Friday brought around a pleasant change when I stopped in Cerak’s Café after my morning Spanish class. It started off the same as usual; me ordering a coffee, Dimitri shamelessly flirting with me, Will apologizing for it, but the difference was that when I sat down at the mahogany table in the back (where I always sat— I’d started calling it my table), Will joined me.
For the first few moments I just stared at him blankly, barely registering the fact he was sitting at my table. Then I realized he was looking at me expectantly, like I should be the first one to speak. So I do. “Hi,” I uttered in a tiny voice.
“Hello,” he responded, his eyes crinkling as he smiled. “Mind if I sit?”
I shook my head immediately. “No, not at all. Do you need something?”
“No,” he responded, slightly amused. “I don’t need anything. I’m just on break and seeking entertainment. You don’t mind, do you?”
“No,” I told him quickly.
His blue eyes lit up. “Great. You’ll have to excuse me for my lack of manners, but I’ve never properly introduced myself. Or gotten your name.” He held out a slender hand. “I’m William Cerak. You may call me Will though, if you’d like.”
“Katie Holmes,” I replied, placing my hand into his. It was hard to keep my face steady when he gave my hand a firm squeeze, because I wasn’t going to lie, it kind of hurt. Then what he said caught up to me. “Cerak,” I repeated, surprise coloring my tone. “Wait, do your parents own this place?”
A small smile appeared at his lips. “No, I own this place.”
“You?” I repeated, startled.
“That’s, uh, surprising.” Surprising was one word for it. Maybe I was being judgemental, but weren’t all shop owners older? Will didn’t look a day over twenty-six. Maybe twenty-seven.
Seemingly guessing my thoughts, he shrugged. “I suppose. You’re probably thinking I’m a bit young, but as long as one has the papers required, anyone of any age can own a coffee shop. I’m twenty-six, by the way.”
And if that didn’t make me feel young. I decided then and there not to mention my age.
“How old are you?”
Shit. I barely held back a grimace. “Almost twenty-three.” Which technically wasn’t a lie. My birthday was in January— only three months away.
“So are you in college then?” he inquired, his facial expression giving me the impression like my answer would hold the cure to cancer.
“Yeah, my last year.”
Suddenly self-conscious, I glanced down at my hands, which were folded around my coffee cup. This time I had a Vienna coffee, which was really sweet, and really delicious. Steam wafted from the top of it, eddying up and vanishing into the warmer air as I hesitated.
“If you don’t want to answer…” Will began, trailing off unsurely.
I jolted myself from my mini-trance. What was I doing? Acting like an idiot in front of a hot guy, that was what. Again, this was why I didn’t have a boyfriend. “No, it’s fine,” I promised him. “It’s just kind of… um, English. I’m an English major. Yeah, I know, it’s nerdy.”