A Coffee A Day...
First it was Robbie.
He was only seventeen; this was his first job. He knew she must've been older than him, maybe mid-twenties – though her eyes...they spoke of older, sort of...wise - but he couldn't stop himself from admiring her anyway.
He was the one who saw her smile first every day. A good morning smile. He was the first person who saw her, really, apart from strangers on the street. She'd step into his place of work and offer him that smile as she tiredly handed over a few coins to pay for her wake up coffee. Then she'd say a polite thanks, call a cheery goodbye over her shoulder, and hurry off to do whatever she did.
He didn't know her. Didn't even speak much to her, even over the course of a few years. But he saw her, without fail, every single morning. Well, every single morning up until this one point in time, where she never came regularly any more. After that, her visits were sporadic; he didn't always see her. Sometimes because she came later in the day, when it wasn't his shift, or sometimes because she wasn't even on the same continent. Sometimes, even later on, she didn't come because she was on a different world altogether.
Except he didn't know that, of course he didn't, because he didn't know who she was, apart from that good morning smile and that sad look in her eyes as she glanced out and saw rain pouring down outside and that way she sighed when she'd forgotten her purse in her haste to get there. He always let her off; and one day, he'd been particularly lovestruck as she'd spoken to him a little more, told him I will definitely pay you what I owe you for all those free coffees someday, Robbie. I will. Well. Maybe I won't. But the intention is there, I promise you. Full of good intentions, me! And the way that she'd known his name made him feel warm inside.
(He ignored the fact that she could definitely read, and he wore a name badge.)
He was Robbie Duncan from 84 Rufendale Street. Twenty years old, when he saw her last. He worked in Starbucks, the place Rose would visit on her way to work each morning. Had been for the past three years. He couldn't bring himself to leave and find something that paid better, or something that would challenge him, make him get somewhere in the world, be someone, have a place...because by seeing her face every morning he felt content, and a little in love, and as if this was his place in the World – to make this strange, mysterious woman who he didn't even know coffee and get her day off to a good start by cracking a few jokes and making her laugh that almost-permanent frown off her face for a few moments.
And then one day, she didn't come back to the shop at all. He waited, assuming that it was because she was travelling or something, thinking she'd come back like she always did. But she didn't. At least, not for a whole year.
By the time of his twenty-first birthday, he was bored and miserable, staring at a napkin and wondering if he'd even be able to fashion that into an aeroplane, let alone do what he'd always wanted to do and be an engineer.
And then his World changed, in an instant, that morning, because the mysterious woman he'd missed an unreasonable amount for just an acquaintance came bounding in, a smile threatening to split her face in two, and he'd never seen her look so happy. He'd also never seen the man she had hanging on to her hand, wearing a matching grin to her own.
"Hello! This is Robbie, Doctor," she said cheerfully. "He saved my life every morning by making me a grand cup of coffee! Didn't ya, Robbie? Ooh! Happy birthday!"
Robbie smiled widely back at her . "Yes I did. And thankyou," he replied.
He wasn't just thanking her for noticing the solitary birthday card he had propped up by the side of his till.
"This is the Doctor, by the way," she continued, beaming happily. "And we'd take two coffees to go, please. I promise I'll pay you this time," she laughed.
"I'd rather have a cup of tea," the man called the Doctor protested. Rose squeezed his arm and shook her head slightly. He sighed, but not quite despairingly, because he still had a happy smile on his face, and continued, "But apparently you make the best coffee in this universe, and so I'm willing to give it a go!"
"Actually, I don't work here anymore," Robbie said quietly, taking off his apron. A few of his co-workers looked over at him questioningly, but he hardly paid attention to them, instead watching Rose's frown take over her face.
"You don't?" she asked. "Then why are you here?"
"Well...I just quit," he answered, smiling.
"Right," she said slowly. "But who's going to make my coffee and tell me terrible jokes now?" she teased.
"I should think someone else will do a perfectly good job," he murmured softly.
"What are you going to do now, then?" Rose asked curiously.
"I'm going to become an engineer," he announced proudly.
"That's fantastic!" she praised. "You've always wanted to do that!"
"How did you know that?" he asked, surprised.
She shrugged dismissively. "You mentioned it a few years ago."
Robbie let out a laugh. "You...you remembered." He felt inexplicably happy with this revelation.
"Yeah, and I told you then to go for it, how comes you've waited 'til now?"
"Dunno...I suppose I got sought of...distracted," he admitted. He began picking up his things and scrawled a note of resignation onto the napkin he'd been previously staring at forlornly.
"Well, you'll be brilliant at it, I know you will. Good luck!" Rose said. She let go of the - for once silent - Doctor's hand and hugged Robbie.
"Thanks. For everything," he whispered to her, and she pulled back, looking bemused.
"What do you - " she started to say, but Robbie just smiled at her, nodded at the Doctor, and walked out of the shop and away.
He'd seen, in that moment when she came into the shop looking so happy, that she wasn't a mystery anymore. Of course, he still didn't even know her name, and he had no clue why she'd been away for so long, or why she'd been so unhappy before. But he knew that she had found something that made her her again. Or someone. And that someone wasn't him. She didn't need Robbie to make her coffee, or cheer her up with bad jokes, or wish her have a good day because she'd have all of that, with this new bloke, he could tell. Well, he could tell that she already had it.
Robbie felt a bit of an idiot, for missing his chance and not just telling her, four years ago, that he fancied her and didn't care if she was a few years older than him because he was really quite mature for his age anyway and he would do anything for her because he might love her quite a bit, and...and well, none of that mattered anymore. Because he didn't know her, and she didn't really know him, either. She was a mysterious stranger who became someone he knew and loved, but she was still a stranger, even after all that time.
She wasn't a mystery anymore though. She'd found herself. Found him. She'd found home.
And she didn't need Robbie any longer, so he felt it was time he left that Starbucks and broke out into the World on his own.
As he walked down the road, he smiled through a couple of belated tears, and vowed that, in the future, when he'd found someone, found himself, found home, he would not let another wonderful girl slip from his life again.