"One hot chocolate coming up!" Mary called cheerfully to Amelia as the latter took a seat at her favourite table and pulled out a book.
Amelia smiled in response, opening her book at the marked spot and sweeping a stray piece of hair from her face as she began to read.
Mary placed the steaming cup of hot chocolate down beside her, patted her head playfully, and returned to work.
For an hour or so Amelia read while Mary worked, tending to the morning orders of various office workers and tired parents fresh off the school run.
As the crowd finally died down, Mary dropped into the chair opposite Amelia with a huff.
"The same fifty people come in every morning and order the same thing, yet I'm never fully prepared!" she sighed as she took a bite of the half-a-biscuit left on Amelia's dish.
Amelia, engrossed entirely in chapter 17 of her book, simply muttered "uh huh" as she flipped the page. But before she could read another word, the book was snatched from beneath her.
"Nancy knew deep in her heart that this was not something she should be doing.
She knew that her Father would disapprove, and that her heart would surely be broken" Mary read dramatically from the pages, laughing lightly
Amelia snatched the book back and smiled, shaking her head at her best friend.
She had long since learned to simply laugh as Mary mocked her taste in literature, romantic books with seemingly disastrous matches that turned out to be meant-to-be.
"We need to get you a boyfriend, Ams" Mary said loudly, causing Amelia's cheeks to flush with colour
"Mary, could you come wipe down these tables?" called Harvey, the owner of Lucille's and Mary's boss, from the far end of the shop
"Coming!" she called back in a sing-song tone, before rising out of her chair.
She took the remaining piece of biscuit from Amelia's plate, popped it delicately in her mouth, winked and walked out of sight.
Amelia loved these days at Lucille's, all the hot chocolate she could drink, time with her best friend and - most importantly - time to read.
Three hours, four cups of hot chocolate, five chapters, and many conversations with Mary later and Amelia's stomach was rumbling for more than cocoa-infused milk.
She closed her book with her mark in place and placed it back in her bag. At that moment, Mary looked over at her friend.
"Time for lunch?" she called
"Yep! I'll come by at 3 when you finish?"
"Perfect. Love you!"
The bell tinkled quietly as Amelia opened the door and stepped out into the town square.
The sun was warm on her face and the slight chill in the air told her fall was truly here.
Late October, the perfect time of year, in Amelia's opinion.
Orange leaves fluttered delicately down around her as she walked in slow steps along the cobblestone street in search of something to satisfy her hunger.
Of course, she long knew this town like the back of her hand, and could absent-mindedly wander the streets for hours without needing to look up.
She stopped in Pierre's grocery store and picked up the ingredients for her favourite soup, and a loaf of seeded bread that would admittedly not compare to her Mother's, and headed out again.
She made her way to the small village of cottages on the other end of town, and rapped on the door of number 26.
A kind-faced lady in her late 70s opened the door with a smile and pulled Amelia into a tight hug.
"Hi Geema" she squeezed out as the hug emptied most of the air from her lungs
"Hello my darling. What have you brought me today?"
"I thought I'd make pumpkin soup if you can spare one from the garden?"
"Well, seeing as it's you!" Geema said, pinching Amelia's already rosy cheeks so yet more blood flowed to them.
Amelia placed down her bag and stepped out into the backyard.
Geema had always had a love of gardening and Amelia could always find seasonal vegetables growing there.
Pumpkin soup was her favourite, and Geema's too, so they often enjoyed it together when they could.
Her Grandmother had taught her to make soup from almost any vegetable when she was 13 and since then she'd often stop by and make lunch for the two of them as they caught up on the goings on
of their lives.
Geema had a more active social life than Amelia, it seemed, as she spoke about her various community events and which of her friends had won this month's beautiful garden competition.
Amelia listened lovingly to her Grandmother's stories as she chopped vegetables, adding them to the sizzling pot.
The smell was blissful as she stirred in the final few ingredients and left the soup to simmer, turning her attention to the bread, slicing off a few pieces and placing them on the table.
Amelia returned to the soup, ladling out a bowlful each for her and her Grandmother, before sitting down.
The two ate and spoke, enjoying each other's company.
After washing up, helping her Grandmother water some of the higher hanging baskets in the yard, and accepting a few candies for the trip back, Amelia bid her Geema goodbye.
"I'll see you in a few days, Geema"
"Thanks for visiting my lovely! See you soon. I love you!"
With that, Amelia made her way back to town to meet Mary at the end of her shift.
As she took her usual shortcut along the stream and through the small woods, Amelia stopped for a moment to sit down and rest.
Though she loved reading, carrying books everywhere she went was rather exhausting.
She perched on a nearby log and watched the water run quickly over a rock that was perched near the bank, and placed her bag on the ground beside her.
She had plenty of time to get back for Mary, she thought, as she pulled a candy from her pocket and began to unwrap it.
The cold air and heavy bag had somewhat numbed her hands as she fumbled and dropped the candie. She watched it roll a few feet away before stopping.
She hopped off of the log to retrieve it but before she could, someone else picked it up.
"Drop something?" a smirk voice asked from the shadow of the nearby birch tree
"Um... Well... Yes" Amelia stuttered back, shocked at the sudden appearance of another person.
How long had he been under that tree? Had he been watching her? Why else would he be under a tree in the middle of the woods, she thought.
Without speaking, the man stepped forward a little, though staying in the shade of the tree, so Amelia could just make out his features.
He had a defined jawline, a smile that was really more of a smirk, and dark eyes. His hair fell lazily off his head in a fashionably nonchalant way, and his body was slightly muscular.
His hands worked quickly unwrapping the candy and popping it in his mouth
"Hey!" Amelia called, before realizing how silly she would sound
"Oh I'm sorry, was that a particularly special candy to you? You're welcome to come and get it back... " he grinned
"No, I... I have plenty" she replied, surprised at his forwardness.
"Well in that case, I shall continue to enjoy it. Thank you"
"You're welcome..." Amelia began, before daring to ask the question she was afraid to know the answer to "what are you doing hiding in the woods?"
"Hiding? Who says I was hiding?" he began "I was just reading peacefully under this tree when a delicious candy rolled into my sight and, well, I have a sweet tooth"
"Right... Well, I have to get going."
Amelia picked up her back and hurried off, her face red and her remaining candies rusting in her pocket.
It wasn't until she was on the edge of town, within sight of Lucille's, that she realized something.
How did he know her name?