The small coffee shop had a quaint atmosphere. Patterned fabric chairs surrounded a stone fireplace in the corner while marble tables and metal chairs were placed sporadically around the room. Black and white photos hung on various walls creating a comfy yet homey feeling. Acoustic guitar music quietly played from the stereo.
In one of the chairs by the fireplace sat an elderly gentleman reading a book. Over at another table sat a young woman writing in a small notebook. She paused in writing and took out a quarter. With a graceful flick of her finger she flipped the coin. Glancing down at the upturned side she smiled and placed the quarter beside her coffee mug with the same side still facing up.
A bell clanged as a man in his mid-twenties sauntered into the coffee shop. “Hey there! How’s it going?” His words shattered the silence of the relaxing shop.
“What can I get you, sir?” asked the barista.
“Are you new?”
“Yes and no. This is my first day running the shop by myself..”
“Well, isn’t it your lucky day. What’s your name?”
“Well, Kevin,” he leaned forward, motioning for him to come closer, “Let me show you how to get the hottest drink you want.” He nodded his head towards the woman then sauntered over to her.
“You know, it’s amazing really.” He said standing in front of her table. “I came in here wanting to find something hot and here I find something hotter than coffee.”
The woman stared at him. After a second she simply looked down at her notebook and continued writing.
The man’s confident smile faltered for a split second but then it was back and he pulled out the chair across from her and sat down.
“That seat is taken.”
“Not by you.”
“Well that would be hard to prove since I’m sitting in it.”
She glanced up, “Just don’t sit for very long.”
“That is entirely up to you.” he winked.
She sighed and glared at him, “Look, I don’t know what game you’re playing but I am not interested.”
“It’s no game.” He leaned forward, “I take flirting very seriously.”
She closed her notebook and leaned back in the chair. “That’s what all the guys say.”
“I can prove it to you.”
“Give me five minutes to convince you. If I can’t convince you in that time than I will leave you alone.”
For a couple of seconds the man paused and scrutinized the woman. At first she met his gaze but quickly shifted and looked away.
“Okay,” she cleared her throat and reached into her purse, “I’ll set a timer.”
“No offense, but I don’t trust your objectiveness.”
He stood up and walked over to the elderly man, “Excuse me, sir,” he said, “My name is Austin. What’s your name?”
“Well, Gerry, I have five minutes to convince this beautiful young woman to go out with me.”
“That is quite a challenge, young man.”
“I know, she does seem like a tough one.”
“Hmmmhmmmm, well a beautiful woman is a worthy prize,” he winked at the woman.
“Exactly, but I want this challenge to be fair and honest.” He pulled out his phone, “Therefore, would you be willing to be my objective timer?”
Gerry laughed, “Not a problem, young man.”
“You ready, kiddos? On your mark.”
Austin swept his hand through his hair and straightened his clothes.
He casually relaxed into the chair across from the woman.
“Hi, I don’t think I’ve met you before. My name is Austin.”
“Pleased to meet you, I’m Clara.”
“Clara, what a beautiful name.”
“Are you from this area?”
“That approach is gonna take you forever, boy.” said Gerry, “I’d speed it up if I were you.”
“Just warming up.”
“I agree with Gerry,” said Clara.
“Fine, fine. So….” Austin cleared his throat. “Clara, I pride myself on being able to read people, and from our brief interaction I have no doubt that you are a woman that I would love to know better.”
“Oh really?” Clara smiled, “What have you learned?”
“Well, my lady, despite your confident demeanor you are quiet and reserved. Yet you are also smart, creative, and feisty. You have a sweet, gentle spirit and a loyalty that could rival the best dog.”
Clara raised her eyebrows, “Really? A dog.”
“Bad move, son,” said Gerry, “Never compare a woman to an animal.”
Austin placed his hand on top of hers. “But you are also the kind of woman that would make the poorest man feel like the wealthiest of kings.”
“Nice save!” said Gerry.
Austen’s voice softened, “You are more than just a beautiful face and a beautiful body. You have a beautiful soul and that beauty is what drew me to you.”
“Is that all you got?” asked Clara. “So far you sound like a dating website.”
Austin let go of her hand and drew back offended.
“It was a little canned,” Gerry said.
“Kevin, help me out. Do you agree with these two?”
“Well…I have used that line myself,” said Kevin.
“See!” said Gerry.
Clara laughed, “Guess you gotta amp up your game.”
“How much time left?”
“Three minutes,” Gerry replied.
“Clara, I am not necessarily better than other men. There are plenty of wonderful men out there in the world. But I am kind and sensitive…”
Clara raised an eyebrow.
“Most of the time I am sensitive,” he continued, “but I am also a protector and a family man. I am moral and decent and hard working. I have all of the qualities that a woman like you would love to find in a man.” Austin stood up and began walking around ticking things off his fingers, “I am a leader, intelligent, funny, attractive” he winked at Clara, “fond of animals.”
“So are lots of men.” Clara replied a teasing glint in her voice. “Still not special enough.”
Austin stood up and paced.
“Time’s ticking!” Gerry called out.
Austin bowed to Clara and asked, “May I have your hand?”
Clara gave it with a smug smile as Austin pulled her out of the chair. He then twirled her and dipped her low, “I am also,” he muttered in a deep passionate voice, “full of surprises.”
Clara’s voice caught as she looked deep into his eyes only inches from her own. “Good to know.”
“Oh that was a good move,” whispered Kevin.
“Two minutes!” The old man called out.
“Out of ideas?” Clara taunted.
“Of course not. I just need to pick the next move carefully.” He turned to Gerry and Kevin. “Any ideas?”
“Show off your strength.” said Gerry.
“Yes, women love a strong man.”
“Okay, what should I do?”
“Do some push ups.”
“Or lift a table,” said Kevin.
Austin moved to the table across from Clara and gripped each side of the table. He bent his knees and heaved. Nothing happened. Austin heaved again. Still nothing.
“I forgot, the tables are bolted to the floor.” said Kevin trying to smother a laugh.
Austin glared at him, “Thanks for nothing, buddy.”
“Sorry, remember, I’m still new.”
“I still vote for push ups.” said Gerry with a wink.
Austin’s voice took on a slightly desperate plea, “Clara, please, help me out here.” He motioned towards Gerry and Kevin who displayed innocent looks on their faces.“These guys are no help. All I want is to go on a date with you. At least one date and after that if you hate my guts than I will not force you to go on a second one. I just want a chance.”
Clara bit her lip and seemed to study Austin’s face. She smiled. “Alright, one date.”
“Time!” shouted Gerry.
“Yes!” cried Austin. He pulled Clara up and twirled her around as she laughed.
“Don’t get too excited,” she said, “It is only one date.”
“Yes, but it is the chance of a lifetime.” He offered her his arm, “May I?”
“You may.” Clara put her arm in his and the two headed toward the door.
Austin turned back to Gerry and Kevin. “Thank you for your help, gentlemen.”
“Any time.” replied Gerry.
The two men watched the happy couple stroll out of the shop.
Kevin’s mouth dropped open, “Wow, what just happened?”
“Austin and Clara.”
“Tails, he wins.”
Gerry held up the quarter, “Tails, he wins.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Austin and Clara McCalahan. They’re actors who perform improv for date nights. It was how they met. I saw them do this type of thing before at a bookstore. It caused quite a ruckus there.”
“You mean, this whole thing was staged?”
“No, not like a written script. Improv! When Clara flips the quarter whichever way it lands that decides who wins the argument. Sometimes it reminds me of my own romance back in the day. Me and my wife madly in love not caring what anyone else thought. Staging fights in public to make people talk. Makes me so happy to see a young couple like that so in love these days.”
Gerry sighed again then picked up his hat and headed to the door. He stopped and turned back, “Don’t forget what you saw today, boy. True love in action.”