The Connection

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Summary

Two unlikely strangers, both hurt before, journey down a path of romance. They both had been hurt before, but they couldn’t deny what was happening between them. They have to both learn to love and fully trust one another.

Genre:
Romance / Drama
Author:
Dena Elerian
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
6
Rating:
4.1 7 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

A Rainy Day In Nashville

Why me?

I had decided to take a day off of work for the first time since my family vacation last Thanksgiving. I had woken up early, out of habit, and had decided to stop for coffee for the first time in a while. However, to my disappointment, it had decided to rain cats and dogs outside. I almost decided to go back home, but I instead chose to wait in the car until the weather calmed down.

While I waited, I pulled down the overhead mirror to look over my face. I ended up staring into the mirror and couldn’t help but see the hazel eyes of my Father. It was a bittersweet feeling.

I ignored that thought and paid closer attention to my hair. I noticed that my dirty blonde hair looked a little greasy. There was nothing flattering about it that day. I ran my fingers through it and that slightly improved the overall appearance. As I continued to stare into the mirror, I started regretting not wearing any makeup. I debated again whether or not to stay or to leave.

I considered staying, once the weather finally improved, to work on my sketchbook. I looked behind me and suddenly realized that it had been many years since I had last used my art supplies or sketchbook. My art supplies were at home collecting dust; much like the sketchbook in my backseat. I didn’t have anything with me except the pens in my handbag. I knew that would have to work.

The rain finally stopped for a short moment (despite the grey clouds that still hovered in the sky). I got out of the car and quickly grabbed my belongings from the backseat. I didn’t want to drag in my umbrella so I grabbed my raincoat to wear instead. Barely paying attention, I rushed to the glass doors of the coffee shop and bumped into someone.

“Oh! I’m sorry!” I quickly apologized.

I made eye contact with an older, but very handsome man. He seemed more depressed about the weather than I was. I felt my heart rate jump as I realized we both continued to stare at each other.

“Sorry,” he quickly apologized before entering, breaking eye contact.

He was kind enough to hold the door open for me.

“Oh! Thanks!” I acknowledged him, smiling. I was trying not to be flustered.

“Don’t mention it...” he replied, not giving eye contact.

I ended up standing behind him because we had no choice but to get in line. It was the morning rush, so there were a lot of people waiting for their caffeine fix.

I was still a little embarrassed from earlier, but curiosity about him overrode my nerves.

“I haven’t met you here before, what’s your name?” I asked him, gently touching his arm.

I moved my hand away, not wanting to be too friendly, and we made eye contact again. He gave a wry smile.

“David,” he answered, “And what’s your name?”

“Emily,” I smiled.

“I haven’t seen you before either,” he continued, “I usually stop here for a coffee break or before the start of my day.”

“I just haven’t found the time recently,” I answered.

David was called up next by Jessica, a barista I knew well.

The rain and now thunder started to pour outside again. I heard other customers in line behind me start venting that they were going to be late for work because of the weather. If I wasn’t taking a day off, I would have been in the same boat.

“Hi! Welcome! What can we get started for you?” Jessica greeted the man in front of me. She seemed as cheerful and full of coffee as always.

“A large brew of the day with room,” he replied.

I still happened to be drawn to the handsome stranger. He had a nice butt. I stopped looking at him before he or anyone else noticed and I took out my phone to help keep my mind occupied. I decided to check my e-mails.

“Anything else I can get for you?”

“Well...the young lady behind me. I’ll be paying for her as well. So, she can get whatever she wants.”

I looked up from my phone and saw another smirk grow across his face. He was talking about me.

“Are you sure?” I blurted.

“Positive,” he replied.

“Thank you,” I managed as I put my phone away.

Jessica starts grinning.

“How nice of you, sir!” Jessica beamed, before facing me, “Emily...you usually get the iced mocha, is that what you’d like?”

“Uh, yeah sure,” I sheepishly replied. I surprised Jessica recognized me without my makeup on.

Jessica laughed at my expense. I was getting free coffee, so I smiled politely and said nothing.

“Don’t let Emily’s shy attitude fool you,” she beamed, “Once you get to know her, she can really talk your ear off!”

I felt embarrassed.

“She doesn’t seem that shy,” he responded, his smirk smoothing into a smile.

I couldn’t help but smile back at him.

Jessica laughed openly at the scene unfolding and then processed the man’s transaction.

“Name for the order?”

“David,” he replied.

After he paid, he moved over to the pick-up counter where I had already moved to. He looked at me while giving eye contact and touched my shoulder, “I just need to make a quick phone call and I’ll be back.”

I noticed that I had a reaction to his touch, but I quickly pretended that I couldn’t feel a thing.

“Okay, sure,” I managed with a smile.

I went back to viewing my phone as he walked away from me because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t even go on any apps, I just stared at my home screen deep in thought.

I had not felt anything, such as the reactions from his touch, for a very long time. After a string of failed relationships many years ago, I gave up on romance and focused on myself and my career. Once I had the career, I knew I’d have all the opportunities in the world to find love. Sure, I did have some male attention from time to time. But I would politely decline.

I now had the career, knew myself for the most part, but I didn’t have many dates lined up like I pretended I would have. When I wasn’t busy working, I was lonely and drifting day to day. If I was perfectly honest with myself, romance had been bittersweet for me. My last relationship ended when I was 21. I was now 28 years old which made me suddenly realize it had been seven years since I had been in a relationship. I had given myself a goal of getting back into dating when I turned 26, but that clearly had been put on the back burner.

I turned off my phone and decided to try to focus on the here and now. I knew that I couldn’t get ahead of myself. Why would an older guy want someone like me for? Someone who was still getting their life together? And why was I so vulnerable and reactive to the first man showing me attention in a while? I was amazed that I had not learned my lesson by now.

“David and Emily!” Billy called out.

I felt a strange sensation in my chest hearing our names being called out together. I really needed to get a grip and stop these silly thoughts. I had just met this man.

I managed to stop myself before I burned my hand picking up David’s hot coffee. I grabbed a sleeve to put over the cup so that I could hand it to him when he came back.

“Oh, thanks,” David said as her returned back from his phone call outside, “I could have done that.”

“Good timing,” I smiled.

I proceeded to pick up both of our cups, his hot and mine cold.

“This was the least I could do, sir,” I continued to smile as I handed him his coffee.

“You don’t have to be so formal. You don’t work for me. Just call me David. Your name was Emily, right?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“I sometimes like to sit over there, is that okay?” he asked while pointing to a secluded part of the shop that I had never noticed before.

“Sure, that’s fine,” I agreed.

As we walked towards the corner, I realized that the shop looked so different and modern now. I had never paid much attention before. I was too attached to my phone...

The coffee shop was on the outskirts of Murfreesboro, but the remodeled interior reminded me of being downtown in Nashville.

“Listen,” David said, bringing me out of my thoughts, “I really want to thank you for reaching out to me.”

“What?” I asked, confused.

He laughed a little bit and I got a sneak preview of his gorgeous smile. I tried my best to hide how I was starting to feel inside. I didn’t know if I was succeeding. I couldn’t help being attracted to him. Was I dreaming? Had I fallen asleep in the car?

“I won’t bore you with too many details, but life has been...a challenge recently,” he started, seriousness outlined in his face, “When we had run into each other, I was totally lost in my thoughts.”

“I didn’t mind at all,” I responded, not realizing soon enough that it sounded like I was flirting with him.

He looked up at me. His gaze looked defensive and unsure.

I didn’t know what to say, so I just kept my mouth shut. It usually did the trick throughout the history of my life.

“What’s that?” he asked me, motioning towards something & breaking the silence between us.

I looked down and remembered that I had set my sketchbook on the table when we had sat down.

“Oh! It’s a sketchbook. I haven’t used it in a while, so I brought it in for old time’s sake.”

“Old times?” he asked me, confused.

I smiled, sighing at the same time and shaking my head.

“Since becoming a graphic designer for Wingram Creative Firm, I do a lot of digital art now. I rarely use this book anymore.”

“Really? I thought y’all did both?” David asked, surprised.

“Well, for me it’s more time efficient if I complete work in one format.”

“It’s funny you mention about ‘old times’. Old dreams. I used to think I was gonna be an inventor. Invent the next big thing and ‘change the world’. But dreams don’t pay the bills.”

“Right,” I nodded in agreement. I knew that all too well.

“After my...”

He hesitated briefly.

“After my ex-wife became pregnant with my son Marcus, I had to get a full-time job and fast. I ended up working in the financial industry. The rest is history.”

“What do you do now, if you don’t mind me asking?” I asked him.

“I’m the Bank Manager for Helix Credit Union.”

“How old is Marcus?” I asked.

“He’s five,” he smiled, “He’s my boy. Only good thing to come out recent challenges.”

“That’s a good attitude to have,” I replied.

He continued to smile, and I mirrored his smile in return. I couldn’t help myself.

“It’s nice that I’m not at the office for a change. I needed a personal day for some time.”

“Me too,” I honestly admitted.

He crossed his arms.

“But I also feel strange not being at work. Working is what distracts me.”

“I’m the same way,” I admitted, “I dive right into work. Makes me too tired to think about anything else.”

“And what are you ‘working away’ from?”

“What? ‘Working away’? What do you mean?” I had to ask.

“Better than saying ‘running away’,” he grinned, almost sarcastically, “It’s a catchphrase I invented. It’s gonna to catch fire.”

I tried not to roll my eyes at his terrible joke, but I did.

He laughed.

“Fine, fine. Maybe the world’s not ready yet. So, what are you running away from?” he asked again.

“Well...the fact that I’m still single at 28—”

Why was I telling him this? I stopped myself before I continue to make a fool out of myself.

“You’re joking. Come on, tell the truth: Who’s the lucky guy in your life?” he asked, grinning.

“No, I’m really not joking,” I replied, still embarrassed, “I’ve been single since I was 21 years old.”

Why was I telling him this? And why was he asking? Was he teasing me? It was my turn to cross my arms as I felt hot and embarrassed.

“You probably didn’t miss much anyway,” he huffed (so easy for him to say).

“I know that very well,” I smirked, “Which is also why I’ve been single since I turned 21. Didn’t need to be cheated on over and over anymore.”

“But why?” he asked, “Any guy who did that to you must have been a damn fool. I bet he regrets it every single day.”

My heart started beating faster as soft heat began to spread over me. It had to be the caffeine kicking in, right? And because I was so embarrassed. That had to be the reason.

“You’ve just caught me on a good day,” I managed while tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear, “But thank you all the same.”

“Sorry if I’m coming off as being too forward,” he apologized.

“Same,” I replied and we both grew silent. At that moment, I wasn’t sure what else to say.

“You’ve got plenty of time, believe me,” he continued, interrupting the silence, “28 is still young. So, don’t worry yourself about that. You hear me?”

I couldn’t help but smile again.

“What else are you running away from?” he asked.

“It’s complicated,” I said, not wanting to get into what else there was.

“Why is that?” he asked me.

“Family,” I answered, almost curtly, “It’s complicated,” I smiled, hoping that would stop him from asking me.

“Had a rough childhood?”

He was not letting up. I sighed, trying not to get annoyed. I couldn’t help tensing up at the table. My embarrassment was disappearing at last.

“It’s kind of hard to explain,” I repeated, “But usually saying ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ does the trick.”

“Okay,” David nods, acknowledging that I am done talking about that topic with him for now.

“What about your family? Complicated also?” I asked.

“Me, my Momma, and my son,” he said.

I nodded.

There is a long silence between us as we both are stuck on what to say to each other next. I was enjoying time together with David.

I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a long time.

“Oh, by the way,” I started to say as I looked in my handbag for something I want to share with him, “Maybe we could hang out again sometime. You seem like an interesting guy...”

“What?” I heard him ask.

I don’t think he heard me because I was looking down to search my handbag. I was way too nervous to repeat myself. I placed my business card that had my cell phone number onto the table and I moved it over to him. I used all of my willpower to keep my nerves hidden away. I didn’t know if my approach was working because I couldn’t give him full eye contact.

David didn’t say anything. He stared at my card on the table for a while. I didn’t withdraw it, although I was tempted to. Finally, he took my card and then reached in his inner suit pocket to produce his.

“If you e-mail me, I can message you my cell. Otherwise, you’ll end up reaching the main branch.”

“Sure,” I managed, “Thanks for the card.”

I quickly put it away. I didn’t want the tension between us to last much longer so I started more conversation with him.

“So, what are your plans for later today?” I asked.

“Not sure yet,” he said, “Might go pick up my son early from pre-K today.”

“He’ll be thrilled,” I smiled.

“Yeah,” he smiled back

“My artwork is terrible, but do you want to see some of my sketches?” I offered.

“Sure,” he replied.

I handed him my sketchbook and he gently removes it from my hands. I only felt his hands for a brief moment, but they felt so soft. Before I could say something stupid in reaction, I paid close attention to how he viewed my sketchbook.

He began to flip through the pages, smiling at each image. I can’t help but smile too.

“It’s almost like a series,” he admirably commented, “Women with long hair and flowers. Kind of looks like a series of stained-glass portraits. It’s real nice.”

“Thank you,” I smiled, “I promised myself to make them into a painted series...that was about three years ago...but dreams don’t pay the bills.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” he shook his head, “But I bet a gallery would love to take these on. Don’t waste your talent!”

“That is so nice of you, thank you,” I smiled.

Suddenly, a well-dressed man approached us.

“Jacob! What are you doing here?” David asked, confused.

“I was stopping by for my second coffee. What are you doing here?”

He then snapped his gaze over to me, “Who’s this?”

“Oh! I ran into Emily, who is a graphic designer and artist,” David explained, “She and I were having a quick chat together over coffee.”

I stood up to introduce myself.

“I’m Emily Johnson,” I shook the man’s hand, “Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Jacob,” he replied, politely nodding. He then turned back to face David, “I was surprised. You never call off work.”

I snapped my gaze over to him.

“Oh, I’m just fine,” he insisted, “I’ve just needed a personal day. I’ll be back tomorrow, ready to work.”

“I hate to take you away from your personal day, but could we just talk outside really quick? I won’t keep you long.”

“Fine.”

I could only imagine what conversation was going to happen between Jacob and David.

David stood up then looked towards me.

“Well if you need to leave, I’ll see you around sometime,” he said, waving.

I waved back. I took that as my cue to leave. I gathered up my sketchbook and quickly left the coffee shop.


As I got into my car, I noticed Jacob and David walked right past me without noticing I was there.

“You have got some nerve,” I could hear Jacob snap to David once they had walked a few more feet away.

“What?” David asked.

“Oh, you know what,” Jacob snapped.

“What’s that supposed to mean? What are you sayin’? Spit it out!” David asked, getting irritated.

“Did you really think you were going to get away with this?” Jacob continued, “Some pretty 18-year-old comes along and you—”

“She’s 28! Not 18! And besides, I just met her today!” David snapped, trying to control his voice.

I froze. They were talking about me.

“You’re 40 years old David-” Jacob scolded.

40. I had maybe guessed 37. After hearing that, I couldn’t help but continue to overhear Jacob and David.

“We just met! Nothing is going on!” David insisted.

I find my keys and quietly pull them out of my bag. I didn’t dare look in their direction as I continued to eavesdrop.

“You know what? I don’t give a shit how old you say she is,” Jacob snapped back, his voice growing louder, “What you did today was very irresponsible! You’re the manager for God’s sake! You can’t just abuse your authority, dump all the responsibility onto me, only to take a day off to have a ‘quick coffee’ with someone you’ve just met!”

My heart started racing again, still uncertain why David had called off of work to take a personal day because he had wanted to talk with me. I noticed there were people walking by as the two men were arguing, not wanting to get involved. I could not blame them.

“Who do you think you’re talkin’ to?!” David asked, getting angry.

“She’s a pretty face, I get it. I saw how you two were looking at each other!” Jacob accused him, “Couldn’t you have gotten her phone number and saw her on the weekend or something? Think David, come on!”

My face was now as red as a rose.

“You can think whatever you’d like,” he said, “She was a nice lady and I wanted to buy her a coffee.”

“Come on, David,” Jacob continued, clearly angry but calming himself, “Outside of work, you’re still my friend. I’m just going to have to act like this never happened. But if you pull a stunt like this again, I’ll have to report you to Mr. Jenkins.”

“I’ve done nothin’ wrong!” David countered, “Are you really going to stand there and threaten me? I’m your friend, sure, but I’m still your supervisor you know!”

“I have to look out for my best interests,” Jacob replied, “You can’t tell me this isn’t what it is. Be a man and just admit it.”

I couldn’t listen anymore. I started my car, but I had already been seen.

“Oh! Great job, asshole!” I heard David exclaim, “She heard everything!”

I quickly pulled out of the parking lot but I caught David looking towards me with hurt in his eyes. Was he that upset I had eavesdropped? I couldn’t look at him anymore from the guilt that I felt for eavesdropping. As I drove away, I realized that I had forgotten my raincoat inside of the coffee shop. I hoped that whoever found it needed it more than I did.


After a long drive home, I walk into my rented apartment drenched to the bone. I marched straight into my room to undress. While undressing, I felt so strange. I had never asked David to call off of work to share a coffee with me. I had felt that I was being very forward sharing my business card and phone number with him. However, what he had done was even more forward. Were we both attracted to each other? Was this really happening?

I didn’t want to be wrong, but part of me was still scared that I was right. I had admitted to myself that I found David attractive. His eyes, his smile, and his butt were really nice. But from my previous experiences, physical attraction never lasts. That was “love at first sight” and that was fiction. That was not real life. In real life, it takes a miracle to find any decent man. I couldn’t help but wonder what would it be like to sleep with a much older man? After I explored this thought, I knew I that needed to calm down. I knew that a seven-year dry spell was a long one, but I also knew it was wrong to want to get into the pants of someone I had just met.

I decided that a shower at the temperature of a hot tub would be perfect to help get my mind off of my frustration. I got into the shower and but continued to go over what had happened today as the hot water stung my skin until I had gotten used to it.

Jacob had said he could see “the way we looked at each other”, we both were smiling and laughing together, when David touched my shoulder, I felt sensations travel all the way down my body. It caught me off guard. His eyes were a lovely shade of brown, his hair was blonde like mine, his voice was gentle and strong, and he was attracted to me for reasons I couldn’t understand.

I finally got out of the shower when my skin started pruning. I proceed to dry myself up and get into my pajamas. While in the shower, I had made up my mind on contacting David through e-mail to apologize. I didn’t know if he’d write back to me, but I decided I would regret not trying. Once I finished changing into my pajamas, I noticed I had some text messages. It was from a number I didn’t recognize:

“Hi Emily. I’m sorry you had to overhear my conversation with Jacob. I had fun today and I hope I haven’t scared you off.”

It was David. I carefully responded:

“Hey David. I had fun today too. Don’t be a stranger.”

Not long after I sent the reply, he had already written back to me.

“Well in that case, I won’t be. Do you have any plans for this weekend?”

Suddenly my phone notified me that I had a new text message from Genesis, my oldest sister.

“Hey are you up?” she asked.

Before I reply, I write back to David:

“I’m free this Sunday. Do you want to meet again?”

I smiled as I hit send. I couldn't help myself.

I went over to my inbox to find the text from Genesis.

“Yeah, what’s up?” I asked her.

Genesis wrote me back: “I’ve been thinking about finishing my degree. What do you think?”

I was thrilled.

“Yeah! For sure!” I wrote back, “If you want to, apply for MTSU! I had a great time there. You deserve a break from Mama and the family.”

I grabbed an iced swet tea from the fridge as I get notifications from Genesis and David. Only a few drops left. I removed the container out of the fridge and drank it while relaxing on the couch.

“I’ll think it over,” I read from Genesis, “This has been a long time coming. Just because I failed the first time doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

I decide to read the text from David first before replying to Genesis.

“Sundays should work fine. I’ll text you the day of and we can figure it out. Have a good night.”

“You too,” I replied, “See you Sunday!”

I went back to my inbox to find the message from Genesis. I thought of my response carefully.

“That’s right, sis,” I replied, “You needed the time to live life and everything else. But now, you’re ready.”

There was a long pause, and I wondered if I had hurt her feelings somehow. I didn’t mean to.

“What took you so long to reply?”

I couldn't tell her the truth.

“I was drinking the last of my sweet tea,” I replied.

“Now I just have to convince Papa it’s a good idea,” she wrote back, “Tuition is very expensive, and I don’t want to take out loans unless I have to.”

She responded to my comment about the sweet tea, “You love your sweet tea and your sweet coffee, don’t you?”

“Yes I do,” I wrote back, “And Good Luck! I wish I had good advice, but I just know to wish you luck.”

“Thanks,” she replied.

I decided to get ready for bed. I set the alarm on my phone and turned in for the night. I was more tired than I had thought because the next time I open my eyes my alarm is going off.

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