I usually sped past the small coffee shop squished into the shopping strip. Caffeine never agreed with me and the smell of the beans ambushed me even from outside.
But I happened to glance inside the window and saw this woman behind the counter. Gorgeous didn't quite do her justice. So, for once, I walked into that building of aggressive aromas.
"Hi! How can I help you today?" Her voice caressed my ears and for a moment all I could do was stare as I waited in line. I don't know what it was about her that immediately struck me.
Maybe her smile? It was bright and genuine, as if she was truly happy to see you. Or maybe even the way her dark, curly hair was messily, yet cautiously put up.
A stray hair grazed her forehead and I desperately wanted to reach out and put it back in place. Maybe it was the natural blush in her cheeks, as if roses kissed them.
I couldn't figure out what pulled me in, but I knew her eyes held me in place.
They were a strangely beautiful golden yellow, like the petals of a sunflower were plucked and place gently around each iris.
"Hello?" her voice pulled me back into reality. She was talking to me.
"Oh sorry!" I stumbled on my way up to the counter. I quickly looked at the menu behind her, "can I have a small Caramel Frappuccino?" I read the first thing my eyes landed on.
"Sure thing! Can I have your name?" I spit out my name and paid her and then watched as she made my drink. She moved so smoothly, so sure of herself.
She called my name and handed me some frozen concoction which confused me because I thought the point of coffee was to be hot.
Still, I held my tongue and sat a booth and watched her, mesmerized by every word that left her mouth, every step she took, every blink.
Suddenly, I drank coffee almost every day. Did it make me jittery and unfocused? Yes, Was it worth it? Absolutely.
After two weeks, I learned her name was Gracie and she had memorized my drink order.
After three weeks and 4 days she said she was hoping I'd be coming in and the day after that, she gave me a free bagel with my drink.
That day she also agreed to get dinner with me after her shift.
She got off work pretty late and so we agreed to pizza at my place.
I also went to buy wine but realized I never asked what she liked to drink, so I ended up getting 5 different bottles so we could have options.
When Gracie came by, she somehow was even more beautiful outside her work clothes. All she had on was sweats and a big shirt but as usual I was caught in her whirlwind.
Everything went amazing, we both loved meat lover's pizza and we ended up going through 4 bottles of wine and we just talked.
She told me about how she left her abusive boyfriend to move here and was worried about making friends. I told her about how my dad kicked me out at 17 and I haven't been home since.
We swapped embarrassing stories like me ripping my dress at prom and how she licked a boy's face during her first kiss.
"God, I haven't even had my first kiss," I confided. Gracie looked at me dumbfounded.
"What? How is that possible? Aren't you like in your 20's?"
"I know, I know. Its pathetic. But I just never got the chance."
"No! I'm sorry, its not pathetic. I think its really sweet." Gracie smiled and took another sip from her wine glass. Then she just stared at me for a moment, I could feel my face getting hot.
"Stop that. What is that look?" I asked.
"Well, I, and maybe it's stupid but, I'll be your first kiss if you want."
"What?" My heart stopped. I couldn't see the rest of the room. Nothing else existed, just Gracie.
"I mean if you wanted. Sorry, never mind, that was a dumb idea."
"No!" I screamed; Gracie jumped. "Sorry, I just, I'd like that."
"Really? You sure?"
"Gracie," I took a deep breath. "I have had the biggest crush on you. The only reason I come into that shop is because of you, I don't even like coffee!"
"You know we also have teas," Gracie joked.
"I actually didn't know that," I admitted. I started rubbing my hands on my pants begging them to stop sweating. Gracie set her wine glass down and leaned close to my face.
"You are adorable. And I would be honored to be your first kiss." She closed her eyes and puckered her lips.
I took a deep breath and followed her lead and I swear I could feel the universe flowing through my bones. When we pulled apart, I was frozen in amazement.
"Wow," I whispered. Gracie let out a little giggle.
"Glad to help."
"So, what now?" I asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean like since I like you and you like me..."
"Oh... Oh! No, sweetheart," Gracie held my hands. "I do think you're amazing and sweet and cute but I'm not gay."
"But I--"Gracie let out a small chuckle.
"This was just a girl's night and I was just helping a friend, and that's what we are." I saw the words leaving her lips but all I could hear was that chuckle.
I put my feelings out there and she was laughing at me. I saw concern on her face, and I saw her mouth moving but all I could hear was her laughing at me. Like they all laughed at me before.
"Stop laughing," I screamed and suddenly I couldn't see Gracie anymore, I saw black. I could feel her hands on my body, and I could hear her laughing. I just wanted her to stop laughing.
I started crying. "Stop laughing! Stop laughing! Stop laughing! Stop laughing! Stop laughing! Stop laughing! Stop laughing! Stop laughing!"
The laughing stopped; Gracie pulled away from me. I blinked and realized I was on top of her and my hand were tight around her neck.
Her sunflower eyes were wide and dim, staring up at me, as they should be, she wasn't that great anyway. I snatched my hands from her neck. She didn't move, she didn't breathe.
I started to Google if you could give CPR to a person that was strangled and thought better of it. I didn't need that in my search history.
Then realization hit. "Gracie?" A part of me wanted her to wake up, for her to suddenly inhale and be alive.
Another part of me knew that if she did that, I'd have to find a way to keep her quiet, one way or another. The other part of me was just happy the laughing stopped. I was not a joke.
I didn't deserve to be laughed at for being myself. I got up and grabbed a pillow and a blanket and set Gracie up to sleep on the couch.
I kissed her on her forehead and after thinking about it, I placed a light kiss on her lips. "I'm sorry Gracie, goodnight. I'll see you in the morning."