June was flustered. She felt ashamed as she plonked her large, leather bag – dark berry, completely out of season for the summer – on the counter of the coffee shop, digging inside desperately for her purse. Her hands felt various keys, Cadence’s toys (perfect for when Cadence picked public transport as her place to have a meltdown), empty wrappers that should have been binned weeks ago. Feeling herself going red, she glanced at the barista nervously. He had his eyebrows raised but said nothing, waiting patiently.
It was less bothersome than the grumbling, throat-clearing queue behind her, filled with grumpy souls who tapped their foot and sighed as she rootled about her bag for what seemed like hours. June eventually found the purse, rifling through it quickly for the correct change, and practically threw it at the barista. He had a small smile on his lips, which twitched as she apologised profusely.
“It’s fine,” he murmured, clinking coins into the cash register before nodding at the next person. June scrambled to get out of the way and wait for her coffee, wiping the back of her hand on her head. Of course, she had to look completely flustered too, the hair on the back of her neck damp and a globe-like sheen on her forehead.
June had thought it would be a good idea to treat herself to some coffee, despite the hot day and the school run only half an hour away – the coffee would certainly gloop in her stomach all afternoon after she rushed to Carrie’s school and Cadence’s grandmother’s, where the latter child was staying. However, she was too warm, too risky in her endeavour with her children waiting for her in now twenty minutes.
She closed her eyes briefly, allowing herself a rest from darting about town in her too-tight jeans and the jacket she had put on without thinking, which thankfully – or not, considering it was like a sauna – covered sweat patches that circled her armpits in her best blouse.
“Hey, your coffee.”
June opened her eyes and saw another barista holding a coffee, a cool, young woman with tattoos up her arms like intricate snakes. She looked completely effortless, her hair silky and perfectly tousled with no sweat at all on her porcelain skin. June wanted to cry looking at her, wishing she had the flat stomach and cool, careless, somewhat sexy way about her that she did before two kids and a thirtieth birthday milestone marched her way.
June took a small sip, burning her lips, and quickly made her way out of the coffee shop, past tutting customers who still stared at her as if she had committed high treason for forgetting to get her purse out in a timely manner. Just as June stepped out of the glass door and into the burning street, a hand touched her shoulder. She didn’t recoil at the familiar feeling, but was surprised to see the man who served her standing behind her.
“Sorry,” he apologised, frowning as he smiled in a friendly manner. “I just had to ask – do I know you?”
June was stumped. She couldn’t think of any way she would have met this admittedly attractive guy – dark hair, a Hemsworth-worthy chiselled jawline, a toned body that showed perfectly beneath his work shirt. She shook her head, hoping her eyes didn’t wander as she scanned this stranger, but smiled back.
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t recognise you.”
It was a lie, and she knew it as soon as she said it. A frown pushed on her brow as she stared back at him, stuck in the hot blast of the sun in the middle of the busy pavement, a hot coffee heating her hand uncomfortably. Yet she couldn’t move yet. The more she stared at him, the more he felt familiar to her. She couldn’t have gone to school with him – she went to an all-girl's school – and she worked as a PA. This man had certainly never crossed her path.
But he had.
And he knew it too.
Eventually, he simply gave a broader smile, letting the frown drop, and opened the door again.
“Sorry,” he repeated, his voice soft. “I just really think I know you.”
June nodded silently, watching as he ducked back into the shop and disappeared from view. June blew air between her tender lips before making her way back towards her car, her entire body slowed as if time had been snatched and pulled, dragged between two godlike fists after the déjà vu had hit.
May was relaxed. Well, she tried to be, now that she had arrived at the coffee shop and could finally slow down. She moved her shoulders in little circles, listening to the satisfying pops as they snapped into comfortable position, and she let out a soft grunt in happiness when her body loosened from the tension. She tipped her head at Luke over the shoulder of the customer in front of her, sticking her tongue out playfully. He gave a small smile, amused, but kept his face professional and reserved as the man in front reeled off a particularly complicated order.
May would have just been happy with the coffee – and Luke’s company. As the man stepped aside, she leant her palms on the counter and gave Luke a lazy smile.
“How was it?” he asked as he typed in her order – knowing perfectly what she would have ordered. They had been together since they were twenty, and it in fact had been the first thing Luke knew about her. He had worked in his father’s café as a teen and occasionally helped out on busy days. May had been a student, studying for her degree with textbooks spread about her on the silver table as Luke took her order. A milky coffee with plenty of sugar, more than enough so it was almost too sweet to drink but a perfect treat. She took the same order every time she visited Luke at work, now he was back at working as a barista after a few years of construction jobs.
“I’m just glad to be away,” May admitted, pulling her credit card out of her pocket and handing it to Luke. ”Remind me to never help out on a school trip ever again.”
“I will when you stop enjoying it.” Luke grinned at her properly and she stepped aside, waiting for Cindy to pour her a drink. May had worked at the primary school as a teaching assistant for the past seven years and she did enjoy it. Even with the snotty, bratty, pukey kids, she felt satisfied in her job. Completely put off having her own children of course, but it made her appreciate her time with Luke all the more.
Cindy handed the drink over and May took a sip despite the steam curling dangerously – she couldn’t resist a little sip, a small taste of things that weren’t perfectly good for her. Her eyes ran down Cindy’s arms, admiring the tattoos that crept around her limbs, and briefly wondered if she should get one too. Luke liked them and May wanted to make the most of her youth before she had to settle down, get married and have children. Sure, thirty-two wasn’t exactly twenty, but she was still fit and eager and enjoying the youth that still glowed in her veins.
Cindy gave Luke a wave and began making her way out of the door, taking slow steps – it was hot and she had been on her feet all day with the kids, looking at museum exhibits and trying to get them to fill in the activity sheets.
May turned immediately, wondering who could possibly be calling her name. She froze completely, unabashedly expectant that a familiar face or even an old friend could be calling her. But she watched as a teen girl called to another, both of them slim, blonde cool girls who linked arms and giggled as they went to the counter.
“June?” May muttered, unsure how she could have got those names mixed up. May, June, month names, summer names. But they sounded nothing alike. She had no reason to confuse them, not when she had never done so before. But she sipped on her coffee again, swearing at herself as her lips were scorched, then let herself out of the coffee shop.
June shook the salad bowl firmly, watching lettuce and cucumber and tomato jump out at her like a leafy firework display, listening to Cadence and Carrie play in the next room. They had gone from the garden to the bedroom to the living room, restless and somehow extra-energised from the heat, and June wished they would simply sit. Their excitable screaming hinted at the girls falling asleep quickly tonight (please) or being far too hyper to rest for hours (please, no).
“Girls,” she called, yawning. It was the kind of weather that would be perfect with a sun lounger and a tequila – though June would much prefer a vodka and cranberry, her favourite, pre-mother tipple. “Girls, come and sit down now. Food is ready.”
It was salad and hot dogs, a simple, picky type of meal. The temperature was creeping higher and June didn’t have the stomach for even putting the oven on. The memory of the warm coffee made her mouth prickle so she quickly sipped cold water before calling her girls again.
“Carrie! Come on, now, it’s dinner time!”
Carrie walked in, flushed and bright-eyed, with Cadence waddling beside her, their hands locked. It made June smile, and she helped Cadence up to the table before putting the food out in front of them gracefully. The girls nattered and giggled, still buzzing with the promise of school holidays, swimming pools and endless days of boundless, outdoor fun on the horizon.
June had taken a few mouthfuls when the doorbell rang. The girls shrieked playfully, their mouths full of food, but June avoided the usual ‘eat with your mouths closed’ speech to get up and see who was at the door. Even the growling of her stomach, hungry for food, didn’t cross her mind as she yanked open the door.
It was like she had known. The barista, the man who had served her, the man she knew but also didn’t, was standing in the doorway. She didn’t even question why he was there, though he held up a diary – luckily only scribbled with work dates and play dates rather than secrets.
“It’s me again,” he joked, passing her the diary. “It had your address in it. You’d dropped it in the shop.”
“Thank you,” June said gratefully, thumbing through the pages unnecessarily. He stood in front of her, just in his shirt and trousers – the apron from his uniform had been removed. “I don’t know what I’d do without this.”
“It’s old school. I like it,” the man joked. “Most people use technology and reminders.”
June laughed a little with him, wondering if she should ask him in and offer him a drink, but instead he surprised her yet again.
“Is your name May?”
“No, it’s June.” She waved the diary. “Didn’t you catch the name?”
“I did,” he admitted. “I just wasn’t - I wasn’t really sure. When I was trying to figure out who you were, I had the name May in my head.”
“Maybe you know another May?” June shrugged, listening as the girls giggled loudly from the kitchen.
“I’ve never met a May in my life.” The man gave a smile and raised his hand in a wave. “I’ll see you.”
“Thank you...?” June tailed off.
“Lucas. Thank you.”
June watched him leave and shut the door behind her, locking it before going back to the kitchen with his name ringing in her head. Familiar but not. She had never known a Lucas. Shrugging again, she returned to her girls and joined them for dinner.