Pete and Kenny were killing time in the coffee shop. Pete was drinking his grande with one cream and no sugar while reading the newspaper. Kenny just flicked the lid of his tall mocha while staring at the brunette barista behind the counter. The girl noticed him looking at her, but in the split second that their eyes met, Kenny quickly looked away, as if his eyes had simply been wandering the whole time. He waited a few seconds and looked back at her. She had, by this time, looked away and continued with her work. But she was smiling.
“Pete,” Kenny whispered.
“Yeah,” said Pete without looking up from the Sports page.
“The girl behind the counter, she’s pretty hot, right?”
Pete looked up and saw the girl as she sprayed whipped cream into the top of a customer’s cup. “Yeah, she’s kinda hot,” he said and returned to the paper without really giving the girl another thought. “You should go talk to her.”
Kenny knew this was coming. It’s always so easy for the outgoing guy with the winning personality to hand out the advice to go talk to her. But for the introvert who stammers when confronted with an attractive woman, it’s another story.
“Sure… and say what?” Kenny could feel his anxiety level rising and he hadn’t even committed to the idea of approaching the girl behind the counter.
Pete sighed and dropped the paper into his lap. “Are we really going through this again?” he asked.
Pete had been friends with Kenny for a very long time. They’d seen each other through college, through the loss of jobs, and even through the loss of loved ones. Each of them knew that the other would always be there for support, no matter what. But Pete just couldn’t understand Kenny’s lack of self-esteem.
“Going through what?” Kenny asked.
“You’re gonna make me give you the ‘good enough, smart enough’ speech again, aren’t you?”
Kenny just sat there. He knew this was coming, too. A part of him wished Pete would just stop right there. He wasn’t fishing for compliments, but that’s where Pete would go next.
“Dude, just go talk to her. She can’t be that intimidating. I mean, yeah, she’s attractive, but so what?” He just looked at his friend, waiting for a sign that he was getting through.
“You think it’s possible a girl like that might respond to me?”
“Of course it’s possible!” For a moment Pete forgot he was in a quiet coffeehouse and didn’t realize his voice was raised. He looked around at the faces that had suddenly turned in his direction. Embarrassed, he lowered his voice, “Of course it’s possible… But only if you take the initiative to walk up to her and introduce yourself.
“Kenny, you’re a great guy. Everyone else sees it. Why can’t you?” Pete said as he stood from his seat. He dropped the newspaper back on the table and put on his coat. “I’ve got to get to work. Next time I see you, I expect you to have the barista’s phone number.”
“No buts,” Pete interrupted. He didn’t want to hear Kenny’s excuses. He wanted Kenny to take control of his own life for once. He wanted Kenny to stop floating along like good things would just come to him. He wanted Kenny to take the reins and make good things happen for himself. He figured that approaching a girl at the coffee shop would be an excellent start. “Go. Talk. And remember to smile. Girls like that sort of thing.”
Pete walked out of the coffehouse and headed to work. Kenny continued to sit on the sofa for a while, flicking the lid of his tall mocha while occasionally stealing glances at the brunette barista behind the counter. He didn’t even like coffee. He couldn’t quite figure out why he wasted five bucks on this mocha that he knew he wouldn’t drink. He came here to hang out with a friend. Now he was sitting alone, wishing he had the courage to say hi to a pretty girl.
“Are you all right?”
Kenny looked up from his cup and saw the brunette barista sitting on the arm of the chair that Pete had been sitting in. She was smiling sweetly at him, a look of near concern on her face. Kenny opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
“Sorry,” she said, “I know it’s none of my business, did you and your friend have a fight? You look like you’re kind of lost in thought over here.”
Kenny laughed to himself. “Oh, no, there was no fight. He just had to go to work. I was kind of lost in thought.”
From the back of the store, a voice called out, “Rachel, can you clear some tables?”
“I’m on it,” the brunette barista called back. “That’s right. My name’s Rachel and I work in a coffee shop. No Friends jokes, please.” She smiled as she stood up. “Can I get you anything? A refill?”
“No, thanks. I’m good for now.”
“Well, if you change your mind, or decide you want a break from your thoughts, you know where to find me,” said Rachel as she pulled a washcloth from her apron.
“Yeah, behind the counter,” she said, lightly slapping Kenny on the arm, “I work here, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Kenny, feeling embarrassed by his lack of cool, “I’ll try to remember that.”
Rachel laughed as she walked away. Kenny couldn’t help but watch as she cleaned tables and returned behind the counter to help the new customers. They smiled at each other whenever they made eye contact. Kenny never once took a sip of his tall mocha. He simply threw it in the trash when he left the sofa and walked to the counter. He got to thinking, if he could get her to smile just by smiling himself, maybe asking for her number would be possible, too.