No reaction. I shift my stance and speak to her back again. This time I present the option as a question.
The healthy yoga-bodied barista here at The Backstory Cafe finally turns to me with a nod of approval. We’ve been working on renaming her for months, and I’ve already started typing away at the new novel project where Jonni plays a key role. We have to get this sorted out today, so I’m glad she’s made a decision. Jonni nearly sprints to the counter that separates us. She’s excited to be one of the main characters this time around.
“So what are you going to name the coffee shop?” she asks. Jonni sets her elbows on the counter and leans forward. To anyone else it would look like she and I are sharing a secret, but her attention isn’t on me. I look over my left shoulder at the handsome dark-haired man sitting at the end of Jonni’s gaze. He looks rugged enough to be a real cowboy, but his clothes are cut with the lines of a designer label. He looks like a well-dressed rancher who models on the side. Jonni nearly whimpers as he brings his coffee cup to his lips.
“Who is he?” She breathes the words. “Is he in your next book?” Jonni can’t get the right visual angle she wants, craning from one side of me to the other, finally reaching out and moving me over a few inches. I smile at Jonni, but her eyes never leave the cowboy-esquire man to meet mine.
Jonni almost says something back, but turns to me suddenly instead. “Kissing Deer?”
“The coffee shop,” I say. “It’s named after a petroglyph from the Deer Valley site.” I try not to let my mouth break into a smile. Jonni sags into a sigh and gives me a pouty smirk. The persistent smile overcomes me as I give Jonni the news, “He’s for you.” I bob my head in the direction of the handsome stranger and watch Jonni’s eyes open wide.
“I get a love interest?” She claps her hands together quickly and quietly.
“A fiesty one,” I add with a nod. Jonni looks from the GQ cowboy to me and back again. “His name is Cage. I was working on your storyline yesterday and he showed up, unnanounced.”
“Cage,” she says testing the flavor of the name. Jonni turns to me and I finally have her complete attention again. “I know just how to thank you.” She reaches down to retrieve a small wood-framed chalkboard from the shelf beneath her. Jonni presents it to me like she’s selling a valuable item at auction, complete with model-like hand swoop. “A little something I’ve been working on.”
Jonni has created a small list of the current bakery selections in her artistic script, with a border of colorful symbols that remind me of the rock art I’ve been researching. I reach out to touch a square-headed stick figure holding two wavy lines. He’s a ceremonial dancer, I can tell. Straight sticks in his hands would have meant weapons, for hunting. “It’s perfect,” I tell her.
After Jonni makes me a double-shot mocha and convinces me I need a pumpkin muffin to go along with it, I settle myself at my favorite sofa in the back to get some work done. I’m writing another main character’s story today, Brinna Tennfjord. Yes, she has an odd name, too. She grew up as Sabrina, but changed her name long ago in an attempt to sound more exotic. Little did Brinna know that she would grow up to marry a man from the giant Norweigan population of Seattle, complete with a last name so unusual, it borders on unpronounceable.
But that’s typical for Brinna. She’s always tripping over the complications she creates. Her husband Eric finds this quirk charming, at least he did until they moved to Cave Creek where Brinna’s observations of the new town are in such stark opposite to his own that they butt heads. Not wanting to tread on his idyllic view of Cave Creek, Brinna keeps her growing suspicions to herself and seeks out an ally in town who will listen to her, which is how she and Jonni come to be friends.
The plot swirls on my notebook page and I decide to take a break. I reach for a sip of my coffee and I look out the window to the Arizona sunshine.
“He. Has. A. Motorcycle.” Each of Jonni’s words are set apart with a full pause. She stands near my table fanning herself with a small paper napkin. “That red one,” she points. I scan the parking lot until I see it, too.
“Brinna knows him,” I say turning to Jonni. “You’ll like her.”