The sofa where I slept for the night is surprisingly comfortable for being in such bad shape. It’s better than nothing. The room has no windows and it looks like it was for storage purposes once upon a time. The careless way everything is piled instead of organized tells me that this space hasn’t been used in a long while. When I opened my eyes earlier this morning I felt completely disoriented and for a few seconds I had no idea where I was. As soon as I recalled the events of the previous night a wave of distress overwhelmed me. Pull myself together. Stand back up. Keep Walking.
I repeat my motto while I check myself in the mirror of the staff’s bathroom and I try to asses the situation. My hair is a jumble of deep brown waves, falling over my shoulders. I regret not having a comb as I try to untangle this mess with my fingers. I give up after a few tries and I decide that a messy knot will have to do for now. Splashing cold water over my face I come to the realization that I was actually lucky yesterday night. Thinking about it I realize that I am genuinely thankful and I might have came off as ungrateful or harsh. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame blame Mason if he thinks I am curt or even rude. Mason… There is just something about him that looks vaguely familiar. I thought I had seen those brown whiskey eyes before, but my words died on my lips as soon as I started to ask if we knew each other from somewhere. Honestly, I was not in the best shape yesterday night and my mind was preoccupied with more important things. Assessing his intentions was priority number one, good thing Mr. Prince Charming, was after all, charming enough. I admit to myself that when I tried to leave the cafe after he suggested crushing in his place, all my strength nearly leaved me. Confusion and panic took over and honestly? I did not have anywhere to go. But I did also know what trusting strangers can bring on yourself, so my instinct carried me to the door. Thankfully, I didn’t flee and I am safe for now. I am no longer soaked to the bone and it looks like the sky might open up during the day. Time to regroup and think what’s next. I need my stuff, my ID, phone and credit cards. I don’t even have shoes. I have to go back there and pack my things. But today’s Friday. Damn it. I need a plan and I need coffee.
When I leave the bathroom it doesn’t take me long to see him in one corner of the cafe. Mason is staring out the window with his back to where I am and his arms up, his hands holding the back of his neck. I silently stand there, lost in thought for a moment and I can’t help but notice how the muscles of his lean arms stretch the shirt he is wearing. He lets one arm fall to his hip and his other hand moves back and forth through his black hair. “Fuck!” He says still looking outside.
“Hey,” I clear my throat standing in the same place “Mason, are you okay?” He immediately turns towards me and when I meet his eyes two pools of emotion meet me. “Hi, God… you scared the shit out of me.” He says sighing. “Sorry.” I mumble confused. “There’s nothing you need to apologize for. I came here earlier than usual to check on you. I went to the back room but you weren’t there, I thought you left.” His eyes are lost in thought while he speaks and when he looks back at me I find foreign emotions behind them. Worry, concern. “I was in the bathroom. I… I didn’t left.” I am not sure why I don’t say ‘yet’ because I sure intended to leave. But there is something incredibly soothing about someone caring. Someone giving away this kind of emotion freely. This is something I am no longer used to, so I take the moment to savour it.
“Let me get you a coffee.” He says while stepping around me and behind the counter. “Or are you more of a tea person? We obviously have both, this is a cafe after all.” He laughs to himself and shakes his head. “Coffee is perfect. Thank you.” I tell him with a small smile. “Coffee it is then. I am happy to hear that, I am not one to brag but I do prepare the best Flat Whites in town.” He starts moving things around and pushing the buttons of the huge coffee machine. I take a sit in a tall stool in the counter and I study all of his movements. I have no idea how hard is to be a coffee barista, but Mason’s moves are precise and fast. It looks like he’s been doing this for a long time.
He places my coffee in front of me with a crooked smile and props himself on the counter looking at me expectantly. I take a sip and relish in it. “Good?” He asks. “Surprisingly great.” I reply holding the glass with both hands and looking at him. “I’ll take that as a compliment, but you wound my barista pride Ailie.” He is being playful and nice and I really want to reciprocate but I’m still confused and unsure, so I change the subject. “Thank you for yesterday,” I look at him with seriousness. “I am sorry if I came off as rude but everything took me off guard. I…” I look for words but my tongue doesn’t want to cooperate. I am usually a good at this, at expressing myself. Mason’s whiskey eyes stay on me all the time, all humour lost. He is listening carefully and it looks like he is bracing himself for something. That makes me very nervous. “Look, all I want to say is thank you. But I don’t really know you and…” He cuts me then. “So know me.” He says looking into my eyes. “What?” I reply stunned. “Know me. Ask me whatever you want to know. Even the best of friends are strangers at some point. You don’t trust me, and I get it. You are right, you don’t know me and yesterday was something else. But today is a new day, I want to give you hand. I will not ask you to come to place again. I’m just asking you to know me until you feel confident enough to let me help you.”
I am stunned by his words. My ability to reason and form thoughts is now completely lost. I open my mouth to say something but I am side tracked when the sincerity of what he just said hits me. So I gape, I look at him with my mouth hanging open and I gape. Well played Ailie, shock him with your weirdness.
“I’ll start.” he says. “Hi, I am Mason Prince. I am a coffee barista, I am allergic to cats and I dedicate my free time to rescue damsels in distress that need no saving from the rain.” I close my eyes and shake my head trying to prevent myself from laughing. I look back at him and the crooked smile is back. He knows. “Hi, Mason Prince. I am Ailie James. I am sociology student, I like my coffee strong and I tend to run under the rain with no shoes.” We look at each other then. He is smiling shamelessly and I am not sure if I should pay more attention to his mouth or his eyes, so I dedicate myself to both completely. I study his face this way and I soon notice that I am smiling at him with the same intensity. His smile is truly breathtaking, it’s wide, his lips are full and a small imperfection on his front tooth makes it all more genuine and perfect. His eyes… there is just something about them that I can’t quite place.
“Well, well, well, what did my little Maze brought home today?” A girl’s voice breaks the moment. We were both entranced with each other and we didn’t even hear the bell’s door cling twice. The girl is now standing beside Mason with an arm on his shoulder and a wicked smile on her lips. She is looking me over and when she brings her attention back to Mason she pats him on the chest playfully. “Baby, you didn’t tell me she was so cute.”