She’s bloody well late again.

The boy narrowed his darkened eyes, carefully fixing his gaze on the antique grandfather clock wedged in the corner of the café; as if that would urge the minutes to pass any quicker.

A tall waitress approached his table, carrying a plate of steaming pastries and two cups of cocoa. The boy – named Owen – sighed under his breath, knowing that a conversation was inevitable.

“Are you expecting someone, sir?”

He desperately tried to avoid meeting the waitress’s gaze; socialising was far from his forte, much less with those of the opposite gender.

“Yes… she seems to be late, but it’s alright. Probably only a few minutes away.”

The waiter nodded, carefully placing the small dish onto his’s table before walking over to her next customer.

The boy brought a cup of steaming cocoa to his lips, inhaling the scents. He let them linger and mix, studying each smell as they shifted from sweet to bitter, from sharp to warm. Somehow, he felt relaxed that evening. Usually, the prospect of being in a new place with total strangers would send him into a silent breakdown, but something about this night was… different.

Marie, he thought. The whole reason Owen had bothered to drag himself out so late. She had called earlier that day, asking to meet him for another one of her “discoveries”.

Owen reflected on his friend, that girl who had been by his side since school began. The one who always had something to talk about, and always found a reason to frustrate him to the brink of rage.

The boy allowed the mixture of emotions – fond nostalgia, pure joy, overwhelming annoyance – swim in his head for a few seconds, before drowning them in another gulp of cocoa.

He took a moment to look around. The café itself was slowly emptying, with only an elderly man, three or four couples, and a group of college students occupying the seats.

She’s not my date, repeated a voice in his head. We’re here because she asked me to, no, begged me to check out some old letters. The fact that he needed to remind himself only became a nuisance to Owen. Of course it isn’t a date, she’s Marie! The prospect of falling for that blabber-mouthed excuse of a best friend would seem preposterous, upsetting even.

Still, Owen couldn’t help but think of Marie walking through that door, bundled in her fuzzy black-and-white scarf. He couldn’t help but picture her cinnamon-brown eyes, and her warm smile. He could hear her annoyingly-squeaky-yet-lovely voice travel across the table as she started giggling like she always did. He swore he could hear her loud footsteps trudging towards him-

“Still waiting for your date, sir?”

Owen spluttered as he was rudely plucked from his daydream by that waitress. “She’s not my date,” he muttered, more to himself than to the waitress. She smiled. “Well, whoever she is, you should give her a call. It’s getting snowy outside and it’ll be hard to make it back anytime past midnight.”

Owen nodded, realising that he hadn’t noticed the growing blizzard out the window. The waitress left his table, making sure to make eye contact with the boy for a few seconds.

It was in that brief moment that he felt it, somewhere within his heart. He knew this girl, the waitress. Somewhere, some time in his life, he had met her. There was something behind her mysterious eyes, something that felt unnerving. For some reason, he felt fear more than anything.

The boy wanted to open his mouth and shout “I’m sorry Miss, but have we met?” but once again his anxiety overcame him. He could only utter a sigh and put away those thoughts, once again burying another mystery that he could hopefully dig up one day.

His heart skipped a beat; he could hear a familiar giggling.

“Eyes on the waitress, huh? I knew you were secretly some sort of a pervert.”

Owen spluttered again, not knowing whether to laugh, groan or smile at the sight of his friend. She was exactly as he had pictured: warm smile beneath autumn irises, all snug in her monochrome scarf.

The boy arched an eyebrow as he stood up and pulled a chair for his friend. “Good evening to you as well, Marie.”

“How gentlemanly. Now, I got the letters here, let’s not waste any time.”

That night, sheltered from a midnight snowstorm beneath the yellow light of the café, two young souls began to uncover an old tale.