She poured it so quickly and half-discreetly. The customers hovering around in a messy line to the register would’ve endorsed his cluelessness — but he had been staring for an hour.
She was beautiful only if you studied her face long enough to trace the sharp but soft lines that carved out a profile that a model scout probably wouldn’t bypass.
Her gray temples aged her but the rest of it held on to the coppery brass hue that was fading. Her laptop was an obviously older model that Apple probably wouldn’t even recognize. She had an industrial mouse attached to it. It was black and out of place and her grasp on it gave him pause. Something about her made him want to rise out of his chair and save her.
Her attire also matched the air of comfortable desperation that nobody would ever pick up — unless they were focused on every move.
She wasn’t dressed to impress. She was decked out for war — but who she was sparring with and why? Her top was obviously a workout tank which she paired with slightly baggy jeans. He knew this because when she stood up to ask the guy at the counter for the bathroom code — the outline of her hips were cushioned by a size that disappointingly hid the parts he desired.
But, he saw enough to know.
When she returned — the walk back was met with stares from mostly men. He was irritated and possessive. She was his best kept secret and now that it was exposed — he lost interest and returned to the drafts in his queue. He had already wasted too much time.
He was finally back into the groove. The lesson plans were developing well and he was grateful for the signal that he was almost done. This semester was going to be amazing. He was going to…
Her eyes were on him.
All he did was look up for a second as he contemplated his itinerary. The sunlight from the nearby window emphasized her dark skin. Actually it was more of a medium-brown. She wasn’t smiling. He smiled. She smiled back.
He immediately looked away. He could feel her urgently pounding the keyboard. Chills overtook him. Why was he so drawn to the girl who seemed so out of place?
She was supposed to be wearing a dress that was fitted on top and flowy at the bottom. She was supposed to have a chaotic Afro that gave her eyes permission to seduce without filter. She was supposed to be wrapping her arms around a stud who would never allow her to be sitting in a coffee shop with an outdated Macbook and a handbag that contains more than it can carry.
He had been drifting away and when he returned the line was stretched out beyond what he had ever seen before. It was 2:33 in the afternoon and he decided to cancel his late afternoon appointment. They won’t understand but they will forgive.
In the meantime — she was hidden.
He craned his neck but all he could decipher were immaculately slim arms and propped up bosoms that erected the shape of her sports bra underneath. He wanted to use the bathroom for anything but what it was designed for.
He felt like a scumbag.
Then he became even more confused when her hands worked the bottle into the cup that was half-way filled with a cold offering. It was quick and savvy. As the contents poured in — his disbelief was coerced with mounting marvel.
She had a plan for her pain and even though it was a celebration for one — he was included without prior consent. Afterwards, poised and undeterred — she took multiple sips in succession. Was this the oldest trick in the book or was she on to something. He looked around and gathered that it was the latter.
The line moved away from view and there she was — in her island of civil mockery. You can fool them all except — one. Suddenly the excitement of discovery from earlier enveloped him with full force.
Now, they were truly one.
The cracks happened faster than he expected. His cell phone lighted up and vibrated the table. It was her. This would have to be quick. She heard what he did and she wants to know why. He picked up and let her have her say. It was loud and accusatory but it didn’t measure up to the realization of what he was witnessing.
She was sitting and not moving. Staring at the screen with eyes that were still and surrendered. More words out of the phone — demanding and urgent but when he open his mouth — only the air from his lungs convinced him that he was alive.
Her shift towards the wall was slow and fast with his messy calculation. He shifted too with a smile geared towards her but her head slighted downwards. She looked like she was in reflective mode. As if the makeshift garden around her needed help populating.
The line was dead. He exited the call and scanned the text messages coming in. He wrote back.
Something just went down here. Call you back in a few.
He sat with renewed vigor and relief. Her evacuated spirit didn’t scare him. It was the smile on her face.
Silent and peaceful. He was going to keep her secret for as long as he could.
She deserved to sleep in peace.