My hands skittered over the keys, competing to tap the letters faster than the other, red underlines littering the page as letters get transposed. The satisfying pitter-patter shook my dainty little laptop, it would be romantic and poetic to say that its beat was to the time of my heart —rhythmic and melodious— but the words came spewing out of me in gushes of sun rays and rainy days, faster than my heart could ever accomplish. My heartbeat rose and fell as I created an entire universe, accelerating when Aileen’s feet dangled over thin air, all the heat draining from my body and the relieved sigh that slowed my heart back to normal when her love interest swept her up in her arms, finally both confessing all that they felt for each other. Thankfully. It had been a long game of “will they, won’t they?”. I laughed softly, smiling under my breath as I knew all too well I completely controlled this fantasy land, that everything that transpired was held in these inventor’s hands. But it was more than that, it became a section of my soul. Part of who I am had flowed into my characters but the attributes of my characters flowed back into me to change me into who I want to be for the better in an endless cycle. Every character was living and breathing in my mind, I quoted the quotes I had created from when they spoke and I dressed how I would see them dressing. In a way, they were who I wanted to be. They had their flaws, but they had their happy endings too. Aileen fell in love so deeply, going through Hell and back to discover eventually that her love felt the same way for her and had sacrificed so much without her even knowing. She got to learn what it was to have her flaws drawn from her and accepted so wholly. I wanted that one day, rather than the helpless romanticisation of being single. I had dreams I would discover someone who loved to stare at the sky during sunsets and during rainstorms, someone who would long to hold my head and look at me with the same looks that I snuck at them. I wanted someone who could look into my eyes and see a whole future lying there.
I huffed a giggle, both hands going to my mug, fingers stretching over the baby blue ceramic, warmth heating my icy skin. Smells of coffee beans and toasty aromas rose and swirled through the air, drifting over the low hum of people with busy lives. People were stopping their full schedules to meet friends and loved ones for a hot drink on a cold day. But here I sat alone, alone with nought but my laptop and a single earphone in. A soft susurrate in my ear of slow songs full of skilled hands drifting over piano keys and scarred hands strumming a guitar with years of experience. I listened to every note in my head as I wrote, the lyrics overwhelming me with emotion as they washed over me, wave after wave, sending my fingers into a faster typing frenzy. I let my hair drop down to cover half my face so strangers wouldn’t stop and stare at the lonely girl working up a firestorm and mouthing words to herself, swaying ever so gently. I romanticised it; letting me absorb my hair as the colour of a forest in early autumn, the natural brunette like the pine needles that had shed onto the forest floor so long ago, and the faint tints of ginger from having dyed it, like the irregular golden leaf already dropped to the ground, a queen sitting atop her throne and conducting a kingdom of peasants that fell below her in the hierarchy of beauty. I sipped my drink, the steam billowing up and over my face. It was one of the best experiences on a cold day; to simply sit in a small shop, writing and flicking glances through the window at the rain that plummeted from the clouds high above, rippling against the glowing pavement, alive with headlights and flickering “open” signs in storefronts.
On almost all occasions I would be wrapped up in a blanket at home, staring out of the glass like a child and praying for lightning to illuminate that face so full of awe at the level of gorgeous that the world held. It took my breath away to see the radiating orbs of colours like fairy lights outlining a room in the dim light. Everything was better with the rain. Over the buzz of my local coffee shop, I could faintly hear the rain on the tin roof and thunder booming across the expanse of mist hanging in the sky like a child’s crib mobile. When I was young, this hope and wonder was all I knew and I had lost it for the longest time trying to please people who didn’t give a damn about me. But now it came rushing back, encompassed my lungs, stealing away the air that I no longer needed.
I tucked my hand-knitted scarf up over my chin, cosiness fueling my happiness. I had never been to a coffee shop by myself before, never built up the courage to sit in a booth by the window and allow my imagination to run wild as I had always wanted to. Now I had been here for hours and it felt like home. More so than my actual home did right now. I wanted to ask the waitress for a candle and matches to complete all of my inner aesthetic desires, watching a flame dancing around on its wick and grinning up at me, spreading its heat and easy joy.
Every second that passed, I felt myself succumbing to unfamiliar feelings, namely pure, easy contentment and cheerfulness. I smiled without prompting, just smiling for myself. In the back of my mind, I could hear the door jingle as a new customer entered the dry interior, shaking the umbrella outside first and then placing it into the bucket. I offered up a polite smile as we made slight eye contact. She was beautiful, sending my mind spiralling into reels of possibilities of what her story would be. Of what brought her here.
I returned to my writing, using aspects of her gait and appearance as fuel.
My heart stuttered and I wrote the desire of Aileen, the way she felt after she had attained everything she had wanted, the way she looked at her love, yearning to kiss her. I channelled the fairytale we all deserve and after years of a happy relationship, made Aileen get down on one knee, her grandmother’s ring held up like a prize to the woman she had chased for so long. And then she slid that ring onto the finger of her love.
Arya used having an umbrella as an excuse to swirl around in circles and spend as much time in the rain as she could, ears attuned to the drumming of rain onto the cheap plastic above her head. She wanted to fling it away and let the water trickle off her forehead and drench her hair as she slow danced to no music just the song stuck on repeat inside her head. It was cold and the fine hair on her arms stood on edge. She sighed, stubby fingers hooking around the belt loops in her denim jeans, wind whipping around her, sending her hair flying and millions of drops of water slamming into her like bullets. Beauty.
Her body began to fight her, denying her heart what it desired, and so logic drove her towards the bijou coffee shop. Arya had always visited it in the morning with her friends, the memories were bittersweet as she recalled the way they all turned and left her after she came out to them. But it was time to heal, to move on and face what had sent her into marathons of crying at twilight. Only the company of stars on clear nights and, on the best of nights, twinkling city lights against a landscape of endlessly dark rain, setting the world on fire with their mysticality. Perhaps it was the rain that picked her up off the ground, that set her on her feet after she lost all she had known. Removing superficialities and fake niceties made room for remembering the real things in life, the things that made it all worth it. Small things they would make fun of her for; the moon, the ocean breaking against the cliffs, or the colours painted across the morning sky.
A flash of lightning drove her from her reverie.
The rattle of an eerily familiar bell rang out as she stepped through the door frame, umbrella being disregarded in the designated area. She inhaled deeply, searching the room with its pleasant atmosphere. Her eyes connected briefly with a pretty brunette, a small smile dancing on her lips, she was typing so ferociously on her computer it looked as though it would catch on fire.
The shop was so busy and alive, Arya began to regret her choice, nearly turning to go. Nearly. But she stepped up to the counter. She told herself she could simply order cabinet food and take it away with her, back into the comfort of the rain. Something new, though, not the same horrid latte her ‘friends’ had loved.
Her eyes flitted around the room, noting the booth where she had sat just last year, gossiping over the boys who each of them liked while she convinced herself she was like them, so she could stay popular and loved. Even if it was a falsehood, sometimes it was better than being alone. Arya found that brunette again, she was staring out at the rain, empty hot chocolate mug in hand. The look upon her face, the ease in her features as she locked onto the enthralling entertainment of lightning splitting a gloomy sky.
Arya ordered a bowl of fries and two soy milk hot chocolates. She leaned against the wooden counter, rain trailing down her jacket and onto the floor like a network of rivers reaching the sea of floorboards. The waitress handed her a number and she wandered over to that booth, each step jarring and awkward.
“May I sit?”
A set of tropical irises widened as they looked up at her. Classic introvert style, Arya received a small nod and a mumbled, “yes”. She knew that feeling.
Minutes later, the waitress brought out her fries and drinks.
My heart was thumping in my chest, worried I’d make a fool of myself in this sudden social interaction that I hadn’t mentally prepared for. Long hair fell over her face in clumps, darkened by rain and plastered to her beautiful brown skin. I glanced at her, pulling my scarf up so I could hide the lower part of my face from view.
She sat opposite me, clicking a pen and scribbling on a piece of paper. Slowly she placed it on the saucer under the ceramic mug of hot chocolate and moved it along the table to me.
A drink for the mysteriously gorgeous writer?
She looked me dead in the eyes, “I’m Arya.”
I smiled and bit my lip, finding my voice, “Aileen.”
She slithered the bowl of fries to the centre of the table, proffering them to me. I took one, hope blooming in my soul as I noted down the cliche. Now I really had completed the coffee shop aesthetic. Getting so lost in passion and awe about the weather and writing so completely that a random stranger would look at me and wonder about who I was. See me being me and think it was gorgeous. I let my sleeves fall away from my wrist so she could see the rainbow band I had worn since I was 12. She pulled off her dripping coat and tugged her hair to one side, revealing a sunset coloured stud in one ear; the colours of the lesbian pride flag.
I ate my chip as attractively as possible through an uncontrollable smile.