Douglas and Louise trudged through a cold drizzle on their way to the coffee shop, mostly quiet, with Douglas occasionally pointing out a local neighborhood landmark. They entered the coffee shop’s door, stomped the wet from their feet, both slightly embarrassed at the amount of water dripping from their coats.
“Douglas!” Franny waved from her table, near the front window. “Hello!” The warm flush of additional embarrassment rising in his cheeks surprised Douglas. Why would he feel shy about being seen in the coffee shop with Louise? No good reason, he decided, and waved back at Franny.
“Friend of yours?” Louise asked, with a twinkle in her eye.
“A dear friend,” Douglas answered.
“Shall we join her?” Louise offered. “Why don’t I order us something, and I’ll meet you both bearing warm beverages. What would you like?”
Douglas shared his preference for a strong drip coffee, and Louise smiled at that, too. “Good choice, although at this time of day, that amount of caffeine would prevent a good sleep. I’ll bring it to the table.”
“I really should treat, you being the guest,” Douglas began.
“Nonsense. You can buy next time.” And just like that, Douglas knew there would be a next time, perhaps many.
He joined Franny at her table. “Who’s that?” Franny asked, face aglow with warmth and happiness, as she sipped her chai tea.
“That is Louise, Penelope’s sister.” Douglas leaned forward on his sharp elbows. “And how are you, dear? You look exceedingly well. Being in love suits you.”
“Do I? Am I? I mean, does it?” Franny smiled, flustered. “Ah, here she is then. Hello, Louise, I’m Franny.”
“Lovely to meet you, Franny,” Louise offered a hand as she sat down. “My sister Penelope speaks very highly of you.”
“She does? I mean, thank you, but I’m not sure I know Penelope that well.”
“That hardly matters, of course. Penelope enjoys a tangential relationship with practical realities. If she met you once, and liked you, she will speak highly of you forever.”
Douglas chimed in. “Well, your sister is right about Franny. She teaches, she writes, she makes terrific pasta, and she is a god-mother for dear Precious. Marilyn adored Franny, of course.” Expressing Marilyn’s opinion in the past tense triggered a small, sad, knot in Douglas’s throat.
“Well, then. It’s nice to know my big sister gets a few things right,” Louise said gently, placing a hand on Douglas’s arm.