This story is one of the September Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
“So that’s one pot of English breakfast tea for you, madam, and one americano for you, sir.”
“Thanks, Owen.” Georgia grins up at me as I place her order on the table. I grin back. Even though she’s been coming to the teashop for ages now, my boss still insists that I keep up the pretence of waiter and customer.
“Cheers, mate,” says the guy sat opposite her.
I don’t grin at him.
I pick up my tray, reel off a routine “enjoy,” and begin my return to the teashop counter.
My heart is thumping so loudly that I wonder if I should try and cover up the sound with my footsteps.
Once I’m settled behind the till again, I dare to look back towards the table. I watch, jealous and wistful, as Georgia delicately pours tea into the little floral teacup I gave her — the one I always save for her visits. Steam rises from it, clouding her glasses so that her violet eyes are hidden from view.
Even then, I can tell that they’re sparkling.
But not for me.
I tear my gaze away from Georgia for a second to look at the guy. I can’t see his face from here, but I don’t need to. Everything about him — his posture, his movements, even the back of his head — just screams “handsome.”
It makes me want to pick up one of the teashop’s famous blueberry muffins and hurl it at him.
Instead, desperate for a distraction, I take my anger out on a pile of cutlery that needs polishing.
But it doesn’t stop my brain from spinning.
Who is this guy? I think erratically, scrubbing at a handful of knives way harder than I need to. Georgia never said she was seeing anyone — I mean, she doesn’t have to tell me anything, but… we’re good friends, right? I — I even thought that — that maybe…
But as I hear Georgia’s laughter and turn to see the guy move closer to her, igniting a blush across her cheeks, any hope I had of us becoming more than just “good friends” comes crashing down harder than a tea set on terracotta tiles.
It takes everything I have not to make a run for the back door.
It’s a long and agonising hour before they leave.
In that time, Georgia’s date (there’s no denying that that’s what he is anymore) has bought her more tea, made her laugh at least once a minute, and — to my horror — ordered a slice of cake.
With two forks.
But finally, finally, their shared plate is clean, their cups are empty, and they’re getting up and putting on their coats. He helps her get into hers, adds insult to injury by holding the door open for her, and they walk out together.
It’s too painful to watch. I turn away, feeling myself begin to crack.
But then —
My heart jumps to my throat, and I spin around.
It’s Georgia — she’s come back in!
She’s breathless and smiling, and her violet eyes are sparkling behind her glasses again.
But this time, she’s looking at me.
Right at me!
Hope rises within me faster than I can control it, flooding my entire body in a tingle of nerves, excitement, and —
“Owen!” she repeats, skipping towards me.
My brain explodes.
Has she changed her mind about him?
She’s within two yards of me, holding out her hand —
Is she going to tell me what I’ve wanted to hear all this time?
All that’s separating us now is the counter —
Has she come back to tell me that I’m really the one she wants? That she cares for me? Maybe that she even loves —?
A sharp clink of metal on glass below me cuts through my thoughts.
Confused, I glance down.
There’s a coin in the jar on the counter that wasn’t there before.
I look back at Georgia. She’s putting a purse in her pocket.
“I’m so sorry, Owen.” She laughs. “I can’t believe how forgetful I am sometimes — I left without saying goodbye or leaving you a tip!”
…And I break.
Like a tea set on terracotta tiles.