“… and yours must be the chai latte?” I looked up as the waitress placed my cup on the table. “I gave you an extra marshmallow.” She smiled and I was dazzled by her amazing blue eyes. In just that momentary glance I could see depths of colour, like tiny sparkling sapphires. She turned and walked away and I watched her long legs disappear behind the counter. Cute boots, I thought to myself. They were exactly like a pair I had been eyeing off in the shoe shop for weeks, if only I had enough money to buy them.
I turned back to Dave as he was still droning on about some stock market deal he had lined up. I looked down at my chai latte to take a sip and suddenly noticed the pattern of a love heart swirled in the cream. I quickly looked back at the waitress, but she was busy behind the counter serving another customer. Was she trying to make fun of me?
I could hear Dave slurp at his coffee and I cringed. “Ahhh, that’s good,” he said. “Now, about Saturday night… I was hoping we could meet up again and maybe see a movie?”
Oh my god, I thought, how could anyone stand to spend a whole evening with this guy? Dave was my sixth coffee date in as many weeks, and each one had gotten worse rather than better. It was a different reason each time, but this guy was just plain boring. It was Caroline that had talked me into this internet dating thing. She even helped set up my profile, and I admit it was fun at first with all those messages from strange guys. Then I found it overwhelming, trying to sift through all the requests and send polite responses. Some were easy to ignore. All the ‘hey babe’ and ‘want to have fun’ messages were deleted straight away. But every now and then I would get a message where the guy had taken a bit more time, read my profile and had actually made an effort to connect. Then we would swap a few emails for a couple of days before moving to instant messaging. Each time I would get really excited and feel this wonderful buzz that something special was about to happen. After all, who would imagine that I could really find love on the internet? Anyway, it always seemed things developed so fast and it felt like I was falling in love without actually having met the guy, so it seemed natural to arrange to meet over a coffee. And that’s where I kept falling flat on my face every time.
The first guy ended up being married with three kids. He was much older than his photo suggested and it turns out he was looking for a bit of company on the side. Sorry mister, I was out of there damn quick.
Then there was the rock musician. I was quite excited about him and we had made a real connection through music and my poetry. But when he turned up in his ripped jeans and long greasy hair I just couldn’t find that physical connection. He was alright looking, you know? But there was just something about him that didn’t quite work. I was determined to give it time though, and I even let him kiss me goodbye. And that’s when I realised it wasn’t going to work. I just felt nothing.
I’m sure the waitress must have thought I was a joke by now, after witnessing so many of my failed attempts. Maybe I should go somewhere else, and change my luck.
But there I was with Dave the accountant and stock broker. “I’m sorry Dave. I think I have some friends coming over Saturday night.” I tried to be gentle with him. I know what it’s like to be let down. After all, it had taken all my courage to start dating again after Kyle had left me. I joked to my friends that my heart had been broken into little pieces and I kept them in a box under my bed, but that wasn’t too far from the truth.
Suddenly I realised Dave was standing up to go. “Well, it’s been really nice meeting you, Molly. I’ll call you and maybe we can catch up again soon.” I looked down at my hands to avoid his eyes, when he leant forward and kissed me awkwardly on the cheek, before walking over to the counter to pay for our drinks.
I watched him through the window, disappearing down the street as I absently drew random patterns in the sugar Dave had spilled in the table.
“Is that one a keeper?” I jumped as the waitress suddenly appeared beside me. I could smell her perfume in the air and it made me breathe deeply. “I thought he must have sparked something,” she said as she pointed at the table.
I looked down at where I had absent-mindedly drawn a love heart in the sugar. Above it was the shape of an eye.
“Oh my gosh,” I said, feeling my face go red with embarrassment, “Not at all.” I brushed all the sugar into a little heap.
“Look, for what it’s worth, at least you have been trying.” She sat down opposite me and smiled again with her blue eyes. “I know what it’s like, hun. But you just have to be patient… or look outside the box.” She patted my hand with her long fingers as she stood up. “I’m Elizabeth, by the way.”
“Hi Elizabeth, I’m Molly. And thanks.”
“Hey, you don’t have to thank me for anything. It’s just that you notice things when you work in a coffee shop all day, and I have to say that I’ve noticed you.”
“Oh my gosh,” I said, “Have I been that obvious?”
“That’s not what I meant, sweetie. Say, we are having an after-work party here Friday night. Why don’t you come along? There will be lots of guys and girls here and that might be a better way of meeting someone.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m not really very good at parties, particularly when I don’t know anyone.”
“Well you know me now. I’ll take care of you, Molly.”
“Okay, well… I’ll think about it.”
“No, I’ve heard you give all those guys the brushoff. Say you will come and that will make me really happy.”
She was hard to resist so I agreed that I would come, but then I felt stressed about it for the next three days. There were so many things to worry about. That fact that I didn’t know anyone really worried me a lot, and what would I wear? I didn’t want know if it was meant to be dressy or just something casual. What did coffee shop people do at their after-work parties?
When Friday night came around I was wound as tight as a clock. I had spent all day agonising over what I should wear and I decided to go shopping and try and make myself feel better. I walked around all afternoon and must have tried on every dress in the shopping centre, but nothing felt right. In the end I splurged on those cute boots and just decided to wear one of my short skirts with a floral pattern. With a white blouse on top I was sort of part-way between casual and dressy, so hopefully I wouldn’t feel too self-conscious.
I walked up to the coffee shop and could see lots of people inside through the window. I stood there for a little while trying to decide what to do, and I was about to run away when Elizabeth suddenly stuck her head out the door.
“There you are, Molly. I was wondering when you were going to show.” She grabbed my hand and started dragging me inside the shop. “Come on, there’s lots of people I want you to meet.”
Elizabeth pulled me toward a group of people and started to introduce me. “Hi guys, this is Molly – the one I was telling you about.” She was still holding my hand and I felt her breast brush against my arm as she turned toward me. “Molly, this is Jim – he’s the cool one.”
“Hey Moll, how are you?”
“Oh, fine thanks. It’s Molly.”
“Sure, cool.” He looked me up and down with an appraising stare that made me feel uncomfortable.
“Don’t mind Jim, Molly. And this is Tom.” She pointed her hand to a nicely dressed guy with a cute smile. “Tom is a real sweetie,” she flirted with him, “And this is Gwen, she likes girls, but don’t worry, she won’t bite.” Gwen smiled and said hello. She seemed quite nice and I warmed to her soft brown eyes and the kind smile on her mouth.
“I’ll look after Molly for you Elizabeth. We’ll keep her warm.” Elizabeth let go of my hand and slipped off to join the crowd.
I was surprised when Gwen leaned forward and gave me a hug and then kissed me briefly on the lips. Before I could respond she had stepped back and was smiling at my surprise.
“So Moll, where have you sprung from,” said Jim, leaning against the wall.
“Sorry… what?” Oh my god, I sounded like an idiot.
“I mean what do you do babe? You don’t work in the coffee shop.”
“Oh, no, ummm… I’m a student.”
“I like your boots, Molly,” said Gwen. “Really cute, they go with your skirt. I looks pretty sexy.” I looked down at my boots as Gwen spoke and felt my face going red. I was feeling uncomfortable and wished I hadn’t come and I could feel a panic attack coming. I hadn’t had one of those for ages, but I knew the signs as my mouth went dry, my heart was racing and I was have trouble breathing.
Suddenly came to my rescue and gently took my arm. “Say Molly, why don’t we go and get you a drink. I could do with another one.” I saw him give Jim and Gwen a disapproving look as he guided me away. “So what are you studying, Molly?” My chest felt like it was being squeezed and I thought I might be about to faint.
“Ummm… writing, I’m studying writing,” I managed to get out. My voice sounded hollow and croaky in my ears.
“Wow, that’s so cool. What sort of things do you write?”
“Oh, ummm… you know, poetry and things.”
“Sounds great, I love poetry… ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, thou foster-child of silence and slow time’ and all that.”
“O gosh, you know Keats?” I suddenly started to feel a little better.
“Well, only a little. It’s the only one I know,” he coughed, a little embarrassed. “I studied it at school and I’ve never forgotten it. All that stuff about lovers pursuing each other for eternity.” I looked at Tom more carefully.
“I really love Keats, I could talk about his poetry all night… but, I guess that’s not what you do at parties.” Tom laughed and smiled and I felt myself relaxing a little.
We stopped at a bowl of punch and Tom carefully filled a glass for me. “Why don’t we sit so we can talk? You might be more comfortable.” Elizabeth was right, this Tom was a real sweetie and I started to warm toward him. Was he the reason I was invited?
We settled into one of the benches in a corner of the coffee shop and talked. He was nice and not at all pushy as the conversation just flowed between us. Every now and then I would spy Elizabeth as she floated around the room and she would smile and blow a kiss my way. I was starting to feel relaxed and I smiled back at her.
At little while later Gwen appeared at my side and kissed me on the cheek. “How’s it going, Molly? Is Tom looking after you?”
“Of course I’m looking after her, Gwen,” Tom replied.
“You’re a good guy, Tom. Say, did you know Shayne just arrived?” She gave me a strange look that I didn’t understand, but Tom suddenly seemed excited.
“Hey, where is he? Sorry, Molly… will you excuse me?” I was astounded when Tom got up and disappeared into the crowd. Suddenly I realised why he had been so easy to talk to.
Gwen slipped into the booth beside me and Elizabeth came and sat opposite. “Hey Molly,” she said. I found myself smiling as I looked into her dazzling blue eyes. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Well I thought I was, but…” I looked towards where Tom had disappeared into the crowd.
“I should have told you,” she laughed. “So, we are winding up here soon but a few of the girls are kicking on to a night club. You should come with us.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I have nothing else to change into.”
“You look great, Molly. Really sexy in fact, good enough to eat,” said Gwen as she squeezed my hand. “Come on, it will be fun. It’s only a couple of blocks away.”
“I guess so,” I said. I always have trouble saying no to people.
Half an hour later I found myself on the street sandwiched between Gwen and Elizabeth. They were both holding my hands as we walked along and, I have to admit, it felt kind of nice to have been so accepted into their little circle. Gwen was several inches taller than me and every now and then she would lean her head towards mine. It was strange, but it made me feel protected.
There was a queue to get in the nightclub but the bouncers clearly knew Gwen and Elizabeth and we were ushered straight inside. A woman in a tight fitting red dress came over and kissed Gwen on the lips.
“Hey babe,” she said. “Who’s this?”
“Hi Emma, this is Molly. She’s a friend of Elizabeth’s.” Emma gave me a fake smile and said ‘hi’. I watched her eyes look down at where Gwen was clinging to my arm. The night club was already crowded but we ordered drinks and found a table for the four of us to sit down. Gwen and Elizabeth stayed either side of me and Emma sat opposite, glaring at me every now and then. I wasn’t sure what Ellen’s problem was so I just tried to smile back at her and be friendly.
After a while the girls decided they wanted to dance. Gwen grabbed my hand and dragged me onto the dance floor. “Come on Molly. Let’s dance.” I felt embarrassed to dance in front of all these people, but I couldn’t say no so I let her guide me into the crowd.
I danced in between Gwen and Elizabeth and, despite my natural reluctance I found the beat of the music so infectious my feet were soon moving and my hips swaying in time. Gwen kept running her hands over my hips and swaying with me and I really started to enjoy myself. Every time I looked up she was smiling at me and I started to feel more and more comfortable.