(Martha is a thirty-seven year old woman who has recently been made redundant from her job at a large firm she worked her whole adult life at. Her good friend runs a coffee shop so she hires her until she can find more permanent work. It’s her first day on the job and she is feeling disheartened and frustrated about her situation.)
The till in front of Martha was a disconcerting shift from the mahogany desk she had spent the last fifteen years sitting behind. It was a quiet day in her friend Marie’s coffee shop. It was a lovely shop by all accounts. Many summer afternoons were spent here gossiping with Marie while Martha was on her lunch break from the firm. It was a bright and airy coffee shop. The walls were a light blue that complimented the white furniture. The tables had dainty tablecloths draped across them. The establishment was an homage to the vintage aesthetic her friend loved so much. She turned her attention from the till and looked to the white wooden clock on the wall.
It was nearly nine o’clock, yet as the seconds and the minutes passed she felt all of the time she wasted in the firm weigh heavily upon her.
She looked back to the till. The familiarity she felt with it was due to work experience she had done in a local coffee shop as a teen. It was as if the last fifteen years of her life never happened. Back at square one. Stuck.
‘Those bastards.’ She mumbled under her breath.
Her friend Marie chuckled despite herself. ‘Let it all out hun.’ She said as she was loading plates and cups into the dishwasher.
Martha turned her back on the till to face her friend. ‘I gave them everything. I haven’t had any sort of relationship in five years because I stayed to work late. Now all I have is my pet cat and a job in a coffee shop.’
Marie stopped loading the dishwasher to look at her friend.
‘A very well respected coffee shop with a lovely owner.’
Marie went back to loading the dishes. ‘Better.’
Martha sighed, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just pissed off! I feel like I missed out on so many opportunities to live my life. And for what? To spend my days slaving away for those gobsh–‘
She was interrupted by the jangling of the wind chime above the door as a customer entered.
‘–ello there!’ She returned to the till with an over exaggerated smile on her face. ‘What can I get you?’
The customer smiled at her. ‘The usual please.’
‘I’m sorry, I just started work here and I don’t—‘
‘Flat white.’ Marie called out to Martha with her head still deep in the dishwasher, causing the order to echo slightly.
‘Ah.’ Said Martha as she filed that information away with the rest of the things she had yet to be used to. ‘That’ll be three euro please.’
The young lady paid and took what Martha could assume was her usual spot by the window. The sunlight flooded her form and drenched her already blonde hair in a dazzling golden light. Martha noticed that she appeared agitated. She was looking at her watch every thirty seconds and manically fixing her golden hair. She looked at her reflection on her phone to check her appearance. Martha wondered about the source of her unease but then that same wind chime sang and it walked through the door. Nearly six foot. The tall dark and handsome look that one would expect to send another into the sort of nervous wreck that could now be seen by the window.
He approached the till. ‘The usual please.’
‘Cappuccino.’ Said Marie behind her with a subtle smirk on her face. She was leaning against the counter with her arms crossed as she watched the transaction; it was as if she were expecting something.
The other customer paid for his coffee and turned from Martha. He walked in the general direction of the girl by the window. She looked up from her coffee and smiled timidly at the customer as he approached. Just as Martha expected him to join his date by the window, he changed his course and set his coffee down on the adjacent table. They were facing each other. Smiling at each other. But they were at different tables.
Martha turned to look at a smiling Marie with a look of disbelief on her face. Marie, as per usual, knew exactly what she was thinking.
She walked over to Martha’s side and spoke quietly in her ear as she pretended to adjust the pastries in the display case beside the till. ‘Flat white comes in here every Tuesday without fail at nine o’clock. She orders her coffee. She sits by the window. She fixes herself and she waits.’ Marie glanced up from the pastries to look at the blushing mess by the window. She then turned her gaze and commentary to the gentleman sitting at the table next to her. ‘Cappuccino usually comes in about ten minutes later. He orders his coffee. He walks towards the girl…’ she sighed, ‘and then he sits at a different table opposite to her. They both stay for about two hours and then leave one after the other.’
‘And they’ve never spoken?!’
‘Christ.’ She said as the till slid open with a click. ‘And I thought I had problems.’
Marie let out a chuckle and went back to sorting out the dishwasher.
Martha smiled as she counted the change in the till. After just a moment of this, she looked up to observe the shy connoisseurs. Flat white scrolled through her phone but intermittently lifted her cup to her lips and allowed herself to glance at Cappuccino. The sun making her hair look as though it was strands of golden silk flowing from her head and draping in gentle curls by her shoulders and down her back. Cappuccino read a book with a title so pretentious that it could only be in the effort to appear impressive to Flat White. Every once in a while he would look up from the book that he wasn’t actually paying attention to and take in her form with his gaze. Martha noted that on the rare occasion that these repetitive sequences of events occurred simultaneously and their eyes met, it would be met with almost inaudible chuffs and bashful expressions from both parties.
It was exhausting to look at.
Martha couldn’t understand how these two eejits who were clearly enamoured with each other, could hold entire imaginary conversations with each other in their heads yet never utter a word to one another. She slammed the till shut in anger and walked over to the cupboard with the cups to put away the ones that were dry and out of the dishwasher.
The ticking from the clock on the wall was all she could hear when she put them in.
Flat White and Cappuccino didn’t realise it yet, but they were throwing their chance away. One day Flat White will be forced to move for her job or Cappuccino could have a family emergency. They will come to this coffee shop on a Tuesday as they always do, and the other will never arrive. They will have spent hours with what could potentially be the love of their life and realise they never said a word to each other or asked the other their name.
When she was finished cursing the youth of today, an idea hit her; just as the two gobshites at the tables shared a lingering look.
Marie awoke the following Tuesday morning as she would any other day of the week, tired and in desperate need of a coffee. ‘One of the many perks of owning a coffee shop’ she thought, as she rose sluggishly out of bed. It was about ten o’clock when she left the house for work. She had let Martha open because she didn’t know how long she would be looking for other work and she decided it was best that it was best Martha was able to take care of the of the business if she was going to be there a while. Her heart bled for her friend. It is a terrible thing for your professional life to be up in the air at this stage of their lives. She wanted her to feel important again.
She pulled up in front of her shop and got out of the car to see both Flat White and Cappuccino sitting at the same table and laughing with each other through the window of her shop. She smiled to herself and opened the shop door, that wind chime she had bought two summers prior in Spain sang above her head. She sauntered to the till to see Martha standing behind it with a smug smile that stretched the length of her face.
‘Good morning.’ Beamed Martha.
Marie joined Martha behind the counter and fixed the apron she had taken off the wall around her waist. She gestured to the two by the window. ‘So it finally happened?!’ She said quietly. ‘I’m so sad I missed it. How did they do it? What happened?’
Martha clicked open the till and looked to her friend. ‘She paid for his coffee.’ She winked at Marie and then produced the price of a cappuccino from her own pocket and put it in the till. ‘Cupid needed a push.’
It was then that Martha knew exactly what happened. She stared at her friend with a look of awe. ‘Whoever said you were redundant was an eejit.’
Martha closed the till triumphantly. ‘You’re feckin’ right they were.’