Present Day, Fall 2019
Eight months after their breakup, Luna runs into Cooper at the supermarket.
He looks good, his beard thickened out but well-manicured, framing his beautiful face masterfully – not that she would admit it out loud. His hair was short, buzzcut short. She hadn’t seen it that short, not since first year college.
“You look good…” he starts
Luna flashes an awkward smile, “So do you”
He reaches to open the fridge door to get the milk. Luna’s nostrils flare at the scent of his all-too-familiar cologne. Petrichor… refreshing smell of the earth after the rain… or so the tagline says. But Cooper did always smell like fresh summer rain.
“I kinda have to tell you something…” he tenses up but keeps her gaze as he reaches for the milk carton.
Luna’s eyebrows drew together, eyes widened.
“Okay but you have to promise me that you won’t wig out”
The corners of her mouth quirked up, “Cooper Thindrel are you trying to insinuate that I tend to overreact?”
“I am saying that with this particular person… it may spark a particular reaction…”
She was intrigued now, her forehead creased as she lightly tapped her index finger on her bottom lip. Then she had an a-ha moment.
“Hannah from Marketing?”
“How could you possibly have known?” he asks genuinely surprised.
“She can be the only ‘particular person’….” Luna gloats, “What did she finally shoot her shot and ask you out?”
He rubs at the back of his neck, “Well...”
“Wow, she did…” Luna tries to hide her disappointment, “And let me guess, you said yes?”
She shrugs her shoulders, “I can’t blame the girl. You are a catch!”
Cooper smiles, before his eyes turned serious again “We went out a couple of times… and we actually connected.”
“So, you’re in a relationship now?”
“Lu, we’re… we’re engaged”
His words settled in the air for a beat, met with deafening silence. But no amount of silence could mask the myriad of expressions her face contoured processing the news.
The color drained from her face, as sadness clouded her features.
She utters, “Wow…”
“I know, it’s sudden… and I know… gosh Lu…”
“No…” she clears her throat, “…it’s good. She’s Hannah from Marketing. Everyone in the state of Massachusetts knows this girl has always fawned over you.”
He gave a half-smile. He knew Luna was joking, but he also knew her well enough to see the underlying bitterness and resentment.
She breaks the lengthy pause, “So will it be one of those year long engagements… or trip down to Vegas?”
“Hannah’s not really the Vegas kind of girl… she wants all the bells and whistles… you know get married at The Cathedral of the Holy Cross; coordinated bridesmaids and groomsmen outfits; rehearsal dinners… the whole deal”
Luna smiles again, “So Catholicism wins over Buddha in the end huh?”
Cooper lets out one of his trademark hearty laughs, that’s usually followed by an infectious giggle.
“If what you’re asking is if I still workout to Eckhart Tolle’s audio books… the answer is yes, this week I changed it up to Siddhartha though… give Hermann Hesse some time at the front of the line”
Luna rolls her eyes, with a grin on her face “When you lose touch with your inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world… that’s how it goes right”
He nods in agreement, awe transforming his face – at the fact that Luna could still quote one of his favorite Eckhart passages.
“Speaking of stillness and staying in touch with yourself…”
“Oh Coop, please let’s not turn this into the psychoanalysis of Luna Jiménez” she retorts
“Just a friend asking how you’ve been on a deeper level Lu… no analysis… and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“Right, coz a no-answer is not an answer in and of itself”
He tosses his head back laughing, “I’ve missed you”
She brightened, “I’ve missed you too”
“Maybe next time not have it be eight months since we see each other again.”
“I don’t know how kindly Hannah from Marketing would take to us hanging out Coop…”
“Can she be just Hannah…”
This time Luna responds with laughter, “Okay then, just Hannah”
“… besides you and I go way back; she knows and gets that. Ma and Pop ask about you a lot; and obviously you know Jase is obsessed with you”
“Yeah, I keep in touch with Jason… I see your mom around town sometimes… never sure if I should say Hi”
His eyebrows drew together, “Why not? Ma always loved you. I mean, you and I not being a couple anymore won’t ever change that”
“I’m not gonna be that girl Cooper… the one who lingers too long, still hangs out with the in-laws coz she’s literally got no family of her own. We broke up, they’re your family… not mine.”
He shakes his head, lips pursed and clearly frustrated showing by the forced, exhaled breath.
“Why do you always do that?”
He inhales another exaggerated breath, closes his eyes. His dark, long lashes dramatically lower onto his flushed cheeks. Equally as slowly, he lifts his gaze to meet hers again.
Luna’s breathe hitched in her chest, at the sight of his fluttering eyelashes.
“Lu… my family is your family… I’m your family… will always be, no matter what the exterior of us is. That won’t change even when I marry Hannah from Marketing”
“I thought we weren’t calling her that anymore…”
Cooper grins, “Don’t be a wise ass”
Luna focuses her attention on the fridge door, tracing the length of the handle with her fingers. Cooper could look at her for hours on end, but he knew therein lied the trap. Luna captivated him from the minute he laid eyes on her…
Luna had been transferred to a new school.
She strolled into English Literature class, straight up to Mr. Rubenstein, quietly handing him a sheet of paper. Cooper had yet to look up from his prohibited mobile phone screen.
Mr. Rubenstein waves a hand in the direction of the class seated, gesturing Luna to take a seat.
She lowers herself into the chair of the desk directly in front of Cooper.
Mr. Rubenstein had continued with his lecture, when Cooper mutters under his breath “Iceland is the only country in the world without any mosquitos, snakes and other reptiles… holy shit”
Luna turns to face Cooper, “It was the last place on earth to be settled by humans”
He looks up to match the interjecting voice to a face, his eyes lit up at the sight of her chartreuse green eyes.
His perfect smile was framed by deep, piercing cheek dimples. He had a beauty mark on either side of his cheek; like someone dotting the I’s on a document. His dark eyelashes accented the bright blue of eyes perfectly, his light brown hair wayward – not curly or straight, a tussled mess in-between.
Luna stared at his rosy lips as he asks, “Did you get that from WTF Fun Fact?”
She frowns, then continues “… and beer was banned from 1915 until 1989. Now every March 1st they celebrate Beer Day to commemorate the end of a 74-year beer ban”
“How do you just know that?”
She shrugs before whipping around to face front again, leaving him dumbfounded and intrigued.
Cooper catches up to Luna after class.
“Hey, rando fact girl…”
She turns on her heels, a dark curly mass of hair bouncing on her shoulders.
“It’s Luna Jiménez”
“I know… I like my name for you better”
“Oh, I get it now, you’re the guy that flashes those pretty blue eyes and bats those long lashes… to get away with being obnoxious”
He nods, leaning against the locker adjacent to Luna’s now-open locker.
“And let me guess… you’re the arcane new girl who dazzles everyone with her wit and smarts… but doesn’t allow people to know the real her”
Her eyes inadvertently glint at his observation. She couldn’t disagree but was not about to let him know that.
“I’m surprised you know what the meaning of the word arcane is”
He laughs, this is the first time she hears his warm and room-filling laugh. A laugh that makes you smile at the audacious volume, hanging off his lips in the most endearing manner and fatefully crinkles the corners of his beautiful bright eyes.
“So, I’m both obnoxious and stupid… fair enough”
She nibbled on her bottom lip. Cooper couldn’t help but stare at her full, pouting mouth every time she spoke. It nearly wrecked him to see her bite down on that bottom lip now.
“I’m sorry…” she starts, “I should probably not be rude to the first person who’s come up to talk to me… it being my first day and all”
He shrugs, “No worries… I’m not that precious. I have three siblings… and we’re in Massachusetts… where expletives are part of the day to day vernacular and insults are a term of endearment, you have to have thick skin here. They don’t call us Mass-holes for nothing.”
“Where’re you from?”
“I did a few stints in Braintree, Dorchester, South Boston…”
She clocks his reaction to her list of not-so-desirable neighborhoods. She presses on, “I grew up in foster care…”
Luna had no idea as to why she was oversharing with Cooper, but he had a way about him that made her feel comfortable, safe even.
“So, I was on the mark when I said you’re arcane and have walls”
She rolls her eyes, “And here I was thinking, maybe this guy isn’t an absolute douche”
He gave a half-smile, his eyes still widened with curiosity.
“You still live with foster parents?”
She nods, “Got two more years… hoping these Sudbury ones will stick. They seem nice enough. I know a biracial kid can be a lot to deal with. We’ve got our own set of difficulties”
His facial expression softens, “Do you know your biological parents?”
“I don’t … but apparently my mom was Cuban; and the dude that knocked her up some European jetting through Boston… Polish or something”
“You think you’d ever look them up?”
“What for? Won’t change anything in my past or future. And I’m pretty sure they’re not too bothered”
“Do you know any Polish factoids?”
She laughs, “Don’t be an asshole”
“What?” his eyes glint, a smile tugging at his lips “I was being serious”
“No, Thindrel… I don’t know any Polish factoids”
“I like that” he rests his head against the open locker door, fixating on Luna.
“What?” she tries to hide the fact that this boy had her completely enamored.
“That you call me Thindrel…” he presses his lips together in an almost-pout “… I hope you keep doing it”
“Are you going to be trouble?”
He smiles, slowly lowering those lashes to have on full display again. Luna could feel her heartrate increase.
“I’m harmless…” he near-whispers, as he looks up at her. He straightens up and stands in front of her now. She closes the locker door.
“So, have I officially passed the test? Can we eat lunch together now?”
As she giggles, a stray curl falls across her face. He reaches out and tucks the stray hair behind her ear.
Cooper took a beat and studied her face. The beautiful caramel shade of her skin, those big green eyes, her dimpled smile and of course those lips. Lips he couldn’t help but fixate on. Lips he could spend countless hours kissing.
Present Day, Fall 2019
“I should go…” he finally says
He reaches out and gently grips her shoulder. He could feel her trembling under his touch; and pulled her in for an embrace.
She turned her face toward his, her head on his shoulder. She breathes in his invigorating scent. Luna closes her eyes and remembers them younger, more in love and happier.
She feels the bristles of his beard prickle her forehead as he presses a kiss.
“I gotta go Lu…”
Her heart breaks at the loss of contact. As she felt tears threatening, she inhaled and glanced up to the ceiling.
Luna steps back, reluctant to look up at Cooper. If she had, she’d see that he was fighting back tears as well.
“Bye Lu…” he whispers, as he leaves.