While in Doyle's Coffee and Tea, David Corbin is approached by a captivating young woman.
Just north of Boston and tucked away between the cities of Salem and Lynn, there is a town that few outside of the area know. Most who drive through it merely think it’s part of one of the surrounding cities, and that’s something that has suited the Bailey family since Amos Bailey was a founding citizen of Devon, Massachusetts in 1651. While the children of the following generations moved away, quite a few stayed, and after a few hundred years, most people in the area had some kind of connection with the Baileys, whether they worked for one of the many companies owned by them, knew them from their presence among the police, fire department, schools, and town government. Many were simply related to them in some way, but the only thing David Corbin knew about them was that Claire Bailey was the most beautiful and most terrifying woman he had ever met.
From his usual table in the corner of Doyle’s Coffee and Tea Company, he had seen her walk in and nearly stood, unsure of whether to leave or invite her to sit with him. Instead, he decided to stay and wait to see what happened. He had his library copy of The Scarlet Letter open in front of him, taking notes on characters and places for an upcoming test in Dr. Morgan Graves’ Early American Literature class. Claire’s voice rang through the coffeehouse, as if directed solely at him, even though she was simply ordering a vente soy latte with sugar-free amaretto syrup. David found his natural infatuation with her slightly dimmed and smirked as Jon Doyle looked around for his fellow coworkers to figure out if they even made something like that.
Nope, he thought. I don’t think they even have soy milk on the premises.
Claire turned from him after paying and approached David, smiling as if she had been coming to meet him, and he stiffened his shoulders instinctively, but when she pulled a chair back and sat down, he relaxed, feeling an unnatural calm flood over him as he stared into her bright amber eyes. From the first time he had met her, Claire had caught his attention to the point of distraction, even from the unpredictable discussion that Dr. Graves led in class, but now, he felt as if he were being pulled into a golden cage, and forced himself to stop gaping at her obvious beauty and smile.
“I guess you’re gracing me with your presence, then? I was wondering if you remembered me.” The words fell off his lips with a coldness that surprised him. Stupid, where did that come from?
She quirked an eyebrow and smirked. Glancing at his page, she lilted, “How could I forget? You had some of the best comments in class.”
David laughed. He had hardly said anything in the last class period, where they had discussed Nathaniel Hawthorne’s life. He looked up and saw Jon trying to motion to Claire that her coffee was ready and pointed to him. Claire turned as Jon lifted the cup and set it on the counter. Then, she turned back to David and smiled at him, touching her fingertips to the back of his hand and sending shocks of pleasurable energy through his body. Jon scowled and carried the drink to her, setting it on the table with a clatter that caused a drop of the latte to spill onto the saucer under the porcelain mug.
As Jon left, Claire said, “They don’t have really good service here, do they?”
David leaned forward and whispered, “It’s generally expected that you get your own drink.”
“Please,” she scoffed. Then, she said loudly, “I’ve never been to a place that makes you get your own order.”
The coffeehouse quieted as everyone, all loyal customers and employees, glared at her, and by extension, at David. He took a deep breath so as not to lose his temper, which was rising, and said just as loudly as her, “Well then, you’ve never been to a Starbucks, or a Seattle’s Best, or a Java City, or just about any other coffee shop in the country.”
Behind her Jon smiled appreciatively, and after a moment of shock, she leaned forward and took his hand. “David, I don’t want to argue with you.”
“Then why did you sit with me?” He pulled his hand back and whispered, “You just met me last week in class, said my inane comment about The House of Seven Gables was the best in the class, and now you sit with me to insult my favorite coffee shop, and you say you don’t want to argue. What’s going on?”
“I need your help.” In an instant, her appearance changed from seductress to damsel in distress, and he had to fight his testosterone fueled instincts not to believe that it was just an act to play him like a fool. When he didn’t respond, she continued in a whisper so soft he could hardly hear her, “It’s my father. He’s been acting strangely, and—”
He put up a hand and, as she stared with her mouth hanging open like a stupid fish, closed his notebook and copy of Selected Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and packed them away in his messenger bag. Then, he stood and said, “Listen, I hardly know you. In fact, I don’t know you. We met in English class twice, and you’ve already insulted me and my friends. Now, if you need help, I suggest you go to the police or a hospital. I’m just a guy you met in class. Later.”
Without another word, he walked out of the coffeehouse, knowing more deeply than he realized that he had just made a deadly mistake.