5 min
Image of Short Story
It was early evening. The clouds cleared the sky, revealing the sun’s light. The residue from the rain from earlier left faint markings on the car window, distorting the world beyond. Simon sat in shotgun, looking out the window, the partially obscured view analogous to his memory of the area. It had been years since he had last been here.

“We’re here,” Aunt Allison said, interrupting his thoughts.

Seeing the cafe, he felt as if he had arrived at an almost-home. The big, glass window that revealed the interior’s ambiance. Gardenias decorated the window boxes. A sign that read “Welcome, Come on in!” hung on the door.

Zachary sat in the cafe, flipping through the newspaper absentmindedly. Anticipation of his son’s arrival preoccupied his mind. What would he look like, be like? 11 years was a long time to miss out on in someone's life. A long time for a connection to fade. A long time to forget.

Simon stood there for a moment, holding onto a lamppost. A customer exited the cafe, holding the door open for Simon, forcing him to proceed with the visit. The aroma got to him first, transporting him to years ago when he came here often with his father. Impressions of safety and joy. The rich aroma of coffee dominated while complimented by the smell of fresh bread and pastries. The warmth greeted him with a comforting familiarity. He hoped that his father would do the same.

The cafe was fairly busy. As he stood there awkwardly searching for his father, he caught some people staring as if they recognized him.

On the right side of the building, Simon saw a man seated alone facing his direction, a second menu placed across from him as if expecting company.

He took a deep breath. He shouldn’t be anxious—It wasn’t like he had never seen his dad or lived with him before. His memories from early childhood involving him were mostly pleasant. This was supposed to be exciting—the chance to reconnect after a long period of time apart, the joy in seeing each other, and the conversations they would have.

He was dressed as if he had just come from work and looked tired. “I hope I didn’t pull you away from anything important,” Simon said half-jokingly, undermining the significance of their meeting.


/“What do you think dad’s doing now?”

“Why the talk about him recently?” She tried masking her feelings with light-heartedness, but there was a slight bitterness in her voice.

“Just curious. We never visit or call him. Could I... call him sometime?”

“He might have changed his number.” She knew that was a lie, as he called occasionally and she ignored him.

“Does it hurt to try?”

“He has his own life. Can’t expect him to clear his schedule and welcome you with open arms.” She lightly chuckled, but there was an underlying seriousness to her tone. “Think it over first.”/

The mind had a strange way of bringing up the past. His mother meant well, but he couldn’t help but think that his father had been waiting for him.

“Hi D–,” Simon caught himself. They had not interacted with each other for 11 years. What if he rejected that title now? He tried again. “Hi.”

“Hello.” He glanced up to exchange the greeting, but his eyes quickly returned to the newspaper.

Maybe he was just shy.

Questions swarmed Simon's mind. Have you been thinking about me? Mom? Have you re-married? Why haven’t you called? Visited? Do you even care? Of course he cared. He showed up. But this wasn’t the time to bring topics like that up. Untouchable, much like the forbidden questions of first dates.

After contemplating, he settled on, “How are you?” A smile masked his nervousness.


“That’s good. “

Simon waited, but his father never returned the question. Awkwardly, he offered, “I’ve been good, too.”

He nodded. Their conversation slipped into silence again. Not much of a conversationalist, he supposed.

“What are you reading?”

“The day's news.”

“Anything interesting so far?”


A growing sense of unease overcame Simon. It was one thing to be shy. It was another to be so oblivious to attempts at interaction that it came off as uncaring. He recollected himself. Don't jump to conclusions.

The menu. Maybe food would dispel the discomfort. “I'm going to order food. Would you like anything?”

Hesitantly, “Just coffee. Tell Rita 'order #47’. She'll know.”

That was his longest response to him so far. He eyed the empty cups of coffee on the table. How much caffeine could one have until it did more harm than good?

Simon was about to get up when his father slid money towards him. $6.71 exactly. Why so precise?

“That's okay. I can pay.”

His father did not take back the money.

“Really. I can—”

His father looked up at him, one of the only times since he arrived, an expression of seriousness with a trace of pleading.

Surprised by his father's insistence, he pocketed the money. “...Thank you.”

He walked up to the counter, scanning the menu. He settled on the strawberry tart with extra strawberries.

His father had mentioned something about order #47. It wasn’t written on the menu.

The owner came to the counter. Her dark brown hair showed some highlights of a lively auburn color as well as some gray streaks. She wore a warm smile, a reflection of the comforting environment of her cafe.

Before he could speak, she exclaimed, “Oh my!” She beheld his presence as if reuniting with an old friend. However, realizing that he was slightly confused by her expression, she reeled in her ebullience. But the curious stares of customers could not be diverted.

For Zachary, the air grew stuffy as he felt unwanted attention from the customers. Many stared, undoubtedly to see the rare sight of him with his son, of him with anybody. They stopped trying to hide their wonderment, switching from furtive glances to prying gazes. The attention was split between the two of them as customers clinged to each of their actions as if even the insignificant interactions held deeper meaning. As he glanced up from his newspaper, he pierced through the intrusive stares of nearby customers. They immediately diverted their attention away from him, resorting to fabricated small talk to mask their curiosity.

“I'm glad to know you've been well,” Rita said cheerfully. “How you’ve grown!”

Simon gave a shy chuckle. He didn't remember her well, but he liked her energy, and he had already had a more engaging conversation with her than with his father.

“Anyway, what can I get you?”

“The strawberry tart, please, with extra strawberries. And he said he would like an 'order #47’?”

“Coming right up! That will be $6.71.”

It was as if his father knew.

She reconsidered. “Actually, don't worry. It's on the house. My way of saying welcome back.”

He had already nearly refused to accept money from his father, and he thought it would have been even ruder to not accept her offer. “Thank you.”

When the order was ready, he took in the delicious smell of the strawberry tart and the appealing arrangement of the strawberries. But upon receiving the coffee, the tart's appetizing scent was cancelled out by the coffee's overpowering and unpleasant aroma. It was over-roasted, burnt, bitter, black coffee. He wondered how anyone could drink it.

Upon reaching the table, he saw his father getting up. “Where are you going?”
He hurriedly said, “Please excuse me for a moment,” and he was out the doors.

Something about his expression made him think he was uncomfortable. Uncomfortable by his own son's presence. The very thought made him squirm. As he ate his strawberry tart, he considered leaving as well.

His father returned. With a forced smile, Simon managed, “Thanks for meeting me here. I'm leaving now.”

He noticed a slight tensing in his father's demeanor, which his father attempted to mask. “Okay. I could take you to—”

Simon responded hastily. “—No! It's fine, really. Aunt Allison can pick me up. I wouldn't want to put you through that trouble.”

As he walked out the door, he took one last glance at his father. 11 years /was/ a long time, long enough to cause unwanted change. Maybe he should have considered his mother's caution more.

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