“Here we are: the ChitChat Café,” I announced proudly. “Would you like to take a seat here by the flower boxes?” I had called earlier to reserve what I thought was the most feminine corner.

“Ooh, Roger,” cooed the French girl, Nathalie. I loved the way she pronounced my name; Rs lost in her throat and that liquid French g, as in genre. “Such a pretty place.” And she pulled out her phone to take a photo of the sign. Nathalie was slim and athletic, with chestnut waves that fell to her shoulders and dark intelligent eyes that threatened to read your thoughts. She sported a maddeningly low-cut white blouse, and those jeans with evenly spaced tears all the way down them, revealing just the slightest bit of skin… “Smile!” she commanded. I took my place behind the other two exchange students: Nicoletta, the Italian, and Kati, the Dutch girl. Quite a bit taller than them, I put my arms around their shoulders in a brotherly fashion. At 24, I was a good two or three years older than they were.

We took our seats at the round wicker table; Nathalie and Nicoletta across from me, and Kati to my right.

“This place belongs to some friends of mine,” I informed them importantly, “Gabriél and Wendy. Wendy was a T.A. when I started studying here, and Gabriél is…”   Nathalie was still fiddling with her cell phone; something to do with the photo, I assumed. And the other two were checking theirs as well. “Gabriél is from Spain,” I finished, hoping they’d be impressed, if not catch any underlying insinuation.

Nathalie looked up from her phone. “I am sending my fwends ze photo of zis place…ze ShiSha Café.” Ze Shisha Café. Adorable!

“Oh,” trilled Kati, “Send me the photo. I will too.” I looked over at her. The skirt of her long summer dress fell open at the front, revealing tender thighs and calves bound by the laces of gladiator sandals.

“Hi, Roger!”

I hauled my eyes away. “Wendy! These are the exchange students I told you about: Kati, Nathalie and Nicoletta.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The girls glanced up from their cell phones and smiled. Nobody had noticed me ogling Kati’s leg.

“Wendy makes the best blueberry muffins in town.”

Nicoletta put her phone down. “We must-a try them-a.” That jerked my attention away from Kati’s leg. How sweet Nicoletta was. Her voice was dark chocolate and her name was pure hazelnut. She was the chubbiest of the three and it suited her. While showing them around town that morning, I had noticed the curve of spongy buttock protruding from under lacy white shorts. Her smile engulfed me and her dark curls reflected the late morning sunshine. Maybe she would be the one.

Or Kati. Kati had straight blond hair, a thin smile, and legs. My eyes snapped back to them. She was still absorbed with her phone. Actually chuckling!

“Iced coffee and muffins for Roger’s new friends,” Wendy winked at me. No, Wendy, don’t ruffle my hair! How would that look? But ruffle my hair she did.

I am a gangling English lit major with dark, floppy curls. Wendy, a decade or so older than me, treats me like a little brother and can’t keep her hands off my hair!

After Wendy entered the café, I breathed deep, opened my mouth, turned to the girls, and clapped it shut again. All three of them were typing frantically on their phones.

I squirmed a bit in my seat. Hell, they should stop this! “Do you like the place?” I challenged.

Nathalie, without looking up, said “Pardon?” Pardon. It killed me how she talked. Every utterance tickled my insides. Like Nicoletta’s cute “a” at the end of every word. Kati’s English was the least accented. I glanced at her legs.

“I asked if you liked the place.” My voice was friendlier this time. Who could stay mad?

“Oh, yes,” was the general response.

I prayed neither Wendy nor Gabriél noticed. I thought about Wendy. She had put on weight since the last time I saw her. Looking almost dumpy at her age. Were she and Gabriél happy?

I fumbled in my knapsack for my cell, then sat there. What would I do with it? Write my pals and brag about how I was scoring? How they had teased me when I got this job as summer residence advisor, disguising their envy in racy jokes and predictions. The pick of all the hot, foreign girls! So much sexier and more exotic than the ones here. That was the theory, anyway. And this morning it was finally happening! Or so it had seemed.

“There you go!”

Wendy deposited the tray with her signature phrase. The girls meowed their appreciation.

Moofeens,” squealed Nathalie,

Mofins-a,” moaned Nicoletta.

They took pictures of them. Then more pictures. Selfies with and without muffins; alone, in twos and in threes. “Wendy, come join us in a photo with the muffins!” Kati called.

“Sure!” she grinned at me. The girls pushed their chairs closer together and Wendy and I stood behind them, hunched over so our faces were level with theirs. I was between Nathalie, her hair tickling my nose, and Kati, whose bony shoulder I held with my left hand, their mingled perfumes making my head spin. Nathalie held up the plate of muffins while Nicoletta positioned the camera. “Smile-a!” Click.

In a perfect world, the photo would have been like this: me sitting on a chair, with one of them (maybe Kati; no, Nicoletta,; well, Nathalie was amazing, too) on my knee, another one perched on the arm of my chair, and the third hugging me from behind and…giving me a kiss! Sure, why not? It’s a fantasy, right?

Next time.

But things had taken a turn for the better. I was about to suggest a tour of the café when I looked around and saw they were all back on their phones. I glanced at Wendy, who just shrugged, “There you go!” then turned and headed back into the café.

I returned to my seat. At least now, I had the coffee and muffins to play with. The trio hadn’t even touched them.


Nathalie. She would be the one.

“Yes?” I mumbled, my mouth full of muffin.

“What is your cell phone number?”

She wanted my cell phone number!

“I’d like to send you a WhatsApp with the photos.”

Soon they all had my number and had Friended me on Facebook. Now I was one of them. Ping! my phone announced. I looked at the post. “Having a great time at the ChitChat Café.”

And if you saw the photo, you would swear it was true.