BY EMILY HO
Copyright is held by the author.
HE SEES her almost every day. Each day around 10:30am, she enters through the glass doors. She orders her Venti Bold, sits by the window, turns on her laptop and starts tapping away. Immersed in her work she seems oblivious to her surroundings — absorbed, yet somewhat distracted. She’s pretty.
He looks forward to seeing her. He makes sure he’s on cash when she comes in. Each time she enters through those glass doors, he is ready with a different greeting, hoping to elicit a friendly reaction that could lead into something more meaningful. He does his best to engage in some form of friendly banter to draw her out of her shell. He gets teeny glimpses, piecing together who she is and what she is like from her responses. Like bread crumbs. Her responses are always polite — sometimes dismissive, sometimes upbeat — almost humorous, sometimes cold, sometimes demanding. She’s actually kind of all over the map. That doesn’t bother him.
He knows he’s being silly. Paying so much attention to someone he barely knows. He sees that he doesn’t play a significant role in her life, much less even a punctuation mark in her day. Occupational hazard, perhaps? The times that he does allow his mind to wander unbound, he can’t help but think she’s absolutely perfect. The Perfect Girl. Sometimes he thinks he catches her noticing him, or is that his imagination?
His co-worker notices. Linda notices. Well, she’s more than just his co-worker. They have known other since grade school. She knows everything about him and him about her. Their friendship survived through the awkward teenage years and emerged intact, even stronger. They are at complete ease with each other, never short of carefree banter and laughter. They support and care for each other just enough to strengthen and not suffocate.
Linda doesn’t say too much about the girl. She knows teasing him would only hint at jealousy, and she’s not sure if she’s ready to admit that yet.
On a windy autumn afternoon, he runs into The Perfect Girl at the grocery store. His heart skips a beat. He can’t believe his luck. He initiates small talk — thank goodness they were in the fruits and vegetables section. He has no shortage of fun fruit facts. Feeling pretty comfortable, he helps her bring her groceries to her car. He loads the bags into the trunk and gently closes it. He turns to her, and they pause.
“It was great running into you,” he says.
“Likewise,” she replies. She looks down at her feet, does a slight shuffle. She pauses momentarily. And then she looks up at him, expectantly. She leans in.
He panics. This is what he’s been waiting for — or is it? How can it be that this magical moment feels . . . wrong? Without any warning, Linda pops into his mind. Like a scene from a movie, an image from the night before flashes. Linda and him at his house, spending a typical evening together, laughing until their bellies ached. His heart fills with warmth and . . . desire? Why is this not the person standing in front of him?
He snaps away. Mutters he has somewhere to go, apologizes a thousand times over. He leaves her standing alone in the windy grocery store parking lot. Heartbroken.
She doesn’t return for her Venti Bold the next day.