“Huh?” Andy wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
I’d only got a brief look at her, but I could see what Phil was getting at. She had that smooth skinned blonde look. I guessed she was what should be called a seven, but I was new to thinking like this so perhaps she’d be an eight without the pinstriped apron.
“Her, you muppet,” said Phil. “What’ve we been doing all day?”
“We’ve been in a seminar with a bloke called the Babe Magnet, learning his tricks.”
Phil rolled his eyes. He’d turned to face Andy rather than me. He’d obviously decided that Andy needed a leader and he was the man for the job.
“So is she gorgeous or what?” said Phil. “Let’s give it a go. You first.”
“You.” Phil shoved Andy through the door.
“That’s a bit harsh,” I said.
“Nah, he’s got to learn,” said Phil.
We followed Andy in and studies the sandwiches, which gave Andy some space but placed us close enough to hear the falter in his voice as he ordered a coconut macchiato. He said no more while the barista turned away to make it, and paid with a mumbled thank you. He turned to us as if waiting for Phil to tell him where to sit.
Phil marched Andy to a table and sat him down. I sat with them.
“What was that? How’re you going to close it if you start by ordering a muppet drink like that?”
“I tried to make eye contact like the Magnet told us,” said Andy.
I glanced at the barista to see what she was making of this. She was wiping the next table with her face turned away.
Phil noticed her at the same time I did. “Keep it down, she’ll hear us.”
“Yeah, well, she turned round to the coffee machine. The Magnet didn’t tell us what to do when they turn round.”
I was getting a sense of what Phil’s favourite word was.
Phil turned to me. “Your turn.”
I looked round. The barista was back behind the counter, regarding us with what I’d have called a lack of interest until the Magnet taught us it’s called ‘resting bitch face’. Either way, it didn’t look like an invitation.
“Why don’t you show us how it’s done?” I asked Phil.
If I’d looked away, I’d have missed the uncertainty that flashed across Phil’s face. “You’re on. Watch and learn, my young apprentices.”
He marched up to the counter as if he’d just bought the place, and the barista with it.
“Hi there, Stacey,” he glanced at her nametag. “You look like you need your day to get better, so here I am.”
Resting bitch face stopped resting and took a form I would have called ‘suppressed laughter mixed with pity’. I thought back through the seminar, but I couldn’t remember seeing it in any of the Magnet’s slides so I didn’t have to rename it.
“What would you like?” she asked.
“You could make my day with a lovely cup of filter coffee.”
She turned round to pour it, so I couldn’t see her face after that.
“That’s a nice bum,” said Phil, “but you need a tighter skirt. You don’t quite have enough to fill that one.”
When the Magnet had taught us the art of negging, I wasn’t sure that was quite what he had in mind. Undermine an attractive woman’s confidence, he taught us, and up you go in her estimation so she’ll want your approval. I’d have thought Phil’s approach would be more likely to get a cup of coffee poured over him than Stacey’s phone number, but the Magnet had taught me a lot about women I didn’t know so perhaps Phil had the right idea.
If Stacey felt undermined, she didn’t show it. She finished pouring Phil’s coffee and placed it in front of him.
“That’ll be one ninety-five.”
Phil looked at her as if expecting her to say something else. Stacy looked back. Phil looked down and fumbled with his wallet, just as another barista emerged from a back room. The newcomer was dark where Stacey was blonde, but just as pretty.
She looked at Phil, looked at Andy and I, and looked a question at Stacey.
“Right on time,” said Stacey. “You missed a classic. This one thinks he’ll get me into bed by slagging off my bum.”
The dark newcomer laughed. I liked the sound of her laugh, which made me sad. I wanted to make her laugh by telling her a joke, not by being one.
“What d’you mean, or time?” asked Phil. “I’m not on a schedule.”
“Work it out, Sherlock,” said Stacey.
Phil looked around as if expecting to see the explanation written on the walls.
“Er, Phil?” said Andy.
“Did you book online?”
“Don’t…” Phil dashed over to our table and hissed at Andy. “Don’t tell them where we been, you muppet.”
“They already know,” said Andy, not bothering to keep his voice down. “You saw the Magnet does the same session in the same place every week?”
Stacey and her friend smirked at us.
“You’re not as thick as you look,” said Stacey. “But you’d better spell it out to your mate. He hasn’t worked it out yet.”
“Right,” said Andy. “Well, this is the nearest café to where the Magnet does the session. So every week, someone’s going to come out of the session wanting a coffee and…”
He waved at Stacey and her friend, who were the first women a man would encounter if they wanted a coffee after the Magnet’s seminar.
“That’s why we call him the loser magnet.” The dark barista had an Italian accent. It was as sexy as her laugh. “Have they all tried it yet?”
“No.” Stacey pointed at me. “That one hasn’t tried yet. C’mon then, let’s see what you got.”
They both giggled.
I stood up and walked to the counter, feeling as if I was back at school and about to face an irate headmistress.
“I’ll just have a cup of tea,” I said. “To go.”