Chapter One: Hot Chocolate
It was Monday, June 19th. The sunlight was bright and cheery as The Morning Brew cafe's door chimed.
"Good morning!" Steven announced, waving at everyone. He walked up to the counter, eyes barely scanning the menu. "Could I have a grande hot chocolate with extra whip cream?"
"Your usual, huh?" said Sadie with a grin.
Steven paid with the twenty-five cents in his pocket, and settled down at a chair nearby to wait. The cafe was pretty empty today. Peaceful. The only other people there were Lapis and Peridot, at their usual table by the window— Lapis was writing steadily in her notebook, while Peridot glowered at her computer screen.
Despite the quiet, Steven couldn't help but bounce his leg anxiously.
"Nervous?" asked a voice from a nearby table.
"Greg!" Steven jumped a little. "What are you doing here?"
"Just having a coffee," Greg said, taking a long sip from his mug in demonstration.
"You're here to spy on my date, aren't you?!" Steven accused.
"Aha! So it is a date!" said Greg, victoriously.
Steven flushed, sinking deeper into the chair. There was no point denying it.
"Eh, about time," said Greg. "You two have been dancing around each other for so long, I was wondering if you'd ever actually do it. So, who asked out who?"
"Daaaaaad," Steven moaned.
"Don't worry, I won't interfere. Unless you need me." Greg winked. "Consider me your 'Ultimate Wingman'."
Steven smiled. Okay, this was definitely embarrassing, but… it was nice to know he had people who cared about him enough to look out for him like that. And maybe having someone nearby in case the date went wrong would be a good idea.
"Any tips?" he asked.
"Dozens," said Greg. "Admittedly, most of mine involve becoming a rock star first, but I'm sure we can find a couple that are relevant to you two."
Greg began to share a few— don't get nervous, be yourself, act casual— when Lars appeared by the table, handing Steven his drink.
"I hate Mondays," Lars moaned.
"Oh, they're not so bad," Steven said. "Thanks, Lars."
Lars just rolled his eyes and stalked off. Steven smiled at him, undeterred. He knew it was just an act. And anyway, nobody made better hot chocolate than Lars. He took a long, deep sip, sighing with contentment. Sweet, rich, creamy, with a delicious drizzling of syrup and cinnamon on top— so perfect, it was almost unreal.
The conversation continued, Steven making good headway into his drink, when he remembered to check his phone. It was almost 11:15 AM. He nearly fell out of the chair. He'd lost track of the time.
"You gotta hide," he told Greg, "she'll be here any second—"
Right on cue, the bell at the door chimed. There was Connie, tucking her hair behind her ears as she entered.
She was beautiful.
She looked the same as always— and of course, he'd liked her since he'd first saw her on their first day in college, right before he turned twelve. But now, Steven felt truly struck by how beautiful she was. With her long black hair, her warm brown skin, her pale green dress. Her eyes behind her glasses, wide and curious and nervous—
His heart hammered in his chest. He had never been this nervous around her before, but this was different. This was their first real date, after all. Things were going to be different now. He didn't want to ruin their friendship.
He waved Connie over and stood up, pulling out a chair for her.
"Hey Steven," Connie smiled as she sat down.
"Hey," he grinned, returning to his seat. "Did you have any trouble getting here?"
"N-not really," Connie replied, nervously chewing her lip.
Steven looked down at his drink. The pair sat in silence for what felt like an eternity before Steven cleared his throat. Connie looked up at him and smiled.
"Here, um… Let me grab a menu. They have some really good pastries here you might like," Steven smiled as he walked to the counter.
As he grabbed the menus, his hands started to shake.
Hold it together, Steven, he told himself before he sat back down across from Connie. He snuck a quick glance at Greg, who'd retreated to the back of the cafe. Catching Steven's eyes, Greg shot him a quick thumbs up.
"So, I really like their cinnamon rolls, but their coffee cake is pretty good," Steven started.
"What do you usually get?" Connie asked, playing with her hair.
Steven stared at Connie's shy smile. His heart skipped a beat and his mouth went dry. He searched for the right words, but they refused to come out.
Come on Steven! You talk to her all the time! Say something!
"Hi," Sadie greeted as she walked up to their table. "What will you be having today?"
"I'll have whatever he's having," Connie smiled.
"O-Okay," Steven stammered, confused. Connie was usually more decisive than this. She was probably just nervous too. "I'll have the… uh…"
"How about I just bring you the usual?" Sadie smirked.
"Y-yeah. I'll take that," Steven nodded.
"All right. Two strawberry scones and a grande hot chocolate with whipped cream, coming up!" Sadie laughed before returning to the counter.
Steven returned his attention to Connie, who was still shyly playing with her hair.
"So… How are classes going?" Steven asked.
"Okay," Connie stated. "I might be taking a few too many classes this semester, but you know how it is," she chuckled.
Steven smiled, relaxing a little.
"Yeah," he started. "I'm glad you were able to come today though. I mean…"
He looked into Connie's eyes and nearly lost himself. He couldn't believe they were actually on a date. He couldn't believe she had said yes to this. It was everything he had ever wanted.
Sadie delivering the food to their table snapped Steven out of his stupor. He was embarrassed at first, but she didn't seem to mind.
"So…" he began. How did people usually start dates? By getting to know the person, right? But that didn't make sense with Connie: they already knew each other so well. He couldn't just throw out a question like 'What's your favourite animal?' (falcon) or 'What do you do in your spare time?' (fencing). What came out instead was, "You look really nice today!"
Her face flushed, and judging by the warmth in his own cheeks, Steven was sure he was blushing too.
"Thanks," said Connie. "You look cute too."
"Ah, well… I'm just wearing the same thing I do every day."
"Still cute," said Connie, ducking her head. She fiddled with the napkin on her plate.
Steven summoned a surge of bravery, and reached out, placing his hand over hers.
Connie's eyes brightened. Then she responded in kind, grabbing his free hand in hers. It was warm and soft beneath the callouses.
There they sat in the coffee shop— surrounded by the smell of coffee and chocolate, the quiet rustle of pages and tap of keyboard keys— hand in hand. Steven thought he'd never been happier.
He wished this moment could last forever.