My hand stung and I bent over, placing it tightly between my knees as if that would quell the sensation. I hadn't thought I'd slapped him that hard. Surely, he was just overreacting, over acting the flop to draw the foul, Shaq-style. I leaned over the counter to assess the damage. The first thing I saw was a rolling tall paper cup, its contents splattered across the tiled floor. I followed the trail to legs splayed as if they'd been swept, and then to his hands cupping the side of his face protectively. When he pulled his hand away, I could see the blood blooming beneath the skin of his cheek and then spreading to his ear and neck. Before I pulled myself away from the lip of the counter, I watched surprise chase embarrassment across his face.
Even from behind the counter, I could see her clearly. The girl, who'd walked in with her arm looped loosely through his, was now cradling his head in her lap. Her perfectly coiffed blonde hair slipping from its pins and hanging across her face. Her mouth hanging open. It was a little dramatic, but I guess I could understand it. She probably had no idea what was going on. For all she knew, her --what was he? Her date? Her boyfriend? Oh God, her husband?-- had simply ordered a double espresso when he was slapped by the barista. What she didn't know was that she was the other woman. (Or maybe I was the other woman?) That for the past few months, he'd showed up daily during my breaks, shared his hopes and dreams with me over white linens and whispered wishes of whisking the girl he loves around the world. She didn't know that he was a no good bastard that deserved to be face down on the floor. The sting in my hand was receding and so was the guilt.
Except that's not how it happened at all.
Had this been an old Hollywood movie, I would've slapped him hard across the face by now. But as it was, he was standing in front of me with a five dollar bill outstretched in his hand, the only flush in his cheeks from the nip of the cold February air. His companion looked up into his classically chiseled face, two bright blue eyes staring out of it. I pulled the cash from his fingertips in disgust. Not only was there something mildly skeevy about accepting money from him, as if it were payment for our time together, but my insides were roiling. I smiled to stop myself from crying mascara all down my apron. Those months apparently meant nothing to him. Granted, I'd never asked him if he were with someone, but as he bent down to kiss the woman hanging onto him, who was clearly his girlfriend, the anger I felt couldn't be quelled by the "failure to define the relationship" excuse. Hurt quickly replaced anger as he dragged his drink across the counter and flashed me a dazzling smile as if everything was completely fine. It was the same smile that had won me over when he came in and sat at the corner table, with the objective of breaking my heart. He strolled through the front door now and as the chime sounded, my heart plummeted.
I'd just stood before my cheating boyfriend and his other girlfriend and I'd said and done absolutely nothing. No, not nothing. I'd served him fucking coffee. Tears licked the back of my eyes and I ripped my apron over my head before storming to the back.
When I got to the back room behind the stacks of paper cups, I slid down against the wall and tried to take a few deep breaths. I tried desperately to push the self-pitying questions from my head. Oh why me? What did I ever do to deserve this? That dirty rotten scoundrel, how could he? (That last one wasn't so 'self-pitying', was it?) I focused on the black combat boots shuffling towards me to suppress the tears and I didn't look up when they stopped in front of me. Lizzy bent down to eye level, her face full of sympathy and disbelief.
I spoke before she could, answering the question I saw in her expression. "Yes, that was Matt," I said flatly, or as flatly as I could muster. Sympathy I could handle. Pity would be too much.
"Oh, how could he?" she said, echoing my thoughts. She put her hand on my shoulder. "After pining after you for weeks and then all those dates you told me about. And then he smiled as if he didn't know you! That's just cruel."
YOU ARE READING
It's kind of a Valentine's Day story, but not. Kind of funny story, but not quite that either. In a world full of massive coffee franchises, sometimes you're just looking for a good, simply cup of joe. The real thing. "Love [is] found in the most un...