I work from home. I do medical transcription, which means I am leashed by my headset to my PC for the largest part of my day when I begin to work. Rebecca’s point was valid. I could set my own hours, as long as I completed my workload for the day. It wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more time at the coffee shop to satisfy my curiosity about David.
I pasted on my smile as I walked into the coffee shop, ready to meet David. He looked up as I entered and my smile became genuine as he smiled at me. Then I looked at the table and my smile faded. He wasn’t alone. There was a cup waiting for someone at the empty seat across from him. I looked around for the other person, then looked back at David.
“I took the liberty of ordering for you, Kaida.” He said gently, sensing my panic. “I hope that is okay with you.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or insulted by his presumption. My tongue felt glued to the roof of my mouth and my vocal cords seemed to have taken leave of their abilities as my brain struggled for a coherent reaction. So I did my usual and just nodded, sliding into the seat that he indicated was to be mine.
“Thanks.” I finally mumbled, toying with the paper cup, unable to look up at him.
“You are welcome.”
I sat still, staring at the tabletop, reading the somewhat cheesy coffee cup wisdom of the day: Make it about you. I smiled in spite of myself. Appropriate words for what I was doing. Too bad I had nothing to say. David’s hands were spread on the tabletop by his coffee cup. I studied his hands. Strong hands. Well-groomed nails. His palms and fingers had been calloused, but the backs of his hands didn’t show hard wear. Musician?
“Do you play the guitar?” The words tumbled out and I looked up.
“No. Is it a pre-requisite for talking to you?”
He had learned the art of flirting at some point in his life. I felt heat rise in my face. “No.”
He was trying to stall his smile, but the effort was in vain. “Then why do you ask?”
“Your hands.” I nodded my head toward the hands now grasping his coffee cup. “Strong, calloused fingers suggest you use your hands for more than typing at a keyboard. But the backs of your hands don’t suggest construction work or other manual-type work. Guitar player’s hands.”
I watched several expressions cross his face before he finally chose the one he wanted. Startled first. Then curiosity. Then appreciative teasing.
“I haven’t a musical bone in my body, Kaida. You will have to try again.”
I shrugged. “Just an observation.”
“And a good one. You are just on the wrong track.”
His eyes twinkled. He was enjoying this immensely.
“It wasn’t supposed to be a guessing game.” I was getting a little annoyed with him. I wasn’t used to being challenged by someone else. Most people weren’t up to the task.
“Oh?” An eyebrow arched above the frame of his glasses. “It wasn’t? It wouldn’t occur to you just to ask what I do. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it?”
I bit the inside of my lower lip. Three times he had spoken with me and he already had me figured out. I was definitely annoyed now. “What do you do, David?”
He laughed and shook his head. “Not so fast, little dragon. I am not going to answer the question now. Now you do have to figure it out. That is what you want, anyway.”
He was right. But I didn’t like the way it felt to actually have someone understand the way I liked to communicate. I couldn’t automatically write him off as a disappointment. Now what?
“What do you do, Kaida?”
“Medical transcriptionist.” I answered without hesitation. Then I realized I should have forced him to play the game, too. Too late.
“Interesting.” His tone said otherwise.
“It can be. Surgical procedures fascinate me.”
“So why not be a surgeon?” His look told me he had hoped for more from me.
“Because I don’t really like people. My bedside manner would suck.” I kept my head down as I said it, but looked up to see his reaction.
Again that disappointed look. I was blowing it.
He traced the cover of the book he had closed when I walked in. The book jacket had been removed and his fingertips scanned the plain black hardcover. I followed his fingers. Hands and voices. Two attractions for me. Hands voices eyes and smiles. All had to be right to draw me in. He had what I liked. But at this point, I didn’t think it mattered. I fought the urge to get up and leave before I thoroughly humiliated myself.
“What are you reading?” I asked. I couldn’t read the title on the spine from my angle.
“Mindless fiction.” He picked up the book. “Michael Crichton.”
“Michael Crichton is not entirely mindless.” I smiled. “Summer reading. Purely for entertainment.”
He smiled back. “Exactly. What is your pleasure?”
Whew. I felt the tension in my spine ease somewhat. Back on common ground. “Fluffy romance at the moment. Fern Michaels.”
That left eyebrow quirked over the frame of his glasses again. “Girl meets boy, boy and girl fall instantly in love, but can’t be together for some reason, boy and girl overcome the obstacle and live happily ever after.”
I actually giggled. “You know the formula!”
He shrugged. “Not too hard to figure out.” He swirled his coffee cup. “Do you believe in the formula?”
My turn to shrug. “I think every Western woman does, to some extent. Cinderella and Prince Charming and all of that. I want to believe in my one true love. But at this point in my life, I would be ecstatic to meet someone who makes me happy for more than the five minutes it takes me to figure out it is all wrong.”
He looked at his watch. “Well, you have been talking to me for at least seven minutes now, so I guess I passed the five-minute test.”
I blushed. “I guess you did.” I sipped my mocha to keep myself busy. No doubt he was flirting with me now, if I had had any doubt before. But why me?
“Why me?” I heard the words come out of my mouth before I could stop them.
“Why you what?” He managed not to look puzzled at my random question.
“Why talk to me, of all of the people who come in this place?”
“Boy sees girl, boy falls instantly in love with girl, boy and girl have obstacles to overcome….”
Was he teasing? His tone was serious. “Yeah, right.” My tone was harsh and jaded.
“You are correct. You would have made a bad surgeon. Your bedside manner sucks.”
“Tableside, thank you very much. And I told you so.” I tried to play it off.
“You are honest to a fault. That is why you don’t flirt or do small talk.”
“Analyzing me now? What are you, a psychologist?”
His laugh was wonderful, full and genuine. “Hardly. Just an observation.”
“And a good one. You are on the right track.” I shot his words back to him.
“Quick and articulate too.”
“Shall we stop extolling my virtues now? I still haven’t deciphered what you do, quick as I am.”
“Modest and good at diverting attention away from yourself.”
“No more so than you are.” I pointed out to him.
“Point taken. I am a mechanical engineer.”
I was surprised he had given up the information. “You are smart.”
“I have been told so.”
“Are you here on vacation?”
He shook his head. “No. I am on assignment. I am a consultant, here for three months or so working on a project. Like you, I can set my own hours. I am a morning person. I am up early, have my coffee, read and relax, then go into the office for a few hours, then go back and work from what serves as home for now.”
Three months. My heart sank. Not my Prince Charming after all. “Where is home for you?”
“Right now, home is an apartment on Colonial. I have always enjoyed Carytown and shunned the corporate temporary housing to choose a place down here. My permanent residence is in Vermont.”
“Vermont? I have never been to Vermont. Is it as beautiful in the fall as I think it would be?”
He leaned back into the padded cushion of the booth bench. “It is. Fall is my favorite season.”
“I knew you weren’t a Spring.” He chuckled.
“No. Not at all.” I looked at the clock on the wall. The hands over the depiction of a stemming mug of espresso told me it was almost 8:00. I was always at my PC by 8:00. My nerves jangled a bit at the thought I was shirking somehow.
“Is it time for you to go?” David knew where my eyes were focused.
I shook my head. “Only if I want it to be. What about you?”
“I have a 9:30 conference call, so I will have to leave before long.”
I nodded. There were no sparks, nothing stellar, but I really liked this man. I didn’t want this to be the last time we spoke.
“May I order your coffee again tomorrow?” He grinned.
“No.” I let the word hang for effect. He looked down. “But I will buy my own and join you.”
“That would be nice.” He looked up again.
“Thank you for the coffee and the conversation.” I smiled.
“My pleasure.” He smiled back.
I slid out of the booth. He didn’t move at first. I turned to take my leave.
I turned back around. There was something in his eyes I didn’t quite understand.
“I want to show you why my hands are calloused.”
I cocked my head to the side, confused. I stood still and watched as he tucked his book into a bag that had been sitting beside him, slid the strap over his shoulder, then reached for something else I hadn’t seen. Crutches. Short, aluminum forearm crutches. I felt an odd twisting in the pit of my stomach. He didn’t look at me as he got his crutches placed in front of him and slowly moved his body around. He stood with some difficulty, still not looking at me. My heart was beating fast.
The coffee shop seemed too warm. I wrapped my hands around the iced mocha, and the cool cup against my palms seemed to calm me some. I stared at the polished dark wood grain of the table. I looked out the window, could truly see nothing but glare. The smell of roasting coffee, usually a heady scent to me, seemed cloying now and pushed me under its weight. Watching him stand up was probably the sexiest thing I had ever seen. And as soon as that registered in my head, I wanted to slink away. I had never admitted to anyone my attraction to guys on crutches, guys in wheelchairs. And here this beautiful man stood before me, made even more beautiful. Prince Charming he may be.
He finally looked at me. I could see the question in his eyes.
“Well, if you use your hands like this everyday, I understand the callousness.” I said quietly. I wanted him to know it was okay. It was okay. More than okay.
He nodded. “Between the crutches and my wheelchair, my hands get abused.”
“Escort me out, please?” I asked. I wanted to watch him walk. And I wanted him to know I was comfortable with him.
I watched the way he moved. Two-point gait. Left crutch with right foot, right crutch with left foot. He had some movement in his hips and knees. None in his ankles. Surgical procedures on injured spines were always my favorite to transcribe. I had learned a lot hearing the words of orthopedists and neurosurgeons. Other research I had done on my own.
His car was a dark-blue minivan. Parked in one of two accessible spaces.
“May I give you a ride home?” He asked as he unlocked the door.
“Thanks, but I will walk. Haven’t finished my routine.” I watched his every move, feeling myself get more excited. I didn’t know what would happen if I were to get in the car with him before I had the chance to sort this out.
He nodded, looking like I had just told him a final goodbye. “Still want to see me tomorrow?”
“More than ever.” I answered honestly, hopefully not too eagerly.
He nodded as if he was accepting a lie. I wanted to kiss him then. Let him now that I wanted him. I would just have to show him by sitting down for coffee every time I could.
To be continued...