The chair creaks under my weight, crying out a shrill warning that goes unanswered. The anticipation is too much to contain. I watch from afar as she finally steps from the chilled November air. She unwinds the hand knit scarf from her neck, exposing the creamed colored skin beneath. Her mahogany hair peaks from the matching beret, still dusted with the powdery snow that falls from the New York sky.
She smiles at the barista as she settles into her usual corner, book in hand. The pages are worn and brittle; she knows the words well. I smile as I pull my copy closer, wondering what pages we will be reading today. The barista approaches with her order. Her answering smile is friendly and warm, but closed, rebuking any banter. She wishes only to get lost in the words.
I gather my supplies, ready to match my movements to hers in a perfect symphony of choreographed motions. Loose chamomile lain in the bottom of a dry teacup. Pour a stream of steaming water for 3 seconds. I watch giddily as the tea steeps, a grey pool branching tiny tendrils, itching to touch the edge of the cup.
We fish out the bag, gently setting it aside. One squeeze from the lemon wedge and it, too, is discarded. I follow the moves to perfection, a waltz created just for the two of us. Two cubes of sugar tossed gingerly into the cup with a barely audible plop. Four turns with the teaspoon counter clockwise to stir, followed by three gentle taps along the delicate edge.
The dance is complete.
She leans against the seat back, weary from the preparations and desperate to taste the fruit of her labor. Her slender fingers wrap around the edge of the cup, a delectable prize just for her. Her lips pucker as she gently blows across the surface, cooling the steaming liquid. The cup meets her luscious lip, eyes closing in deep appreciation. All the hard edges and ingrained weariness seem to drift away with that tiny first sip. My own cup sits abandoned, too entranced to taste anything. A soft sigh escapes as her tongue daintily sneaks out to gather the remains of the sweet nectar nestled in the corner of her succulent lips.
My fingers quake as she picks up the book containing my words. So many weeks of this same song and dance, just waiting until she reaches the end. Will she laugh? Will she openly weep? My nerves are as frayed as the ends of her scarf. I scold myself, my fidgeting becoming a distraction. She must know. She must read the end before we meet.
Until then, we’ll continue to dance.