The delicious smell of coffee and sense of warmth tempts many through the doors of the café. The plush sofas and armchairs say “curl up and relax”; the music – background by nature – encourages the friendly buzz of conversation. Even the tabletops, adorned with cartoon personifications of cups of coffee are inviting you in.
Two women sit huddled in the corner, gossiping animatedly. A short haired man in a stripy sweater and strategically placed blue scarf frowns into the pile of papers in front of him. A regulation male in his early thirties taps away on a macbook, making the occasional gesture towards his empty coffee cup to try and hide the fact that this is his makeshift office. The token group of students pack themselves into one little table, chatting, making use of the free wi-fi and rationing the number of coffees bought. A trio in the centre appear to be having a meeting of some sort, although they are not the usual candidates. The dominant speaker is a clean-cut young man; styled hair and tidy clothing. The second man’s patterned beanie hat nods as he takes notes, sporting heavy stubble, combat trousers and scuffed trainers. The faded purple-haired young woman wears heavy make-up, at odds with her casual clothes. They are a peculiar group and the nature of their brainstorming session is unclear. A business venture? Potential flatmates? Some form of creative genius?
A man in a grey sweatshirt and jeans, sprouting a beer-belly self-consciously enters the café. The non-descript figure had spent ample time on his hairstyle, attempting to hide the thinning patch on the back of his head. He focused his gaze on the display of chocolate cake, juicy fat muffins and oversized cookies but wriggling in discomfort in his too tight jeans he thought he had better not. He resolved to order a low-fat coffee, highly embarrassed at using the girlish phrase ‘skinny latte.’ He awkwardly eased himself into a chair, figuring he had about 45 minutes to kill before he could make his way home. This would have been an adequate amount of time to have spent in the gym, and seeing as he was right next door to said gym it would almost be like telling the truth.
The harassed waitress finally collapsed into a chair with a massive mug of coffee. Red-faced and exhausted, she curled up for a much needed rest. It had been a hard day. Firstly she had been yelled at for arriving five minutes late, despite having never been even 30 seconds late before. Then she spilled hot milk down her leg after the bolshy manger had knocked into her as he strode past, non-apologetic as usual. After that the place had been busy non-stop so she never got her lunch break. So now, finally, at 3pm she got to sit down. In her line of vision was the arrogant business man who had been so rude to her 10 minutes ago. She shifted her seat so she didn’t need to be reminded of being treated like she didn’t matter just because she was a waitress. A collection of glitzy, slim girls were gathered around the sofa in the window. Next to them, in her plain uniform, she felt inferior.
The overweight man fidgeted in his chair, trying to find a comfortable way of sitting in these non-yielding jeans. In the armchair opposite him he noticed the waitress who served him. He had cringed as the man in front of him had taken his temper out on her and attempted to be extra friendly when it was his turn to order. The girl was in her early twenties, quite pretty and as her body language suggested, stressed out and unhappy. He watched her eyes fill with tears as she glanced towards the window. Following the direction of her quick, embarrassed gaze he laid eyes on the gaggle of self-righteous girls giggling in her direction. Sighing, he turned back to find himself facing an empty chair; her jumper, book and cup still there. His spirits sunk, he despised how judgemental people could be like those perky, tanned and ‘friendly’ trainers at the gym. He had felt humiliated in their presence, with their superior attitudes and disapproving stares. Grabbing his wallet he rose from his chair, relieving the waistband of his jeans from digging into his belly.
The waitress splashed her face with cold water and smoothed down her hair. After being belittled all day, being made fun of by those stuck up girls was one too far. She took a deep breath, unlocked the bathroom door and strode out with her head held high. She did not want those girls knowing that she had been crying. Determinately not looking towards the glamour-fuelled sofa, she slid into her seat and reached for her book. Only then did she notice a fresh cup of coffee and slice of chocolate cake sitting on the little table in front of her. Sighing she realised somebody must have claimed her seat whilst she was in the bathroom, despite her things reserving it for her. Then she noticed a note labelled “To the pretty waitress”. Astonished, she unfolded it reading the following words: “I just wanted to do a little something to put a smile on your face- don’t let anybody make you feel inferior.” She stared at it for a good few moments, assuming she must be imaging things. But no, the crisp piece of paper was real in her hand, as was the unfamiliar handwriting. Shyly she examined the café for any sign of who it could have been but the customers were all engrossed in their own worlds, not giving anything away. What she didn’t see was the friendly man with the too-tight jeans pulling on his coat and scarf at the doorway, watching her out of the corner of his eye for that smile he wanted to make happen.
The same customer approached his home, trying to somehow look as if he had been working out. Luckily the cold always made his cheeks go red, which was also a sign of physical exertion. His wife was bustling around the kitchen when he entered the house. “How was your work out?” she called to him. He sunk into a chair, with an appropriately exhausted sounding sigh. “It was pretty tough,” he replied, “Really got my appetite going.”