He’s late, she thought, looking at the clock radio by the cash register. His hot chocolate and banana-chocolate chip muffin sat on the counter, untouched, unmoved. She imagined why he might be late, avoiding worst-case scenarios as if that might make them come true. He was usually among her first few customers; some days he was even there right as she opened. And it wasn’t a vacation because she would have known that. He must have slept in.

He finally came in around nine o’clock, and she smiled immediately.

“Running late this morning?” she asked.

“No, not quite,” he said, “Amber dropped me off.”

“Oh,” she said. He’d never mentioned Amber. He had a sister, though, in Winnipeg. Was her name Amber? It must be.

“Just the muffin today, actually,” he said, taking out his wallet. “Trying to drink more water these days.”

She nodded. He seemed different. As he handed her the money, she saw his finger. She’d never noticed that before.

“Is that… new?” she asked.

He nodded. “It still feels odd, I’ve never worn a ring before.”

“Oh,” she said, not sure what to say. She forced a smile, but could not force herself to say anything, not even ‘have a good day.’ No, this time, she said nothing, and after he left, she couldn’t stay there, couldn’t wait for him to come by just before lunch. She knew for the first time that seeing him then wouldn’t make her day like it had every other time.

She untied her apron, pulled the gate down and locked it, and wiped her eyes with a tissue. The light on the sign flicked off, to closed.