Across a table; that’s how they met. The, barista promising to find him a table as soon as one opened up, disappeared to tend to another customer. Two strangers, one table.
She barely glanced over the book in her hands, her cursory glance saying it all; Intruder.
She coolly resumed her reading. He might as well have been invisible.
He could have taken the hint and sat there in her brooding silence. He could have texted Mike to hurry up from work. He, like all the other overworked and underpaid professionals in the room, could have just ordered his coffee and waited for the monstrous traffic jam, characteristic of the city, to melt into clear roads.
He could have… but he didn’t.
“Busy night, huh?”
She looked up blankly. A ghost of a smile crossed her face. Polite. Not inviting. She resumed her reading. He watched her turn a page and wondered how the ‘Msichana wa Nairobi’ gospel had spread so completely. There must be a guidebook, he concluded.
“Stephen King. I’ve heard of him. Never actually read his books. They’re a tad to thick for my taste.”
He leaned in closer.
“I’m more of an Archie kind of guy. “
Her eyes, dark chocolate, fixed on him, one eyebrow raised slightly in annoyance.
” Jughead’s cool too and the occasional Dandy tickles my fancy. To a serious reader like you, I must seem rather green, but in my defense, I’ve been reading quite a longtime.”
He couldn’t tell what she was thinking but he had her attention and she hadn’t run for the hills yet. He racked his brain for something to say. So far, he was the weird guy who wouldn’t stop talking. He had about twenty seconds to change that. He needed a conversation starter.
Work? × cliché
Weather? × completely out of the question.
Compliments?… risky. With this new breed of girls, one could never really tell. Russian roulette, but it was worth a try.
Deciding on her eyes, he opened his mouth but the words stuck in his throat.
” From the first day I saw you, me I liked you. But you see, I’m your boss and I told myself it wasn’t a good idea. ” The words floated over from the table behind him.
She set her book aside her eyes twinkling with mischief.
The man from the table over went on to lay his heart out in the cheesiest way possible.
He watched the emotions play on her face. He laughed with her, loving the way her eyes crinkled slightly. And her smile. Her smile, her smile …
She was no longer paying attention to the next table. She was looking at him.
” Moraa “
He took her outstretched hand in his.
They smiled at each other over the table.
‘ Idiot say something, ‘ he thought. But what? Compliment! Right! Ok, but nothing cheesy. Not like that other guy. But he had to admit; there was something admirable in his honesty.
“I like Archie,” she said.
“You like Archie?! Cool, cool. “
Could you sound anymore of an idiot?
“So, are you waiting for someone? “
“No. I’m supposed to be on a reading date.”
He dispelled a breath he didn’t even know he was holding. She wasn’t seeing anyone. At least not that night.
“A reading date?”
” Yeah, just me and a good book. ” She tapped the book she had set aside.
He smiled guiltily.
“I should get going.”
She started to stand.
Leaving? All he had was her name! He had to see her again!
“So maybe I’ll join you on a reading date tomorrow? ”
He watched her walk away and felt his heart sink with every step she took away from him.
At the door, she turned.
He barely heard the word. But he held onto the whisper.
As he told Mike the story, he doubted if he had, in fact heard her. It might just have been his wishful thinking.
The next day couldn’t come fast enough. She might come, she might not, but he would be there.
He went an hour early, before the place got packed and sat at a table by the wall. He looked up each time the door swung open.
She wasn’t coming. That had to be it. He’d probably wanted to see her again so desperately that his sub-conscience pulled a quick one him.
She walked in with the evening traffic. She took the seat opposite him.
Resisting the tug of a smile, he cleared his throat and concentrated on his book as she did the very same thing. They were a precious sight, sitting by the wall, each concentrating on their volume of Archie.