She sits in the same booth every Sunday morning. Instead of going to church, Maura orders a cup of coffee and debates which pastry to order. She weighs the merits of kilfi versus pain au chocolat, something slightly savory or sickly sweet. Inevitably, the sweet wins out just in time to ask for a refill on her coffee. People often refer to Maura as predictable: her sweaters are variations on the same theme, her shoes are chosen for comfort and function over fashion, her limit of coffee is two cups before switching to water. Even her choice of booth – always facing away from the light but within sight of the road – is predictable.
Were it not for the view of Market Street, she would have stopped coming here months ago. Better coffee could be had at any number of cafes. But those cafes didn’t afford her a glimpse of Ed. He, too, was predictable. Rain or shine, Ed jogged past Mulder & Sons every Sunday morning. Occasionally, he jogged with his dog, but most of the time, Ed jogged on his own. Most likely his name isn’t Ed, but in her head, Maura had named him Edward. The first time she saw him, Maura was reading Jane Eyre and decided he resembled Mr. Rochester. And so, fascinated by a man jogging past the window, Maura returns to her predictable booth every Sunday to see him.
Beginning on Wednesday, Maura dares herself to stay home. You’re being silly, fantasizing over a man you’ve never met. He could be married, dumb ass, she internalizes. By Thursday, the angel-devil conversation invades her commute home. Don’t go this week . . . c’mon – go! Over and over, she argues with her conscience about her Sunday plans. On Saturday, she goes to bed deciding that she won’t go, but Sunday morning, she puts on a light sweater and black ballet flats and walks the six blocks to Mulder & Sons before asking for the middle booth facing the street. The waiters politely inquire about her week, asking if she’d like to see a menu. She’s surprised that they don’t just bring her over a cup of coffee when she walks in, but maybe they are waiting, just like she is, for her to change her mind.
Today, as every other Sunday, she lingers over her pain au chocolat, picks up the last of the crumbs with her index finger, and turns the pages of her book. Her internal clock is set to Ed Time. In three minutes, he should be jogging past. Maura smooths her hair and applies a fresh coat of lip gloss. She readies herself so that the obvious nature of her gaze isn’t quite so obvious. And then, like clockwork, Ed comes into view. Maura follows him over the top of her book, watching as he moves around a couple with a stroller. He moves down Market and then disappears. Maura’s heart flutters. He shouldn’t have disappeared. He should be in front of Mulder’s right now. In front of her.
The bell over the door sounds. Panicked by the change, Maura doesn’t notice that her book has fallen to the ground. Doesn’t notice as the waiter shows the customer to a seat catty-corner to hers. “Miss? You dropped your book,” the man says, and as she bends down to pick up the tattered copy of Jane Eyre, Maura recognizes the sneakers, takes a deep breath, and asks him if she could borrow his creamer for her third cup of coffe.