Of Love and Coffee
We thought it was only appropriate that one of our first posts should contain the prompt that started it all. It is edited and slightly embellished, but for the most part, has stayed the same as it was when we first wrote it, trading off lines, and relishing the story that grew between our separate fingertips. We hope you enjoy the short and sweet tale of Nick and Sophia.
“Are your eyes closed?”
“Yes! You’ve asked me a dozen times. You know I wouldn’t cheat.”
His voice carried laughter. “All right. I just need to be certain.”
The car stopped, and Sophia willed herself to keep her eyelids from popping open as the driver’s door opened and slammed shut. A few seconds later, her door opened, letting a cold gust of air swirl about her feet.
“This way.” He took her hand in his and guided her out of the car. “Careful, there’s a curb--that’s it.”
She clutched his hand tightly, hoping she wouldn’t stumble. “Can I open my eyes yet?”
A moment later, delicious warmth enveloped her along with the aromatic smells of chocolate, spice--and coffee.
She knew where they were before even before she saw it. “Starbucks! Aww, Nick, it’s been forever since I’ve been here. You know how much I like their coffee.” They got in line behind the five-or-so people in front of the counter and she turned to him.
“I can’t believe you did this! You know, sometimes I really like you.”
He grinned. “Hmm . . . I harbor a positive feeling toward you as well.”
"And things like that really kill the feeling. . . ." Sophia rolled her eyes.
He frowned, then teased, "So, you like me one minute and don’t like me the next minute? Females are infinitely confusing."
"You say I'm confusing? After that answer? No, I may be slightly hard to understand--sometimes--but you definitely trump me in 'confusing.'"
"Really?" He smiled disarmingly, his eyes twinkling. "But you are attracted to me anyway."
She stifled a laugh. "Well . . . yeah . . . I guess so."
"Aha!" he exclaimed. "To be confusing, one must be inconsistent with preconceived ideas, and you have proven that I am not the inconsistent one in this relationship!"
"Let me take a week or so to figure out what you just said . . . Sometimes your preconceived ideas are just--what's the word I'm looking for?"
"Confusing?" he offered.
"Yes, that's it. But really, Nick, can't you be serious for once? I honestly do want to know what you're thinking."
"How can the human mind and emotions be condensed to a limited vernacular? My feelings are too expanse for such incomprehensible abbreviation." He became solemn.
"Nick! English, please! English that I can understand. What is the point of talking to you if I can't understand what you're saying? Your feelings about what?"
"How can I help you understand, if I don't understand things myself?"
"So you're telling me, in your heart of hearts, that you don't know anything you feel about anyone, or any circumstance? You just . . . don't know?"
"I am aware how I feel about me, and I am even aware how I feel about you. The overwhelming quandary is that I cannot comprehend how I feel about . . . us . . . ."
Sophia shot him a glance, her thoughts tumbling. "Umm... us? Nick . . . No, never mind. I can't."
"Yes, us." He cocked his head to the side. "How do you feel about us?"
She cocked her head too, mimicking him to mask her nervousness. What on earth was he saying! And what was he looking for?
"That depends what 'us' means. Besides, if I don't know how you feel, how do I know how you will react to what I feel? I could ruin this whole relationship--whatever it is."
"You're the one who declared affection for me! Honestly, you are terribly confusing!"
The Starbucks barista leaned forward. "Folks . . . there are other people waiting to order. Could you tell me what you want and take the heart to heart over there, please?"
She jumped, swiping back a few long strands of hair from her eyes. The heat rose in her cheeks as she met the baristas annoyed but somehow amused gaze. "Uhh . . . Heart to heart?"
“Your heart to my heart,” Nick muttered. “Simple, right?”
He got an elbow hard in his ribs.
"Ooof. Yikes, Sophia! That was uncalled for!" Nick rubbed his side, giving a sideways glare at her. Turning to the barista, he bit his lip and nodded. "She would like a grande white chocolate mocha frappe, one pump caramel and one pump toffee, with extra whip, and I will have an espresso."
Sophia stared. "You know my order?"
He looked over, his brown eyes softening suddenly. “Of course I do.”
Her own eyes widened. “How?”
“I know you.”
A blush blossomed in Sophia's cheeks, and she lowered her eyes, hiding a smile. When the barista slid her coffee across the counter, she welcomed the diversion, grabbing her cup and straw. When she turned back, her eyes met Nick's expectant gaze.
“I--” Sophia stopped, her mind racing for words. But she couldn't think of anything. Nick was completely serious, all trace of teasing gone.
The barista cleared her throat and pointed to a table in the corner. Nick flushed, took the hint, and grabbed his drink, pushing Sophia before him. He seated her, then took the chair across the table. Twisting his drink around in his hands and apparently reluctant to sustain eye contact, he seemed uncharacteristically nervous.
"Sophia . . . I am uncertain the proper way to convey my feelings. I have had a strong affection for you . . . er . . . I've 'liked' you for a long time . . . and . . . I . . . I'm moving to the coast,” he blurted.
Sophia choked on her coffee and covered her mouth, her eyebrows furrowing. “You what?”
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to tell you that way." Nick put his hands over his face and ran his fingers through his hair.
Sophia stared at him, trying to convince herself that she didn't feel at all like crying. "That's why you brought me here?"
"I don't know what to say..." Her voice trailed off. Nick had always been there, ever since she had met him in 6th grade so many years ago. Even when she had gone to college two years before, she had known that he would be here during her break, to make her laugh with his irresistible smile and outrageous vocabulary. And now he was leaving?
"Sophie," Nick said softly. "Please don't cry."
Sophia swiped at her eyes, frustrated that her tears wouldn't obey her commands. Nick only called her “Sophie” when he was feeling particularly affectionate--or annoyed. It didn’t help her composure.
"I'm not crying." She sniffed and rolled her eyes.
"My application was accepted at Princeton University. I'm going to be earning a Bachelors in Philosophy," Nick continued awkwardly. He had confided in her two years previously that he was working toward acceptance into an Ivy League school. He had spent those two years working and saving for it, and although she supported him wholeheartedly, she hadn’t expected this transition so soon.
"I'm so happy for you," she sobbed.
He raised one of his eyebrows, looking slightly alarmed at her reaction. "This is happy? If it is, then I don't like seeing you happy. How can I make you sad?"
Sophia couldn't help a hysterical giggle through her tears. That was so typical of Nick! But the thought that soon she would hear no more of those comical remarks made her burst into tears all over again.
"Not crying?" Nick's wry voice said. A napkin was shoved into her hand. "May I beg to differ?" Then his tone changed completely. He leaned over the table, although she didn't dare to look at him. "Sophie. Why are you crying?"
"I'm crying because . . . because I'll miss you."
Nick sat back, and Sophia finally met his eyes. He seemed hurt in his consideration of her words. "Is that all?"
His brevity and lack of sincerity caught Sophia off guard. "What do you mean, is that all? Isn't that enough?"
Nick paused and shook his head running his finger along the side of his cup. "Well, I will miss my cat too, but I'm not weeping because of it."
Sophia laughed, wiping a tear away with her finger.
He smiled a little, and asked again, "So, is that all?"
"Nick." Sophia paused and blew her nose violently. "Don't you know how much 'I'll miss you' can mean? What else do you want me to say? You've always, always been there for me. You were my friend in high school when no one else was because they thought I was 'weird'. You can make me laugh when no one else can. And remember when Mom died? No one else really understood--no one but you. Like you said up there, you know me. You've been such a huge part of my life for so long.” She glanced shyly up at him. "I know you're not the most sentimental person, but honestly, I--I just can't imagine home without you."
Nick grinned and nodded, looking out the window to his left and watching the stream of cars go by for a moment before responding. "I'll miss you too."
Tears streamed down Sophia's cheeks again, and she glanced down at her fingers, folding and unfolding them, uncertain how to reply. "I know this is so selfish, but . . . is there any way you would stay?"
Nick gave her a sympathetic smile and shook his head slowly. Sophia thought her heart was being crushed, and she took a long shaky breath. "But," he said, "You could give me a compelling reason to come back."
Sophia buried her face in her hands. "You're so mean."
"Mean? To you?"
He wasn't teasing. She looked up timidly, blinking to clear her vision, and saw the hurt in his face. Flustered, she stumbled on. "Why are you trying to make me say it?"
A barely audible intake of breath came from the other side of the table. She met his glance and felt the color rushing hotly to her face, for his heart was in his eyes. A smile played on his lips as he saw her blushing.
"Trying to make you say what, Sophia?" His voice was a tense, tremulous, hopeful whisper.
"What do you want me to say?"
He sighed, smiling. "I want to hear you say you love me enough to come with me."
"Come with you, to New Jersey?" Sophia touched her cheek and felt the heat. "Nick, I couldn't move to the coast with you unless I was your sister or your wife or something." She closed her eyes, shocked that she had actually said that aloud.
"So be it."
At that moment, Nick slid around the table and lowered to one knee, taking both of Sophia's hands into his. Her eyes widened, and tears brimmed for the third time.
"Sophie." Nick said her name with a tenderness she had never heard from anyone before. His grip on her hands tightened. She couldn't breathe. Vaguely, the sounds of chairs scraping and people murmuring reached her ears. She wanted to look and see how the other customers were reacting to this decidedly out-of-the-ordinary event, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from Nick's.
"Sophie, I love you. I've loved you for as long as I can remember. But--I didn't want to tell you until I talked to your dad." He grinned slightly. Sophia’s heart began beating like a drum. Was he really asking--?
"You're right that I'm not an overly sentimental person, and with all my vocabulary, I'm not a poet or anything. Besides, like I said before, there aren't any words that I can think of to tell you how I really feel." His voice became low and fervent. He was looking at her like she was the only person in the world. "So all I can say is: I love you with all my heart, Sophie. Will you be my wife?"
The words echoed in her brain. “I love you with all my heart . . . will you be my wife?” It was actually happening! Her best friend was asking her to marry him. As she gazed down at Nick, she suddenly realized, with more certainty than she had ever felt in her life, that this was what she wanted. He had been part of her for so long that she couldn’t imagine her life without him. Still, it seemed like a dream, in the wonder of it all.
Suddenly, she found her voice. "Oh, Nick! I didn't think you'd ever ask me!" She put both hands over her mouth.
"Well, I am asking. Now what is your answer?"
"Definitely, yes! From the bottom of my heart, yes!”
The several tables around the couple erupted into whistles and applause. Sophia felt a brilliant smile spread across her face. Nick jumped up to hug her, his eyes shining in delight, and she wrapped her arms around him in pure joy. He squeezed her so tightly that she gasped. “Nick, let me breathe!”
Nick chuckled softly, and she could feel the laughter reverberating in his chest. He loosened his grip slightly, then bent down and put his lips to her ear. “Sorry,” he whispered. “You’ve just made me the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life. Thank you.” They just stood there for a minute, then he added, “Now let me hear you say it.”
“That you love me.”
Sophia couldn’t stop smiling. "I harbor a strongly positive feeling toward you, Nick Tessler."
He threw his head back and laughed. "And?" he prodded.
“And I love you with all my heart.”
In answer, he simply hugged her a little tighter.
After several moments, Sophia laughed a little and wiped her eyes, pulling away to look into his. "I think you might be forgetting a tiny detail,” she whispered.
“What is that?”
"Umm...the ring." She giggled.
"Ring? What ring?" He frowned. "You mean I need a ring?"
"Nick Tessler!" Sophia punched him lightly in the arm. "You are terrible!"
Laughter resounded. Sophia turned and saw that every eye in the coffeeshop was on them. People's faces were wreathed with huge smiles; a few cat-calls and whistles sang through the air; even the lips of the stern barista curled up.
Nick laughed. He stepped back. "Close your eyes."
"Just listen to me, Sophie."
She sighed and obediently closed her eyes. There was a rustling sound, then Nick took her hand.
"Don't look yet."
A cool band slipped over her finger. Nick squeezed her hand, then said, "All right." His voice was eager with anticipation. Sophia opened her eyes and immediately dropped her gaze to her left hand. What she saw made her gasp with surprise and delight. Her mind raced back to eighth grade, to Mrs. Thayer's geology classroom....
"Hey there, Sophia." Nick sauntered up to her, brushing curly waves of brown hair out of his eyes. He peered over her shoulder where she sat at her desk. "Drawing again?"
"Yep." Sophia concentrated hard on the paper in front of her. She was the only one still sitting in the room. The class on jewels and precious stones had ended fifteen minutes ago and school was out for the day, but she wanted to finish the drawing while she was on a roll.
"What is that?" Nick queried. "Wait... is that a ring? What for?"
Sophia hesitated. She wasn't sure she wanted to tell this to anyone.... but it was Nick. Maybe he wouldn't think it was weird, like anyone else surely would. "It's what I want my engagement ring to look like one day," she said slowly.
"Really?" He plunked down next to her, evidently interested. "So it's silver, and what's that stone in the middle?"
"It's an opal." Sophia started to relax. "The white kind, you know, that's all pearly and glints with rainbow colors when the sun shines on it?"
She glanced over. Nick nodded, signalling her to continue. "And on the each side of the opal is a small ruby."
"Why a ruby?" he interrupted. "Don't most girls prefer diamonds?"
Sophia bit her lip. "Yes...it's based on Proverbs 31. "A wife of noble character who can find...."
"For her worth is far more than rubies," Nick finished. "I understand."
She blushed. "I hope I can be a woman like that someday."
Nick seemed about to say something, but stopped himself. Instead, he pointed to the two little stones on either side of the rubies, whose colors weren't filled in yet. "What are these?"
"I don't know yet." Sophia put her hand on her chin and looked at Nick out of the corner of her eye. "Do you have any ideas?"
"Emeralds," he replied promptly.
"Yes!" Excited, she filled in the last two stones and surveyed her finished drawing. It was simple, but elegant. Unique. She loved it.
Through the following years, she had held onto that picture. Often she smiled at her childish fancy, but she couldn't help the wish that someday, she would be given a ring like that…
She was brought back to the present by Nick's strong arms wrapping around her again. She buried her face against his shoulder to keep from breaking out in tears again. Why wouldn't her eyes stay dry? She didn't want to seem like a helpless cry-baby in front of all these people.
She couldn't help it. Her heart was singing with a glad joy, for there on her finger was the evidence that Nick had loved her for as long as he claimed. This wasn't just a fanciful dream made up by her fourteen-year-old self anymore. Nick had remembered. And he loved her. The ring of her dreams was on her finger, the opal, rubies, and emeralds shining in their colorful splendor, and the man of her dreams was in her arms, forever devoted to her alone.