Breakfast at the Twilight Café by Samantha Bryant
Anderson sat in the coffee shop, picking at the dry coffee cake with the questionably clean fork and letting his gaze wander the room in search of anything or anyone worth contemplating. He wondered if the coffee cake would be any better if he picked it up and dunked it fully into the mug or if he’d just end up with a damp shirt cuff.
The coffee was hot and tasted like coffee. At least they did something right here.
The waitress trotted up to the table with a coffeepot in her hand and topped off his cup. Distracted partway through by the call of another customer, she sloshed the coffee over the edges, leaving a milky brown puddle surrounding the cup. She rushed off without noticing, so Anderson used his napkin to stop the puddle from spreading in his direction.
When he picked up the cup, ignoring the mild stickiness of the handle, and took a sip, he grimaced. The bottom of the pot. Too bitter, and now there wasn’t room in the cup to add cream or sugar without making another mess. He pushed the cup away and let his gaze bounce around the room.
Everyone in the room seemed familiar without arousing any affection in him. The old man at the counter reading his newspaper was as much a fixture as the pastry cabinet in the corner, just as immobile and covered with dust. The young couple in the corner having a tense but quiet argument might not be the same pair that sat there the last time he visited, but Anderson thought they probably were. The same goldfish swimming around the same bowl, day after day after day.
Giving up on finding anything interesting in the room, he turned his head to look out the window. The sky was gray with non-specifically threatening clouds. It might rain, or it might just stay gray and boring all day. Anderson sighed. Nothing interesting ever happened around here.
The table bumped and Anderson turned to see that another man was seating himself across from him in the small booth. He opened his mouth to protest, but the man cut him off before he could speak. “Hi, Anderson. Mind if I join you?”
Did he know this man? He didn’t think so. Though the man definitely seemed to know him. Knew his name at least. Anderson eyed the intruder cautiously over his coffee mug, which he’d picked up out of habit, forgetting that the coffee was unpalatable.
His visitor was a dark-haired man of indeterminate age. Anderson’s best guess was that he was somewhere between thirty and fifty. Anderson couldn’t place him, though he seemed familiar. The man had nothing in front of him. No newspaper. No phone. No coffee mug. He just sat with his hands lying flat on the tabletop, his head turned to look out at the gray landscape.
“Beautiful day, huh?” Anderson quipped sarcastically.
The man turned and met Anderson’s gaze, sharp blue eyes looking at him, searching. “It could be,” he said, slowly. “If you change what you see.”
“What do you mean? Change what I see? I see what there is.” Anderson gestured broadly at the long, dirty street and cloud-entombed sky, then at the dull, uninteresting people in the diner.
“Do you?” The man reached across the table and snapped his fingers in front of Anderson’s eyes.
Anderson blinked. The man was gone. No one was across the table from him. Had he fallen asleep? He looked around the room. It all seemed normal, people having their breakfast. There was that guy with the old-fashioned hat. The one who dressed like it was still 1950. He was smiling at the waitress with the jagged scar across her cheek. She gestured with her shoulder at the fry cook, who was so tall he had to stoop so as not to bump his head on the racks of cooking implements hanging from the ceiling as he worked.
Anderson found himself wondering who these people were, what their stories might be. He thought about a friend he had not seen in too long and resolved to call him, maybe invite him out for coffee or lunch. Maybe they could come here. Anderson always enjoyed his time in the Twilight Café.
When his waitress came back around, he smiled at her and held out his cup for a refill, noticing for the first time that she had beautiful and kind soft brown eyes. “Where’s your friend?” she asked.
“I guess he had to go,” Anderson answered. He glanced around the café, but wasn’t upset when he didn’t find the stranger there. It didn’t seem to matter.
The coffee smelled fabulous. “How’s the coffee cake?” the waitress asked. He noticed the way her bracelet sparkled in the light streaming through the window.
“Wonderful,” he answered.
Copyright Samantha Bryant 2019
Samantha Bryant teaches Spanish to middle schoolers. Clearly, she's tougher than she looks. She writes The Menopausal Superhero series of novels, and other feminist leaning speculative fiction. When she's not writing or teaching, Samantha enjoys family time, watching old movies, baking, reading, gaming, walking in the woods with her rescue dog, and going places. Her favorite gift is tickets (to just about anything). You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @samanthabwriter or at http://samanthabryant.com.