It was less than a second, maybe half a second, but it changed everything.
They both looked down at the shattered coffee cup and then back up and each other and then back down at the shards of white crockery. She felt her cheeks flame, aware that they were now turning a particular shade of red and there would be blotches on her cheekbones.
The spoken word poet in the corner coughed into his microphone, shuffled his papers and started again, his lines shaky as he tried to read from his sheets instead of looking at the pair of them standing in the puddle. He wasn’t very good. Every other line rhymed with some awkward, clunky phrase and Sarah felt like he was trying to voice her own words while her mouth moved uselessly. Pink lipstick sticking with each open and close.
‘I- I- I,’ stammered the poet. He coughed again and started on the next line down.
‘You- You- You-‘
Sarah spluttered something half like an apology, dropping as she spoke, hands spilling outwards like the drink had, searching for broken pieces.
There was a sting, short and sharp and when she pulled her thumb away from her mouth there was blood beading on the tip of it, a line of skin separated.
He crouched with her, both of them in awkward squats as he passed her a napkin and cleared the mess out from under her.
She said thank you, or at least she thought she said thank you, the words seemed wrong on her tongue like there were marbles rattling around against her teeth before falling out onto the floor.
He just nodded, like this happened every day for him, like it wasn’t strange to be a tiny cafe on a Saturday morning at nine am, listening to bad poetry and clearing up the broken mess from some random woman crashing into him.
He bought he another coffee and this time, he carried it to the table. The poet had finished his set, swinging two low bows at the audience before clattering off to his friends gathered in a gaggle by the door, their breath helping to fog up the windows and hide the grey skies outside.
‘Hartley,’ he introduced himself as, the man who bought her coffee, not the poet who was now out of the door and down the street, cigarette smoke still trailing through the door.
‘Sarah,’ she said and lifted her cup to her mouth, knocking her teeth against the rim. The coffee was hot and she flinched, splashing the table between them.
He smiled one of those kind smiles that reaches the eyes and left her feeling somwhat less like an idiot.
‘Sarah,’ she repeated, a little breathless. ‘It’s nice to finally meet you.’
I wrote this piece last night before I went out with some friends so I’ve only just got around to posting it up now. Kellie Elmore’s Free Writes have no expiry on them so I encourage you all to check out her site and try your hand a quick free write. It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing and you might be surprised by what you get back out of it.