Zavier tightened his helmet’s strap and pulled on his cycling gloves. He quickly checked for his keys and wallet then swung his leg over his pride and joy, his beloved cycle. He’d only been in the U.K. for six months, so he didn’t know many people, and his bike helped him remember home. There, he had cycled everywhere, and the first thing he did when arriving in the U.K. was to search for a suitable bike to purchase.
It was 7:30 am; early enough to call in for a coffee. Zavier set off for work, weaving in and out of traffic. He was lucky to find a job he enjoyed straight away, and he’d fallen into a nice routine.
Halfway between his flat and work was a lovely coffee shop — it was so welcoming that it was worth getting up a little earlier to enjoy ten minutes of calmness, along with a delicious cup of coffee and a pastry.
The number twelve bus, full of commuters staring tiredly at their screens, juddered past Zavier. The bus’s speed pulled him from his reverie and caused him to wobble slightly, after which he was able to correct. Once he reached the next set of traffic lights, he put his foot on the ground, took a deep breath, stretched out his arms, and enjoyed a short moment of calmness before moving again.
Around the tricky right turn, and up to the zebra crossing. It was always busy this time of the morning, with children hurrying to school and neighborhood residents rushing to the bus stop. There, Zavier waited for the children to cross the street and waved to the crossing lady, who always had a cheery smile and a wave for him in return.
Upon reaching the coffee shop, Zavier chained up his cycle to a nearby lamppost. The smell of freshly ground coffee and the sound of clinking cutlery soothed him instantly after opening the door.
“Good morning, can I please have a cappuccino and a Danish pastry?” Zavier smiled contentedly to his usual server, Katy. She smiled back warmly and replied, “Coming up.” He watched as she busied herself, making coffee.
After a pleasant ten-minute break with his coffee and pastry, Zavier returned to his bike. As he approached, he noticed a blue card stuck to his handlebars. He peeled it off and read the handwritten note:
“In the plant pot orange and bright,
Search and look with all your might.”
Zavier studied the note with a confused look on his face. What did it mean? Who could it be from? Was it meant for me? he wondered the remainder of the way to work.
As Zavier pulled up to the bicycle rack, he noticed the bright orange pot sitting to the right at the office building’s front entrance. He looked around to see if anyone was watching him, but there didn’t seem to be anyone out of the ordinary – just the same people going about their regular work routines.
Zavier peered into the pot and immediately saw the blue paper. He reached in, picked it up, opened it, and looked behind him once more, just to make sure no one was spying on him. It was another handwritten note, which this time read:
I am inviting you for tea
At number 33.”
Zavier’s brows furrowed as he walked into his office complex and pressed the elevator button. Number 33? There was no address. 6:03? That was a precise time.
The elevator bell dinged, and its doors opened. Zavier got in, pressed the fourth-floor button, and absentmindedly tapped the blue paper against his arm. He usually got home around six. Was the number thirty-three referencing a flat in his block?
The remainder of the day passed quickly since Zavier spent most of it wondering whether or not he should go to the mysterious meeting. While cycling home, though, he decided he had nothing to lose: he didn’t know many people here, and maybe this could help him meet a new friend. As a single man of thirty-two, Zavier barely thought about friends or a girlfriend, as he was just trying to get settled while earning decent money.
Arriving at his flat, Zavier let himself in, took a quick, hot shower, and put on some fresh clothes. It was already ten past six. Was he too late? Surely, they didn’t expect him to arrive at precisely 6:03. That would be weird.
Zavier second-guessed himself several times. What if a violent psychopath was waiting? “Now, I’m being stupid,” he said to himself as he walked briskly around his floor.
Soon, he located flat number thirty-three. He stopped outside and examined the situation. It looked like any other flat, and after listening by the black door, he didn’t hear any sounds coming from inside. He knocked loudly, took a step back, and self-consciously ran his fingers through his wet hair.
The door opened, and a woman with an awkward smile stood there, looking at him. “Hi,” she said brightly. “Do you want to come in?”
Zavier noticed her cheeks were red. She was blushing, and she couldn’t quite look him in the eyes. He glanced her over; she had shoulder-length brown hair, and big, green eyes. She was wearing jeans and a cream blouse, with some unusual jewelry. Zavier had the impression that she was sweet and quirky. He nodded and followed her in.
“I’m Rachel,” she introduced. “I feel a bit embarrassed now … this seemed like a good idea at the time.” She dropped her gaze and gestured toward a comfy-looking tartan sofa.
“Zavier.” He put out his hand to shake hers.
“Do you want a drink?” she asked after they released hands. He noticed that she already had a glass of chilled white wine on the coffee table. “Yes, please,” Zavier answered.
Looking around the flat, Zavier thought that it felt homely. Although his flat was the same dimension and age, hers felt warm and welcoming, whereas his was sparse and cold.
Rachel chatted easily with him about her life. She was a writer, but it didn’t pay the bills, so she also worked in a call center near his office. She took the number twelve bus to work every morning and had watched him for weeks, weaving in and out of traffic. She worked late one day a couple of weeks ago and noticed him walking into the building. She decided it must be fate, but being too shy to approach him, she used her writing skills instead, hoping he would be intrigued enough to meet her.
Zavier was a quiet man. Although he made polite conversation, Rachel didn’t feel like she was winning him over. So, to keep the conversation going, she mentioned that she loved cycling, but she had no one to cycle with on weekends.
Zavier’s face lit up. He excitedly told Rachel how much he also loved cycling, and that he would love having company during long weekend rides while getting to know his new country. He suggested a ride that upcoming Sunday, followed by a picnic lunch.
Rachel felt the excitement bubble inside her. Zavier was gorgeous, every bit as handsome close-up as he was from the bus window, and he was asking her out for a Sunday picnic. Her plan worked perfectly!
Now, all she had to do was buy some cycling clothing and a bike, and find someone to teach her to ride it by Sunday.