"Don't make me go back over there," Myriel hissed to Max. They were standing behind the cash register, stealing glances towards the corner table where the lone occupant was still sponging coffee out of her shirt. "She's not saying anything, but I can tell. She's upset."
"Just bring her the bill, and if she starts saying anything, apologize. Apologize until you get back over here. Maybe bow or something."
"That's real helpful, thanks." Myriel rolled down the sleeves of her white button up shirt and sighed. "Well, guess I'll go."
"It's fine, Myriel. Happens to the best of us."
"I know, okay." Myriel picked up her tray,which held a black leather half-folder, forced her face into a smile, and walked tentatively towards the woman who was sitting back in her chair staring blankly at the mosaic on the opposite wall. She was about 25, with a thoughtful face, a wide mouth and thick nose.
"I love that," the woman said, realizing someone was standing in front of her, "It's a beautiful image, don't you think so?"
Myriel humoured her, considering the jumble of pixelated flowers and brightly coloured figures of dancers. "It's been here a long time."
"Just like you," the woman said, turning her attention towards her, "I know I haven't been coming here long, but I can tell."
"Only a few years," Myriel said, her face falling a little, "I like it here."
"So do I." She felt for her open notebook and scribbled something without looking down.
"I have your bill here, but please don't feel you have to rush out. I know you like to finish at least three cups before you leave."
"Today's different," the woman said, "I have a meeting to go to."
"Oh," Myriel said, seeing that the coffee colour still remained where she had spilt it five minutes before, "I am ...so so sorry about your shirt."
"No worries," the woman replied, "I can wear my jacket over it, no one will notice a thing. Besides," she giggled, "they expect it. They expect a writer to be socially awkward and to have bad hygiene. I'll be fooling them."
Despite her years of serving experience, Myriel didn't quite know how to respond.
The woman seemed to accept this. "Well, guess I should ask you this too, but...it's kind of a strange question." The woman started braiding a section of her oatmeal coloured hair. "Has anyone been...asking around about me? Has anyone asked your boss if someone who looks like me or has my name has frequented this cafe?"
It was that kind of day: Myriel had no words. It was as if she had been divided from her ability to react and she simply had to wait, a passive agent, until something forced her into movement. Her thoughts flowed slowly until she sieved out the word she was looking for: "No."
"Good. Would you mind letting me know if someone does?" The woman laid a twenty dollar bill on Myriel's tray and picked a green army windbreaker from the back of her chair. "See you on Thursday," she said, and walked out.
As the glass door clicked shut, Myriel came out of her stupour. "That's what you get for not eating all day," she told herself, blinking rapidly. What had the woman said?
"Abeline's something, isn't she?" Max said, coming up beside her. "If we're lucky, we'll get this place into one of her stories and then we'll be on the map!"