There is nothing more excruciating than rejection. Holding your heart out on a platter, offering it
to one whose soul you see mirrored in your own, only to be told no. No, it’s not good enough.
You are not good enough.
You are not enough.
The sting burrows its way inside, not content to settle just under the skin, but needling
deep into the void where your heart used to be, before it was ripped out. That’s what I was
reflecting on, anyway, when a voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Is this seat taken?”
The young woman, about my age, already had her hands on the empty chair across from
me. For only the briefest second, I thought she wanted to sit there, but then she pulled towards
herself an inch to make clear the chair was going with her.
She was stunning. That was the only way to put it. Long rippling black hair that was
entirely wasted in this coffee shop—hair meant to be tumbling in the wind on a wild moor. Eyes
so bright and wide I could see myself reflected back, blinking stupidly. She wore a loose striped
t-shirt, jean capris, and ballet flats, all so effortless I felt clumsy and awkward just sitting there.
The only effortless thing in my life was split ends.
And of course the seat wasn’t taken. Would likely never be taken again. Oh god, don’t
start crying again, Molly. “No,” was all I managed to say to her, one lonely syllable. Just like me.
“Great,” she chirped. “Thanks!” Then she was off, surging through the crowded café in a
way that must come quite naturally to someone so gorgeous and wielding a wooden chair. She
plopped it down at a tiny table jammed with four other chattering friends.
I stared at the space she had left, a wide, gaping hole that screamed ‘ALONE! THIS
WOMAN IS ALONE!’ to the rest of the patrons, in case it wasn’t already obvious.
Then I heard the barista call over the din, finally. “Order for Molly!”
I poked my way across the shop through the line-up at the till and the blob hovering at the
pick-up counter. But when I got there, the counter was bare. The barista saw me looking
confused and raised his eyebrows at me.
“For Molly?” I asked over the hiss of the espresso machine.
He pointed behind me. “She took it.”
“Who?” I turned. A sea of bodies.
“With the striped shirt,” he added.
The chair thief.
I pursed my lips and marched after her to where she had stopped at the lid station. First
she takes my chair. “That’s my drink.” It came out louder than I intended.
“Hmm?” She gave the steaming beverage another stir before she looked up at me.
My mouth dried up. “I’m Molly,” I rasped, pointing at my name scrawled on the cup.
“You’re Molly?” she repeated.
“Yes. That’s my latte.”
She frowned. “I think it’s my flat white.”
“Is your name Molly?”
“No,” she laughed. “But I give that name because no one ever spells or pronounces it
That’s absolutely true. “What’s your name?” I suppose it didn’t really matter at the
moment, but I felt compelled to ask.
“Meshia.” She spelled it for me.
“That’s beautiful.” The word just fell out of my mouth. My cheeks flushed. It was hot in
there, all the humans and their cellular respiration.
“Thanks.” Her smile was dazzling and did nothing to cool off my face. She took a sip of
the drink. A tiny fleck of foam sat on her lip until she licked it off. “It tastes like a flat white.”
“I wouldn’t know.” That beverage was so trendy right now, and I refused to try one just
because everyone else was ordering them. I liked lattes. I was not going to begin explaining all
this to her, so I just stared.
Her mouth quirked as she held out the cup. “You want to taste it?”
I shook my head but she was still moving it towards my lips. So I ducked my chin and
took a tiny sip. Our fingers brushed when I braced the cup.
Oh. Richer. Velvety. “It’s good,” I said in a small voice. So good.
It was a gut punch. For how long now had I been refusing to try it, for no good reason,
and it turned out I liked it better. The last vestige of normalcy in my life crumbled around me.
Shit. The tears were back.
Meshia looked alarmed. Crying strangers can do that to a person. “I’m so sorry about the
mix up,” she said, reaching out a hand like she was going to touch my arm, but she paused when
we heard the barista again.
“Order for Molly! Latte,” he added when he saw us staring.
Meshia bit her lip and looked back at me. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Fine. Fine fine fine.
“Here, do you want this one instead?” She held the cup out to me again.
I shook my head. “No. Nope. The latte is perfect for me.” Blinking furiously, I hurried
back to the counter and snatched it up, not wanting to imagine the pitying look she must be
giving my back.
My sad table with one chair waited. I took a sip of my latte. Not as good. Milky.
It’s funny how sometimes you do a thing simply because it’s what you have always done.
When you would have been happier with something else all along.
“Molly.” The barista appeared at my table a few long, lonely minutes later. “Sorry about
that, I should have realized. Anyway, she wanted you to have this flat white.” He slid a cup
towards me. There was a phone number underneath my name in neat black marker. I looked up
at him, puzzled.
He tilted his head and I turned to look.
Meshia was smiling at me.
I smiled back.
As I was saying about rejection… It's freeing.
Jennifer’s short stories have appeared in anthologies from Chicken House Press and Improbable Press, and are upcoming in Audience Askew. Her debut novel from Pride Publishing is out March 2024. She lives with her family in BC, Canada, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @JMoffattWrites.