Frank sat at the table, trying to look busy. He took a sip from his coffee, then let his eyes wander around the room. The café was smaller than he had expected, a bit too intimate for his liking. Of course no one really knew that this was a first date, but he knew he’d still feel their eyes on him, staring, judging. There were seven or eight other tables dotted around the room, he had managed to snag the only table that had soft, comfortable chairs. At first it seemed like a good thing, but now he began to fret, what if she thought he had chosen these so she’d sit on the couch beside him, the couch was quite small, just enough for two, but they would be very close. He took a deep breath, he was over thinking things, she’d sit across from him, of course she would. The table was a little too wide to make quiet conversation possible, but he hoped the din of the other patrons would cover up what ever they were saying. It wasn’t like they were talking about anything important either, it would be just general chit chat.
He checked the time on his phone, she was running fifteen minutes late which meant he had another five of waiting. No one else had sat down at any of the tables since he had arrived, everyone who had come in so far had taken their coffee to go. A young family walked in, the parents looked frazzled, the children looking excited as they ran up to the display counter, pointing out baked, sugary goods. The father ordered while the mother and children sat down, the mother cast a quick glare at Frank. He felt a slight heat of embarrassment rising on his cheeks. Janet would be here any moment and it would be fine, the woman would understand why he took the table. He discretely watched as the father carried the tray over, the kids were behaving much better than Frank expected. They were sitting still and being reasonably quiet. The parents sat in silence as their children talked at them while they ate their treats. The parents perked up a little as the coffee arrived. While he watched them another two tables filled up, one with a sullen looking teenager who whipped out a book and another by a young couple who were practically entwined since the moment they walked in. It was fascinating watching them navigate the coffee shop without ever letting go from one another.
A woman entered the coffee shop, about medium height, long brown hair, her skin was tanned and clear, her eyes scanned the room, when she met Franks she gave a brief wave in greeting, Frank smiled and returned the gesture. She went to the counter to order. Frank took a deep breath, they got over the first hurdle, she hadn’t just turned around when she saw him. It had happened before, though he couldn’t understand why. He used up to date photos on his dating profile, he wasn’t a prize, but he wasn’t particularly ugly. Besides, why lie about it? They were going to see what he looked like anyway and he preferred coffee with someone who wanted to be there than with someone who felt too awkward to leave.
Janet sat across from him, smiling, “Hi, Frank right, I’m Janet, nice to finally meet you.”
“Yeah, you too”
“Sorry I was late, I got caught up in work, everyone went into crisis mode because my boss decided that working today didn’t suit her.”
“No, that’s ok, you weren’t too long.”
Janet laughed, it was a light sound, filling the room, Frank smiled at her, “That’s a lie, but a nice one so I’ll let it slide” She took a sip of her drink, Frank found himself lost for words his heart was beating quickly, the steady thump began to fill his ears.
“What did you get?”
“A mocha, you?”
“Just a coffee, I’ve never been sure what exactly the different ones were so I just stuck to the usual”
“I’ll have to teach you!”
“Are you a big coffee drinker?”
“Same as anyone else I guess. I usually have a cup or two a day, I try not to go wild on it, all that caffeine, I’d be wired if I drank any more than I already do.”
Franks heart began to slow, things were coming easier as conversation started to flow between them. At some point he stopped noticing the teenager, the couple and the family, they all just melted into the background. At a lull in the conversation he glanced around and saw that the people who had been there had been replaced by new ones. He glanced at his watch, three hours had passed. His stomach grumbled faintly.
“I’m starting to get a bit hungry, would you like to go for some food?”
“Yeah, that would be great!” they stood and still talking, left the café.
As they wandered passed restaurants and examined menus his hand found its way into hers, they walked like that, hand in hand until they decided on a place to eat. As they were seated Janet excused herself to the bathroom. When she was gone Frank smiled to himself, things were going very well, much better than he had expected. He thought that they’d chat for an hour or two and go their separate ways, with a kiss and a promise of doing it again if it went well, or a friendly hug otherwise. Janet arrived from the bathroom and sat down, a waiter appeared a moment later and took their order. After a few minutes he returned with a bottle of wine.
The clinked their glasses together and sipped. The conversation, which was already flowing, continued as they talked about their lives, their dreams, where they saw themselves going.
As dessert was cleared away Janet smiled at him, “I’m having a really nice time.”
“Me too, I actually didn’t expect it to go on this long.”
“Me neither, I figured and hour or two and I’d be at home watching some TV, possibly getting a take away if it went awfully.”
“I’m glad you’re having fun.”
After the meal they walked through the streets, hand in hand until Janet looked at her watch, “It’s getting late, I should probably get home.”
“Yeah, me too, how were you getting home?”
“I was just going to hop into a taxi.”
“Cool, I’ll walk you to the taxi rank then.”
Frank sat on the bus, smiling to himself. It had gone very well. He had walked her to the taxi rank, talking the entire time, and then they shared a kiss, nervous and exploratory at first before becoming passionate. They had already arranged to meet again next Thursday. He couldn’t believe how well it had all gone. He could feel himself getting giddy, he knew it was the wine but he didn’t care. He looked out the window, watching the scenery go by but seeing none of it, all he could think of was her.