[Originally written 6/14/2007]
Tony walked into the coffee shop. It was a local place, a hole in the wall kind with a furniture assortment of random chairs and different style tables for patrons to sit in. There was a small stage at one end of the room, in a back corner, presumably where poetry readings or live music could be staged, if anyone cared about those things anymore. Nobody’s really cared about those things recently except for the college kids, and they were more worried about getting either drunk, laid, or stoned than poetry or music – unless they were using the poetry or music to get something else.
He glanced around the almost empty shop. Two in the afternoon was apparantly not a big time for coffee sales during July. Go figure. Sitting in the back corner opposite the stage was Catherine. She was watching him walk across the place, navigating through the array of chairs and tables like a sailor negotiating a rocky coastline. She smiled at him as he approached, and he gingerly returned the smile, still picking his way through the last of the tables.
“I trust you had no problems finding the place,” she purred. He could barely see the red in her hair. Technically, she had told him once, I’m a brunette. Her hair was natural, just a darker, subtle shade of red. She was dressed in a pair of tennis shoes, jeans and a lavendar women’s polo shirt. Her small-framed glasses, in better light would have also shown a hint of lavendar, seemed a little out of place on her otherwise perfect face.
“No, actually. I used to hang out here years ago when I was in college. The place was in better condition, then. It had more traffic, too.”
“I can imagine,” she replied, pulling an envelope onto the table. It was a manilla envelope, a standard letter mailer – the kind you would expect to get a letter in from a bill collector.
A small figure, a slender young woman in her early twenties had appeared next to their table. Tony had never heard her approach, so when she spoke, it initially startled him, his eyes opening in shock at the sound of her voice over his shoulder. “Sir, would you care for anything to drink?” She stood to his left, just behind his shoulder.
He turned towards her, “Just a water for now, please.”
“Ma’am,” she said, looking at Catherine. “Did you need a refill?”
“Not now, doll,” Catherine rolled out. “Check back with us in a bit, though, we may need something a bit stronger than water.” Catherine winked at the waitress.
As the waitress went to get the water, Catherine returned to business. She folder her fingers together, keeping her hands resting on the envelope. Catherine waited for the waitress to deliver the water and return to the kitchen again before continuing.
Catherine drew a slow, deep breath and focused on Tony. “If we have this conversation,” she started, “it’s going to end badly for you. Consider that a fair warning.” She paused, waiting for Tony’s response before continuing. When he nodded that he wanted to continue, Catherine unlocked her hands and turned the envelope over. She stared at the text, the flowing hand-written script on the envelope for a moment before sliding the envelope across to Tony.