BY LIZ McADAMS
Copyright is held by the author.
ISA STIRRED sugar into her latte, milky froth coating the spoon. He watched as she licked the froth off, and then rested her spoon on the saucer.
A creamy puddle formed between them.
She sat leaning onto the table, her elbows resting where his mother always told him to keep his off, and smiled. “So, how’s Sondra?”
He stared at her, momentarily forgetting who Sondra was. Or who he was, for that matter. Small frame and a pixie haircut, Isa perched on the café stool, hidden in the folds of a turtleneck sweater.
A bird in a nest, waiting for something. Ready to take flight.
She smiled knowingly.
“So, Sondra, how is she?” Isa asked again.
“Uh, yeah, Sondra — um, she’s okay. Busy at work.” His knee bumped the table, and coffee sloshed out his cup, leaving brown splotches on the faux woodgrain. He blushed stupidly, and hated himself for it. He mumbled, “You know how it is.”
“I’ll get that,” Isa reached across and pressed a napkin to the puddle. He watched the cheap paper napkin turn tan.
“So, things are going well with you guys then?” Isa picked up her cup, cradling the oversized bowl in both hands. Steam wafted upward. She sniffed appreciatively. “Sondra said things were going well.”
“Uh, yeah, pretty good.”
He crumpled the sodden napkin.
He thought he saw her laugh, briefly, then it was gone.
Isa turned and looked out the window, watching passersby hurry down the street, all bundled up against the cold. Heavy drizzle streamed off umbrellas.
Grey November skies hung overhead.
He stared at her, taking in dark hair and dark eyes, and full lips, that when she smiled, or laughed, were out of this world.
He wondered what they felt like.
Isa turned toward him. “You know, Sondra’s saying things are getting serious; that she’s been looking at rings and stuff.”
“Um — er, I think she likes jewellery. I mean, she likes looking at jewellery. She likes looking. At stuff.” He knew this sounded lame.
“I think we all like looking at stuff.” Isa laughed, and then grew serious. “And, what do you like?”
He twisted the napkin, stretching it into a coffee-coloured rope.
“Uh — I dunno . . .”
Suddenly a waitress bustled by, tucking in chairs, and collecting discarded coffee cups. “Lemme get that for ya, hon.” She plucked the soggy napkin from his hand.
“Here, can you take this please?” Isa offered up her empty cup. She pulled on her jacket. “I gotta run.”
He stood up, bumping the table again. “Let me walk you to your car.”
As he held the door, she brushed against him, her perfume lingering on his body. He inhaled deeply, and hoped she didn’t notice.
Isa stepped onto the sidewalk and tightened her jacket against the wind. Then stared down the street.
He moved to follow.
“Wait a minute, hon,” the waitress called out.
He turned in the doorway.
“Your girlfriend forgot her scarf.”
“She’s not — I mean, okay, thanks.” As he reached for it, pink angora tickled his palms. He blushed again, still hating himself for it.
Outside, Isa was standing hunched against the rain. He held out the pink scarf stupidly. “Uh, you forgot this. The waitress said — uh, she thought — it’s yours.”
Isa smiled and took the offered item, wrapping it around her neck. The wind tugged at the ends, threatening to carry it away; pink tassels streamed out, unravelling into nothingness.
“You know, Sondra’s a really nice girl.”
He knew she didn’t mean it. Or maybe she did.
He shrugged in his jacket, and willed his feet to move.
“And her family seems nice too.” Isa smirked, dark eyes dancing. “Don’t you have a wedding or something coming up soon?”
“Uh, yeah, something for her cousin. Stag and doe.”
His feet scuffed the sidewalk; he could feel her walking beside him, heat radiating from her body and pink scarf batting against his chest. Her hand brushed his.
He thought about holding it, and walking together, or, grabbing her hand and just smoothing it against his cheek.
She’d laugh at him. Or not. That was Isa.
Maybe she’d be the one to take his hand, and then he’d feel the cool smoothness of her touch. He walked beside her, her hand inches from his own, and said nothing.
From the depths of his pocket, his phone chirped. Text message. A moment later, loud ring tone burst out.
Isa laughed softly. They both knew who it was. Fumbling inside his jacket, he hit ignore. He blushed again, hating himself even more for it.
They approached the car and then stood awkwardly. The rain had lightened to faint drizzle, and her hair looked even darker. Wilder.
He wanted to wipe the raindrops from her face.
“It was great seeing you again.” Isa stared at him; her eyes penetrating his soul. She stood. Waiting.
“Uh, yeah, you too.” Deep breath. “So, when are you in town next?”
“Not for a while. I’ll be pretty busy.” She leaned on her car, “So this is goodbye?”
An indefinite question.
He stood frozen, willing himself to move. Or think. Or speak.
She raised her arms for a hug, and he stepped into her embrace. Pink scarf wrapped around his chest.
He breathed deeply, leaning against her warmth. Inhaled. Her body shifted in his arms, her face, and lips, so near his. He bent, briefly, pressing his face into the softness of her neck.
And stepped back, dazed.
Isa laughed, and unlocked the car door. “Why don’t you come out to my place sometime? Be a tourist, check out the town.” She turned toward him, and smiled slowly. “You know, look around — you like looking, at stuff, right? Who knows, you might see something you enjoy.”
Her car keys jingled expectantly. He thought about climbing into the car beside her, both of them driving off, away from all of this.
“I think you’d like it at my place.” Isa smiled.
“Uh — yeah, I would.” He felt stupid, his head thick with fog, and he blushed again. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
“What’re you doing next weekend?”
“Uh — next weekend?” Willing himself to think, he pulled out his phone and glanced at it. Next weekend. Sondra was in charge of his schedule, she synched her calendar to his and updated it regularly. It was the stag and doe.
He hit delete.
Looking up, he smiled. “I’m free.”