are really random, ok?”
“And you don’t read a lot.”
“Cosmo does not count. There are plenty of jobs here, aren’t there?”
“Bet your French girl reads Cosmo…”
“Yes, and the New York Times.”
“Great, why doesn’t she move to New York, then? Seriously, Aria, New York?”
“What’s wrong with California?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You? Why didn’t she tell me? I just saw you two days ago, Aria. Did you know then?”
“Oh, please. She doesn’t tell you everything. She saw me last night and didn’t say anything!”
“Maybe she did, but when you are bar-tending, you don’t listen very well. I mean, it’s such a hard job…tough to concentrate.”
“I only don’t listen to you. I would have remembered this. You know that’s all the way on the other side of the world, right?”
“No, it isn’t. Just the United States, Corrine.”
“It was meant to be more sarcastic, Danny.”
“You mean dramatic.”
“Are you two done?” Aria grabbed both their hands in one of hers. “Because I’m going to miss you two, so, so much. But if you don’t stop being selfish dirtbags and stop arguing with each other, neither of you will be welcome to visit me in New York. And there are loads of opportunities there, not to mention shopping…”
“Oh…I know,” Corrine butted in, “I watched Gossip Girl and their clothing was ah-mazing.”
Now it was Danny’s turn for the eye-roll but Aria didn’t skip a beat.
“Right? So cute. Anyway…to answer some of your questions…yes, there are jobs here, but not with the opportunities this one brings. I leave in a month. They are setting me up with a temporary apartment I’ll share with two other new hires for a short period of time while I find an apartment. It was Ronald McDonald House you were thinking of Corrine, but that is a house for families of seriously ill children. Try not to get that confused, ok? I didn’t tell either of you because I wanted to tell you together. I know you’ll both miss me, so you might need each other in my absence…though you act like freaking children. I can’t be your mediator, any more. You used to be friends before…whatever. Figure it out, guys. Ok? Also, it feels like I am going to the other side of the world, but I can’t wait to have you both come see me. And I’ll be back to visit.” She squeezed their hands and then grabbed her purse. “Now, I get to go give my notice. I can’t wait to see the look on Sal’s face, the pompous, arrogant-“
“I thought you said he was really cute?” Corrine wiped a small tear from her face.
“Yeah, he is. And slimy. But still…onward and upward, right?” Aria thrust one hand triumphantly in the air.
“I wouldn’t be so excited just yet, Aria. You still have to tell Mom and Dad.”
Her hand came down quickly.
“Oh, right! That was the other thing. Can you both be there? You know how they can be sometimes…and Danny…you calm Mom down so well. And Corrine, you crack jokes that Dad actually laughs at…I need you guys…”
“Ugh,” Danny and Corrine groaned at the same time.
“Great! You already have one thing you agree on!” She maneuvered through a couple and an elderly gentleman who was holding a small dog as she made her way to the door. “Tonight. My place…I’ll make tacos!” Her voice trailed off then cut out with the closing of the door.
Corrine took another sip of coffee, her grey eyes peering over the rim. Danny was still watching the door. His almost black hair had grown out a bit since she last saw him a couple months ago at the beach, but the golden tan had stayed the same. She missed him and hated him at the same time. He never missed a chance even now, to remind her of how he felt about her job, the thing they argued about the most when they dated. He had offered to pay for her school himself, but her pride wouldn’t let her become a charity case, so she busted her butt at school to get good grades for scholarships and grants, and at night bartending wherever and whenever she could, to pay for college and life. They didn’t know what it felt like, to not have an option. Having a single mother with a steady stream of less than upstanding boyfriends, Corrine had worked her whole life for what she wanted. They had a lot of things handed to them, they didn’t even realize other people worked hard to get the very things they took for granted. Corrine didn’t blame them, though. They were De Rosa’s after all. Their family owned one of the largest wineries in the state and was well known, even beyond the valley.
Aria had graduated a year early; their parent’s ample college fund meant she never had to work at the same time she attended classes. It was the same for Danny. He was three years their senior and had just passed the bar with they started dating. The world of corporate law and unlimited opportunity was laid out before him like a red carpet, the world just waiting to see what the great Daniel De Rosa would accomplish. And he had chosen her one night while they roasted marshmallows at the fire pit. Firey, passionate, red head with untamable curls and no real direction in her life. He told her he loved her, had for a long time, but didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize her friendship with Aria. Kissed her when she’d had nothing in return to say but a shocked gasp. Took her out the next night to dinner, and the rest was history. He bought her dresses, took her to fancy dinners, paraded himself around with her on his arm. When she could make it, that is. The one night that was the most important to him, they had fought about. She had to work. He offered to pay her wages and then some. Like a kept woman. Which is what she told him when she refused to not work that night.
“But I cannot go alone, Corrine. It is expected of me to bring a date.” His words had said so much. Had she missed it? Or had she just not cared?
“Then take a date, but it won’t be me!” She had screamed at him, making Aria run from her room in the little two bedroom apartment they had shared until her and Danny broke up. It was too hard on Aria not seeing her brother and too hard on Corrine to refuse him at their home, so Corrine moved out to a little studio apartment. Aria found a new roommate. She was French, apparently.
Now, Corrine was in her last year, majoring in business with no idea of what to do with it. Only two years later than Aria and one year later than she intended, six months after her and Danny broke up. It felt like a lifetime away from the adult world everyone around her was living in.
He turned from the door and checked his phone that had been softly vibrating on the table. He didn’t answer it.
“You have class today?” His voice was soft. Not at all like the Danny who had just jabbed her for not knowing Random House.
Corrine kept her eyes on her coffee, not willing to let the tears that had welled up betray her. She nodded instead.
“You really didn’t know about New York?”
She shook her head. No.
“I’m sorry. She might have given you some time to process this…away from…without me. Ahem. Well, sometimes my job takes me to New York, but this will be harder on you. Not seeing her all the time.”
She swallowed and somehow found her voice. “Yeah, well…she has to tell your parents, so…she may not be going at all.”
They laughed together, like old times, but both of them knew two things were true: Aria would be moving to New York, and it could never be like old times again.
“Well, I do need to get going. Can I buy you a coffee before I go?” He stood, phone in one hand, reaching into his back pocket with the other, looking at the line that had just added three patrons.
“No, thank you.”
He sighed, putting his wallet away. A small, grimace crossed his face. “See you tonight, I guess?”
He turned to move and then turned back to her. “Hey, you might want to know what you’re saying in French…no teasing or reprimanding here, I promise. It’s just…well…you called me your lover. On accident, I’m sure.”