8: there was a meetup
I twiddled my thumbs on the side of my bed tapping my foot excessively on the floor.
Emilio had called last night and asked to have coffee together two days after he’d asked initially.
Melia’s notebook full of nasties was on my nightstand, never to be opened. I don’t know what she expected of me, but my confidence level would never allow me to pull off – let alone imagine – what that notebook instructed me to do.
It was currently five in the morning and I was wide awake at a time I would usually be sleeping, stomach turning from anxiousness.
I checked my watch.
Less than four hours before I would go meet with Emilio for coffee.
I snatched up my phone and quickly dialed Melia’s number, holding it up to my ears with trembling hands.
Goodness gracious, you’re such a mess, Xenia.
And when have I not been?
Melia answered on the second ring, her drowsy voice seeping through.
“Yeah Xen?” she uttered, yawning after.
“Hi. Really sorry to bother you. I truly am. I just want to talk to you right now,” I rushed out.
There was rustling in the background of Melia’s speakers and then she spoke.
“Okay, I’m up and here for whatever you need. Lay it on me,” she declared.
“Okay–” I breathed out my mouth, “–I’m super anxious about this meetup with Emilio. It’s not labeled as a date, and I won’t think of it as such but then again I haven’t been alone with a man since I pulled that boy aside in high school. And-and I feel like it’s really hot but I know my air conditioning is blasting and–”
“And time’s up. Breathe in,” Melia ordered.
I did as she told, closing my eyes.
Melia counted softly in my ear, ” and one, two, three, four, five. Out.”
I exhaled, keeping my eyes closed. My heart calmed tremendously along with the nerves that were starting to make my back hurt.
“Do it again,” she ordered again.
And I did.
“First of all,” she started, “check your heart rate. I want it normal before I talk to you.”
I sighed and looked at my watch, rolling my eyes as I mumbled back, “just wait a sec.”
Melia hummed back knowingly.
I waited for a minute, clearing my throat to let Melia know I was alright.
“Okay. Xenia please do not overthink this more than you need to. He simply asked you out on a date–”
“Technically, it’s not a date. A meetup would be–”
“A date. I’m talking now. Don’t rearrange my diction,” she spoke in monotone.
“Fine,” I murmured apologetically.
“As I was saying before, he simply asked you out on a small date. Nothing serious. It’s not like you guys are planning to fuck after a couple cups of frappuccinos m’kay?” Melia assured me gently in a voice she always spoke in when she new I was borderline of having a full-out anxiety attack. She added in quietly, “much to my disappointment.”
I was quiet, smoothing my hand over my pajama bottoms.
Right, don’t overthink it Xenia.
It’s a meaningless morning out with a man you are very attracted to who has the power to make your mind go haywire and your heart beat like a speed bag in use.
But yes, totally meaningless.
For a while I’ve been telling myself not to think about him I much. I knew the more I did, the more my consciousness would enjoy the idea of him wandering around our mind and decide to let him set up shop.
Then there was that thing with attachment and all the experiences in situations concerning my feelings flooded my thoughts.
I slumped my shoulders, Melia’s reassurance trickling out with every exhale.
“Xenia,” Melia called out softly, “don’t think about the past. You know you have to stop doing that.”
I furrowed my brows, a ghost of a smile on my face.
“Mindreader,” I huffed.
“Nope,” Melia chirped, “best friend reader. A Xenia reader if you must label it. A twelve year relationship reader.”
I chuckled softly, tapping my fingers on my lap. “Okay, okay, I get it.” I sighed and looked up at my ceiling. “Thank you, Mel.”
“Anytime Xenia,” Melia replied. “Are you better now? Want me to make a trip over there?”
I checked the time and shook my head even if she couldn’t see me. “No, I’m fine. I’ll just busy myself since I know I won’t be sleeping again.”
“Mhm, okay.” Melia yawned and smacked her lips. “See you later and have the greatest fucking time on your date! Love you!”
“Love you too, bye.” I clicked my phone off and laid it facedown on my nightstand.
After a full minute of staring at my toes as I set on the bed, I breathed in and gathered myself, picking my phone up and walking into the room with the projector, grabbing a sketchbook from the basket near the door. Flipping through it, I found a blank page and picked up a nearly worn down pencil.
Making my way to the middle of the room, I tapped the projector and switched the slides, projecting a galaxy, full of twinkling stars and swirls of stardust.
After an adjustment to the music, I plopped myself onto the couch and placed a pillow in the middle of my crisscross legs, setting my book on top.
When I sketched, it’s mindless. I never thought too hard about it, not even with lingerie sketches. Everything flows freely, until the image that’s illuminated in my mind slowly dissipated.
So I just sat there and drew, small movements only from my hands, the rest of my body still.
It took me almost two hours to finish the drawing, a blank stare on my face the entire time I drew.
I blinked once, focusing my eyes onto the scene I had drawn out.
There on the paper sat two people across from each other at a table, two cups of a steaming liquid in front of each of them. A man and a woman. They were staring out the window that the window they sat by, seeming disconnected from each other but looking at their hands, they intertwined in the middle of the table, seeming as if thy would never let go.
They were faced away from my view but I knew whose faces would’ve been on their if I had switched perspectives.
My lips were set in a tight line and I closed the book, putting it aside with the pencil.
I tossed the pillow in between my legs away, bringing my knees up to my chest and laid my chin on them.
The stars from the projector floated over my skin, spacing me out for the time being. My eyes drifted close for a minute, my breathing slowing.
It had only seemed like I was asleep for a short while before my alarm terrorized my unconscious state.
“Goodness,” I croaked, clearing my throat as I cracked my eyes open.
I stretched, arms up towards the ceilings and legs in front of me, toes wiggling.
“Mm-mm-mm,” I hummed, hearing my bones crack one by one. An obnoxiously loud noise left my mouth right after.
Crawling off of the sofa, I put my book back where it belonged and turned off the projector, leaving the room.
A notification buzzed my phone. I looked down at it in my hand seeing two boxes that showed even though one ring came out. One was a text from Melia and the other was a reminder I had set for myself.
mel: i would rec wearing that blouse you let me buy you last month plus those pants with the fitted bottoms. if you do take pics pls and send them!
She sent another text.
mel: i expect a full report on your date! good luck MUAH
A soft chuckle left my mouth while I read over her texts. I walked into the bathroom and set my phone in the counter, picking up my toothbrush and toothpaste.
A minute into my brushing, my phone rang and I answered it, fully expecting it to be Melia giving advice again.
My heart sunk to my stomach when a familiar–definitely not Melia–voice came through.
"Buongiorno bella,” Emilio greeted in a voice that was partly asleep but focused.
I knew that word, bella. Melia has taken Italian in high school and would repeat it excessively in my face while she was squishing my cheeks together.
I let out a bashful giggle, biting the inside of my lips to stop. Dismissing the second part of his greeting, I spoke back.
“Good morning,” was my response, a muffled one with a mouth full of water and toothpaste. I spat it out. “Sorry, I’m brushing my teeth.”
My hand gripped the sink counter as Emilio gave an understanding hum.
And the hum dug deep into my soul.
I closed my eyes and breathed, clenching my jaw at my thoughts. All those years listening to Melia and her advice was coming back to knock me upside the head.
“We are still good for coffee, yes?” Emilio continued, a hint of nervousness in his tone.
“Yes,” I answered quick.
Geez, don’t sound too desperate.
“I mean, yes,” I repeated coolly.
“I am looking forward to seeing you a amore,” he murmured quietly, almost too quiet as if I wasn’t supposed to catch what he said.
“I will see you later,” he affirmed louder, confirming my assumption.
I had froze, staring in the mirror with my toothbrush still in my mouth.
“Yes, see you later,” I mumbled, “bye.”
"Addio, amore,” he said softly.
Then there was a silence, neither of us hanging up.
I pulled the phone away from my face and pressed the ‘end call’ button.
You’re not infatuated, dang near in love.
How many days have you known him? Maybe a week give or take and you don’t even know him.
My head continued to chastise me while I finished up at the sink, taking off my clothes and stepping into the shower.
After a good thirty minutes, I hopped out and wrapped my towel around my chest, marching in place on the bathroom mat before padding out of the bathroom and back into my room.
Standing in front of my closet, I put my hands on my hips as I searched for an outfit.
The blouse and those pants, Melia’s voice popped into my head.
With a sigh, I grabbed the stupid blouse she was talking about and the pants, laying them out on my bed. Sitting down at my vanity, I pulled open a drawer and pulled out my moisturizer.
The soft soul music bumped through the room, running a vibration over my skin as I applied the moisturizer, followed by lotion on my entire body.
Slipping on my underwear and bra, I grabbed the pants off the bed and put them on, tying the waist decor to the side. Next came the blouse, the sleeve reaching my forearm.
I walked into the full body mirror and posed differently, sucking in my stomach and smoothing my hand over it.
I glanced down at my watch, eyes widening with realization. Hurriedly, I sat down at the and pulled out the small tray of makeup from the side.
As I dug through, I brought out the unusual items including blush and a barely used dark brown lipstick.
On went the mascara, curling and elevating my lashes more than they already were. I applied the lipstick carefully, shaping the natural curve of my lips. With one brush swipe, the blush was added close to the contour of my face just as Melia had taught me over and over again. Not too much of it showed, but brought a bit of color nonetheless.
“Alright.” I looked over myself in the mirror and gave a small smile, before focusing on the tangled mess I called my hair.
I pulled the scrunchie from the bun, itching at my scalp irritably before spraying water into it and massaging it all the way to the root. With the addition of a wide-toothed comb and brush, the frizzy was died down to about a seven. Pulling out two jars of hair lotion and gel, I rubbed in the lotion, combing and brushing again after to make sure the product was
I lightly applied some gel to my hairline, shaping the small baby hairs the grew. Finally, I pulled it up in a ballerina bun, carving out two locks of hair by my ear to swirl.
Another glance at my watch and I packed up the items, pushing them back to the corner of the vanity. I got up from my chair and walked into my closet, facing the other side where my shoes were lined up. Randomly picking a set of brown boots, I slipped them on and grabbed my purse from my nightstand, rummaging through a couple of times to make sure I had everything before I left.
The cafe Emilio instructed me to meet him at was about ten minutes down the street I lived on. It was small, but upcoming, more and more customers piling in everyday.
I parked my car in an open spot out front, unable to stop checking my refection on my phone screen.
I nudged my glasses as I squinted through the window that faced the street.
Sitting at the table right in front of the window, Emilio sat hunched over, his eyes darting everywhere as a scowl etched his lips. Gracing his body was a gray button-up dress shirt with matching slacks and black dress shoes. A medium-sized golden chain dangled from his neck.
I want that, all that, my thoughts hollered nastily.
Taking a deep breath, I marched around my car and onto the sidewalk.
Immediately, Emilio’s eyes found me and the features on his face softened immensely. He stood up from his chair and hurried to the door where I was about to pull, pushing it out slowly for me to enter through.
"Grazie,” I uttered with a bitten-back smile.
His cologne drifted into my nose and my eyes nearly rolled to the back of my head with its captivation.
“You’re very welcome...amore,” he drawled.
Again...deep in my soul.
I passed by him and sat at the table where he was before, setting my purse on my lap. Almost as soon as I did, I realized how much my hands were shaking and how tense my body was.
The early morning sun was coming through the window and the minimal makeup I was wearing felt like it was melting off.
Bet you look like a complete mess right now.
“Are you okay?” Emilio leaned over the table with a concerned face.
“Yes.” I scooted my chair away from the window. The screech made me cringe as I kept moving until I was at a ninety degree angle with Emilio. “There.” I hesitantly gave a thumbs up.
“We will move,” he sounded determined, searching around the cafe for any other open tables.
I reached out my hands slightly, shaking them. “Oh, I’m fine! Really–”
“There.” Emilio zeroed in on a empty booth in the very back of the cafe. He faced me again and held his hand out for me to take as he stood.
Incredulously, I took his hand, rough callouses dragging against my palm, which I would expect because of his work.
My face warmed tremendously as I was led through the cafe and to the seating in the back.
Emilio gestured for me to enter first, his hand slipping from mine when I tried to sit, scooting into the middle of the rounded booth. He followed, sitting at a respectable distance that of course still had my nerves making me antsy.
“You look very beautiful,” Emilio beamed, his big build partly over the table as he peered at me. “How was your morning?”
I touched my glasses, naturally adjusting them before I spoke. “Not so good. Still waking up in the middle of the night, so it cuts my regular sleep-time in half plus working all those hours at work and getting the show ready all the way across the country–which might I add is very hard when we still need to get things done over here–”
The moment I was out of breath, I stopped my rant that most likely wouldn’t have stopped for a while.
“I did not mean to go on like that,” I added lowly while looking away.
Goodness, five minutes in and everything you listed that could go wrong is happening. Way to go.
I peered at Emilio and found him leaning in, eyes completely immersed into what I was saying. He nodded, blinking then moving back a bit.
“I don’t mind,” was his response. “You’ve kept this in long time, yes?”
I hesitated, “...yes.”
Emilio gave an encouraging gesture, his interest peaking. “I will listen then.”
Was I dreaming? Had to be. Maybe I was imagining myself in that one drama I watched. Or maybe that movie Melia and I watched last Saturday.
Should I have pretended I couldn’t hear him so he would say my name again, geez.
But a small, “hm?“, left my lips and brought me back into the conversation fully.
“What about you,” I suggested comfortably with a timid grazing of his fingers that were next to mine. “How has your morning been so far?”
Emilio furrowed his brows and backed from my touch a bit. He looked caught off guard, not expecting a question aimed towards him.
“Ah...just getting things done at work. We are starting project overseas,” he replied.
I raised my brows. “That sounds exciting. What is it for?”
“Company expansion.” He paused, then glanced at the ordering counter. “Would you like a drink?”
“Sure!” We moved the same way out the booth, his hand trapping mine accidentally.
“Oh, sorry,” we said in unison, eyes lowering before meeting each other’s.
I gently removed mine first, picking up my purse as I went along. I stood first, smoothing my blouse, then my pants. I turned around and met Emilio’s chest, leaning back suddenly unbalanced.
I didn’t get a chance to realize I was falling, Emilio’s arm swiftly circling around my waist and clutching my hip roughly. He pulled me into him so my legs would straddle one of his thighs, my chest pressing against his.
“You are...super close,” I pointed out breathily. I brought my gaze elsewhere until his arm retracted.
“I will not touch you again,” he proposed apologetically, as we began walking to the line.
“No it’s fine!” Is it? “It just caught me off guard is all.”
Emilio relaxed, his dimples protruding while he smiled at me.
A sudden group of teenagers busted in, laughing and pushing each other playfully, unaware of their public setting.
Gently, Emilio placed his palm in the middle of my back, ushering me forward so their antics wouldn’t come closer.
"Stupido bambini,” he sneered coldly under his breath, staying behind as the line moved as a human barricade.
“Don’t like children?” I joked lightly, not meeting his gaze.
“They are not particular favorite,” he grumbled cutely.
“I see.” I paused, taking a step forward. “Do you have any siblings?”
“No,” he replied distantly.
I faced him. “How are your parents?”
“Wouldn’t know. I have not seen them in while.” Emilio’s smile was gone, an empty look replacing the small twinkle in his eyes.
“I’m sorry.” I bumped his arm awkwardly in attempt to comfort him. Not wanting to probe any further, I directed my attention to the menu above us, reading over the drinks to get familiar with what I would prefer.
“No need to be,” he answered under his breath.
When we arrived at the ordering counter, Emilio stepped forward and looked at me expecting an order.
“Um, the hot ginger and lemon tea with soy milk and vanilla,” I listed, fidgeting by his side. “Medium.”
“And one black coffee,” Emilio finished, pulling a credit card out from a thick wallet, exterior design intricate with no label on it. He was handed a device to leave on the table.
We moved aside and sat back down, noticeably closer than before.
Questioning each other, Emilio found out what college and high school I went to, my hometown, middle name, and my parents’ names.
There was little to none information given back to me, Emilio either given short answers or redirecting a question.
Our drinks arrived just as the device turned from white to blue. The waitress set the drinks down and grinned politely before leaving.
I stared at Emilio’s plain coffee, unknowing of my distasteful face he seemed to take notice of as soon as it appeared.
“Don’t like coffee?” he gave a sly smile as he took a sip, keeping eye contact with me when he did.
My finger circled the lid of my tea. I took it off, grabbing a stirring straw from the middle of the table. “Not at all. Tea is more my thing.”
“Mm.” He abruptly stopped drinking. “I will look for tea shop next time.
Next time. Ugh, please.
Next time? Okay, he wants to do this again, no biggie.
Wait wait! Take a breath before you pass out.
“Uh, I know one,” my voice was small, “but it’s like this quick service...” My eyes flitted around the cafe, meeting steely gray orbs that were already staring back. “It’s like this quick service type...I’m sorry but do you know who that is?” I put my hand up to block the woman I was pointing at.
Almost on cue, she stood up from her seat and strutted over, eyes glowering at me, then Emilio who had returned back to a tense demeanor.
So that was a yes on the question.
Curiously, I studied her body and how she carried herself, shrinking into my seat.
“So this is why you haven’t been answering my texts?” The woman jutted her chin towards me, her voice sharp and heavily accented like Emilio’s. “At least do better than me.”
“Mona,” Emilio snarled through gritted teeth. ”Se non te ne vai, mi prenderó cura di te.”
Mona narrowed her eyes and scoffed. “You left some things at my apartment from last week–”
“Mona,” Emilio repeated in a tone that even brought goosebumps to my skin. ”Lasci.”
With one final look at me and a small smirk she spun off, marching out the door with her slim shapely figure.
I let out a shuddery breath. An evident distinction of a pre-cry sigh.
My face warmed, embarrassment rushing through my veins.
Goodness, I’ll never live this down. It happened in public at that?
Welcome to the family impending memory.
I wasn’t minding the eyes that were watching but I knew some were tuning in.
A panic set in as soon as I thought of that and I started moving to slide out of the booth.
Emilio called out softly, “Xenia...”
“Excuse me, I have to visit the restroom for just a sec.” I muttered incoherently, flinching away from his attempt to reach out to me.
Turning into the hall near the booths, I hurried into a single restroom and locked the door behind me turning the lights off completely. My back was against the cool wood door, nails aching as they tried to dig into the hard surface.
Imagine how many people were agreeing with her. At least do better than me. How much more truthful could a stranger have been?
I bit the inside of my lips, clenching my fists. My head throbbed immensely, making a hoarse groan of pain leave my mouth.
The two light knocks on the door startled me, making me open my eyes to the darkness, my arm raising to turn on the lights.
“Xenia,” Emilio spoke, unsure of what to say. “I apologize. Mi dispiace tanto.”
I slowly unlocked the door and pulled it open, keeping my eye contact on anything else but him.
“I think I’m going to leave.” I sidestepped past Emilio to return back to the table to grab my purse.
Even more of a disappointment to find it wasn’t here when I went back, a frustrated sigh emitted.
I looked back down the hall where Emilio followed, seeing him hold out my purse to me, his face as apologetic as could be.
“You didn’t finish your sentence,” he mentioned lightheartedly. “Earlier about the tea shop? Quick service and...” he trailed off.
I shook my head, taking my purse back from him. The blouse was already making me feel like I couldn’t breathe at the moment and then I felt like the pants were showing more than they should.
I was right, this was a horrible idea. And I had the audacity to expect something different.
“I don’t think...we don’t need to do this again,” I forced out, reaching bro my bag to grab my wallet and pull out a ten-dollar bill to pay for my drink. “Uh...keep the change and I’ll see you back at the shop I guess.”
Emilio didn’t spare a glance at the money, his gaze searching my eyes knowingly.
"Ci rivedremo,” he retorted in a reassuring tone.
“Okay, bye.” I spun around and hurried out as quick as I could, unlocking my car and climbing in. Casting my glasses aside, I pinched the space between my eyes, muttering to myself incoherently in French.
After a full five minutes of self-pity, I put my glasses back on and put my key in the ignition, turning into the street and speeding off.