Coffee For Johnny
Author: N. Renč

Chapter 1
One

It wasn’t a date. It wasn’t, right? Did I even want it to be a date? The darkened atmosphere of the theatre had felt suffocating. He was one of my best friends. Best friends go to the films together. But he’d bought my ticket.

We’d hugged when we parted ways at the end of the evening, and I know I’d held on just an iota of a second longer than I should have. Why? Well he was warm, and it was a cold winter night. But something else told me to. I resolved on my drive home that night to ask him to dinner. A proper, formal, sit-down-seriously-talk dinner. A date. Yes, I would ask him on a date.

I’d been friends with Johnny Ray since high school. We were three years post-grad now, with me working in my uncle’s bakery and him working as a builder. Most of my high school friendships had dissipated with age, but we’d stayed strong. I loved being in his company. He made me laugh. He annoyed me senseless sometimes, but he had my back and I had his. I had been asked out by enough people in my time, been on a couple dates. But none of them resulted in any sort of relationship. Something in the back of my mind always, always drew me back. Maybe he was why…

At home that evening I had pulled out my phone to text him, asking him out. But there, on my screen, was the message that shook apart any resolve I had that I wanted to be with him;

Eva I’m moving. My dad left me his estate, house and boat. I’m leaving tomorrow morning. Goodbye… sorry to just leave so fast.

His father had passed away a few months prior, leaving his only son everything. We tried to maintain contact over the following two years, but it, like many of my other high school friends, petered out to nothing.

I couldn’t let me focus on that fact, and instead worked on my business degree. Eventually, he became an after-thought, a memory. I found myself opening my own café in our town. I made a decent living and was content being a one-woman-one-cat family. Pretty soon I outgrew my home town and the café, deciding to move to Brecht, a gorgeous seaside town several hours away.

My home here was beautiful. It was a quaint Victorian, two stories, the second story being more of a loft. I converted it into my bedroom, spent many an evening wrapped in blankets on the bay window seat, staring out to the short stretch of sandy beach nestled behind my property. I only owned the small patch of grass that my home sat on, but some feet beyond this were a rickety set of wooden stairs that led from my outcrop to the beach. I put up and potted many plants, learned how to macramé the hangers I strung from the loft’s overhang. I didn’t put up many photographs, rather left them nestled in the albums I kept in the drawer under the bay window cushions. I owned few things as far as personal effects go. My pantry was always stocked so that I could try new goodies for my café, which I named The Baykery. I cringed every time I thought about it, but the locals got a kick from it.

Life was good – great in fact. I made friends with the people I hired, and with my neighbours, all three on my street. Brecht was a little place. That’s why it amazes me that it took months before I saw him.

One chilled winter morning, just after opening, a tall young man walked into The Baykery. He was wearing high vis clothes, shrouded under a heavy jacket. He sported neat, closely cropped facial hair and a fisherman’s beanie. I payed no mind to him as he browsed the front glass display of warm breakfast goods, instead serving an elderly couple their coffee – one black, two sugars and one milky, with foam. The same couple ordered the same thing every morning. Her name was Enid and his name was Mearl. They were sweet, and always tipped. My name tag displayed ‘Eva’ very clearly, but they called me Evie. I didn’t care to correct them.

After they placed their order and dropped their change into the mason jar beside the till, and I made and served their coffee, I dashed back to the kitchen to remove a hot batch of gingersnaps from the oven. I walked the tray to the front and used the tongs kept on my apron’s waist band to move the cookies to their place in the display.

“Won’t be a moment,” I chirped happily to the young fellow waiting.

“No worries,” he replied. My blood shot cold as I looked up, the now half-empty tray slipping from my hands. There he stood, Johnny Ray, brown eyes twinkling in mischief as he grinned at me. “How’ve you been, Miss Eva Matlin?”

 

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