Lily was wiping down the tables, her regulation green cleaning cloth was the standard Starbucks green to match her shirt and peaked cap. The wide arc of her reach she was sure was only spreading the germs across the table rather than actually removing them. Who really knew what was in the label-less spray bottle they were issued with.
Her manager, Howie, may have been outwardly enthusiastic for all procedures Starbuckian but surely no person was actually like that. Perhaps he was an automaton, she daydreamed, installed by the Head Office hierarchy to brainwash the employees. She wondered if his bed linen at home was also Starbuck green. Did he dream of matcha green tea lattes or mocha frappes with a caramel twist?
She roused herself from her mental tangent to see Howie tapping his watch in her direction. She glanced up at the omnipresent clock behind the till and was grateful to see that her time was up. It was a job she had to keep reminding herself to be grateful for. It wasn’t glamorous and it wasn’t even engaging most of the time but it did mean that she could pay the rent to do the things that she wanted to do.
At high school when the careers counsellor was doing the rounds with her class, Lily had foolishly said that she didn’t actually want a career. Such talk wasn’t acceptable at the private girls’ school that her father worked 6 days and 1 night in order to send her to. Lily had only wanted to practice her art. She never bothered to think about the fact that this world required an income in order to navigate it successfully.
Apron swiftly removed as she ducked behind the counter and into the staff room, she clocked out, hat thrown in her locker and well-loved denim jacket thrown over her shirt to disguise her uniform. She had a date. A coffee date of all things. Lily didn’t even drink coffee. She wasn’t exactly thrilled that Mr. Potential had chosen this Starbucks as their meeting point but she always let her dates choose the meeting place and she would privately judge them as they did so. Perhaps they could grab a quick takeaway and go for a walk. The sunshine of an autumn afternoon was always her favourite time to walk. The quality of light was so crisp that it made colours seem richer and more distinct than any other time of year. The sky never looked as blue as it did on an autumn afternoon.
She took a couch near the front door, sinking down into the soft pleather cushions and dug out her phone to send Mr. Potential a text letting him know she was there. No response. Okay, she waited a minute. ‘Who these days doesn’t have the phone glued to their hand?’ she thought.
She wondered about a follow up text to let him know she was on the first couch in on the right but thought better of it. ‘Don’t want to appear too eager’ she decided. A bit of Facebook browsing to take her mind of it. Seven minutes later, she glanced up at the clock behind the till just in case her phone clock was wrong. It wasn’t. It never was.
She checked Messenger, her emails and all the other apps she used but there was no message from whom she was now beginning to call Mr. Not -so –potential.
‘Who chooses Starbucks as a place for a first date anyway’ she thought.
Almost half an hour had passed and she was sick of the inquiring looks from her co-workers she decided to step outside. They knew she was single and dating but she didn’t anyone else judging her dates. Her mother was bad enough, asking too many questions, expecting each new suitor to be the white knight to save Lily from this eternal hell of low paid work. Lily wasn’t looking for a white knight. She fancied a co-conspirator. Someone to join her own adventures, someone to nourish her, someone to tend to her wounds, someone who would turn up to a coffee date on time for starters.
One more text to Mr. Not-so-potential ‘so, hi. Just checking that it was today we were going to meet?’
Nothing. No response. She wasn’t just being stood up physically but she was also being stood up digitally. She checked his profile on the dating website. She typed in his moniker – nothing. No profile appeared. That was odd.
She walked up to the corner and back down again. The sun had started to drift down pushing its rays through the leaves of the trees. Shafts of yellow, orange and red danced in the gentle breeze. She pulled her jacket tighter around her, doing up the buttons to keep in her warmth. Melbourne autumn days definitely provided a taste of all four seasons in the one day. Layers were her sartorial friend.
‘One more trip to the corner and then I’m out of here’ she thought.
The day was cooling quickly as she walked the dozen or so paces to the corner. She loitered. She turned and looked down both footpaths but Mr. Not-so-potential was nowhere to be seen. She dug her phone out of her back pocket, its blank screen giving her nothing.