The coffee burned as it splashed all over her chest and face. Maybe if she hadn’t stayed up so late the night before talking with Keisha about putting herself out there soon she might have been more alert and avoided him. She could hear his clear voice apologizing again and again despite her insistence that everything was okay. It was only when she met his familiar hazel eyes that she recognized him.
Even though she knew he was always destined to work in a place like this, wearing freshly ironed slacks and a crisp shirt under his dark wool coat, it was still a surprise to see him here. To see him now. She had to tell him. It had been long enough. Instead, she looked down at the spreading puddle of coffee, smiled a little, said “Sorry about that” and turned toward the elevators.
Seconds later she heard him shout “Wait!” as he grabbed her arm.
She turned back and looked at him, remembering the last time he had grabbed her arm so fiercely, two years ago. His nut brown hair had grown out since last she saw him. It wasn’t that long, truly, but he had definitely stopped taking clippers to himself liked he did in school. He was offering her the napkins in his hands from the coffee he’d spilt; some of them were even dry. “Hey” she said with an air of courtesy as she took the napkins to clean herself up. She was so focused on getting away from him that she hadn’t even noticed how much coffee had stained her blouse, and she tried to clean up the mess on her shirt. She had another one upstairs, it’s okay. “Can you let go of me, please?”
He released her arm, apologizing again. For over a year now she had to tell him: My therapist thought that it might be better to tell you in person, that’s why I never responded to the letter from after that night. You hurt me. It may not have been fair of me to hide my problems from you, but what you did was completely unacceptable. It broke my heart- you broke my heart. Standing before her covered in coffee, however, she could tell she didn’t have to say anything. His guilt was as palpable as that night two years ago.
At first she was about as shocked by their chance encounter as when she saw the naked girl straddling him. It had worn off quickly in the lobby today, though, and she turned away quickly. The elevator opened with a chime, and she strode in without a backwards glance. Someone next to her said “Oh my god, the look on that poor guy’s face. Out in the lobby, with the spilled coffee. You’d think he’d seen a ghost.” In a way, he had just seen a ghost. She wasn’t the emotionally distraught, confused girl she had been two years ago.
She pressed the button for floor seventeen just as the doors started to close. Her phone buzzed in her purse, and she pulled it out to answer the call from Kiesha. “Hey…I’m good, thanks. Listen, about last night…no, no, it was exactly what I needed. Actually, I feel pretty good about tonight. I know, a blind date can be pretty scary, especially today of all days, but I’ve gotta get back out there sometime. Thanks for setting it up.” The elevator opened on her floor, and the moment she walked out her boss waved for her. “I’m sorry, my boss is calling me. I’ll let you know how tonight goes!”
She put her phone back in her purse and set it down in her cubicle before walking across the floor to her boss’ office. Two years ago today she’d had her heart broken. If she hadn’t been so wrapped up in her own problems, if she had just talked to him- no, she wouldn’t think about it. It happened. There was no point thinking about it anymore.
She stopped near the window to look at her reflection. There were red burns from the coffee, almost like a sunburn, on her nose and cheeks. It wasn’t the best look. She smiled, knowing she’d have to do something about this before tonight. A blind date on Valentine’s Day. Hopefully this one would yield better memories.