They chatted like an old married couple. He made her giggle. Her giggle made him smile. They were an unlikely duo. He a businessman, and if judging by the suit, a successful one. She was a woman maybe twenty years older than him, feet tucked into sneakers, butt tucked into pants a size too small. She bustled around, sitting people here, serving people there, all the while she kept coming back to him for chat.
She asked him about his wife and kids, he answered and she listened as if her life depended on it. Then she was off getting toast for these, eggs for those. The breakfast area was full and she was the only one staffing it. She was kindly to all but he was her favourite. I noticed that whenever she came over to talk to him, he put his pen down and looked up at her. Listened, answered questions and remained present to her. As if she mattered. As if he saw her as another, fellow, equal human being. When he made a joke her smile lit her face and pushed the shadows back in her eyes.
From watching others, it became clear that she is a woman who is not often seen, often greeted never spoken with, called for but not wanted. I listened for awhile and none but he (and we) said thank you to her for her efforts. Some showed impatience where it wasn't due, few showed gratitude when it was. I saw she walked with a slight limp, I saw she looked tired. I'm guessing every step she took was to support a family, pay a bill, make little bits of joy possible for others. I saw a woman who worked.
And so did he. I gathered that he was a regular there. When he left he addressed her by name and said he'd see her next week when he was back in town. She grinned and said she'd have the regular waiting for him.
Once he was gone she went back to work with the same quiet determination. But a little of the spring in her step was gone. I think it was because she was, now, no longer Francis, she was simply, 'Hey, you, coffee.'