Nothing more, nothing less.
There are those who come in groups.
Families, mostly. The exhausted mother feebly calls to her hyperactive children who tirelessly chase around the chairs. She apologises. She gets her cards mixed up, apologises again.
“It’s okay, take your time.” The barista says calmly.
But there’s a queue backing up towards the door now. Finally, the mother pays, accepts her caffeine crutch, and shows her collection of children outside.
As they rush, the pushchair almost knocks an elderly lady flying. The mother apologises again.
Apologises for her life.
In her place, the perfect family waits in line. This mother frowns and holds up her head, unable to stop herself from looking down her nose at the raucous group who just left. Had that woman no ability to control her children? Her own brood of two were stood, utterly placated and silent, in front of her.
Her husband tells her to take the children to a table before they are unable to find one, and she obliges. Immediately as she leaves her place in line with the boy and girl following closely at her heels, the barista smiles that little bit wider at the husband.
“And what can I get you today?” She asks while twirling a lock of her messily styled hair. Most of it had fallen out of its ponytail, courtesy of rushing around and being around excess heat all day. That couldn’t be hygienic for the coffee and food, surely.
The husband lists off the order for his family, awkwardly shifting his hand around his collar. He glanced at the table where his wife was sat with their kids. They were watching. Waiting.
“That’ll be all.” He claimed politely to the barista, paid the fee, and did his best to ignore the wink she gave him, and him alone. But deep down, he knew that his eagle-eyed wife would see.
“An acquaintance of yours?” She asks immediately as he gets within earshot. He forces a smile, puts down the tray of juice and coffee on their table and takes his place at the neat little table for four.
“I get coffee here in the mornings quite often.” He said by way of explanation, and drowned himself in the extra strong cappuccino he had ordered. Without looking, he knew how she would be glaring at him. Eyebrows tightly knitted. A firm frown pressed into her pouting lips. Irritation waves and lines etched into her forehead.
“I see.” She didn’t take it any further, and he was grateful. Not while the kids were here. Not while there were people around.
And in a heartbeat, she was smiling at the children as they chattered on about what they had been doing at school, offering kind and sweet “Oh really?”, “That sounds wonderful!” and other variants that made the strong coffee all but turn to ice on its descent.
She never smiled at him the way she smiled at them, or the way the barista smiled. He hadn’t seen a genuine form of happiness from her since before they consummated their marriage.
Heaven forbid that anybody saw.