Coffee, Dickens, and Christmas Eve


He’d been here for nearly two hours, and his cup had been empty for just about the same amount of time. Lucy watched him from behind the counter, wondering if he’d ever feel her gaze and look up to meet it. So far, he hadn’t. His eyes stayed focused on his book, and he’d been turning pages pretty consistently since she’d been staring. Normally, she wouldn’t just stand back and watch the patrons, but tonight was slow. Rosalia wasn’t much entertainment either. She stayed by the drive through window, glued to her phone, only putting it away if customers showed up. Managers could get away with that, apparently. And the store would be closing soon, anyway.It was practically empty here, save for the boy and an older couple who were nursing their coffees and whispering to each other at another table. They had ordered recently, though, and probably wouldn’t stay much longer. The boy was really the only noteworthy person to focus on. Just the fact that he’d be here in the first place was unusual enough to warrant Lucy’s stares. Students didn’t typically stay in town over winter break, and this kid definitely looked like a student. He should have better things to do than reading in a Starbucks right before closing. Then again, she should have better things to do than working on Christmas Eve.Rosalia being here made sense. She lived in town, her family was here, and she’d get home with enough time to see her kids before they went to bed. She’d have a normal Christmas. And the couple made sense, too. The whole city’s population was college students and old people who liked the small town life. They’d go home soon and celebrate tomorrow. While watching them, Lucy realized she’d probably be one of the only people in town who would be alone tomorrow.She could have gone home if she’d wanted to. That was a big “if” though. Home was only two hours from campus, close enough to drive, but she didn’t want to be with family this year. They barely celebrated anymore, not since her dad died. That was years ago, but her mom still let the holidays come and go without acknowledging them. Lucy expected a “Merry Christmas” text tomorrow morning, but not much else. And her sister would probably spend the day with her boyfriend’s family. That’s what she’d done for Thanksgiving. No, there was no point in making that drive. No Anadolu Yakası Escort point in just sitting in her room all break. At least here, she could make some money working.But that boy was here too, and he still hadn’t looked up at her. She couldn’t believe it was possible to be that engrossed in reading for as long as he’d been. Must be one hell of a book. His cup was empty except for melted ice and caramel syrup residue. That’s another weird thing about him… who orders frappes in winter? She wondered what his story could be. Maybe he hated his family, and that’s why he stayed behind. Maybe he lived too far to travel back. Maybe he just didn’t give a shit about the holidays, and liked being alone. The town had been uncharacteristically quiet since the students had left, and maybe he was the type to enjoy that. But if you liked being alone, why come to Starbucks on Christmas Eve? Lucy guessed that you probably wouldn’t.Eventually, the couple left like Lucy had expected them to. No one had come through the drive through in a while, either, and Rosalia had finally put away her phone to start cleaning up. Ten minutes to go before they had to kick the boy out, and still he read, seemingly oblivious to the time.“Help me out here, maybe?” Rosalia was busy cleaning the bar area now, and she tilted her head in the direction of the main floor.“Yeah, sure thing,” Lucy replied as she headed over to straighten the condiment counter. Closing was always a chore, but at least it was something to focus on. She tidied up what she could, wiping down the counter and tables. Sweeping was next, but first she’d have to deal with the boy.He was still just reading. His dark hair hung right above his eyes, eyes she couldn’t guess the color of because they were still totally focused downward to the pages. The book didn’t look that interesting from where Lucy observed it, but the boy did catch her attention. He was hunched over the pages, so intense. So interested. She never got like that while reading. Something always distracted her. And his hands held the book almost delicately. His fingers held the pages down lightly, and he turned the pages gently. He was definitely not the type to dog-ear or highlight. Definitely not a reader like Lucy.As she approached him, she squinted Anadolu Yakası Escort Bayan at his cup. Nick. She’d made the frappe for him, but couldn’t have remembered his name without checking. And somehow, even though she was now standing right over his shoulder, he still hadn’t paused to look up.“Hey, um… Nick?” He angled his face up to meet her, not giving any signs of being startled by her appearance. Brown. His eyes were brown. And they were soft, friendly though they’d never met before. Lucy felt her skin warm from his gaze and tried to ignore it.“It’s time for me to leave?” His voice was flat. It was the kind of question that didn’t really require much of an answer. Lucy did anyway.“Yeah, I’m sorry. We’re closing up for the night.”“Nah, it’s fine. Sorry for taking up space for so long. I like background noise when I read, easier to focus.” He cracked a slight smile then, which Lucy couldn’t help but return it.“I can tell,” she said brightly, “that book must be fascinating.” His smile widened in response, and he tilted the cover so she could read it. A Christmas Carol. How cliché.“It’s better than you’d think,” he defended himself before she’d even had a chance to voice her opinion. “Seriously, it’s a classic for a reason.”“But Dickens? No one reads him anymore except English Majors.” Lucy smiled as she teased him. Was she flirting? He was cute, but he was also a stranger.“And Computer Science Majors,” he corrected. He chuckled, and then his smile subsided. “Either way, I’ll get going. Thanks for the Frappuccino.” Nick stood to leave and closed his book without checking his page. Lucy didn’t know why, but she wasn’t ready for him to leave yet.“You’re a Computer Science Major who’s reading freaking Charles Dickens alone at a Starbucks on Christmas Eve?” She tried to keep her tone playfully incredulous, but he raised an eyebrow at her suspiciously.“And you’re, what, a Communications Major working the closing shift at a Starbucks on Christmas Eve? I’ll take Dickens over work any day.”“Communications?” Lucy giggled. She was in digital art, actually. But his guess took her off guard.Nick laughed again, “Well, with the way you’re interrogating me over my choice of literature even though we’ve never actually spoken before, I figured you’d have Escort Anadolu Yakası to be pretty comfortable talking to people. Hence Communications.” She felt her face burn again. He was definitely flirting back. His eyes searched hers, scanned her face, and paused too long on her lips.“I do art. Digital art.” The confidence in her voice surprised her, because she felt weak under his gaze. Her face was searing, and she was positive he could tell. She bit her lip subconsciously and adjusted her apron.“Art, huh? Well, Dickens was an artist too. And A Christmas Carol is a masterpiece.” He was standing too close now. She felt hyper aware of his proximity to her, but it didn’t make her uneasy. Instead, she wanted closer.“I’ve seen the Muppets version,” she volunteered, “It’s awesome.”“Muppets? Your only exposure to A Christmas Carol is through the Muppets?”“Yes? What’s wrong with that?”“Well, I’ve never seen it, but I still think you should at least read the book that inspired it.”“Oh my god,” Lucy exclaimed, “You haven’t seen it? Jesus, okay.” She put a hand on her hip, feigning exasperation.“I’d see it if the opportunity ever came up, but it hasn’t. So I’m stuck with the novel.” His grin beamed sincerely now. He showed no traces of the fake annoyance Lucy exuded. He was totally fishing, but she was inclined to let him.“Here’s your opportunity then. I have to finish closing but then I’m off, and I own the movie on iTunes. Come watch it with me.”She didn’t know why she’d invited him over, but figured it was due to a combination of factors. The first being that the Muppets movie was truly a classic; it was funny and heartwarming in a way Nick’s dusty book probably wasn’t. Second, it felt wrong to be alone tonight, even if she hadn’t wanted to be with family. But the third reason was more honest, more undeniable. She was attracted to him. Attracted to the warmth behind his eyes as he looked at her, to his broad smile, and to his sincere way of poking fun at her even though they were strangers. He was interesting and friendly.Lucy hadn’t ever gotten herself into a situation like this, and wouldn’t normally let something as basic as physical attraction drive her behavior, but she actually liked this boy so far. And she liked the idea of not having to spend the holiday by herself.He must have liked the idea of having someone to be around, too, because he didn’t seem at all taken aback by her offer.“Sure, I walked here anyway. I’ll wait for you outside?” She agreed, smiling at him excitedly before heading back to her tasks. * * * * The drive to Lucy’s apartment felt quick, but the two covered a lot of conversational ground on the way there.

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