She placed two mugs and a single serving of toast in front of the man who sat alone at a booth for two.
He hadn’t ordered. She hadn’t asked. He smiled politely but didn’t thank her for the prompt service. She hadn’t expected him to do so. They’d spoken only once since he started coming in here for breakfast. His pain had been so raw, that she couldn’t have refused or forgotten his order.
He’d drink one of the coffees, eat a single slice of toast and leave a ten dollar bill on the table beneath the untouched coffee. He’d wait until he caught her eye before leaving. Nothing ever changed in his routine. It was only on the days she felt strong that she could meet that gaze evenly, when it wouldn’t make her want to cry.
Except today was different. It had been a year since he first came in here and ordered. A year since they had spoken. His eyes were red, but he didn’t cry. Not in public. Not in front of her. Today she was not strong and she kept her gaze averted. He sat longer than usual, trying to catch her eye before leaving, but she refused to look in his direction.
Eventually she heard the door chime and she turned to find him gone.
She started to clear the table but stopped halfway through. Her eyes fixed on the untouched coffee and the money that sat under it with a note that had only three words on it. I miss you. Tears stung her eyes. She wiped them away, but more came to replace them. It was a stream that she could not stop and she collapsed into the booth. She hadn’t expected it to hit her this hard.
“I miss you.” She whispered the words at the empty booth where he had been sitting earlier. She buried her face in her hands, glad that at this time of the morning there were no other customers.
Ka-ding. She jumped up at the sound of the door, her hand smacking the coffee mug in her rush. She turned to see who had come in and hoped that it would be him, but it wasn’t. Her heart ached with the realization that he wasn’t coming back.
She turned back to the table. Coffee spread across from the mug and she watched as it dripped to the floor. She wiped away her tears and then coffee. What was done, was done. There no use crying over spilt coffee. They had both made their choices. She had chosen her punishment. Her fate. She wasn’t going to let herself feel his forgiveness now.
She turned her attention to the new customer and forced a smile on her face.