Copyright is held by the author.
SHE SAT in the café her mouth watering with anticipation of the cappuccino coming her way. This barista was the best she had found here; he knew exactly how to get that foam to wiggle well above the tiny cup, the coffee so rich with crema that sweetening it would be an insult.
The noise around her was a comforting blur and she tuned it in and out like she did when she was bent on the task of groceries. One minute humming a familiar tune, then fully immersed in reviewing the caloric count and sodium levels of a soup can or cereal box. She had debated sitting at an outside table but the air was cool and she did not want to chance cooling her perfect coffee too soon.
The café was at the end of the laneway, a step away from a small art boutique and then spilling out into the square where tourists and locals ignored each other as they snapped their photos. She thought she could identify them by whether their selfie included the architecture or just their handsome, beautiful, perfectly made up faces. No bruises on them — at least none that showed.
Her coffee suddenly appeared as if by magic, breaking her reverie and by the time she looked up to thank the server, he was gone. Lifting the cup, she shook it gently, testing the foam and sighed with pleasure as it reassuringly continued to blanket the treat below. She inhaled for a long time, drawing a stare and smile from the man at the next table — a local she was sure — his casual clothes too fine for someone from North America. She gave him a weak smile, dropped her head and then replaced the coffee in its saucer to commence the swirling before finally taking the long anticipated sip. She knew the foam was clinging to her lip and she didn’t care. She deserved something this good and no-one was here to ruin it. “You never know what your last pleasure will be” he had told her once, back when she thought she knew what love was.
As the therapist had advised, she fully focused on the coffee, feeling it enter her bloodstream, warming her. She imagined it was a lover, gentle and kind — perhaps a woman next time — but the thought set off a stream of flashbacks: fists and feet, shouting and pain. The coffee slipped and clattered back on to the saucer spilling a good amount of its precious cargo and she felt horror as she watched it puddle on the white cloth and as the genteel man rushed over to see if she was OK. Why wouldn’t I be, she thought? Just because my body is covered in bruises, my bottom lip swollen and gashed, my eyes red and maybe a little black? Because I’m telling people about the funny fall I had — oh what a great story to tell about this trip — my so-called second honeymoon?
Hands flurried clearing and cleaning, and suddenly a new coffee (how fast was that?) miraculously appeared while the man next to her gesticulated, murmuring in a language she couldn’t understand, handing money to the server and then pressing a real hankie into her hand. To do what — wipe her lip? Her eyes? She reached instead for the wad of crumpled tissues she always carried in her cross over purse and put on her laugh, telling him she was fine, just tired — from the accident she said, pointing to her face and rolling her eyes. She gestured that the coffee had burned her lip and that she would be more careful this time. He gave her a look. The look. The bullshit look she was used to and for a moment she wanted nothing more than to take this man’s hand and walk away into the crowd. Instead she thanked him and after a slow nod and a pat on her shoulder, which caused her to wince, he gave a slow sigh and walked away.
She lowered her head, her mouth watering with anticipation of her cappuccino. She swirled the foam and then lifted the cup carefully to her mouth.