My back was turned, but I knew he was there. I could sense his presence. I wanted to look behind me and confirm this, but I also didn’t know if I was ready for that. Up until now, he had just been the cute guy who was in all of the same classes as me. Of course, I had noticed him right away, on the very first day of the semester, actually, but I had also tried to push him out of my mind. He was way out of my league and there was no way he was going to take notice of me.
But then it started to seem like he was noticing me. I sat in the third row from the front of the lecture hall, and no matter what seat I was in, he always sat one row directly behind me. I had enjoyed it, the feeling of his eyes on the back of my head. It made my pulse quicken and made it hard to concentrate on the chemistry. After the first few weeks I thought maybe he was working up the courage to talk to me, but it never happened. I felt stupid for thinking that he was interested in me, but still confused about why he always seemed to place himself near me.
Like now. I was standing in the pick-up line at the on-campus cafe, waiting for my coffee, when I heard his voice. I glanced over and he was at the register, paying with a shiny black card. As if he sensed me looking at him, he turned his head my way. I looked back at the coffee-splattered countertop before our eyes met. The person in front of me had their name called and grabbed their drink, bumping me up a spot. All I had ordered was coffee with two pumps of vanilla creamer, how long could that possibly take?
The bored-looking barista walked over with a coffee cup in her hand, and I instinctively reached for it.
“Medium latte for Kelly,” she said loudly and set it down. I pulled my hand away and awkwardly moved to the side so the blonde girl behind me could come up and get it.
I was a bit surprised that her latte came out before my coffee, but baristas mixed up order priority all the time. I was sure that it would be out soon.
He was right behind me now, since the blonde girl that had been separating us was gone. It was just like in chem lecture. I felt myself getting warmer and the spot on the back of head where I imagined his eyes to be, tingled.
“Large coffee black for Jared.” The barista brought over another coffee cup and placed it in front of me just as uncaringly as she had with the latte.
A few strands of my air blew in front of my face as he walked past. He grabbed the coffee and then turned. This time, there was nowhere else to look, and my eyes met his. They were a dark brown, but not in a way that made them seem dull. I was sure that if I looked closely enough, I would see some golden flecks.
“I think they forgot your order,” he chuckled.
I had imagined this guy speaking to me for months, and now that he had I had no idea what to say.
“I could order you a new one,” he gestured towards the register.
“Oh. No, that’s okay.” I finally found my voice and hurried to tell him he didn’t have to do that.
“Oh, it’s no problem. Besides, we have a good-” he glanced at his watch- “ten minutes before lecture starts.”
I couldn’t help the smile that lifted the corners of my mouth. “You have more faith in this barista than I do.”
Jared laughed and his coffee sloshed out of the top of his coffee lid.
“Oops,” he said, and brought the cup up to his lips. With his tongue, he traced around the top of the lid until the coffee was gone. My eyes followed every movement and I unconsciously chewed on my bottom lip.
“Let’s get you a coffee, huh?” He winked at me and then walked up to the register. The dark-haired barista had to put down her phone to go over and help him. I was standing there like an idiot, still thinking about his tongue, when he came back over. He slid the credit card back into his inside coat pocket and took a cautious sip of his coffee.
“Large coffee, two pumps of vanilla creamer for Jared.” There was no one else left in the cafe, so there was no need for her to speak up. She said it monotonically and pushed the cup towards us. Then she went back to scrolling on her phone.
Jared reached for the cup before I could and handed it to me. The barista’s lazy scrawl was so hard to make out that I could barely tell it said ‘Jared.’ For some reason I really liked seeing his name on the side of my cup. I’m sure he did it for no other reason than he didn’t know my name.
“How did you know what I drink?” I asked him. He took another drink of his coffee and then we started walking to the exit.
“Mmm, I may have seen you order here a few times.” He gave me a crooked grin when I looked up at him in surprise. “You always get the same thing.”
“Well, aren’t most coffee drinkers fairly ritualistic in their habit?” I retorted. Hearing him talk about seeing me made me feel really warm and mushy- I didn’t even care if he was a murdering stalker.
Very much not like a murdering stalker, Jard held the door open for me as we walked outside. It was barely 8a.m. so the campus was still fairly dead. It was also cold out, which kept people from their usual lounging at the picnic tables and benches.
I glanced down at my ugly winter boots and wished I had decided to look nicer that day. My gray coat was also noticeably worn and stained. Jared, on the other hand, looked phenomenal. He was wearing khakis and timberland boots with a black parka. Everything was spot and crease-less.
“I suppose so,” he said.
“Do you drink black coffee every day?” I asked.
“No?” I was surprised. The only black coffee drinker I knew was my grandpa and he always said that it was the only acceptable way to drink coffee. I always assumed that all black coffee drinkers felt the same way.
“No, I get something new every day,” he told me.
“That’s weird.” It slipped out before I could control myself.
“Why is that weird?” he laughed.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” I mumbled. “I’ve just never known anyone who doesn’t stick to the same coffee choices.”
“Well, now you do.” There he went again, smiling at me and getting me all warm and fuzzy.
“How come you’ve never talked to me before?” I blurted.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “You always seem so focused and serious in lecture; I never wanted to bother you.”
I half-laughed, half-snorted at his response. I was anything but focused when he was around.
“What’s funny?” he asked. We were almost to the lecture hall, and I realized we would have to stop talking soon.
“Nothing,” I told him. The sidewalk was icier over here and I needed to concentrate on my feet or else I was going to fall on my butt.
“Can I sit next to you today?” He asked, and I swear my heart stopped. We had reached the building and Jared held the door open for me.
“Yeah, sure,” I said, trying to sound casual.
We stepped through the entry way and I stomped the snow off my boots. Other students were coming in now and starting to fill the lecture hall. I usually got here much earlier than this, but I admitted that being late was worth it to talk to Jared.
As I was reliving our conversations in my head, I noticed that he wasn’t next to me. I looked over my shoulder and saw that he was standing stiffly by the doors where we had come in. I followed his gaze through the open door to the lecture hall but didn’t see anything except students finding seats.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked him.
Jared blinked and broke his stare with whatever it was that he was looking at. He looked down at me with an apologetic expression.
“I’m sorry, I forgot about something important I have to do today. I won’t be able to stay for lecture.”
“Oh. Okay.” I didn’t know what to say.
“Yeah, I’m sorry,” he apologized again and started backing towards the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you.”
He turned and weaved his way through the last-minute students filing in and then he was gone.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in