The wind gusts along, suddenly brisk as it catches loose blades of grass and swirls them before his feet. Above his head, a tiny bell hidden in the recesses of the ceiling rings a muffled trill as the door swings shut behind him.
The dimness just inside the front door is calm—Seokjin isn't ruffled, at least not more than his clothes in the wind—but he pauses a moment anyway before taking steps across the large tiles to the barista’s counter. Wide windows cast an airy glow over the rich honey of the wood. He takes a measured breath: the scent of coffee gathers on his tongue.
“Hello,” the barista says, voice bright. Behind her, the sea fills the view, though the sound of the waves is muffled. “Windy today,” she continues, perhaps despite the fact that Seokjin’s hair is hardly ruffled. He knows her by sight, though her name has slipped his mind.
“Good thinking weather,” he says instead, side-stepping the question. If his hands had been filled with ashes, outside, the fine grains would have soon trickled between his fingers to be carried on the wind out to sea. If his hands had been filled with dirt, the result would have been the same.
The barista nods in agreement, though there is no way she can know what Seokjin is thinking. Perhaps she has her own associations on the same topic.
“The usual?” she asks, gesturing towards the espresso machine. It's an interesting concept, expected repetition forming a predictable pattern. Expectations are set. To be met? Perhaps.
“Today I should like an orange pekoe, I think,” Seokjin says. She gives him a curious glance, perhaps thinking his order a mere whim. He still can't recall her name. She, on the other hand, appears to know everything about him. At least, so it would appear.
“That will be three fifty,” she says, fingers hovering above the touch screen. He pulls a card from his wallet, she taps the screen and pushes the card reader over.
“Thanks,” she says, nodding at the tip. Perhaps she thinks him generous, or perhaps she thinks he has prior experience in the service industry. Seokjin nods, the corners of his mouth lifting.
“It will be just a moment,” she continues, likely her own unvoiced train of thought, already turning away. She's not expecting an answer. Seokjin tucks the card back into his wallet and sits at the counter. Closer to the window, he can see the edge of the cliff. It's been a while, he supposes.
Tea leaves rustle in a tin, water gurgles as it pours. The barista’s elbow nudges a knob as she carries the tray over to where he’s sitting: a small teapot of steaming water, a sieve of fragrant tea and a handle-less cup. Or perhaps it's that all the cups with handles are merely sporting extraneous limbs.
Everything is a matter of perspective. Seokjin pours some hot water through the leaves. The fragrance of orange is deceptive: this tea is purely tea. In the background, the radio announcer has just finished announcing the next track, some kind of chart topper.
“Oh,” the barista says, tone slightly apologetic—she likely realizes her mistake in accidentally raising the volume, but is now reluctant to correct the error. “My favourite song.”
The cup is full; Seokjin sets the teapot down and waits for the tea to cool a bit. He's curious about the song, but there's no need to ask as it's already playing.
He's never heard it before, but the melody is oddly familiar. A stranger, from somewhere else, interlocutor, not confidant. The notes dance curiously around the backbone of the bass line, steady with the rhythm of the sea. A violin, likely synthesized, plays a brief motif—it extends, ostinato.
The barista is pursing her lips as she rummages at the counter. “That would’ve been nice if it’d been played by a real violin.” Her fingers twitch, tips slightly flattened.
The song ends, unresolved. The barista sighs. “That was Min Yoongi’s Clifftop butterfly,” the radio announcer says. “An unexpected summer sensation. According to the artist, he was inspired by a stranger he met while on an inspiration-seeking trip.”
The name is familiar, but unlike the barista’s, it does not hang blindly off the tip of Seokjin’s tongue.
“What do you think the song is about?” he asks the barista. She turns, resting her chin in one hand, staring at the opposite wall rather than out at the ocean. Well, the angle is less stressful on her neck.
“I like to think it's about a woman he met by the sea,” she says. “Going off the music, maybe she was sad about something. Maybe they talked, walking for hours along the shore.” She breaks off, pausing for a moment to stare even more resolutely at something that isn't there. “But the title is Clifftop Butterfly, not just Butterfly.” Her shoulders lift in a half-hearted shrug. “I could be completely wrong.”
Seokjin nods, expression unchanging. He remembers now, or maybe he doesn't. An impatient man, filled with too much energy. He wasn't looking for a muse, he was looking for a focus.
“Sometimes what we notice about others is actually more revealing of ourselves,” he says, aloud but not to the barista in particular.
“Well I don't fancy a walk in this wind,” she says, turning to look out the window. The winds have not yet abated, though that's unsurprising.
“I'll just be a moment,” Seokjin says, leaving his steaming tea to cool a bit more on the counter as he steps out the back door, no bell to ring over his head this time.
“Don't get blown over the edge,” the barista calls cheerfully after him. He nods, though she likely can't see. The edge of the cliff is further than it seemed from the window, a matter of perspective and space. He steps closer anyway, still a safe distance away. Hanging his head back, Seokjin takes a deep breath and revels in the feeling of his feet firmly planted on solid ground.