Judging the Book by the Reader

By Bette Kosmolak

There she is—a beauty with high cheekbones, wide-set, dark, chocolate eyes—stretched out on the black pleather bench where it meets the twelve-foot expanse of Starbucks’ windows. She pulls straight locks into a scrunchie, slips off black suede boots, and nestles her shoulders further into the corner before she props stockinged feet on the chair opposite. To anyone with an eye, she exudes the same nonchalance as that woman in the ankle-length, fussily frilled Victorian dress lounging on de Maupassant’s monument in Parc Monceau. Except this woman is wearing faded jeans, a plain T-shirt and a hoodie.

She reaches into her bag and pulls out a paperback. She opens it at about the one-third mark and moves her bookmark to the back half of the book. A few moments after burying her eyes in the book, one hand reaches for her coffee. She lifts the cup to her nose. A quick sniff and then a swallow before she returns the cup to the table with a movement born of muscle memory. Automatic, absent-minded. As if she’s done this a million times.

At a stool at a high table clear across the room, I fidget: straighten a pant leg, check for phone messages, twirl a Tall Americano to even the added cream and sugar, and hear every scuffle, every swish of doors swinging open or closed, every mumble of every order. In a half-hour, timid or commanding, treble or bass voices order a Vente Pistachio Latte (teen perched on Nikes), extra hot, short White Chocolate Mocha (suited stodgy man, maybe a real estate agent), Espresso Cold (soccer mom), and a tall Flat White (middle-aged woman dragging a plastic Loblaws bag sprouting carrot tops). 

In that half-hour, other than turning page after page, my lovely beauty remains as still and languid as that statue in Paris. She doesn’t flinch when a spoon hits the floor. Doesn’t look up to see who is laughing. Only her warm eyes move, assiduously following line after line. 

Not being able to endure her composure any longer, I cross the room and stand at her table sufficiently long to be unnerving. She looks up.

“What are you reading?”

“You want to know?” she says, poking her index finger into her book to hold the page.

“Yeah. Need to know what you find so absorbing you can shut out the world.”

She replaces her finger with her bookmark, closes the book, drops it on the table while she pulls on her boots, straightens her hoodie on her shoulders. And stands. A wide smile crosses her face and her eyes twinkle.

 “Nothing important,” she says as she heads for the exit.

“Hey, you forgot your book.”

“No prob, I have another copy at home,” she calls as the door swings open and she’s gone.

                                                               *   *   *

Bette Kosmolak is an emerging writer living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She is passionate about writing, reading and art.


  1. Starbucks, with its high ceilings and low lights has a special feel, which Bette captures perfectly. I had to look up de Maupassant’s memorial, but there she was, as advertised, engrossed in thought.

    Beautifully written and satisfying to read.


  2. Such great work, Bette, sketching an intriguing moment. Wonderful balance of tone and detail.


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