Kyle and Lisa sat on the weathered bench, paper coffee cups in hand, looking out over the small lake. They were silent and it wasn’t a comfortable silence. It was the kind of brittle quiet that strains the air until it threatens to crack like glass.
It was bad, this quiet. As Lisa had known it would be.
She had known from the moment Kyle entered the café. She had known from his thin smile and from the way his eyes looked no higher than her cheekbones. She had known from the way he said they should get their coffee to go.
He had wanted to keep this short and be on his way, now that they’d met in person.
That’s the way it goes, Lisa told herself, as she gripped the coffee she didn’t want. He’d expected someone prettier, or thinner, or taller.
But here they were, in silence, the coffee burning through its cardboard sleeve and their conversation stalled before it had begun. She lifted the cup to her lips, then quickly lowered it, not wanting to be burned.
A pair of ducks drifted into view from around the bend in the lake, soon followed by three more. Lisa watched the odd duck out, a female without a mate, and frowned at her steaming coffee.
“Ducks,” Kyle said into the quiet, before awkwardly clearing his throat.
“Yes,” Lisa replied, thinking back over their earlier texts. The sarcastic jokes and witty banter.
“Sorry about this,” Kyle suddenly said, making Lisa’s hand tighten on her paper cup. “About leaving the café like that.”
“It’s okay,” Lisa sighed, ready to drop her coffee in the nearest trash bin and go their separate ways.
“It was just so crowded in there,” Kyle added in a softer voice. “I don’t do well in crowds.”
“Oh,” Lisa hesitated, chancing a sideways glance to see that he was still looking straight across the lake.
“Or in person, I guess.”
Lisa saw his face flush, then turned her gaze back to the ducks, giving him space.
“That’s okay.” She felt her shoulders soften, along with the melting air. “I like watching the ducks.”
Lisa leaned lightly back and brought her arm down to her leg, letting the heat of the coffee cup seep into her jean-covered thigh. She watched the ducks gliding across the lake and waited for her coffee to cool.