Nikki was very attractive. When she smiled, her green eyes sparkled like emeralds, and the freckles on her beautiful face did a little dance whenever that smile grew.
“I thought you were busy working on your new book,” she probed as she tucked her long red hair behind her ears, a habit that betrayed she was extremely comfortable with the person who sat across from her.
“I am,” Justin mumbled as he pushed his glasses back up on his nose. This was a nervous habit that only seemed to reveal itself when he was in Nikki’s presence.
“Saw my shrink this morning,” he added and took a sip of his coffee. “She told me I spent far too much time with my characters, and seemed more comfortable with them than I did with real people.”
He lowered his head in embarrassment, and Nikki smiled. The coffee shop was deserted at this hour, so it wasn’t like anyone was going to overhear the whispered revelation of his deep, dark secrets.
“So you asked me for coffee to put that theory to the test?” Nikki posed with a chuckle.
“Something like that,” Justin confessed as he adjusted his glasses again.
They sat in silence for a moment and contemplated their beverages.
“Did what she said bother you?” she finally asked softly.
Justin shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess. Yeah, probably. I mean, what’s wrong with choosing writing over spending time with people who annoy me, assault me with their drama, and send my stress levels soaring through the roof?”
“She’s well aware,” he countered with a little anger creeping into his voice. “I just get the sense that she has something against writers, and wants to try to save me, rather than allowing me to run off and hide in the daunting labyrinth of my extensive imagination.”
“I hope you’re quoting her there, because that’s a little too cheesy for you,” she commented with a smile that made her freckles dance again.
Justin finally allowed a grin to replace his perpetual frown. Being around Nikki always relaxed him, even if it also caused his heart to beat at triple its normal rhythm.
“Come on, if I wrote garbage like that, I wouldn’t be able to spring for coffees at a fancy place like this,” he told her and then laughed at his own joke.
“I want to know what’s so wrong about spending more time with my characters than with actual people,” he challenged. “This is Hollywood, so most people are vapid, self-centered, and two dimensional. At least my characters have some personality.”
“Amen!” Nikki replied and pounded the table gently in agreement. “Although, the new pages you gave me to read were pretty gruesome. I had no idea you wrote horror. If you’re hanging out with those characters, I might be a little concerned.”
Justin flashed her a charming smile. “So you like the new stuff?”
“I love it,” she assured him as she tucked some errant strands of hair back behind her right ear. “I might have slept with the lights on and a baseball bat in the bed next to me last night, but I think it’s your best work yet.”
Justin shook his head in agreement, and then pumped his fist in delight.
“Then don’t let your doctor’s words get to you,” Nikki suggested as he pointed her spoon at him to emphasize her point. “She’s there to help you, not to dictate how to live your life. Who does she think she is? Your stepmother?”
They both laughed hysterically at Nikki’s joke.
“I’m so glad I invited you here today,” Justin informed her as a huge smile lit up his face. “You always know exactly what to say to make me feel better.”
“And all for the cost of a coffee, rather than two hundred dollars for a forty-five minute session!” she giggled and then took another sip of her coffee.
The male barista behind the counter walked over to his female counterpart.
“What’s the deal with the guy at table four?” he asked as he nodded in Justin’s direction.
She glanced up from her work to look over at the table, where Justin sat alone and sipped his coffee, while the second coffee sat untouched.
“He comes in here like once a week,” she explained. “Someone told me he’s a writer, and I guess he likes to flesh out his characters by chatting with them over coffee.”
“This is Hollywood,” she countered. “Everyone works on their craft in their own way. He doesn’t bother anyone, and he’s a good tipper, so what do I care?”
“Seems like a waste of coffee,” he grumbled.
“If you’re so worried about the coffee, why don’t you go clean the machine?” she ordered.
The male barista did as he was told.
The female barista took one last look at Justin, who pushed his glasses up his nose and let out a big laugh, and then she went back to minding her own business.