The downpour begins as Melia makes her way into the cafe, causing her to shiver slightly at the temperature drop. A part of her feels nostalgic at the setting, what with it mirroring her first time in the cafe. Back then she only wanted to escape the rain, whereas now she visits to escape the troubles of life.
The employees greet her bubbly, and she takes pride in the fact their joy is due to genuine happiness towards her presence. As she goes to place her order, she notices a blond sitting in the corner next to her usual table; an unusual sight considering people avoid this part of the shop since the aging air conditioner couldn’t keep it cool.
“Hey Mel.” one of the seniors–Amanda–greets her, and she responds with a small smile and a wave. “The usual today?”
“Yes, thank you. Oh, and another cup of whatever the blond had.”
Amanda grins. “Noticed the hottie eh?”
She laughs into her palm, having gotten used to the older woman’s teasing. “He looks like he could use it.”
“Oh you have no idea. Guy came in ‘round 40 minutes before you looking like he’d been to hell and back. Ordered a coffee, sat down and began typing stuff–coffee was gone within three minutes. Mind you, it was steaming hot coffee.”
“Yeah. Best part? He’s on his fourth cup. Four cups of freshly brewed, piping hot coffee in 40 minutes!”
She could feel her ‘mom friend mode’, as her coworkers have deemed it, begin to surface; that is definitely not safe levels of caffeine. “Scratch the order then, he’ll have herbal tea.”
Amanda chuckled. “Anything for our favourite patron. I’ll bring it over myself, alright? You go sit your busy lil’ tush down.”
She gives a curt nod before walking to her table, having learnt over the months that it was impossible to argue with Amanda when she decides on something, especially when it comes to delivering the order herself. The blond surprisingly didn’t seem to notice her. That, or he mastered the art of ignoring beauties such as herself. Or maybe he didn’t swing that way?
Deciding that contemplating the sexuality of her corner-mate was a little bit much, Melia pulls out her favourite source of entertainment on her phone. The familiar background of the chatroom loads in, their previous exchange still fresh on the screen.
“Good afternoon Fen. How was today?”
In an instant he begins to type his response, almost as if he was waiting for her. She couldn’t help but smile at that.
Her smile disappears.
“It’s quite foolish really; I can’t make any progress on my work today.”
“Any particular reasons why?”
“It’s not how I’d like it to be.”
She frowns. It looks to be like one of those days, the ones where her friend would begin breaking down simply because he can’t achieve perfection. It happened every once in a while, and each time is as unpleasant as the last. He never learns, the stubborn guy, that perfection is an impossibility.
“Fen, I think you know what I’m going to say next.”
“I think I do.”
“Soooo, what do you do when you feel frustrated with yourself? When you feel like you can’t get anywhere with your work?”
“I stop, and come back another time.”
The blond next to her suddenly groans, his neck rests on the back of the chair when he leans back. He pulls his glasses off with noticeable force, slamming them on the table. What kind of material did he have those made with? Well, it was non of her business. Returning her attention to the screen, Melia resumes typing.
“What are you working on anyway?”
There’s a noticeable pause before he responds.
“I’m to find and fix any and all errors on the accounts.”
“Huh? When was this a part of your job?”
“It isn’t. It was forced upon me by my wretched coworker. The useless brat claimed he was busy that day, but I knew damn well he was going on a date. The boss grew a liking to him though, so I had no choice.”
“Ah, sorry I can’t be of any help here.”
“Nonsense. You’re already helping by allowing me to vent.”
“Aww, that’s so sweet coming from the so-called ‘Heartless Analyst’.”
Her worry increased tenfold when Fen didn’t immediately quip back.
“You can tell me if something's bothering you Fen.”
He didn’t respond still.
“Sorry, I was thinking.”
“It’s silly. I’ve got to go now, talk tomorrow?”
The blond beside her closes his laptop loudly, and she wondered how it could look so new with how it was being handled. He swiftly moves to the exit, when Amanda interrupts him.
“Here dear, some herbal tea to help you relax from all that coffee. Don’t argue with me.” she finishes with a wink.
The blond only grunts as he takes the cup and leaves the cafe.
Amanda places a hand on her hip and sighs. With a resigned smile she comes to Melia’s table, pulling out the chair opposite her and sitting down.
“The guy’s having girl troubles no doubt.”
Melia raises an eyebrow, motioning for the elder to continue.
“Looked like he was contemplating his relationship with someone. I’d know, having had that period of thought before… Can only hope he doesn’t screw up like I did.”
Amanda’s eyes became more blank. “I ignored my feelings in favour of not destroying a friendship I had built. By the time I acknowledged them, lad was already married with 2 kids. Can’t find anyone else to this day.”
Melia pats her shoulder. “You can still try though, right?”
“Yeah, but not many are gonna go for a 31 year old cow like me. I don’t really mind though.”
They stay silent for a few minutes, neither knowing what to say.
“Mel? Promise me something? As a friend?”
“What is it?”
“When you find someone you like, don’t wait.”
Melia blinks in surprise.
“Don’t want you living life with such a regret. It hurts, trust me.” Amanda stands up from her seat. “I’ll get back to working then, ring me up when you leave, yeah?”
She nods, the silence allowing Amanda’s words slowly start to sink in. When? She said it with such confidence, almost as if the older woman thinks she already found that someone. Had she? Wouldn’t she know if she did? Knowing Amanda, it could mean a lot of things. She admires her after all, for being so perceptive.
She begins to reflect on her life, sipping on the drink she ordered. What would’ve caused Amanda to believe such a thing? One person’s name came up, but she writes if off as pure coincidence.
After all, you couldn’t really like somebody you met online, could you?
Another hectic day at work, another visit to her favourite cafe.
The situation wasn’t that bad if she’s being honest, but the factors surrounding it were what made it worse. Despite how hard they tried to maintain it, the higher ups just couldn’t fill the hole left by the splitting of the company. One half stood firmly on the belief that to make profit is the company’s ultimate goal, and the other believed that sacrificing some profit for the greater good was the correct option.
She of course stands with the latter, but that doesn’t change the fact that she now stood against many people she knows. It was stressful to say the least.
“Heya Mel,” Amanda approaches her table with a cup of something she’s never seen before in hand, “got a new recipe I want you to try.”
The older woman sets the cup in front of Melia, and she notices that it… didn’t smell like anything she was familiar with. Indulging her friend, Melia slowly raised the cup to her mouth and took a sip. The taste was definitely new, but for her to not be able to pick it out? What kind of magic did Amanda pull off?
“Catches your taste buds, don’t it?” Amanda asks with a smirk.
“What’s in here?”
“Heh, it’s a trade secret. I’m afraid I can’t tell you.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Tsk tsk, that pout is unbefitting for a lady such as yourself Mel.”
Melia giggles at the older woman’s mocking tone. “Fine mum, I’ll figure it out myself.”
“I’d like to see you try.” Amanda taunts, knowing full well Melia took pride in her globally informed palate. “So, what’s bugging ya? Got sumthin’ to do with what you told me last time?”
Hearing her accent slip out, Melia accepts that she isn’t getting out of this. “Yes, it’s that situation again. It’s only been getting worse.”
“What I tell ya Mel, ain’t nothing you can do ‘bout it except sit your little tush down and let it happen.”
Melia sighs. “I wish it were that easy.”
“Frankly girl, it is that easy. Those associates of yours? If they picked the side of the money, then they ain’t worth making friends out of.”
“I know, but-”
“-but it’s human to care, yeah. I get it, I really do.” Of course she did. She knew better than most what it felt like. “Still, it don’t change the fact you’re shooting yourself in the foot giving a damn ‘bout ‘em.”
“I… yes, you’re right.”
“Course I am. I’m one old sage, aren’t I?”
“Come now, you’re only 31.”
“Oh stuff it you. Haven’t you ever looked in a mirror?”
The two of them chuckle, relieved that the tension was momentarily lifted. In that moment, the bell that signals the opening of the cafe doors sounded, and Amanda was up on her feet without a moment’s hesitation.
“Welp, back to work. Think about what I’ve told you, okay Melia?” With that, she turns around to welcome the customer. “Well would you look at that, my most recent regular! How’re you hot shot?”
Curious, Melia looks up to see who came in. She recognises the bespectacled blond from before, and he looked even more ticked off than last time. So he and his grouchy presence have become a regular here?
“Miss.” he greets Amanda gruffly with a nod before making his way over towards her corner. When he spotted her, he nodded curtly again. Then as if desperate to escape reality, he plops down in the very same seat, took out his laptop, and began staring at it.
“An order for a constant stream of coffee?”
The blond looks up and opens his mouth, only to hesitate before saying “I’ll have the tea from before.” He returns to staring at his laptop, hands laced together and hiding the bottom half of his face, though his eyes made it obvious he was frowning.
“Splendid, I’ll have it ready soon!”
Deciding that she’s paid too much attention, Melia fishes out her phone and opens the chatroom app. To her surprise, she received a message from Fen.
“I’d like to talk when you can.”
That was earlier this morning, right when she started working.
“Hey, sorry for the late response. What is it?”
An almost immediate reply,
“I’ve been thinking about this. The two of us, I mean.”
She felt her heart drop.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“No, not at all. Please don’t think you’re at fault.”
Somewhat relieved, she waits as he continues typing.
“Before I continue, I want you to know that this is just me, and I don’t want anything to change. I just. Needed to get this out.
I’ve come to notice that I like spending time talking to you. Quite a bit actually. I daresay I like talking to you more than anyone else. This was rather concerning as I have always had a hard time connecting with people. I never expected someone from an online chatroom to become someone I trusted.
I at first wanted to believe it was merely a passing feeling, that it’s just due to my years of isolating myself causing me to want to open up to the first available person that I don’t find myself questioning. Because what kind of ulterior motives could a random user online ever have for getting close to me, right? But now I realise that no, this feeling won’t pass.
I want to call you a friend Melia. Though I may not know what you even look or sound like, and vice versa for you, I want to think I know you well enough that if we were to meet, we could become friends. You’d be my first friend.
So. I just wanted to say that if we ever do meet outside of this chatroom, just. Know that I am much worse of a person outside, and I’d like if you never see that side of me.”
When Fen stopped typing, Melia felt herself at a loss. This was the first time he ever said so much about himself in one sitting, and for it to be expressing his doubts about their relationship? She felt certain he considered her a friend already, but… he questioned all of it? And for him to seem just as lost, what with how much he jumped between points- has it been like this for him since the start?
“Do you want to meet up?”
Her mind only registers what she typed after she hit enter.
“I do. But you don’t have to. As I said, I’m fine with things as they are.”
“But I’m not.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“I want you to be sure that we’re friends Fen. If it takes meeting up in person, then I will meet you in person.
I want to be your friend, Fen. Will you please let me?”
Fen didn’t reply.
Melia feels herself begin to worry. Did she do the right thing? What if Fen cuts off ties? Shell already be losing what few friends she has in the company, she didn’t want to lose Fen amidst all of this too.
Desperate, she begins typing,
“Tell you what, you said you found a cafe that’s better than the one I frequent right? How about we meet there?
Please, say something. Anything.
If I went too far, then at least say goodbye.
Still he didn’t respond.
“Here’s your tea pal, enjoy- hey, you alright?”
Melia looks towards the source of the voice. Amanda is standing over the table where the blond sits, blocking him from Melia’s view.
“Fine.” he croaks.
“As if. Come on, spill it.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Buddy, I can do this all day. My regulars are my friends, and I do whatever I can to help my friends.”
“Yeah, you ain’t familiar with the term?”
For a moment he didn’t reply, then “I suppose, in a way, that… I am. Familiar, I mean.”
“You don’t have many, do you?”
“Perhaps I never did.”
“No. I do have one. You would be the second I suppose.”
“Oh? I can accept second place. Who’s the lucky first?”
The blond chuckles dryly. “Lucky? I don’t think so.”
“It’s a matter of perspective really.”
Amanda walks away, leaving the pained expression on his face in full view for Melia to see. She looks away realising she invaded a very private moment of his, and she silently curses herself before vowing to forget it. She goes back to focusing on the chatroom, where her messages were left viewed, but not replied to.
After some time, Melia decides to settle it for Fen.
Her heart skipped a beat.
“I’m sorry. I needed to think. Please, don’t leave me.
The cafe, I’ll send you the address. I’ll buy you a drink. I’m telling you, they’ll make you swear allegiance to them; definitely better than whatever place you frequent.”
Her eyes widen when she receives the address of the cafe.
“When would you like to meet?”
“Next week perhaps? If you’re free.”
“Sure, I’ll check my schedule.”
What a coincidence. She never did give details about the cafe, having made a mutual promise that they wouldn’t divulge too much about their private lives. To think he’d end up visiting the same one as her… maybe Amanda could help her with making a surprise.
“I’ll see you then, Melia.”
“Yes. See you soon, Fen.”
Fen logs off, and she does so too. Sighing, she brings the forgotten coffee to her lips again. It was lukewarm now, but still very good. She promises to herself that she’d find out all about this new thing.
The blond suddenly stands up from his seat to make his way to the counter, ordering a cup of tea to go. Melia giggles at the simple gesture. Seems as though he had been converted. Good, all that bitter coffee must’ve played a part in making him so, well, bitter. Maybe now he’d see the sweeter side of things.