Coffee and the Beast
The whirl and grinding of coffee in the background set Coral Dar at ease in a chair next to the front window. She considered the stack of paperwork in front of her on the table while she sipped dark roast from her cup. The Golden Mug always had good energy from local support. In addition, she knew they played a big roll in the events hosted by Timeless Square.
Coral coordinated the holiday events throughout the year for the square. Today, she reviewed the specifics for their Lucky Duck event in March, next month. She wanted a moment to herself, to be honest.
The offices were overly stressful since she broke it off with her boyfriend of six months. When she saw his quick recovery from their break by talking with every woman in the office and taking most of them to coffee, she knew he wasn’t the one for her in the end.
Coral touched her programmable coaster on the interactive table. She read the menu display in the table and selected her preferred roast for another full cup. After she set her cup in place, a laser from the ceiling shined a red beam in the cup while she reached into her briefcase. By the time she placed her reading pad on the table, the coffee was ready. The dark roast, extra cream latte, with a leaf rendition made her smile.
She knew the leaf cost an extra two tokens but she loved the way the program rendered the image.
A glance around the shop made her smile widen. She loved seeing so much activity in the square. This was the reason why she worked as an event planner. She grew up in this area and wanted it to grow.
Five years ago, when she had returned from trade school, she saw many of the stores going out of business. The idea of Timeless Square closing down made her sick to her stomach and motivated her to join the cause of making it relevant. She applied and got the job of event planner through a family contact.
Coral brushed her fingertips over her reading pad and it came alive with video of her younger self. Surprised, she continued to watch her lips part and her braces appear when she smiled in the recording.
Damn, she hated those braces. She barely remembered making the video.
Coral sipped from her mug, the perfect temperature coffee caressed her tongue and awoke her system. She activated a replay of her video with a touch in the pad.
About sixteen years old she had recorded herself deciding what the perfect man would be like for her future self. “Be sure he has an Aston Martin, otherwise, he’s not rich enough for us!”
She spit the mouthful of coffee all over the small table and covered her lips while she continued to laugh. Glancing around, she drew the attention of the immediate circle. Her finger paused the video of herself and she tugged out a antibacterial wipe from the dispenser in the corner of her table. She wiped the table, blotted her files then dropped the tissue into a aperture in the center of the table. She waved a dismissive hand at the onlookers.
“Nothing to see here,” she said.
Most went back to their business but one man continued staring. The man stood from his table. He strolled toward her with a frown on his face. When he stopped at her table, he said, “Do I know you?”
“That is the worst pick-up line in the world,” she said and her smile wavered.
“That wasn’t meant as a pick-up line,” he answered.
“Oh!” she straightened in the chair and lifted her reading pad. She slipped it back into her briefcase. The man took the other seat at her table. He set down his programmable coaster.
She stared at him. “I was planning on working.”
He finished his selection of coffee and the laser replicator came to life from the ceiling. “I’m sitting here until we figure out where we know each other. Don’t worry. I’ve got work of my own to do.”
“Okay,” she went with it. She didn’t see a briefcase in his hands but he wasn’t unattractive and she could use a slight distraction from her thoughts about her ugly breakup with Jeb. “I don’t recognize you, so, it may take a while.”
She swiped right on the table and ordered egg bites from the menu. He said, “Do you know a guy named Oscar?”
Coral though for a moment. “No, I don’t believe I do.”
He sipped from his mug and fished out a device from his jacket pocket. He wore a nice sport suit which made her take a second look at his physique. She liked what she saw.
“How about Elmo?”
“Are you talking about that kids show now?”
He chuckled. His laugh solicited an easy smile from her while she nibbled on the egg and ham bites in front of her. He said, “What high school did you attend?”
“More of your pick up routine?”
He shrugged. “I hate an unanswered question, it nags at me, takes up valuable thinking power.”
She giggled. After a breath, she considered his proposal more seriously. “I’ve lived here all my life. I played in the water fountain when there was one in Timeless Square.”
“I remember that fountain.” He said, “We moved here when I was in middle school.”
“There are three in the area. I’m not sure you were in mine.”
“Yeah, that’s why I asked about high school.” His bright green eyes darted up while he thought more. “I’m remembering a school play. Not at my school, but at a neighboring school.”
“I used to be a thespian.” She admitted, “Maybe you saw me in a play. That’s it. We’re done!”
He laughed. “Not quite.”
“I played many parts when I was in high school. My mother wanted me to become an actress.”
“That’s unusual,” he said and drank from his cup.
“She wanted to live vicariously through me,” Coral admitted. “Turns out, it’s not my cup of Joe.”
He set his cup down. “That’s my name, by the way. Joe Rudi.”
She nodded then shook her head. “Doesn’t sound familiar.”
“Were you in the play Beauty and The Beast?”
She lifted her eyebrows. “Yeah, I did that my sophomore year.”
“Your performance was noted in the local newspapers, right?”
“Oh, yeah, that one was one of my favorite roles.”
When he opened his mouth to speak, a strong deep baritone billowed out from diaphragm. “Certain as the sun rising in the east. Tale as old as time—”
She shrugged and sang along with him, “Song as old as rhyme. Beauty and the Beast.”
They laughed in unison.
He sobered from the moment. His eyes sparkled. “I stared at that picture of you in the paper and thought the review didn’t do you justice. You played that role so well.”
“You saw the play, then?” she asked.
“I took a date. She wanted to see it.” He shrugged.
“Did she enjoy it?”
“No, she said you were off pitch,” he admitted. Crimson blotched his cheeks. He scanned the others in the coffee house and refocused on her before he spoke again. “You were stuck in my head after that, for a while.”
“Awe,” she looked at her files and swiped at one with her finger. “That’s very nice of you. I wasn’t that good. You’re date was likely right.”
“She was wrong about many things.”
The crowds bustle in The Golden Mug filled the silence between them. She glanced up from her reading pad and held his stare.
He said, “Did you eat lunch?”
Coral brushed the rest of her egg bites into the aperture and shrugged. “I could eat.”
He smiled. “I’m glad I ran into you today.”
She nodded. “Me too. Can I ask you a question? Do you, or have you, ever owned an Aston Martin?”