She handed me my latte as she did everyday. I plucked up my courage. “Would you like to go to dinner sometime?” She paled. “Oh, I, uh…already have a boyfriend.” She didn’t meet my eyes. Instead, Miranda rung up my purchase and handed me the reciept. “Well he’s a lucky guy! No wonder you smile all the time. Have a good day!” I showed my biggest smile and moved aside to let another take my place at the counter. I opened the etched glass door decorated with a Victorian frame and went back out into the storm. The delicate ring of the bell bid me goodbye.
Once inside the car, however, I sat and fumed. How dare she lead me on like that? All those low cut sweaters and extra snacks thrown in for free. What was her motivation? I turned it over and over in my mind like a metal chain lock puzzle. There must be a reason behind it. Surely she wasn’t trying to embarass me.
The next morning I changed up my routine. High time to try a different coffee house. Soon one materialized. Nice homey feel, large couches, sunny corners. No Miranda. I sighed with relief and placed my order for a latte, extra shot of caffeine. The barista was an older woman, not one who would make any passes at me. I was safe.
That became my regular routine—drive by my “old haunt” on the way to my current one. I allowed my mind to ask “what if?” as we passed her store. Different scenarios, different motivations. All ended the same way. Perhaps she had a bad upbringing and never knew stability or honesty. Or she was in an abusive relationship but didn’t have the nerve to leave. I could feel pity, sadness, then pride spread across my chest. I would do what I could to prevent other naive men to fall into the same trap.
Thus began my campaign for “The Coffee Bean,” a cut above the others. The manager, a middle-aged woman in her fifties who still wore bell bottoms and prided herself as a strict vegan, was thrilled when I suggested new posters and placement in the local news to drum up new business. I began designing posters for the shop citing their healthy selection, low prices, and quality customer service. I was also in charge of distribution and sales. I worked with the store owner day and night like a man obsessed.
New business came in at a steady pace. The Coffee Bean was fluroushing, thanks to my ingenuity. I saw Miranda just the other day at the local co-op. We had formed a partnership with the company and I was their go-between. There she was. Her brown curly hair wet from the rainstorm, skin pale and shrunken. She wore a deep blue wool coat that smelled like wet mammal. She looked miserable. What had I ever seen in her?
We exchanged greetings as she continued down the natural shampoo isle. I quickly turned and continued the business conversation.
To be continued…