Darren makes aggravated noises as I go to sit down.
“What?” I say.
He makes some more vague motions with his hands, snorts at me, rolls his eyes, and then reaches into his bag, pulling out a huge blanket. Oh. I wonder if he has snacks in there or anything, or whether I’m going to have to grab the actual picnic from the coffee shop that’s fortunately just right across the street where I can, you know, pop over there and back real quick. I mean he couldn’t possibly have packed coffee in there, right?
He glances up at me. “Oh, fine, get your coffee.”
I grin. “You want anything?”
“Yes,” he says, “I want a macchiato and a sandwich and whatever kind of fruit rollup thing they have that isn’t actually a fruit rollup because it’s for adults and if they have yogurt I want yogurt too.”
“Sure,” I say, and hurry across the street.
“And water,” he calls after me, “get water.”
I race into the coffee shop, breathing in the heavenly scent of fresh-roasted beans, wonderful, absolutely wonderful. The décor’s a little all over the place, like they redecorated three or four times without completely getting rid of the old stuff but it smells amazing. I glance through the food they have in the display. None of the fake fruit rollup stuff, but they do have the dried fruit that’s almost the same, and I glance through them – oh, no, papaya – I put them back.
I pick out something that looks like a granola bar but purports to be fruit instead.
Oh my god they have soup. I point at it. “What’s today’s flavor?”
The barista, with an impressive array of shades of green hair spiked up all over the place, glances back toward the soup of the day sign. “Chili today.”
“Great, I’ll have two,” I say, “it’s not going to have any nuts in it, is it?”
“It’s vegan,” the barista says, fiddling with their bracelets as they input the soups, “wait, did you say nuts?”
They give me an inscrutable look, then shrug. “No nuts.”
“Okay,” I say, “give me the grilled cheese on white.”
The barista nods. “Anything to drink?”
I drop two water bottles on the counter. “Macchiato and –”
“A real one, or…?” they ask.
“Yeah,” I say. “A real one. And…ooh, hazelnut.”
“I thought you said no nuts,” they say.
“Good point,” I agree. “Let’s go with this blueberry flavor drink, then.”
“You know that’s got coffee in it, right?”
I laugh. “Well, I hope so.”
“It doesn’t have that much coffee. I can add a shot to it, if you want.” They shrug again.
“Sure,” I say. “Do you happen to have any yogurt?”
The barista shakes their head. “Is that all?”
“Yep, thanks,” I say, pushing over the fruit thing and a couple cookies. And then my card.
“Cool. Be out in a minute,” the barista says, running my card and handing it back.
I tuck the water and cookies and fruit thing into my bag as I sit down on the bench, pulling out my phone. Waiting for your food, the barista mouths at me when I glance up.
where the fuck did you go Darren texts, and I just send back SOUP
A minute later, they start to make my drinks, and the kitchen hands out the food just after they finish. It’s packed up all nice in little trays for me to carry and everything. I grab the trays and drop a tip in the jar, calling out a thank you I hope they can hear in the kitchen, and head back outside. I almost lose track of my wallet; it’s too similarly shaped to the wrapped sandwiches without having the decency of being the same size, and my hands are currently full of soup and utensils.
“What soup?” Darren asks, suspiciously, staring at the little containers.
“Chili,” I say.
He perks up. “Yeah?”
“Chili and grilled cheese,” I say, handing over a soup and a sandwich, freeing a hand to finally grab my wallet. I know they told me which was which, but I have to sip both drinks to find his macchiato.
He happily dips his sandwich in his soup. “Chex mix isn’t as good a picnic as this.”
I stretch out on the blanket and drink my blueberry drink. Well, I got what I paid for, at least. “How is it?”
“Amazing,” he mumbles, through another bite.
I don’t really take Darren’s word for it when it comes to this particular meal. It is, however, far better than my aptly named ‘Blueberry Blitz’. The grilled cheese isn’t much to write home about, but the soup has a lot going on. I give up on counting how many different beans there are. “It is good, isn’t it?”
Darren takes a sip of my coffee. “This is horrible, why did you order it?”
“It’s blue,” I say, which is technically true, if semantically uncooperative.
“Don’t order it again,” he advises. “Do you need some of mine?”
“I’m okay,” I say, picking it back up again. God, it just gets worse with every sip.
Darren leans back on his elbows, looking up at the sky. Here in the park I can see what he means about fall. Not just the leaves on the couple of trees out here, but there’s a certain way the wind seems to blow right now that it doesn’t at other times of the year, and, yeah, maybe there’s sort of a smell. I think that’s the leaves again, though. A pigeon sits on the swingset and stares incredulously at me from all the way across the park.
“They didn’t happen to have yogurt,” Darren asks.
I shake my head, passing him the fruit bar and a water bottle. “What’s with the sudden craving for yogurt, anyway?”
“I have no idea,” Darren says. “I woke up really wanting some. Blueberry, preferably, and your coffee seriously did not help with that. I’m going to go to the store.”
“Do you have your EpiPen?” I ask.
He pats his pocket. “Yeah. Why?”
“I almost got hazelnut,” I say.
He sticks his tongue out at me. “Fuck you, Kuiper.”
“Well, I didn’t,” I say. “You’re fucking welcome, Donahue.”
He takes another sip of the horrid blueberry drink. “Honestly, I’m not even sure whether or not I should be thanking you. Anaphylactic shock may be more enjoyable than this.”
I laugh, pull out my book, and lie down to read for a while.