She stood gracefully and walked swiftly away from the table, chair squeaking in protest as it scraped against the hardwood floors. The buzz of the cafe noise faded into the background.
Tap. Tap. Tap. -- he counted them, the familiar rhythm of her bright red stilettos -- 14. Then -- the jingle of the chimes, giggling like a mischievous child. He sat immobile and counted. 1. 2. 3. The number of people who coughed. 7 -- glasses clinking at the back. He counted his breathing -- in, out, in, out. It was normal.
Calmed by the regularity of the surroundings, each accounted for, he blinked, and the table came back into focus. She had left a few coins carelessly scattered across the polished surface and haphazardly strewn around her lipstick-stained cup.
Abandoned on the tabletop remained a crumpled coffee-stained napkin. With hands that didn't even tremble, he slowly disentangled one of his hands from the other and picked up the napkin gingerly, as if it would crumble to pieces. A second passed, his hand hovering in the air above the table with the napkin at his fingertips.
Something seemed to occur to him during that moment's hesitation, and he swiftly curled his fingers around the napkin, crushing it in his palm. Although stained brown with coffee, it was already dry. He lifted his hand to his face and inhaled deeply. There lingered the signature peppermint vanilla scent of her favourite drink--she drank it so often that she perpetually smelled minty cool, yet warm.
Still clutching the napkin, he reached into his pocket with his other hand and tossed a small box onto the table. He pushed his chair back and stood; then walked stiffly towards the door.
His signature cup of black bitter coffee remained untouched on the table.