Orihime Inoue began her nightly task of wiping down the counters, cleaning the coffee pots, and tossing the spurned pastries and treats out. True, it was Christmas Eve, but to her it was just another day. With no family and all her friends spending time with their families she felt as though it were no different from any old Tuesday night.
Biting her lip thoughtfully, she quickly wrapped a couple of scones in a napkin and shoved them in her purse. Those will go great with my curry tonight. She stiffened hearing the door to the coffee house open, shoving her purse back among the freshly cleaned cups and saucers. Please, oh please don’t be Miss Rangiku! The last thing Orihime needed was another write up at work for sneaking food home again. Her boss had already told her twice about the consequences of such. They didn’t sound particularly pleasing.
She turned quickly to see who had ventured in just moments from closing time. Oh, it was him. The same guy that had come in every night for about two weeks. He was generally quiet, kept to himself, and always brought a book in with him. Not to mention always well dressed. Tonight it was a black pea coat with a high-collared shirt underneath, straight legged dark jeans, and black loafers. The only thing that seemed out of place was his slightly unruly black hair. He always wore it messy.
“Hello there Mister Schiffer!” Upbeat and bubbly as always, Orihime always tried to appear enthusiastic to customers. Always hiding underlying feelings of loneliness and self-criticism. “What can I get you tonight?”
He sat quietly, placing his book neatly on the bar beside himself. “Coffee. Black.” He smoothed his coat with his hands before primly aligning the spoon she’d just given him perfectly parallel to the saucer beside it. She watched his slim fingers work quickly to restore symmetry to the objects on the bar.
She screwed up her brow in thought while carefully pouring the brew into his mug. “Wouldn’t you at least like some cream in your coffee? I can only imagine how horrible this must taste plain.” She never drank plain coffee, instead preferring to add cream or sugar or sometimes both.
“No.” The reply was simple, to the point. Blunt. It was a little infuriating. She’d been his “personal” barista for the past couple of weeks and he couldn’t even be polite? She gripped the handle to the pot tightly, her petite frame going a little rigid. He didn’t seem to notice. Or if he did, he was keeping it to himself.
Still, she bit her tongue. “Have you ever even tried it?” Her soft amber eyes tried desperately to make contact with his cold emerald ones. He said nothing in response this time, carefully sipping the hot beverage so as not to scald his sharp tongue. Geez. Is he always such a jerk?
Orihime shrugged and resumed the closing process, figuring he just wanted to sit and read his book as usual. She’d never seen him so much as speak a word to anyone in here. In the rare instances when he showed up when they still had customers, he’d simply ignore anyone who tried to converse with him. She had just begun to clean the cake servers when he spoke up from the silence.
“Why are you alone tonight?” It was a harmless enough question. To anyone but Orihime that is. She could feel her eyes prickle and burn with tears welling up. Had he eerily known which buttons to push? Or was he just genuinely curious? Either way it didn’t matter. It had done the job.
“I-I…” She began, gripping the dripping washrag with trembling fingers. “I don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with.” She clamped her mouth shut and began to scrub at an invisible stain on the server. Honestly, like he even cares. I’m sure he has a cute little girlfriend waiting for him at home. She paused. Where had that come from? Surely subconsciously she had not been harboring a crush on this… this jerk.
“Orihime.” Cold hands suddenly gripped her wrists. What the heck?! She hadn’t even seen him move, much less get back here behind the bar. “The dishes have been done for a while now. You could have kicked me out at least twenty minutes ago. You’ve been dying for company, haven’t you?” His front was pressed nicely to her back, his slim physique cushioning her hourglass frame nicely. Naturally. Not seductively, but rather a comforting fit.
“How do you know my name?” Damn her nerves. She could hardly speak with him so close. Get a grip! This creep is trying to put the moves on you! He’s going to lure you into a false sense of security! She let out a small squeal of surprise when his slim fingers plucked her nametag on her blouse.
“Foolish girl. You can’t even take a hint, can you? I visit at the same time every night for a reason.” His breath was hitting her neck now, his voice was barely above a whisper but she was transfixed on his words. She could hear nothing else at this moment. “I’ve been admiring you from a distance. Ever since I came in that first night I was drawn to you. You… Are unlike any girl I’ve seen.” He tightened his grip the slightest, he seemed to be worried over what he’d just said. As if he wished he could take it back.
Orihime was stunned, so much so that she dropped the server into the sink. This was the last thing she’d expected. And yet she found her heart pounding in her chest. It, like her, simply wanted to be cherished. She then realized she’d pressed back against him, trying to be closer to him. Trying to coerce him into holding her.
Orihime closed her eyes and smiled, tucked away in the arm of a stranger as the snow pelted down around them on the way back to her humble flat. Had this been a Christmas miracle? Divine intervention of some sort? Whatever it was it had quelled the ache of solitude within her. It wasn’t until they were cuddled up together on the couch that she realized she’d left her purse at the coffee house.