The first time Mia comes in, Sara doesn’t know she’s Mia, doesn’t know anything about her except that she has flame-red hair and a smile like sunshine and takes her lattes with three shots. She’s beautiful in a quiet, unassuming way that makes Sara want to tug her into one of the alcoves and push her gently against the wall and kiss her everywhere; her mouth, her breasts, the tattoos curling up her arm.
She drags her gaze away before the woman she doesn’t know yet as Mia can catch her staring. Smiling at the next customer, she says, “Hey, what can I get you?” and hopes she isn’t imagining the heat of another person’s eyes on her skin as she does.
Dina comes over to her during a lull in the mid-morning rush, leans back against the counter, grins at her, says, “I saw that.”
“Saw what?” Sara asks, her face somewhere between a smile and a frown.
“You,” they say, pointing a mock-accusatory finger at her, “making eyes at the hot redhead in the corner.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says airily, and Dina just laughs.
The second time Mia comes in, she looks tired and a little sad and she says, “Hey,” kind of heavily when she gets to the counter.
“Hey,” Sara says, lips twisting in sympathy. “Rough day?”
“You could say that,” Mia says, giving Sara something like a smile in response. “Can I get a three shot latte? And...” She makes a face. “Screw it. A slice of carrot cake, please.”
“Sure,” Sara says, and starts ringing it up.
“I’m Mia, by the way,” she says, and Sara smiles, says, “Sara. Nice to meet you.”
Mia takes her latte and cake over to the table she sat at the last time she was here, and Sara drags her gaze away to the next customer, tells herself she can’t let herself get distracted by a pretty face. It’s Sunday afternoon; they’re kind of swamped.
Sara doesn’t hate her job, not really, only vaguely resents the early mornings and the asshole customers, but she wishes she were able to just walk over to Mia, sit down next to her, smile, ask her about the book she’s reading, maybe ask if she wants to get a drink that isn’t coffee. (Sara doesn’t mind the smell of it, has got used to it after being surrounded by it for so long, but she definitely prefers tea.)
By the time things have quietened down, though, and Sara has a spare minute to herself, the table Mia was sitting at is empty and Mia herself is nowhere to be seen.
“She left about ten minutes ago,” Dina tells her, hip-checking her lightly on their way past.
Sara starts a little. “What?” Then she realises, and looks away, embarrassed. “Dunno what you’re talking about.”
“Sure,” Dina says, and Sara pointedly ignores them, heading straight back to the counter to deal with a customer.
The third time Mia comes in, Sara’s fetching a box of coffee beans, catches sight of Mia reading at what has kind of become her table as she heads back down to the shop floor. Things are pretty quiet, and it’s that time of day where things tend to stay quiet, so after Sara finishes restocking, she winds her way over to Mia’s table.
“Hey,” she says, and Mia looks up, smiles at her. “You, uh. You want a refill?”
Mia glances at her cup, then back at Sara. “Nah, I’m good, thanks.”
“That’s good,” Sara says, nodding kind of awkwardly. Mia bites her lip, and Sara gets kind of distracted by the motion, pearly white teeth piercing red, red skin. “Do you, um, do you mind if I sit here?” Mia looks momentarily confused, like she’s wondering why Sara would ask that, and Sara scrambles for a reason that’s not I just really wanted to talk to you. “I’m not technically on break for, like, half an hour, but if I sit with a customer then I can kind of pretend I’m working.” Sara gives her a smile she knows is too shy and lopsided. “It’s been a long day, you know?”
“Oh, sure, go ahead,” Mia says, motioning at the chair opposite her, and Sara takes it, hoping she doesn’t look as awkward as she feels.
“Good book?” she asks, because there are a million things swirling around her head right now, but this feels like the safest.
“Yeah,” Mia says, “when I have time to read it. I mean, fuck, I love college, you have no idea, but not having time for anything but assigned reading kinda sucks. I’m not sure I even remember what free time is at this point.”
Mia bites her lip, and Sara realises that she’s babbling, that she’s nervous, too, and for some reason that helps her relax.
“Tell me about it,” Sara says. “Between my band and working here, I barely have time to sleep through my classes.”
“You’re in a band?” Mia says, and Sara nods, probably a little too eagerly, but she can’t bring herself to care. She fucking loves her band, and she doesn’t care who knows it.
“I’m the drummer,” she says, “and I sing, sometimes. It’s awesome. I mean, we’re still kind of at the playing in friends’ living rooms stage, so you probably haven’t heard of us, but it’s awesome.”
Mia raises her eyebrows, smiling. “Oh, is that right? Are you too hipster for me?” she says... teasingly? Sara is fucking hopeless at this, at being able to tell when people like her back, at knowing the difference between someone flirting and someone just being friendly, but she hopes. She hopes.
“Oh, definitely,” Sara says, “we’re so underground the subway’s jealous.”
Mia laughs, even though it’s a pretty shitty joke, and Sara looks away, down at the table, biting back a huge grin. “So what’s your major,” Mia asks, “or are your interests too obscure for that?”
“Music,” Sara says. “Minoring in Business, I think. But I really want to do the music thing. That’s, like, my dream.”
She looks up then and Mia’s giving her this strange little look that Sara can’t quite identify. If pressed, she might call it fond, but that’s a ridiculous thing to think.
“That’s awesome,” Mia says softly. “People should always have dreams.”
Sara agrees, “Yeah,” and it’s more of a breath than a spoken word, caught in the air between them. “What’s yours?”
Mia smiles. “I’m living it,” she says, and Sara wants to ask what that means, wants to ask about the sadness in Mia’s eyes, but she doesn’t know Mia well enough for that. She doesn’t know Mia at all, really, so she just nods.
The fourth time Mia comes in, she’s with a bunch of other people, a few of whom Sara vaguely recognises from around. Amir is in some of her music classes, and they’re even kind of friends, so it wouldn’t be that weird if Sara went over and talked to them. If Sara took the chance to talk to Mia, again.
Sara glances away and goes back to wiping tables. This is getting kind of ridiculous. She hasn’t felt this giddy about a crush since high school, since the first time she looked at another girl and thought, pretty.
The next time Sara lets herself look up, Mia’s table is empty, and Sara very carefully does not feel disappointed. (It’s for the best that she didn’t go over. Mia looked so happy over there with her friends; Sara shouldn’t have got in the way of that.)
But the table’s not empty, not quite. The book Mia’s been reading all week is there, lying innocently in front of where she was sitting. Sara looks up, around, doesn’t see Mia anywhere, so she heads over and picks it up. It’s Great Expectations, and Sara can’t help but think this is a sign of some kind.
There’s something stuck to the inside of the cover, Sara can feel it, so she flicks it open and takes a look.
I think you’re super cute, the note says, and it could be- it could be a joke, or it could be meant for someone else, or maybe it isn’t a sign and Mia just left it here by accident and the note is from someone who gave her the book and thinks she’s super cute.
Sara smiles to herself anyway, and goes to tuck it under the counter between stacks of paper where it won’t get lost.
The fifth time Mia comes in, Sara’s busy with the coffee machine, so she doesn’t see her, only hears her say, a little uncertainly, “Hey, is Sara working at the moment?”
Sara turns and Mia beams at her and Sara smiles back because she can’t not. Mia has one of those smiles that people write songs about, that Sara may have written a song about, in the quiet of a sleepless night when her thoughts drifted to places they really shouldn’t have.
“Hey,” Mia says, still smiling. “Did I, um, leave my book here, last time I was in?”
“Yeah, I think you did,” Sara says, and reaches under the counter, between the stacks of paper. “This is yours, right?” She hands it over to Mia and their fingers brush, just a little, just enough for it to be intentional.
“Thanks,” Mia says, her smile turning knowing for just a minute, and then she turns away and leaves.
“She’s going to that party at Amir’s tonight,” Dina says, and Sara whirls around, sees Dina leaning against the counter, their arms folded. “And you should, too.”
“How do you even know that?” Sara asks, and Dina makes a frustrated noise.
“Amir and I may have had a talk about you two,” they say, “but that isn’t the point. The point is, she likes you, you like her and you’re both hot and not complete assholes. Only good things can happen here.”
Sara bites the inside of her cheek. She inhales deeply, and then she looks up at Dina. “She’s going to Amir’s party, you say?” she says, and they grin at her.
Sara heads home to change first. She swaps her casual t-shirt and jeans for a slightly smarter t-shirt and jeans, and finger-combs her hair into something she hopes looks artfully dishevelled. It doesn’t take her long to get to Amir’s, takes her even less to find Mia.
Sara hears her laughing from the hallway and follows the sound of it until she sees her, sitting on Amir’s couch. She looks even more beautiful in the dim light, shadows curling round her face, and Sara smiles at her, unable to help herself.
“Hey,” Mia says, a little breathless, when she gets up to meet her in the middle of the room.
“Hey,” Sara says back, still smiling. “You look amazing,” she adds, and Mia grins back at her.
“So do you,” she says, almost too quiet to hear over the music, and Sara wouldn’t be able to make out her words if she weren’t staring at Mia’s mouth.
Mia’s friends have mysteriously disappeared when they get back to the couch, and Mia laughs sort of self-consciously, looking up at Sara through her long, dark lashes.
“Guess you’ll have to put up with me all night,” she says, and it only sounds half like a joke, but Sara doesn’t mind the prospect at all.
It turns out not to be all night after all, since about an hour of conversation and terrible dancing and gentle, deliberate touches later, Amir announces that a bunch of people are heading to someone’s apartment on the other side of town and would they like to join them?
Sara looks at Mia and Mia nods, says, “Share a cab with me?”
The giddiness that Sara’s been harbouring almost bursts out of her chest in the cab, the two of them sat next to each other, their hands mere inches apart. This is ridiculous, Sara is ridiculous, but it feels like reaching over to take Mia’s hand would be too... something, she doesn’t know.
She shifts her hand over the tiniest bit, bites back a laugh, and then feels the warmth of Mia’s skin on hers. The cab pulls to a stop, and Mia says, “Shall we?”