COFFEE OR TEA?

I turned, startled, as the doors burst open and the staccato beat of
her heels on tiles announced her approach. From the look of it, she
just had a bad day at the office. “Long time no see,” I teased her,
standing up as she stalked in.

She pecked my cheek and slid into the booth, ignoring the menu I
offered her. “Coffee. Black.” She looked at her watch. “I have another
meeting in two hours. Are you sure an afternoon date is a good idea?”

“You need to relax every so often. Another late night, dear?” I
wrapped her hands in mine, quelling her fidgeting. “You’re working too
hard.”

“That’s advertising for you. No such thing as a nine-to-five job.
It’s exciting, though. Always something new.”

“I’ll take what I can get of you. Perhaps I can invite you out to a
late dinner at Chateau Verde?” I caught her glance at the wall clock.
“But let’s get your coffee first.” I beckoned the waiter. “The lady
will have coffee. Black, please, no sugar and no cream. I will have
Earl Gray, if that’s available. That will be all, thank you.”

“Black coffee. Earl Gray.” The waiter ambled off.

She sighed in frustration. “Dinner? Can’t make it. I don’t know how
late the meeting will run.”

“Maybe I could bring you coffee at the office. One of those gourmet
blends. Perhaps I can convince you to try tea?”

“Whatever. As long as it has lots of caffeine.”

“Allow me to spoil you. Is there anything else I can do for you? I
missed you, you know.”

Her eyes softened. “Sorry about the past few days. We’ve just landed a
major account and I’ve been too busy—”

“Hush, it’s okay.” I leaned forward to kiss her, careful not to smudge
her lipstick. Her cellphone rang, so I bumped her forehead instead. I
quickly moved back as she snapped her phone open and listened.

After a rapid-fire conversation, she stuffed the phone into her purse
and groaned. “Oh, damn! They’ve moved the deadline up, so we have to
scramble.” She threw me another apologetic look before digging around
for her wallet.

“It’s okay, I’ll take care of it. You know I never let you pay
anyway.”

“Can’t blame me for trying.” She kissed me on the cheek again as she
slid out of the booth. “I’ll call when it’s done!”

I raised a hand to signal the waiter in order to cancel the order. He
hurried over with a tray, setting coffee in front of me and tea on the
space opposite. I hadn’t the heart to correct him or ask him to take
the drinks back, so I thanked him and asked for the bill. People got
it wrong almost everywhere we ate, anyway.

I reached for the tea across the table. Dark curls of flavor spread
through the tepid water as I steeped it, swishing the tea bag around.
While waiting for the flavor to develop, I lifted the coffee cup to my
lips. The bitter taste made me grimace. I fingered the black velvet
box in my coat. I took another sip, and then another, letting the
burnt roast trickle down my throat. Coffee would take a while to get
used to.

- Written in response to flashxer prompt “A relaxing spot of tea”