I followed the barista’s arms as he danced behind the counter, twirling various nozzles and pressing every different button. It really was hypnotic. His movements were so fluent and graceful. He had been working here a long time, as shown by his skills. He handed me my coffee and I took my place at my usual seat, the small sofa with the decorative cushions in the bay window at the front of the shop. I had been coming here every day for five years.
I removed my laptop from its bag, and then from its sleeve and placed it on the table in front of me. I opened it and began typing away. My eyes darted from person to person. I scanned their faces, their mannerisms, their speech. Every detail must be analysed. This was why I came to the coffee shop every day, the inspiration. I snapped a couple of photos of the scene around me. I needed to save their photos for later. I needed to remember what each of them looked like, their expressions.
A beautiful woman sat on the corner by the barista bar. She kept her head down and sipped her coffee with great speed. It must have been burning her mouth but she did not care. The pain just did not register in her mind. I could not help focusing all of my attention on her. She wore a small white beret that covered her entire head, and a pair of large sunglasses that shielded her face. This woman did not want to be seen. My writer’s mind was racing with various scenarios that have befallen this woman. Her shoulders leaned towards the table, her head was planted firmly between them. I reached for my camera and snapped a photo of her. She intrigued me more than anyone else.
That night, after I’d left the coffee shop, I began to write. I had scrapped my current project and was now devoted to writing a novel about this woman. Perhaps she was hiding from an abusive ex and was covering her bruises with the sunglasses. What if she were on the run from a dangerous killer? Or worse, some kind of government agent? The possibilities for my story were endless. I hoped she would return.
The weeks went by and there had been no sign of the mysterious muse. The other customers did not entertain my fancy any longer. I needed to see her again to continue my story. I headed to the coffee shop for opening time every morning and did not leave until I was ushered out sternly by the barista. They were growing tired of me. I didn’t know why. I continued to refill my coffee when I had finished and payed them to do so.
There she was. Finally she had returned. I was desperate to know her secrets. She wore a similar hat and sunglasses and hid herself away on the table in the corner. She again drank her drink with great speed. A loud ringing blared from her pocket, causing her to look around the room to make sure nobody was watching her. It was her phone. She answered it quietly and began talking on the phone. Was it her head agent giving her a new mission? Was she being blackmailed for something? I needed to know. I pulled my camera from my bag and began to record a video of her. Her mannerisms indicated stress and discomfort. Her tone was stern and unkind. This conversation was far from pleasant. She dared to her feet and swept out of the cafe as though she had never been there. I glued myself to my laptop and continued writing her story.
I saw her two days in a row. Gosh how lucky I was. She walked up to the barista and whispered her order. I could not wait for her to sit down so I could observe her again. I needed to learn more from her. She glanced over to my table and whispered something else to the barista. A TAKEAWAY CUP. She was leaving. How could she? She could not leave. She stormed out of the door and without thinking, I leapt from my seat and darted after her. She sped through the streets, swooping to avoid colliding with pedestrians. I tried to meet her pace but she was almost too fast. I lost her as she ran down into an alleyway. I reached the small passage and began to make my way down it.
A sudden throbbing pain emerged in the back of my head as I suddenly tumbled to the ground. I turned to find the mysterious woman standing over me with a bloodied pipe. Was she some kind of assassin and I was her next target? Had she lured me into the alleyway to my death?
‘Why the hell have you been following me?’ She screamed as she pointed the pipe towards my face.
‘I.. I needed to know more about you. I’m a writer, I found you so inspiring and I’ve been trying to gather information on you for my story. Your mysterious behaviour is impossible to ignore.’ I defended myself. I thought I was being perfectly reasonable.
‘I’m not acting mysteriously. There is no big secret about my life. I began hiding myself away in that corner and covering my face because I see you every day staring at people and taking pictures. I feel uncomfortable around you because that kind of behaviour is not normal. You’re a psychopath. Now leave me alone.’ She angrily screamed. She began to walk out of the alleyway. I had never been more disappointed. I felt as though my life had been ripped to shreds and thrown into the bin. This woman had been my life for months and now she was gone. There was no story behind her. She was not special. Anger filled my heart. I rose to my feet and headed after her as she made her way to the end of the alleyway. I don’t even remember grabbing her until I saw her lying on the floor of the alleyway and the bloody pipe in my hand. At least I had found the ending to my story.
Thank you for reading this short story. I thought of the idea from a news story I read a few years ago about a woman who was murdered by a crazed ‘fan’ who saw her as his muse. I hope you enjoyed it.