“AW”, a small but well-known 24-hour coffee shop, was located on the most prosperous street in the city where many customers come and go. Amongst the noisy neighborhood, the existence of “AW” was peculiarly out of place. The décor was quaint and simple, and compared with other coffee shops, it was more like a bookstore, with books noticeably stacked on the bookshelves that filled the store.
It was approaching evening and there were fewer people. The sky was desolate, with thunder bursting from dark clouds that soon led to a downpour. The soft, warm light of the front porch illuminated the street where the passersby were looking for shelter from the rain.
The soft music in the store was accompanied by a figure busy in front of a bookshelf. Her movements were a bit slow as she rearranged the books, placing them neatly one by one.
The reason why “AW” was famous was mostly because of this beautiful store manager.
The wind chimes hanging on the door of the store rang as the customers came in.
Lin Xi stepped on the step stool without glancing back.
“Could I please get a cup of hot Americano?”
“Beautiful, I’d like a latte.”
“Ah, I’d like…”
It was raining heavily, and the number of customers in the store gradually increased. Most came to shelter from the rain but were too embarrassed to simply stand and wait in the store, so they started ordering drinks.
“Sister Lin, the orders are a bit much, it’s hard to do them alone!”
Lin Xi replied, dusted off her hands, got off the step stool, and went behind the counter to work.
With the low roar of the machine, fresh coffee beans were ground into fine powder. A mellow aroma permeated the store, soothing the cold and humidity brought in from the wind and rain.
Lin Xi started the machine. The coffee slowly poured into the cup, making the scent even stronger.
As evening approached, there were less employees in the store. The coffee orders were slow, and many customers took this opportunity to observe this beautiful store manager. Most people simply glanced at her from time to time while others were whispering to one another about the gorgeous barista.
“Your latte. Be careful, it’s hot.”
Lin Xi’s gentle voice and charming smile adds many points to an ordinary drink. After all, not many people can refuse service from someone so beautiful.
After finishing the last order, Lin Xi glanced at the clock hanging on the wall.
The demon-like wind was still raging outside the store, and it seemed like the heavy downpour would not stop for a while.
“When will the rain stop?” Xiao Qiu muttered.
Xiao Qiu was a new barista, as well as the last barista on shift. She usually leaves after 6 in the evening, but today she was trapped in the store by the rain.
“Hey, have a drink. Thanks for your hard work.” Lin Xi handed her a cup of hot cocoa and rubbed the cute girl’s head.
“Thanks, Sister Lin! You’re so nice.” The girl held the hot drink, her big eyes radiating love towards Lin Xi.
Lin Xi crossed her arms and leaned against the counter. She glanced at the clock from time to time, tapping her forearm with her index finger.
“Sister Lin, the rain is so heavy. How are you going to head home later?” Xiao Qiu looked up at Lin Xi.
“I usually stay in the store until late, so the rain will probably be lighter by then. I don’t live far away.”
“Ah…so it’s like this. Then, I…”
The girl stared at the hot cocoa in her hands with some distress.
“What’s the matter, are you in a hurry to go home?”
Lin Xi ran her hands through her scattered hair.
“I’m a little worried about my dog. He’s timid, so it’ll be scary if I’m not home.” Xiao Qiu pouted and murmured.
“Well, it’s not easy to call a cab now. It should be fine after a while, don’t worry.”
Lin Xi sighed and patted the girl’s shoulder.
The moon was dim, and customers were eager to go home. The number of people in the store started to decline.
The two behind the counter stood together. Lin Xi still glanced at the wall clock from time to time.
“Sister Lin, why is the shop called ‘AW’?”
“Well…it actually means Await1.” Lin Xi sipped coffee and replied.
“Does that mean ‘to wait’?”
“Not entirely. It also means ‘to look forward to’.”
“Eh? ‘To look forward to’? Were you looking forward to someone?”
“That’s a secret.” Lin Xi smiled silently.
“Ah, please tell me, Sister Lin! There must be a story! I want to listen to the story!” Xiao Qiu put down the cup and shook Lin Xi’s hand, pouting.
The shop was quiet, and Xiao Qiu’s voice attracted much attention.
Unable to bear the girl’s expression, Lin Xi reluctantly agreed.
Xiao Qiu pulled Lin Xi to sit on a stool by the counter with an expectant look.
The surrounding customers paused what they were doing, and the noise in the store gradually declined, leaving only the sound of rain. They were mostly attracted by Xiao Qiu’s voice just now.
Lin Xi coughed slightly and put down the cup.
“When I first went to college, everyone was dating, so the library was always noisy. There was a coffee shop next to the school that had a nice atmosphere, so I often went there to write papers and spend the afternoon with a cup of coffee.
“Then…I met a person who came almost every day, at the same time. They2 always ordered drinks for take-out, and I’ve never seen them ever drink coffee in the store. And because I was often in the store, I saw them every day, without exception.”
Halfway through her story, Lin Xi’s ears reddened, and she took a sip of coffee.
“Later, I’d come to the store whenever I had the time. I slowly started to look forward to their arrival, secretly observing their outfit, expressions, all the details, and listened to their conversations with the boss.
“They always only stayed for a short time and left in a hurry after getting the coffee.
“I kind of liked the feeling that even though I didn’t know them, I’d always meet them.
“Like this, the days passed, and school was out. I went home. I often thought of them during the holidays, and I began to look forward to when school started again.
“The beginning of the school year was difficult. I went to the coffee shop per usual and waited for their arrival.
“Just…they didn’t show up that day.
“Or the second day. Or the third. I went to that store every day. But they still never showed up…
“A week, a month…I couldn’t wait.”
Lin Xi looked at the coffee in her hand, tapping the side of the cup with her finger.
“What happened next!” Xiao Qiu stared at Lin Xi more expectantly.
“What happened next? After I graduated, I opened this store.”
Lin Xi reached out and poked the girl’s face.
“Then, Sister Lin, did you open this shop just to wait for them!” The girl asked Lin Xi as she waited for a reply.
“Go to work, I’ll tell you when you’re finished.” Lin Xi got up and walked behind the counter to clean the coffee machine.
“Ah…! Why does Sister Lin do this! Humph.”
The sound of rain shifted from dense to sparse, and the moon gradually darkened. The guests also left one by one.
Lin Xi packed up the cups and saucers and put them in the sink. She wiped her hands and stood behind the counter, rubbing her stiff neck.
“We’re almost done. Sister Lin, let’s take a rest.”
Xiao Qiu smiled slyly.
How could Lin Xi fail to see the girl’s intention?
“Yes, in order to wait for them, I opened a shop.” Lin Xi turned her head to look at the girl and smiled.
“Then you’ve waited until…?” Xiao Qiu asked tentatively.
As soon as the voice fell, the wind chime rang crispy with the movement of the door.
There was a big golden retriever, wearing a pet raincoat, looking silly as it wagged its tail.
Everyone’s eyes were on the dog until the person leading the dog told it to sit obediently at the door. Then, everyone’s eyes were on them. The visitor was tall and slender, wearing a sweatshirt with a hood that covered most of their face.
The person put down their umbrella, walked straight to the counter, found and empty seat, sat down, and spoke.
“Hi, I want a latte.”
“Alright, one moment.” Xiao Qiu wrote down the order and handed it to Lin Xi.
Taking the order and glancing at it, Lin Xi started grinding the coffee beans without saying a word.
Everyone’s attention turned back to the customer with the dog.
They saw the person rub their hands together, staring awkwardly at Lin Xi, who was busy at the counter.
“Wife, wife, add more sugar.”
Such a shocking statement stunned many of the costumers, including Xiao Qiu.
Lin Xi’s hand that held the milk frother shook when she heard this, spilling much of the milk out. Her pretty cheeks reddened into a rosy hue.
Lin Xi slammed the milk jug down heavily.
“I was wrong!” The person took off the hood of her sweatshirt. Her waist-length hair tumbled out, and she reached out her folded hands to Lin Xi.
Lin Xi truly experienced what social death was.
“Sister…Sister Lin. This is…” Xiao Qiu was also shocked.
Lin Xi dumped the frothed milk down the sink and shoved a cup of black coffee towards Xiao Qi.
“Drink! What sugar!”
“Wah…” Xiao Qi picked up the coffee with a helpless expression.
The rain was turning into a drizzle, and the guests have almost all gone, leaving with a shocked and lost expression.
On rainy days, it is easy to encounter such romantic love stories. What a pity that love was gone before it even started3.
Xiao Qiu stood by the checkout counter and looked at the two. One glared at the other violently, while the other stared at the coffee in pain.
“Could…could you…take a sip.”
Xiao Qi stretched out her finger and gestured, asking hesitantly.
“Give it. Alright, I drank.”
Lin Xi crossed her arms and leaned to one side, speaking indifferently.
Xiao Qi swallowed, holding the cup and slowly took it to her mouth. After swallowing, she covered her mouth with an ugly expression.
Glancing at the empty cup, Lin Xi stretched her hand out and rubbed the top of Xiao Qi’s head.
“Good. Wasn’t the drink delicious.”
The lasting sourness that lingered in her mouth rendered Xiao Qi speechless with agony over the bitterness, and she could only give a thumbs up.
“Sister…Sister Lin, the rain is about to stop.” Xiao Qiu finally snapped out of her shock.
“Well, you can go clean up and head home quickly.” Lin Xi glanced at the clock.
“Um…Sister Lin, the story isn’t over yet…” Xiao Qiu rubbed her head and said tangledly.
Lin Xi glanced at Xiao Qi, her ears abruptly turning red. With a light cough, she took Xiao Qi’s right hand.
“Ah…well I successfully waited. It’s this one.” When Lin Xi finished speaking, her cheeks flushed again.
“H-Hello, boss’s wife! You’re so pretty!” Xiao Qiu said, staring at the held hands between the two and took a big bite of dog food4.
“Thanks for the compliment, but my Xiao Xi is the best.” Xiao Qi held Lin Xi’s hand tightly and stared at Lin Xi.
She was the same as the golden retriever that sat by the door, just short of a wagging tail.
“I’m leaving first, see you next time!”
Xiao Qiu knew that she was a giant light bulb4 now and hurriedly left.
“Be safe.” Lin Xi told Xiao Qiu at the door, avoiding Xiao Qi’s affectionate gaze.
There was no one around. Xiao Qi walked behind the counter and encircled the other person in her arms.
“Xiao Xi, what did the girl mean by waiting, huh?”
Lin Xi was forced to face her. Although they’ve been together for a long time, she still blushed, and her heartbeat still accelerated, especially after just having told the previous story.
Lin Xi lowered her head and shrunk into Xiao Qi’s arms.
She said vaguely, “It’s nothing. I just told her that she can’t wait that long for someone in the future, and you need to start quickly.”
It took a while for Xiao Qi to react. She raised her hand and rubbed the head of the person in her arms, whispering softly in her ear.
“Thank you for being willing to take a five-year gamble with a 1 in 20,000 expectation5.”
Lin Xi smiled lightly back at her.
“Thank you for letting me wait for that 1 in 20,000 expectation for five years.”
M City has more than 20,000 coffee shops, and Lin Xi was willing to spend five years waiting for her expectation of 1 in 20,000. She waited.
And I hope that you too can find that one in a million.
1: She says “Await” in English. Hence the italicization.
2: She uses the universal/masculine pronoun 他. 他 and 她 sound identical, and since she’s speaking, the listeners wouldn’t be able to discern whether the subject is a woman or man. I guess the writer chose the masculine pronoun to throw the readers off a bit. Since 他 is more general and we know she’s talking about a girl, I chose to translate with “they”.
3: This was a bit funky to translate. The gist is that the customers who were so enamored by Lin Xi had their rainy day café love fantasies end before it even started because of Xiao Qi.
4: I’m stuffing two footnotes in one: eating dog food is slang for being shoved with PDA and being a lightbulb is like intruding on a couple/being a third wheel.
5: I chose to translate with expectation rather than chance, since it’s both the literal translation and the more romantic sounding one, since it feels like it’d have more to do with fate rather than luck.