coffee and confusion by juleshg

31 Jan

“That guy. The one over there in the red shirt. He’s been in here every day this week.”

Renee looked over her shoulder at the man sitting alone by the window.

“He just asked me if I knew you,” Anna continued as she refilled Renee’s coffee cup.  “He called you by name and I told him I wasn’t sure if you had been in yet today.  I wanted to ask you first before I pointed you out.”

Renee turned away quickly and gnawed on the back of her pen nervously.  “Thanks.  I appreciate it.”

“No problem,” Sandra answered.  “Anything for my best customer.”

As Sandra cleared away the empty mugs on the neighbouring table she looked at Renee and frowned.   She had known the girl for several months.  She came in every Sunday at the same time, sat at the same table and worked on the New York Times crossword puzzle.

After five years waiting tables at the cafe Sandra was not in the habit of making friends with customers but she had a soft-spot for Renee.  The older woman sensed the girl was lonely and having trouble adjusting to her first year at the local college.

Today Renee looked agitated.  She opened a third creamer, emptied it into her coffee mug then added the small plastic cup to the pyramid she was constructing in front of her.

“Are you OK, honey?  Do you know him?  If he’s a problem I can get Jimmy to pitch him out.  You just say the word.”

“No, it’s OK,” Renee answered.  “I have never met him but I know who he is.”

In fact, Renee had been expecting the man for several weeks.  She did not know where or when she would see him but she knew he was coming and was not sure how she felt about it.  At that moment her head was spinning and the only feeling she recognized for sure was nausea.

Renee’s mom had given her the warning last month when she called.

“Your dad’s looking for you,” she told Renee.  “He told me he was finally ready to meet you.”

“Excuse me?”  Renee’s mom had a habit of making grand announcements like these without any warning.

“Your dad – your real dad – he called me yesterday,” she repeated. “Apparently he just got re-married and the new wife has kids.  One of his step-daughters is your age and every time he sees her he thinks of the daughter he left behind.”


“Renee, your father is a jack-ass.  I am sorry to have to tell you but it’s true.”

“Great,” Renee sighed.  “What did you tell him?”

“I told him that you were in college in Caldwell and that you were an adult.  I also told him that I was not sure whether or not you would want to meet him but if you said to get lost he should leave you alone.  He agreed to let you decide.”

“Thanks a lot, mom”

“Honey, he’s a jack-ass but he is also your father.  You are 20 years old and it is up to you to decide.  I am not going to stand it your way if you want to meet him and  I am not going to lie to the man.”

As she hung up Renee thought about all of the nights she had cried herself to sleep as a child because she did not have a dad like the other kids.  Back then she would have given her left arm to meet her dad.  Now she had no idea what she wanted.

Renee took a deep breathe and looked up to give Sandra a smile.  She noticed a reflection of the man in the red shirt in a picture frame just off to her left.   She could only see his profile from that angle but she could not stop staring at the image.

His hair was grey and thinning so she could not tell what color it had once been.  His nose was long and crooked and she suspected it had been broken at some time in his life.  She wondered when and how it had happened.  She wished she had a better view of his eyes.  Were they blue like hers?

He looked up from his newspaper and smiled as the waitress refilled his cup.

Renee stared with fascination as he doctored his coffee and added the small plastic container to a tower he was building on his table top.  Then the man quickly glanced at the faces of the customers around him before returning to his crossword puzzle.


6 Responses to “coffee and confusion by juleshg”

  1. ingridfnl January 31, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    I loved this. You and I had a very weird synergy this week. 😛 When I got to the end and read about his eyes my mouth dropped open.

  2. thatgrrl January 31, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    I really like this one. The coffee creamer tower and crossword puzzle were a great touch, they pulled it all together.

  3. juleshg February 1, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    I have 3 daughters. The two youngest live with my husband and I while my step-daughter lived primarily with her mother and would visit every second weekend.
    The girls are very clearly sisters but similarities between them is not so much hair color or eye color but in the subtle things like their gestures, the cadence of their speech and the way they hold their head when they watch television. They are so much alike even though they did not spend a lot of time together.
    A stranger who looks at my three daugthers in passing may not necessarily see enough similarity between them to notice they are sisters but when you spend time with them there are so many likenesses that are not immediately obvious. That is what I was trying to capture with the puzzle and the tower.

    • ingridfnl February 1, 2010 at 12:03 am #

      That’s wonderful. You captured it so beautifully.

  4. jadamthwaite February 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Yes, I agree – I really like the cream pot stacking – it really subtly shows their relationship. I also really like the way he’s reflected in the picture, as though it is easier for her to think about him when he is framed this way rather than face-to-face.

  5. phoenix.writing February 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    I liked the build-up to discovering who the red-shirted man was. Sandra’s relationship with Renee was a nice touch–and like everyone else, I really enjoyed the creamer stacking. Renee’s mom sounds a bit stressful, but I liked the fact that she was willing to give Renee the choice, recognizing not only that he was a jerk but that he was her father just the same. ^_^

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