Author's Note: Hi everyone. I'm new to posting on here, but I thought I would give this a shot. I'm also uploading this story on AO3. Happy to discuss/answer any questions here or on my blog (see profile). Oh, by the way, this fic wasn't inspired by the song or anything, but coincidentally, Adele's new single, "Hello," fits the story quite well.
The air was chilly and biting this morning in the in-between time as Autumn transitioned into Winter. Clarke had her beanie and scarf on, but she had forgotten her gloves in her rush to get to the small coffee shop in the park so she could get her usual table in the outdoor seating area. She didn't know why she rushed anymore; in this cold weather, no one would fight her for any of the outdoor tables. She tried to warm her hands by blowing on them and rubbing them together, which worked for all of two seconds before they became cold and numb again.
Finally, she saw the door to the café open, and her eyes immediately went to the steaming cup of coffee and chocolate croissant being brought out on a tray by her friend and café owner, Jasper. He shivered as soon as he stepped out into the cold air and quickly walked over to place her order onto the table. She smiled her thanks and immediately wrapped her hands around the large cup, trying to soak up the heat even as it rapidly escaped as steam into the air.
"Are you sure you want to sit out here today?" Jasper asked. "I know this is your table, but it's so cold." As if he had planned it to demonstrate his point, he immediately turned his head and sneezed.
"I know." She nodded her head in agreement. "It's probably going to get worse from here on out. I thought I would try to continue sitting here for as long as I can. At least until the eventual snow drives me inside." She took a sip of the coffee, feeling the wonderful, rich, hot liquid make its way down her throat and spread like fire throughout her body. "Mmm. Your coffee makes it so much more tolerable. Thanks, Jas."
"Anytime, Clarke. Let me know if you need anything else. Just call or text me on my cell and I'll come out. It's too cold for me to come check on you too often." He winked at her before turning back to hurriedly make his way inside. Once through the doors, he turned and glanced at his friend again, who had already delved back into the book she brought with her. He recognized the cover of this one, because she'd brought it many times before, had read it many times before. He exhaled a heavy sigh and wished a silent wish for Clarke before walking back behind the cashier table.
Outside, Clarke turned the page of her book – her book – and immediately noticed several coffee stains at the bottom of the next page. She ran her fingers over the stains slowly and closed her eyes. Her memories brought her back to a warmer day, to a warmer place, in the apartment she shared with Lexa.
They were in the breakfast nook of their kitchen and Clarke had just scooched into the booth across from Lexa with her cup of coffee and a plate of pastries. She accidentally splashed the too-full cup and several drops spilled right over into the book Lexa was reading.
"Clarke, be careful!" Lexa grabbed some napkins and quickly began blotching the coffee off her book. It was too late though; the stains would set.
"Oops, sorry babe." Clarke finally made it into the booth and safely deposited her drink and food onto the table. "Um . . ." Clarke didn't really know what she could do at this point, ". . . do you need more napkins?" She then noticed the steam coming off her coffee and frowned in concern. "Are you okay? Did any of the coffee get on you?"
"No, it was just a little bit on the book. I think I got most of it now." Lexa looked up, an exaggerated frown on her face. "Do you really hate the book that much, Clarke?"
"What do you mean? Of course I don't hate it. I haven't even read it."
"That's precisely my point, Clarke. You refuse to read it, even though I've asked you to read it hundreds of times."
Clarke gave her a disbelieving look. "Hundreds of time, really?"
"Well, ok." Lexa bit her bottom lip, thinking. "Maybe dozens of time then. Or a dozen time. Rounding up. My point is, you should read it, Clarke."
"Lexa, you've told me at one point or another that I needed to read every single book on your bookshelf. Which is, quite literally, hundreds of books." Clarke chuckled to herself for coming up with that brilliant pun before continuing, "Hmm, we should probably actually count them sometime so that my argument will be more effective." She paused and made a mental note to do just that. "In any case, you're a writer. You read everything. And you recommend most of the books you read, even if you don't like them, if only to, and I quote, 'recognize the ineffectiveness of the author's central argument and enable appreciation for better works in the future.' " Clarke said the last part in her best Lexa voice, enunciating each syllable carefully while looking as serious as she could.
"You know, you used to read the books I suggested all the time."
"Yes, but that was when I was trying to win you over. Now that I've got you, I don't need to do so much homework." Clarke put on a self-satisfied grin, congratulating herself on what she considered to be one of her greatest accomplishments.
"So your interest in Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species' was all just a guise to get me? Should I feel flattered?" Lexa finally cracked the smile she had been holding in.
"Yes, of course you should. Do you know how painful that was for me to get through?" Clarke reached for the one of the pastries, but stopped just before she got to it. Instead, she decided to pick up the entire plate and move it in front of Lexa above her book. "To make up for staining your book, I'll let you have the first choice." She winked at the brunette, already knowing which she would choose.
Lexa eyed the plate of assorted pastries in front of her before looking up into Clarke's soft, blue eyes. Eyes that were softer in the warm early morning light, and softer still, now that she was trying her best to make a peace offering. She smiled, stuck her tongue out at Clarke, and reached out to grab the chocolate croissant. She then leaned over the table and gave a surprised but delighted Clarke a quick peck on nose before settling back in her seat and biting into the flaky pastry, all the while wondering if there would ever be anything Clarke could do to make her so upset that soft eyes and chocolate croissants wouldn't be able to fix.
Clarke looked up and closed the book. The memories made her head hurt and her chest ache. She tried to focus on something else, opting to stare ahead at the fountain in the middle of the park. The water sprayed up and formed intricate patterns in the air. There weren't many people around to appreciate it though. Clarke saw just a young couple with their little boy, bundled up for the cold, running around the circular fountain. She saw them give him a coin, which he promptly threw into the fountain pool. She wondered if he even made a wish. The sight made her smile, and relieved some of the ache in her chest.
She couldn't read any more of the book today, so she settled for sitting back in her chair to people-watch while she drank her coffee and ate her pastry. The warm chocolate croissant was delicious as always, and she smiled despite the tinge of sadness it elicited.
She only stayed an hour today. Partly because of the cold, and partly because she had to finish up an art piece to stay on schedule for her gallery opening.
But mostly because she was tired. She was so very tired. It had been two years since she last saw Lexa. Two years since she started coming to this café every Sunday at 10 AM, sitting at this table where they first met. Waiting, wishing, and waiting some more. Mostly waiting.
She was always hopeful when she awoke on Sundays, thinking maybe this could be the day. She would carefully pick out her outfit and would spend extra time brushing her hair. She wouldn't admit it to her friends, but she had been trying to keep her hair the same length and style she had when Lexa last saw her, because – and she knew this was not entirely rational – she wanted to make it as easy as possible for Lexa to recognize her if she did come.
Sometimes she brought her work and waited the whole morning into late afternoon. But sometimes, like today, she waited only an hour, before the memories, the sadness, and the fear that she will never see Lexa again settled into something so heavy that it weighed down on her chest, so much so that she could hardly breathe. And then she would go home and paint, because that was the only thing that could alleviate some of the weight.
But every time she left the café alone on Sunday, she left behind a small piece of her broken heart. Clarke didn't know how much longer she could do this. She didn't know how much of her heart was left to leave behind.