Meanwhile, in the coffee shop…

Bobby steeled himself as he waited to be served.  So far, things were going in his favour.  Stefan, his favourite barista, was on the till, taking orders.  It would be easier to speak to him.  If he’d been making the drinks, Bobby would be lucky to get a nod and a smile.  Making the drinks… Bashing the beans!  Did they call it that?  Was that barista talk for making coffee?  Probably not.  Focus, Bobby, focus!  Keep your mind clear so you can pop the question – Oh, God, no!  Not that!  You’re not popping the question.  Nothing as serious as all that.  You’re just asking a question, and, with a bit of luck, you won’t be popping anything.

Keep it light.  Keep it simple.  Keep it direct.  Then, if he says No, you can move on, collect your coffee from the other end of the counter and make a dignified exit.  Then hitch a ride on the next rocket that’s being fired directly into the sun.

It’s just a drink.  You’re only asking him for a drink.  Although… ‘a drink’ sounds a bit like ‘a date’, doesn’t it?  Best to rein it in a bit, eh? ‘Fancy a couple of beers?’  Is that better?  Or is that too blokey?  Too laddish?  You don’t want to friend-zone yourself; you want to make it clear there is room for romantic involvement.

What if he doesn’t drink?  What if he can’t drink?  He might have some kind of condition.  What if he’s a recovering alcoholic?

Stop.  Wait.  Think about it.  You’ve stalked his Instagram enough times to know he enjoys more than the occasional tipple.  All those pics of bleary-eyed nights out.  With his friends.  All those people with their arms around him.  Who are they?  What if one of them’s his boyfriend?  Which one?  That tall one with the hair.  That’s who I would choose.  I bet it’s him.  I bet he’s Stefan’s boyfriend.

Coffee, then?  That’s innocent enough.  No pressure.  Or is it too friend-zoney?

Wait!  You twat!  What are you thinking?  He doesn’t want to go for coffee – he works in a bloody coffee shop.  And he won’t go to one of the competitors’ places – he’d probably get the sack for disloyalty or something if he did.  And here, he probably gets staff discount.  And he’s probably sick of the stuff anyway.  It must be like working in a sweetshop –

“Yes?  Oh, hello!” Stefan beamed at his favourite customer.  “Your usual?”

“Um…” Bobby nodded, feeling his cheeks turn red.  “Please.”

Stefan’s fingers danced on the keypad.  Bobby fumbled a fiver across the counter while Stefan scrawled on a cardboard cup.

“Anything else?” Stefan waited with bated breath.

“Um, thank – no – you,” Bobby blustered, flustered and tongue-tied.

“Loyalty card?”

“Um…” Bobby fished it from his wallet, his fingers flabby like uncooked sausages.  Stefan smirked and stamped the card.  Twice.  He handed it back and his hand brushed against Bobby’s.  Bobby let out a laugh of shock and thrill.

“Nice to see you,” Stefan grinned, holding eye contact.

“Nice to you too,” Bobby burbled.

And that was it.  The moment was gone.  Bobby faced another week of agonising, of building himself up, only to chicken out all over again.

“Americano!” cried the girl at the service end of the counter.  “Americano for Bobby?”

“Um, that’s me,” Bobby shuffled along and reached for the cup.  He couldn’t get out of there fast enough, ignoring the splashes of hot liquid that escaped from the loose-fitting plastic lid and scalded his hands.  Out in the street, he gulped lungfuls of cool air.

What a twat what a twat what a twat!

His stomach lurching, he dropped the coffee into a litterbin and skulked back to the office.

In the coffee shop, Stefan’s grin was all the wider.  At last, he had dared to do it.  He had finally plucked up the courage to jot his phone number on Bobby’s cup.  Perhaps today was the day Bobby would get in touch…




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