From my hiding spot in the diner across the street, I could see the doorway to the restaurant from which I had just fled. I had ducked into the diner when I couldn’t get Rebecca on her phone right away. I needed someone to talk to. I looked at my little silver cell phone on the white Formica tabletop. The diner was all pink and blue, 50’s style. Normally it cheered me. Right now, it just felt gaudy. I wasn’t ready to call a cab to go home. I needed a drink and an Oreo milkshake was the strongest poison the diner offered. I ordered one and stared out the window into the late afternoon sunlight.
Damn. I knew I was going to watch David leave. I needed to take that image home with me. I needed to watch him move one more time. I needed to erase the image of his disappointment and surprise that was now burned into my mind’s eye.
The waitress brought my shake. He had plenty of time to leave. Had I missed him? Was he okay?
“I love these things.” She commented as she sat the tall glass in front of me. “Goes straight to my hips, though. Wish I could have what I want.” She laughed as she walked away.
Wish I could have what I want. The words hung in the air. Now even the diner waitress had a message for me. I could have the Oreo shake. I ran and watched what I ate. There were costs to having what I wanted.
I looked back at the restaurant. Still no David. What would be the cost of having him? Exposing my darkest desires? The safety of my secret? What good was the secret doing me at this point, other than causing me misery? What good was having a dark desire if it went unfulfilled? I was already 35. Would this chance ever come again?
I grabbed the Oreo shake and stood once again to bolt from another restaurant. I handed it to the waitress along with a ten-dollar bill. “Have what you want. Thank you for the tip.”
She looked at me like I had sprouted two heads, but I didn’t wait long enough for her confusion to clear. I couldn’t. If I didn’t go with the momentum I had built, I would settle back into my old pattern and I would likely not encounter the force strong enough to overcome that inertia again.
I sprinted across the street and entered the restaurant. The hostess recognized me. “Is everything okay?”
“Fine.” Again, I knew if I stopped for politeness, I would revert back. I couldn’t stop, couldn’t think. I just had to move from that desire.
David was still at the table, his attention now focused on the stage. The band had started its set. I wanted to stand and stare at his face, to replace that hurt image in my mind’s eye with what I now saw. He seemed calm. No longer upset. He listened to the music with a small smile. Our dinner dishes had been cleared and his sweet tea had been replaced by red wine.
I wanted to keep that smile, but the smile angered me just a bit. Had I not mattered at all?
Now he looked at me like I had two heads.
“Kaida, did you forget something?”
Cold and hard. I hadn’t known he could be cold and hard.
I nodded. “Yes. You.”
He chuckled. It wasn’t a pleasant sound. “You were the one who walked away. I didn’t get the impression I was to follow.”
“This was a mistake.” I shook my head. What had I expected? That he would welcome me back all smiles and happiness? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
“Yes, you said that already.” He turned back to the stage, dismissing me.
“No, damn it.” I forced myself to do what I had come back to do. “That isn’t what I meant and it is too easy. I came back to say that I want to stay. If you will let me.”
I saw bewilderment again in his brown eyes. “Kaida, you aren’t making sense and I know I am not drunk. Yet.”
I gestured to the chair where I had been seated. He nodded and I sat down. “David, I ran away because I want to be with you.”
He continued to stare at me. “Still not making sense.”
“I know. But if I am not honest with you and with myself I will never forgive myself.” I toyed with the confetti again. A mask this time.
He remained quiet, staring at me still. Waiting for me to continue. I took a deep breath and plowed forward. I couldn’t stop now.
“You asked me once about the romance formula. If I believed in boy meets girl and boy and girl fall in love. I said yes. And it is true. I have waited to this point in my life for my Prince Charming to come sweep me off my feet.”
He opened his mouth to interrupt.
“Wait, please, hear me out.” I held up my hand to stop him.
His mouth closed into a tight line. He was holding his words back by force.
“My Prince Charming would be handsome and smart and well-read and articulate and would know how to challenge me.”
I studied his reaction carefully. He managed to look relaxed and scared at the same time. Okay, that was good. Now for the really hard part.
“My Prince Charming would also have a quality one rarely finds in princes. He would be unable to walk.”
I couldn’t meet his eyes and say the last sentence. I sated at the little mask between my fingers as the silence settled around me with the weight of the heavy summer air.
“Your Cinderella dreams were of a disabled guy? Bullshit.”
My head snapped up to meet his glare. The quirky eyebrow was in play again. Now I was truly angry. I had bared my secret and been rebuffed for my efforts.
“Not bullshit,” I was pleased to sound as angry as I felt. “I was interested in you before you stood up that day in the coffee shop. After that, I nearly fell out on the floor. I saw my knight in shining leg braces. I couldn’t get you out of my head. I have never wanted anyone like I want you.”
“You want me? You freaked out and walked away from me because you want me? Damn, Kaida, this may be the strangest conversation I have ever had.”
I saw the twinkle in his eye then. He was enjoying this. Dishing back some of the torment I had handed him. I deserved it.
“I am not one for giving in to my desires.” I said too primly, with my back straight and stiff.
He shook his head. “You wanted your prince to be a gimp, like me. I have always wanted my princess to be Asian, like you. So what does that make us?”
“Made for each other?” I batted my eyelashes, trying a different tactic. I hated it as soon as I tried it. Even so, he laughed appreciatively.
“Let’s go with that.”
His smile was genuine and warm. I immediately felt better, lighter, and happier than I had with anyone before.
“So I am forgiven?” I looked down at my hands.
He laughed. This time I liked the sound. It was full and real. “I just had a beautiful Asian woman tell me she wanted me so much she couldn’t stand to be around me. Of course you are forgiven.”
“So you wouldn’t have spoken to me in the coffee shop if I wasn’t Asian?” The idea intrigued me. He was attracted to a specific attribute that I had. Was that why he seemed to understand?
“I wouldn’t have made a point to speak.”
“Wow.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“Do you feel objectified?” He leaned back in his chair a bit.
“I don’t know. Do you?”
“I’m male, Kaida. I don’t know if I can feel objectified.” He laughed again. “I find the thought that you are turned on by my disability odd and exciting. And I want to see where it takes us.”
“Straight to bed if I have my way.” I smiled as provocatively as I could. Now that I was exposed, I may as well be naked.
He raised his hand to summon the waitress.
To be continued...