“What does one do in a place like this?” Ally ran her hands over the smooth wooden chairs and flicked her eyes over a chalkboard sign that advertised the price of coffee and bagels.
Amos pulled out a chair and sat down at a booth. “Pass the time,” he said, leaning back and resting his arm over the back of the neighboring seat.
“Pass the time? That sounds impossible. To whence are you passing it?” Ally sat down across from Amos, trying to copy his manner as best she could.
Amos chuckled, his eyes crinkled up in amusement. He was laughing at her. “Beg your pardon,” he said, although he did not look the least bit sorry. “It’s a figure of speech. It simply means that we sit here for a while doing nothing until something more fun comes along.”
A man in a crisp white shirt interrupted them, setting two glasses of water on their table. “Would you like to order?”
“I’ll have coffee – half-café with cream and no sugar – and a blueberry bagel with cream cheese,” Amos said abruptly. He paused, looking at Ally. “Would you like to order?”
“Order who?” Ally was confused.
Amos chuckled again. “Never mind.” He nodded to the white-shirted man. “She’ll have the same.”
“Very good, sir,” the man said, nodding abruptly and hurrying away with short, quick steps.
Amos lifted a glass of water to his lips, looking out the window at the flow of people passing by. But Ally watched the white-shirted man disappear through a swinging door at the back of the café. “Is he a friend of yours?” she asked.
Amos snorted, spitting water across the table. “Oh, Ally,” he exclaimed, setting his glass down and leaning back in his chair. Then he tilted his head back and laughed outright.
Ally folded her arms. “It’s awkward enough to be in a strange place where I don’t know the customs,” she said. “It doesn’t help to have you collapsing in merriment over my every blunder.”
“I’m sorry, Ally,” he said, his lips still quivering upward at the corners. “But you are so green, I can’t help it. I love seeing my world through your eyes.”
Ally flushed, but kept her arms crossed. “Well, I’d like to see it through yours so you’d better start explaining.”
“The man is a waiter – I pay the people here so that he can bring me food.” Amos spoke slowly and simply, as though explaining things to a very small child. “You and I will sit here and eat and talk about pleasant things until 4pm, at which time I am taking you to see a movie. Never mind what a movie is – you will see when you get there.” He shook his head. “Don’t take everything so seriously, Ally. It’s okay to make a blunder or two.”
The white-shirted waiter returned then, bringing two cups of steaming brown liquid and two round breads piled high with a white substance.
“It smells amazing,” Ally said, inhaling the rich aroma. This, perhaps, was a custom she could get used to. “But wasteful. Why pay a man when you could walk back there and get it yourself?”
Amos’ eyes twinkled, but he didn’t laugh this time. Instead, he lifted a bagel, smothered in cream cheese, and took a bite. “Because, Ally,” he said. “This is how we ‘pass the time’.”