Leila and Samuel entered the coffee shop in silence. He held the door open for her and she smiled, but there was an effort in that face, a trouble brewing along with the green tea. Samuel didn’t notice; he’d already turned away from her and was weaving his way to the counter. Leila followed, distracted by the other customers – what were they doing there? Shouldn’t they be at work? At home? At school? She felt oddly displeased with them, these layabouts, these scroungers. This was her place. Hers and his. All the others could – should – disappear in a puff of smoke. She’d like that. It would amuse her.
But the magic was gone. That amused her too and a real smile stretched itself across her lips despite the sadness of the sentiment. She made it to the counter and ordered her latte, extra vanilla flavouring because she wasn’t sweet enough. Samuel asked for an espresso. He always asked for an espresso. He was always in a hurry. It was one of the things that made her realise how truly unsuited they were to one another. How utterly incompatible. What a terrible match. It was one of the things that made her realise she would have to end it.
Coffees bought, Leila and Samuel sat. He took out a newspaper and laid it on the table, folded. He pressed down along the crease, deepening it, running his finger over it again and again. She could read half of the headline – some boring story or other, she really wasn’t interested. She preferred a book. A love story. A romance. Newspapers were dull, much like the man she was watching, much like Samuel. Still, she was glad he hadn’t actually opened it and begun to read. No matter how many times it happened it still stung. Conversation would be nice, talking like a normal couple, discussing the day ahead, the day just gone, the world in general. It wasn’t going to happen and she knew that now. Because he would open that paper. Once he was settled and she was sipping. They had nothing to say to one another. It had been that way for a while now and she was more than aware of it. At first it had hurt, her heart gripped and ripped away from her as she realised he would rather do anything – anything – other than talk to her, look at her, be with her. But over time it had become the norm. They would have their morning coffee together, in this place, different faces but the same almost embarrassing situation – no words. Maybe a look, but only out of politeness.
No affection. No warmth. Certainly no love.
Leila stared at Samuel as he opened the newspaper – the inevitable – and took a swig of espresso. He grimaced and swallowed, looking pained. It was always the same. She wondered why, if he hated the stuff, did he continue to drink it. She guessed it was habit. Habit was the reason and the ruin of everything. It was the reason and the ruin of them at least. And that was everything to Leila. She drank her own coffee, her teeth aching with the syrupiness of it. She ran her tongue around her mouth, imagining she was wiping away the sugar left behind by the drink, feeling better for it.
Samuel looked up at her, caught her licking her lips and staring at him. He looked shocked, not entirely pleased. Leila realised what she was doing and felt ridiculous, quickly looking away at anyone else, out of the window, down at the floor.
There should not be embarrassment. Not after so long.
Another reason why their relationship was doomed.
Samuel gulped down the rest of his coffee and stood, swiping up his paper and securing it under his arm. He said nothing as he left.
Leila continued to drink her drink. She watched the waitress trot over to where Samuel had been sitting, the table on the other side of the café to her own. Watched her wipe the table, scoop up the tiny little cup, place the chair back underneath. Leila watched as a couple sat down, using paper napkins to dry the still wet table.
She supposed it was time to let Samuel – or whoever he was, she’d named him herself – go. She’d find someone else.
©Lisamarie Lamb 2011