Part 6: Encounters

I had almost worked up the nerve to go back into Starbucks Monday morning. But on the sight of David’s minivan, I kept walking. I couldn’t face him. I had screwed it up and I really did just want to keep the illusion. At least I could always tell myself I had let “the one” get away. I went back to my apartment and cranked out my transcripts, had fuzz therapy and read Stephen King.

Tuesday morning brought a change. David’s minivan wasn’t parked in front of Starbucks when I walked up. My heart sank. I immediately began to worry about him. Just seeing his van everyday had let me know he was still there, that he was okay. The prospect that he may not be there was not one I was willing to consider. I felt lost and alone and walked into the Starbucks, wanting to pick up that dropped connection.

“Kaida!” Shannon called out. “Welcome back. We were worried about you.”

“I am fine.” I said with as bright a smile as I could manage. “Thought I would try to break my caffeine habit. I failed.”

Shannon smiled and laughed appropriately. “Glad you are back. I am sure your friend will be, too.” She nodded in the direction of David’s booth.

I couldn’t say anything.

“Do you want decaf this morning?”

My turn to laugh. I hoped it didn’t sound as forced as it felt. “Of course not. If I am back, I am back.”

I took my iced mocha and sat down at the booth in David’s usual spot, facing away from the door. I wanted to feel closer to him, to feel that good feeling again. I had tried so hard to push it away. Now thinking that it may be gone, I wanted it again. So this is what it felt like to have a crush on someone? To be in lust?

About halfway through my mocha, I heard the unmistakable sound of crutch tips and braced feet on the floor. I pulled my shoulders in tight, not turning around, wishing I could be invisible to see his reaction when finding me, then appear after I knew what his thoughts may be.

The footsteps stopped beside me. “You are okay.”

I heard nothing in his voice but relief and I looked up.

“I am okay.” I answered, searching his handsome face for anger or anything other than kindness. I didn’t see it.

“Good.” He slid into the booth opposite me. “I have been looking forward to our next conversation.”

“You have?” He didn’t seem the least bit perturbed with me.

“I have. It isn’t often I meet someone who challenges me. I look forward to every encounter I have with that person.”

“It is a gift.” I smiled.

“A rare talent.” He smiled back.

He hadn’t understood what I meant. The encounters were the gift. Not the ability to challenge. Or was he right? Was it both?

The silence was a little awkward. I was very glad to be there with him. Jesse brought over his coffee, which he hadn’t ordered. He paid and thanked Jesse then turned his attention back to me.

“It isn’t easy to hold on to hot coffee and my crutches at the same time. Jesse figured that out pretty quickly and has provided booth-side service since the first time I came in, without making me feel obvious. Also a rare talent.”

“Are you a talent scout as well as a mechanical engineer?” I tried to pick up his light tone. I didn’t want this to be awkward and weird. It seemed like he didn’t either.

“No. I just know to keep my eyes open and accept gifts when they are given. I know it sounds trite, but life-altering experiences do alter your perception of your approach to each day.”

“It doesn’t become trite without truth behind it.”

He nodded. “Logical, analytical minds sometimes discount serendipity.”

“It can be a hard concept to swallow when empirical evidence points in another direction.”

He laughed. “Any interesting surgeries to transcribe today?”

“There always are.”

He looked at his watch. “Unfortunately, I have to run. I have an early meeting this morning. How do you feel about dinner?”

He was asking me out? “Personally, I am for it.”

“Good. I will pick you up at 6:30.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You will?”

“I will. Where do you live?”

“On Stuart. The brick apartments on the corner of Stuart and Thompson.”

“Easy enough to find.”

“I will meet you out front, if that’s okay. My apartment is on the third floor.”

“That will be fine.”

I watched him as he stood up, feeling that twist in my stomach. And now I was going to spend part of the evening with him. Would I be able to behave myself?

“See you this evening, Kaida.” He smiled at me. “Have fun transcribing.”

“Have fun meeting.” I wanted to switch sides of the booth so I could watch him leave. But that would be much to obvious. Instead, I watched what I could and smiled as I finished by mocha.

To be continued...