By Raj, age 21, England, United Kingdom
"Hi daddy! Hit me with a cappuccino!" she beamed at the barista behind the counter, tickled by the remnants of vodka still pulsing through her veins.
"Excuse me?" He furrowed his dark eyebrows and tucked his messy curls behind his ears. Sunlight fell on the shop front and cascaded through the bay windows, over his olive skin. He was radiant; just what she needed on a Saturday morning. She tried again.
"Hi daddy, hit me with a cappuccino, please?" It had worked on the bartenders last night.
"To take away?"
"No, no! I'm staying right here!"
"Have a seat. I'll bring it over." His voice was weary.
"Thanks!" She spun on her spike heels and bounced across the wooden floor, her sleek, chestnut ponytail swinging from side to side. A shirtless paperboy staggered through the quaint, French doors, bringing a cool draft with him. It breezed through the coffee shop and up the girl's pleated mini-skirt. She winked at the boy, saluting him with her small hand, then hurried to a table directly opposite the counter and dropped her oversized tote into an empty chair. Sitting down, the coarse upholstery scratched the back of her thighs. The barista was facing the wall, and the girl watched him pouring her drink. His polo shirt crept out the waist of his tight trousers as he reached for a saucer off the top shelf. His free hand swiftly tucked the shirt in again, but not before she'd glimpsed the muscular dips in his tanned, lower back. She smiled secretly and wriggled in her seat.
The barista served the paperboy and left the girl's cappuccino sitting on the counter. She searched through her handbag while she waited. Fumbling through an abundance of junk, she finally felt the smooth book sleeve beneath her fingertips and clasped the spine of her novel. She grunted as she yanked the hefty hardcover to the surface. She placed it in her lap, her fingers tracing the embossed, antique pistol on the cover. With her elbows on the table, she held open the book level to her nose. The blurred words drifted about the page and her sticky eyeballs glazed over. She blinked hard and risked a quick glance at the barista. His soft, supple lips parted as he chatted with the paperboy. She carried on staring. An eager smile spread across her face as the paperboy stepped back from the counter. "Hey kid," she bent over the table and whispered to him. "Reading is sexy, right?"
He chewed on the transparent straw of his iced latte, "Riiight ..."
She was satisfied. "Okay, great!" The boy raised his eyebrows at her and nodded encouragingly as he left.
The barista finally picked up the girl's cappuccino and made his way to her table. The charming teaspoon clinked against the ceramic crockery as the drink was placed in front of her. "Oh, excellent!" She looked up in surprise and slammed her book shut. "I think I must be on the worst chapter ever!"
"Err ... yeah, okay. Anything else?" He was already walking away.
"No thanks, I'm good for now!" she called after him. He peered at her over his shoulder. The rough scent of burnt wood attacked her nose. She dropped five cubes of sugar into the cup, stirred and took a lengthy slurp. The bitter sweet flavour clung to her taste buds, as if she'd just licked rotten fruit. She scraped her furry tongue on her teeth until it was dry. With the tiny teaspoon, she scooped the luscious, velvet foam off the surface of the coffee. It melted inside her mouth and sparked a sudden yearning for sugar. Her eyes widened.
"Oh, hi there!" she signaled the barista. "Could I please get a slice of Victoria Sandwich?"
"Sure." He stopped folding napkins and brought over her cake.
"Wow! That's just perfect!" She thanked God for the enormity of the dense wedge and picked up the fork, breaking off a huge chunk of heavy sponge. The refrigerated stodge softened on her warm tongue. Savouring the moment, she closed her eyes. She opened them and found the barista squinting in her direction. She bit her plump bottom lip and squinted right back. Forgetting the cake, she spread her arms across the table and knocked the plate on the floor. A collective gasp ensued and the grumbling barista stomped over with a dustpan and brush to clean the girl's mess. "My God, I am so, so sorry! I don't know how I did that! Oh God, please forgive me!" The girl grovelled with one hand on her awestruck cheek.
"It's no problem," the barista lied and turned his back on her.
"In that case can I get another slice?" She attempted to flutter her eyelashes but instead her eyeballs rolled into the back of her head.
"Sure." He came back with more cake and flung the plate onto the table top so it slid to where the girl sat grinning, oblivious to his hostility.
She began to ponder whether it was healthy for the barista to see her attack a second slice of cake. Her fork circled the sponge before stabbing. "Excuse me?" She leaned across and disturbed the elderly couple sitting quietly at the next table. "Desserts are sexy, right?"
"Oh, absolutely!" The old man replied.
"I think there's somebody she's trying to impress, Richard," the woman teased, nudging Richard in the ribs with her frail elbow. Her head titled sympathetically towards the girl. "Am I right, petal?"
"Oh God, is it that obvious?" she panicked. A few cake crumbs escaped her gaping mouth.
"No love, course not!" the woman assured her. "Hey, you'd make a lovely couple, you two would."
"Well, I'm working on it!" The girl wiped her chin where she thought she'd dribbled.
"You're doing fine, love!" Richard chipped in. "Good looking girl like you shouldn't have any problems."
"Thanks, I think you're right!" She picked seductively at what was left of the cake, trying to make it last. She took deep breaths, enjoying the promise in the air, and kept her eyes on the barista, willing him to look up at her. He polished the same spot on the counter, his motions slow and ceaseless. When her cake and coffee had disappeared the girl returned to reading her epic war novel. Her eyes darted back and forth between the page and the barista. Before long she felt dizzy and her head dropped on to the table. Realizing she couldn't possibly linger any longer, the girl asked for the bill with great reluctance. The barista brought a sloppily folded, scribbled bill to her table, in a small, wooden tray, with complimentary chocolates. Snatching the bright, shimmering treats, she tossed them into the vast abyss of her bag. She left a stack of coins in the tray, no tip, and her number written in pink, bubblegum scented ink. She hitched up her skirt and swanned out the door, leaving the trusty book in her chair for good measure.