As she walked towards the exit of her favorite coffee shop, she glanced down at her cup. It didn’t have her name on it; in its place read two words: you’re beautiful. Seeing it, she paused in surprise. Caught off guard, her head swung back to the bar. Their eyes met. In a near trance, she found her way back to the pair of eyes that had made her drink.
“Hey, Liz. Can I get you anything else? And, people do call you Liz, right?”
She shook her head. “I’ve always been Beth.”
“Really? You look like such a Liz to me.”
“Maybe you’re the only one who sees me that way.” The barista didn’t reply for a while, letting the double entendre marinate in the spices of the air between them.
“I’m Carrie. But maybe I look like a Lina to you.”
“Definitely. I guess you can call me Liz if I can call you Lina.”
“Sound good to me. I guess. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“Only if I’m still trying to live. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“Only if I’m still trying to live.” Carolina S, whatever that stood for, had a toothy smile that crinkled her eyes like an old lady’s, Elizabeth noticed as she walked away. She no longer felt a desperate need for coffee to kick start her productivity.
The next day, she was feeling a little braver. She hung around the coffee shop until Lina (a long 24 hours of thinking had filed her under that name in Liz’s troubled and racing mind) went on break. As it turned out, it wasn’t until the morning rush was a blurry memory that she stopped working for even a second. Liz, though she could relate to some degree, was somewhat amazed. Lina came out from behind the bar and wandered around the store. Her phone was charging on the far wall and she had a bag waiting for her under one of the big chairs. Eventually, she landed in the right place at the right time.
“So, Liz, what do you do for a living?”
“You must not follow politics then.” Liz spoke dryly, hands folded on the table.
“You’re a politician?” Lina leaned forward, surprised.
“Harrisburg’s finest.” The two women gave each other a modicum of the smiles that lay waiting in their future.
“I bet. You know, I also came to Harrisburg for career opportunities.”
“And landed where you are now.” Liz was curious, but treading carefully.
“Where I am now is where you end up when you weaponize southern charm.” Southern charm weaponized indeed, Liz reflected.
“And voila! The tips come raining down, straight to your wallet.” Lina released the first hint of a laugh for a moment, then shrugged.
“Which unfortunately has a huge hole in it. A tunnel, in fact; straight to Penn State Harrisburg’s office. Then onto Penn State’s main campus. It’s actually a very special wallet, you see,” she explained.
“Special enough to have a field of study?” Liz inquired, now all the more attracted to the blonde sitting across from her.
“Computer science.” Lina displayed the pride all over her face.
“In addition to a masters in barista skills, I trust,” Liz commented smoothly.
“Girl, you know it,” Lina assured her, breaking into a wide smile. They didn’t have much time to chat, one of them on the clock and one running late for her morning meetings. So they bade each other goodbye. Goodbye until tomorrow.