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E - Everyone

The Girl in the Coffee Shop

by Gravity

I used to go there all the time with my Mom. We'd go every Sunday at noon for lunch. And after, we'd leave and go to Central Park for the day. She used to say that Sunday was a day for worship, but being inside a stuffy old church wasn't the way to do it. She worshipped God in the outdoors, always reminded me to thank the Heavenly Father for nature and for the time I had with her. Well, what little time I had left.

The place was called Joe's and it was a few blocks away from the park. I got to walk with Mom and she refused to talk to anyone else but me. Even the girl behind the counter. She always said this was time for her to spend with her son. Besides, she'd say, I was smart enough to talk for the both of us.

So I ordered every Sunday. Every Sunday from when I was six years old and could barely reach the counter, to age ten, when I had to grow up faster than any child should. I was at that age. That age where Cancer was the big bad word. None of the kids knew exactly what it was, that my Mom's own body was sucking the life out of her. We just knew that if you got it, you died. And nobody ever talked about it. Especially not around me.

So after my Mom passed, I was old enough to go to Joe's alone. And I would sit there at the table, drinking my hot cocoa with my Mom's plain black coffee sitting in front of me. And I would imagine her pale hands wrapping around the mug.

I could almost hear her speak. "Dylan," I imagined she would say, "I'm so sorry I can't be there. My baby, I love you so much. But Daddy loves you too and it won't hurt forever. I promise." 

So I'd sit there at that little coffee table, staring at the empty space in front of me and hating God for taking away my Mom. Until one day, I didn't.

I was probably about fifteen years old when I saw her. It was her first time at Joe's. At least, at noon on a Sunday. I knew because I'd gone there every week for an hour before walking to the park and praising God for everything I saw. Even if I was angry, it's what Mom would've wanted me to do. But then She walked in. 

Her eyes were the color of oceans and her hair was a bright sunset red. Like God was painting the sunset and had some paint left over and used it for her hair. She ordered the same thing my Mom always did. Plain black coffee. 

Every Sunday I went back to that coffee shop. Every week I saw her there. She and a Nikon strung about her neck. I would watch her get her plain black coffee and then go outside, turning on her camera and snapping a photo of the first thing she found. If I was lucky, I would catch a glimpse of what she had captured. She had a good eye. A real talent for making something ordinary look nothing less than extraordinary. 

One day, everything changed. It was cold outside, the bitter wind whipping at my cheeks and tearing at my coat as I walked into Joe's and ordered my usual and sat down at my usual table. Not much late, she arrived, snowflakes caught in her hair and melting on her coat, her boots caked in grass and slush. And she stopped and looked at me before slowly approaching.

"Hi." I looked up and saw her mouth closed, not moving. Like she hadn't said anything at all.

"Hi." I said back, over analyzing that one word.

"Can I ask you something?" Her ocean blue eyes shone with curiosity and adventure, as if I was about to give her the meaning of life.

"Sure," I said.

"I see you in here every week. Every week you have two drinks, one across the table from you. It's like you're waiting for someone or something. But they never seem to come. Why is that?"

Her head is tilted slightly to the side, her beautiful hair draped over her shoulder, falling to her elbow. 

"I'm not waiting for anyone." Her face crumples a bit after I say this and I can tell she doesn't understand.

"I'm Amy," She says hesitantly. 

"Dylan." Short, abrupt, unceremonious. Exactly like me.

"May I sit?" She gestures to the seat across from me and my heart stops. That's Mom's chair. 

I think the panic shows on my face because she backs away slowly, her hand moving up to feel the camera, fingering the strap.

"I'm sorry if I intruded." 

"No no," I say hastily, "Sit. Please." She smiles cautiously but I can tell she's relieved. She leaves Mom's coffee sitting in front of her, placing her own drink to the side.

We talk for hours, refilling our cups and talking about our lives. She tells me everything. About photography, life at school,  the dance lessons she was forced to take when she was six. I tell her as little as possible. Telling her only my age and basic hobbies.

But she's so easy to talk to. And after we said goodbye we met at Joe's every Sunday. Her chattering on and on about photography and art, pausing only to ask if she talks too much. But I like the sound of her voice. The way she isn't afraid to laugh at her own jokes or talk with a stranger she met in a coffee shop. Even though I rarely divulged anything about myself.

Then one day I told her. She was so easy to talk to, eventually wrestling little details out of me. I didn't tell her so much as she put the pieces together, and I filled in the blanks afterwards. I told her about my Mom, how she felt about God. And I know Amy's place in religion. She believed in God, very similarly to how my Mom believed. And eventually, my anger for the Big Guy Upstairs faded as I felt a different kind of love.

Seasons passed and I think she loved me too. I knew she did the summer she kissed me, the bitter taste of coffee on her lips as she pressed them against mine. We were seventeen. We were together from then on until we both got degrees at NYU. Hers for photography, mine for writing.

I can still remember our wedding day. The way her simple white dress contrasted her sunset hair. The lack of veil at my insistence. We were married in central park with only a few friends and family. The flowers were blooming and blossoming and on her way down the aisle, she picked one and stuck it in her hair. 

As we grew older, we discovered we weren't able to have children. And we didn't want any. We were perfectly content to live together alone, in our perfect solitude. Me writing about her sunset hair and she snapping pictures of my solemn face. Of course we both had to work, but Amy was a commissioned photographer and I wrote freelance articles for various newspapers and magazines. It was a simple life, but a content one. As long as she had her newest camera lens and I had my computer, the only other thing we really needed was each other. We rejoiced in that, still going ot Joe's every Sunday and then to Central Park. 

And then, the eve of our 40th wedding anniversary, she collapsed. The next day, Amy was diagnosed with leukemia. The very same disease that had taken my Mother from me. The Doctors estimated she had seven years to live at the most. Ten years later, today on our 50th wedding anniversary, I sit next to my seventy-five year old wife in her hospital bed as she fights to hold on. 

I am looking at my sweet, sweet Amy, her beautiful sunset hair is gone and her ocean blue eyes are now the color of dishwater. She has tubes snaking from her nose, seemingly draining the life out of her instead of giving her oxygen. The beeping of the heart monitor makes my head want to explode and I want to rip these wires from my beautiful Amy, the woman I met so long ago at Joe's. 

There's a such thing as a last good day. The last day where she will be coherent. Happy. I can sense that the last day is today. Speaking exhausts her, but her still full, beautiful lips try to smile up at me. My little finger is twined with hers. She is so fragile even holding hands causes her pain. But we stare she looks into my eyes and I look into hers. 

"I love you," she croaks out.

I hush her. "Don't speak," I whisper, stroking her cheek so gently I can only just feel her papery skin against my fingers. 

"No," she whispers, breathing hard, "I need to." Her cheeks turn up into a small smile.

"Dylan," She speaks my name. She stays silent for a few more moments, catching her breath. She can't say much, she can't babble on about nothingness the way she used to. But she's making these words count.

"Life with you has been the best I've ever known." I have to lean into her to hear her speak and I don't dare say anything. She won't be able to talk over me but knowing her, she'd exhaust herself trying to do so.

"I would rather be in this bed with you, than in Central Park without you." She pauses again.

"I love you more than life itself." Her mouth closes and there's a finality to her words. As if we both know those are the last words she will ever speak. I know exactly when she said them. December 21st at 2:30 pm. She passed away in her sleep that night, her pinkie still wrapped around mine. 

Every Sunday I still go to Joe's and then to Central Park, looking for the last traces of my Mother and my Wife. I don't order her coffee, just my cocoa. I don't need to imagine her presence, because the girl in the coffee shop is still with me. And she will stay with me forevermore, even after the day I die.

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7 Reviews

Points: 733
Reviews: 7

Fri Nov 04, 2016 3:37 pm
LittleWriter14 wrote a review...

First off, wow. Just wow... By the end I was actually moved to tears. You have a gift.

The story was very good, also sad but that's why it was so good. Cancer is a common subject but you did a good job of making it different. It was cool how you focused a lot of the story around the coffee shop and even tied it back in in the end. I like this story the way it is written. I personally don't think it needs much of anything else. There weren't very many grammar or spelling errors. Again, great work!


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127 Reviews

Points: 221
Reviews: 127

Sat Sep 12, 2015 2:56 am
Konijn says...

This is the best short story I've read this year! This is the saddest, sweetest, most incredible story and I am literally in tears right now. Good job!

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Points: 322
Reviews: 1

Sat Jan 17, 2015 5:40 pm
tedonan wrote a review...

This is my first review and I am glad I read this story. As I read it, I imagined the scenes playing out in my mind, which is a true sign that this story is believable and could be real. I felt like I connected with the main character and I liked the way he didn't really want Amy to sit down in his mothers seat-he was real, not overly macho which I enjoyed. It was a really nice quick read. Good job!

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8 Reviews

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Reviews: 8

Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:52 am
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TaliaSankEden says...

This is honestly amazing. There are a few phrasing choices that I would have done differently, but seeing as this is your story, I'm not bothered. When I saw the title, I honestly thought it was going to be a cliche coffee-shop romance. This is SO much better. The subject matter is handled tastefully yet realistically; in other words, you don't smack readers in the face with cancer, but you also don't shy away from how much it sucks. I love the perspective on religion and spirituality. It's hard to be unoffensive when you speak explicitly about anything religious, but you handled it very well. Also, if your (lovely) avatar is you, then you are a girl. This is going to sound like a strange compliment, but you did an excellent job of making your narrator masculine. It's not easy to do, at least for me. Great job!

The only "nit-pick" that I have, and it's totally optional, has to do with when Amy said those last words to Dylan. I personally would've chosen a much more specific and obscure time, like 2:49 or something, but it's totally up to you.

Anyway, this is one of the best pieces I've seen on this website to date. Congratulations, and THANK YOU for letting me be a part of the story for a little while.

<3 Talia <3

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557 Reviews

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Reviews: 557

Tue Jan 13, 2015 12:55 am
erilea says...

Best piece in this whole entire month.

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7 Reviews

Points: 339
Reviews: 7

Mon Jan 12, 2015 7:04 pm
selena1227 says...

Wow. This was such a beautiful piece. It was very heartbreaking too. It's so amazing how one short story can be so happy and amazing, but also very heartbreaking too. I really enjoyed reading this and I hope to read more beautiful pieces like this one by you in the future! :)

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1007 Reviews

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Reviews: 1007

Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:15 pm
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TimmyJake wrote a review...

Timmy heere :3

As always. This piece is probably your best I have ever seen. ;_; You know how to tug at the heartstrings so well, create a story that both evokes a smile in many places, and yet always retain that sad environment to it all. The story is, without any doubt in my mind, the best you have ever done. It tops your book, any poem you've done, any other short - this is the best. Funny what a cookie and Starbucks can help pull from you, eh? However you managed to write this, I would like to be let in on your secret. Because this was simply wonderful in every aspect of the piece. The characters in this were beauuutiful, and so well developed by the end of the story. Especially with Dylan, I thought you did an amazing job - implementing even his littlest of actions and how he held back with his story and his bluntness into the story to bring out his character. Most shorts are written and at the end of reading it, I don't know the characters. This was one of the few where I felt as though I truly knew them.

always reminded me to thank

always reminding flows better if you read it with the first half of the sentence.

Her eyes were the color of oceans and her hair was a bright sunset red.

So, oceans. When I read through that, this little flag popped up for me, going this is cliche. And while I loved the oceans part, it does read as cliche a bit. The second half of the description was very lovely, and I love how you referenced paint and painting her hair... and I wondered if you could somehow implement her eyes into that, as well. Oceans are great, but it just felt overused and I think you could find something which would seem more original and tie in with the sunset part of the description (which is the best in the story, in my opinion).

She and a Nikon strung about her neck.

I think this nitpick is fairly obvious. So, and should be had, which makes more sense to meee

Her face crumples a bit after I say this and I can tell she doesn't understand.

wait wait wait - You're saying here that her face crumples, which would lead me to believe that she was dissapointed in his reply. But, she wants to talk to him and so him telling her that he isn't waiting for anyone should make her happy. xD And, if she doesn't understand what he is saying, then a different facial expression would work better - since the crumpling face is used almost solely when describing someone's disappointment in something, and not confusion.

I tell her as little as possible. Telling her only my age and basic hobbies.

WARNING: This next part is a stylistic choice, so you can choose whether to listen or not. It's your choice, and basically just my preference. So when I read through your works (not just this one, but your shorts in general), I see quite a few disjointed sentences, where they aren't complete and seem as though you have part of a sentence tacked onto the piece as a complete one. Like the part above, the second sentence is an incomplete sentence. In certain places, doing the incomplete sentences does a wonderful job making something set apart from everything else. An incomplete sentence is pushed out of a piece, which works when you use it rarely. But when you use it two and three times in every paragraph, it becomes old and doesn't deliver the affect it had before. And most of them you have could simply be connected to the sentence before. Like the part above ^^ could have the second sentence connected to the first with a comma or an Em-dash without a hitch. Some places I did think the incomplete sentence gave the boom you needed (such as the "plain black coffee"), but for the most part, they don't seem intentional, and seem out of place. So, since this is basically just a stylistic preference, you can ignore if you don't agree. c:

Ten years later, today on our 50th wedding anniversary, I sit next to my seventy-five year old wife in her hospital bed as she fights to hold on.

This is the first instance of present tense in this piece, and while I see the reason for it (I love how you switch over to present <3), it seems disjointed to switch tenses in the middle of a paragraph. Here is what I would do: switch paragraphs, and then begin with the present tense. I think that would set it apart, and the breather in-between paragraphs would give a silent break so you can begin the present tense without a hitch. :3

Dylan," She speaks my name.

How you're formatting this, after Dylan should have a period - not a comma.

"I love you more than life itself."

While this is a beautiful line (;_;), it seemed to have a cliche ring to it - probably just because of that stupid Disney cartoon where they have somebody saying that. >.< Perhaps it isn't cliche at all? It still produced that silly image of Disney characters falling into each other's arms and saying this. xD

Okay, you did so perfect in this piece. The last bit, where you used the coffee and cocoa again? That was cool, and tied in what you used in the beginning with the mother. And how Dylan didn't buy coffee at the end, and didn't need to? It completed the arc in the story to perfection - how the beginning was where he bought coffee to remember his mother, and at the end he didn't need to buy coffee, since she was always with him. I'll say it again - PERFECT. Easily the best element in the story, and I thought it was so beautiful. Where you get your ideas for stories, I would like to find a way to, as well. This was so original, and the coffee shop was the perfect place to push into the story as a grounding point. Everything seemed to revolve around Joe's - from the beginning to the end. And it was the perfect thing for the story to revolve and center on. Because coffee is amazing Because you needed something for the story to move around, and not only did you use it as a location, but you used it as an emotional place, as well. And the mother, and his relation with her? That was wonderful, too.

There are few short stories where I read through, and am content and think it's a full piece by the time I am finished reading through. This was one of those few, having a complete story and character arc - everything woven together so perfectly.
~Darth Timmyjake

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5 Reviews

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Reviews: 5

Mon Jan 12, 2015 4:05 pm
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Gaki wrote a review...

I'm sort of glad that would be my first review to write on the site, and the first piece to read, actually.
Saying that this piece amused me is a huge understatement. Not only is the plot simple, elegant, and touching all the same, but I like how you stopped moments on the timeline, fastforwarded, and played some normally without having the readers feel like there are some missing pieces.
The words and the language you use is quite frank, yet very poetic. the details and the depection make the piece so real, and alive!

Bravo. *applauds*

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115 Reviews

Points: 1913
Reviews: 115

Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:41 pm
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PickledChrissy says...

Um, what can I say? It's beautiful!

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65 Reviews

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Reviews: 65

Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:54 pm
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AttackOfTheFlash wrote a review...

Hello! Flash here for a quick, short review.
I noticed this was still hanging out in the Green Room even after a few comments. So here I am!
After reading this I think I now understand why they're aren't any reviews: this piece is almost flawless. I didn't find any mistakes (except for Dylan saying "my Mother" when "mother" isn't capitalized when a pronoun is in front of it). Great job on that!
Overall, it's a very good story. It feels incredibly realistic; like it's a journal entry of somebody's life rather than a fictional story.
I applaud you for the realism and amazing descriptions! Nice job and keep writing!

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158 Reviews

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Reviews: 158

Mon Jan 12, 2015 6:55 am
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Corncob says...

Good job :) But this started reminding a lot of Fault in Our Stars, especially the cancer part and the part about "last good day."
Anyway, good job; I always promise to review stuff and never do, so here's hoping I do end up doing so.

Gravity says...

oh. lol I just remembered that reference. No that's not where that came from. My Grandpa died last April and my Mom used to Nurse the Elderly so that's what I was referencing. My Mom explained the concept to me.

Corncob says...

Wow, I'm sorry. :(

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42 Reviews

Points: 100
Reviews: 42

Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:16 am
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ElectraHeart says...

I cried, this is so stinking beautiful, and I think I'm going to review it sometime this week and ugh, I love this!

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346 Reviews

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Reviews: 346

Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:47 am
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Pretzelstick says...

I loved this Gravity, it made me teary-eyed and I feel weird for writing a review for this. I can only say beautiful,beautiful,beautiful. So I am just commenting that I love it.
Gravity, you really have a talent.

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Points: 336
Reviews: 2

Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:43 am
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TheArchon says...

This story really tugs at your heart strings! Excellent story! The coffee shop theme was we'll used.

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401 Reviews

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Reviews: 401

Sun Jan 11, 2015 11:56 pm
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ThereseCricket says...

This is absolutely beautiful, Gravity. <3 I love it.

It always seems impossible until it's done.
— Nelson Mandela