Sandy settled down in her usual spot beside the window. She sat her coffee mug and saucer on the table, just off center, and tipped her spoon off to the side. She considered it, then adjusted it slightly. The fake tree, nestled into the corner behind her, brushed up against her shoulder as she hunched forward in the chair, then righted herself, trying to look as wistful and forlorn as possible.
Maybe today, she thought.
She was just resting her chin against her wrist, elbows propped against the table, when Max walked in. He didn’t say anything to anyone on his way to the counter, where he ordered a coffee before moving to his usual seat in the rear corner of the building. He pulled the canvas bag off his shoulder and shrugged himself out of his jacket before settling down.
Sandy watched it all out of the corner of her eye. Her skin bristled when she saw him pull out the little black sketchbook. The pencils came out next, and she forced herself to turn away. Max would be looking for his next subject about now, and the last thing she wanted was to let him know that she knew.
Of course, her dream wasn’t to be captured in a sketch artist’s portrait. She wanted to talk to him, but she could never quite get up the courage to approach him. Hell, she only knew his name because he was a regular. One of the baristas had called out to him and, after a few minutes on her smartphone, Sandy knew everything there was to know about Max the Artist. She’d been to his website, crawled through his online portfolio and his author bio. She’d even clicked the link on his “Contact Me” page and typed out a few lines of a perfunctory greeting before she deleted everything and closed the app.
In truth, she should just go up to him and say hello. That’s all it would take, but every time she saw him that pencil was already moving. She could rush over time him when he first walked in the door, but what kind of impression would that make? She didn’t want to seem desperate, and she didn’t want to interrupt.
That’s when she remembered his sketches. Those drawings were pieces of beauty —intense black and white portraits of coffeeshop patrons, deeply personal and profound. What’s more: Max always gave away the original sketch. His online portfolio showed men and women holding up their own portraits, drawn by Max, always with a big grin plastered across their faces.
What better way to meet the artist than through his own work?
With a half-turn, Sandy stole a glance at him. He was sketching something now, pencil scratching away at the open notebook page laying flat on the table. He started to raise his head. Sandy turned away, staring out the window even as she tried to catch his reflection in the glass.
A few minutes passed before she looked again. Max was standing up. She watched, disappointed, as he tore a page out of his notebook, took a photo of it, then walked over to an older man and woman on the opposite side of the dining area. He showed them the picture, and they laughed. Then, standing, they each held up one end of the page while Max took a photo of them with his phone.
They were still studying the sketch when he left, pointing out details and sharing it between themselves. With a sigh, Sandy turned back to her coffee . . . and paused. There was something on the glass. She looked over to see another small sheet of notebook paper and a string of digits running across the page.
Below it, in scratchy handwriting, the note read: “Call me. Max.”
Sandy was dialing before before she even managed to stand.