Part two -- Autumn
As the leaves turned brown and a chilly wind picked up, autumn arrived. Much to my surprise the diner still managed to be profitable enough at night for the owner to keep it open. The diner got a little bit busier again and a lot of poor students poured in on the late chilly evenings to study and have a quick bite. I was still grinning at the fact that mister Gardener had all but fired me when I proposed to install wifi in the diner. Now it was one of the main attractions of this dingy place. That, and Jonah's food of course. Among all the college students was Matthew. After that first, fateful day Matthew had come back to the diner every night I was on shift. Working, drinking coffee and much to my dismay observing me as often as he could. While Jonah seemed in heaven and wished for us to start a romance that could rival Stephenie Meyer's 'Twilight' -including the cliches- I still wasn't sure what to make of the gangly young man.
'Sweetie, can we stop the drooling and work on getting these orders out?'
I was shaken out of my thoughts on Matthew by Jonah's deep voice. In thought I had turned to watch Matthew working silently on his laptop, surrounded by several teens who were talking and giggling loudly. I disliked the boisterous laughs and business the youths brought with them. I liked the older people way better, they were way quieter customers. Easier. Like Matthew.
'Come on, these plates are getting cold!'
I hurried and grabbed the plates out of Jonah's hand. Table six. Two college students, both scrolling endlessly through Facebook on their phones. I settled the two plates on the table and asked if they wanted anything else. Neither responded so I got back behind the bar, sighing heavily. This was going to be a long night. Luckily most of the customers were already done eating, but I wasn't looking forward to cleaning it all up.
'Was that the last of the plates?'
Jonah nodded and I sighed in relief. We might need another employee if business keeps this good. We were swamped in work and one waitress wasn't nearly enough. As if on default my eyes slipped back to Matthew. I watched his dark curls, the outline of his face. He was typing again. I had never asked what he was writing and my curiosity kept growing and growing each night he was here, immersed in his seemingly never ending work. He talked to me from time to time. Only on quiet moments. He'd tell me about the things that he passed on the way here, or what the weather was like. He always asked how I was doing, though. Unfailingly, every single day since that first late night. He looked up now, his eyes meeting mine, a smile forming on his face. He was much less shy than I had first anticipated. If anything I was the shyest one. After that stroke of genius in which I found out his name I had never been so bold again. Jonah pushed me to ask him something, anything, but I couldn't dare. Several customers put up their hands so I started walking down the tables, most customers wanted to pay and soon enough the diner quieted down. More and more people leaving. I settled on my chair and closed my eyes. I hadn't nearly gotten enough sleep today.
I was shocked. Had Matthew just called me by my first name? I blinked. He had never done that, and I wasn't prepared for him doing that. It felt so close, and it sounded so, well, nice in his voice. His low drawl made the perfect sound for me to reduce to a puddle of both bliss and anxiety. I recovered.
I met his eyes once more and raised my eyebrows slightly. He just smiled. Softly. He was handsome when he did that. The half smile drawing attention to the hint of stubble on his chin. For a moment I desperately wanted to run my fingers along it.
'I was wondering if I could get another coffee? I'd been trying to get your attention for a while now but you seemed distracted. Anything wrong?'
Genuine concern now graced his face and I nearly swooned at the sight of it. I had to mentally slap myself in order to react normally. Well as normal as I could with burning, red cheeks and the most dumbfounded grin on my face.
'No. It was just a bit busy tonight, that's all. I'll get you that coffee right away.'
'Are you sure?'
Was I sure? I glanced around the diner. The soft drizzle of rain fogged up the windows and made the diner look like a brightly lit beacon in an inky dark galaxy. It was quiet on the streets. The diner was quiet too, once more rid of the enthusiastic teens. Matthew was still looking at me, I saw it from the corner of my eye but I couldn't make myself to move just yet. I glanced at the tables filled with filthy dishes and then finally my reflection in the window across from me. Wide eyes, the grin fading from my face. For a moment I searched my own face for something, anything. But what was I looking for?
I forced my eyes away from my reflection and turned to grab a mug and place it under the coffee maker. Jonah was quiet, not answering me. I could hear him apologizing to Matthew, and Matthew in return saying that it didn't matter. My hands shook. What was I doing? What was wrong with me? Calloused hands grabbed mine and steadied the mug before taking it from me.
'Why don't you let me take care of that, sweetie? Just go wash your face for a moment, collect yourself. We'll finish cleaning after.'
Without hesitating I shuffled to the tiny bathroom near the back. I got to the sink and splashed my face with cold water before sighing heavily once more. I needed to collect myself. I had no idea what made me like this but I didn't like it one bit. I took another deep breath and collected myself before heading out again. All the customers except Matthew had left and Jonah was collecting the dirty dishes. I helped and together we cleaned the diner before moving to the kitchen to finish up there. Jonah had been silent but he started talking as soon as we crossed the door to the kitchen.
'I don't know.'
'Is it Matthew?'
I was shocked that Jonah even suggested that. But was he right? Matthew made me nervous, happy and anxious all at the same time. But then again, I hardly knew the guy so he couldn't possibly have such a big impact on me. Was it a crush? More, perhaps?
'I'd say you fancy him.'
'How can I fancy someone I know nothing about.'
'That's possible you know.'
'I don't. So let's just leave it, alright?'
'You should ask him out.'
'I will do no such thing. Say, why aren't we talking about your love life, Jonah? We always seem to be talking about just mine.'
'No need to be snarky, just giving my two cents about all this.'
I smiled despite feeling a little on edge by the conversation. Jonah always managed to make me feel better. I would never have enough courage to ask Matthew on a date, and it hardly seemed like he would ask me on one either. Not that I expected that, if I didn't dare, well maybe he didn't either. Jonah ushered me out of the kitchen again and I was faced with the 'issue' of Matthew once more.
'Are you feeling better?'
'Yes, thank you for asking and I'm sorry for the whole coffee thing.'
'Nonsense, that doesn't matter at all.'
Matthew smiled and I couldn't help but return the favor and grin as well. He had closed his laptop now and his slender fingers were wrapped around the mug of coffee. I couldn't detect a ring, and I was feeling ashamed for even looking for it. It was none of my business. I wanted it to be, though.
'You know, this place is really good for writing. It always helps me concentrate.'
'What are you writing about?'
I couldn't help it. My curiosity was getting the better of me. It had bugged me for weeks, not knowing what could possibly grab his attention this much.
'I'm actually writing a novel. Fantasy. About dragons and heroes. Sounds a bit like a cliché but it's actually a lot of fun.'
'You're an author?'
'Not really. I mean I suppose I am now but this is my first actual fiction novel. You see, I'm a biologist and I write papers and books on biology. But never on fiction. So I thought I'd try my hand at this since I have the time to spare.'
I didn't want to inquire about that last part. It seemed to personal to ask why he had this much time on his hands. I supposed being a biologist suited him. That was a bit judging to say but I couldn't exactly picture him to be something else either. I liked that about him, he was so unique. From his clothes, to his old fashioned glasses. It all suited him, and writing suited him even more. While he didn't speak often I could immediately imagine his written language to be immaculate and very, very nice to read.
'Who is the hero then? In your story, I mean.'
'It's actually a heroine, not a hero. And well, the heroine is you.'