A broken alarm.
That’s all it took to turn my day into a craptastic mess, and now I was running around like a headless chicken.
Why couldn’t I just set multiple alarms on my phone like normal people?
I’m a fucking moth, that’s why!
Now I’d have to jostle my way through the crowded streets, stand in the long queue, and stew in the suffocating anxiety I got around people. I hated it.
And looked like fate wasn’t on my side today either, given that’s exactly how I found myself; stuck in a long queue of fellow caffeine addicts except for my favorite barista, Arabella wasn’t at the end of it. Instead, I had to face that jerk who occasionally worked here, too.
Pretty sure he wouldn’t bother reserving my corner booth as she did.
Well, that gave rise to a fresh wave of anxiety.
If only Muddy Addiction didn’t serve the best Lattes...
The only thing that brought me some peace now was my still miraculously unoccupied corner booth, ready to be a part of my endeavor to weave new tales as I sipped on the liquid elixir that soothed my soul.
Two more customers. Anytime now!
Okay, Hazelnut Latte with a dollop of whipped cream, with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled on top.
I practiced my order, repeating the words in my mind when a deep, mellifluous voice reached my ears, ordering a coffee of a horrendous combination that I never thought I’ll ever hear again.
“Hello, I’d like a long black, iced, with two pumps of cinnamon syrup, please.”
My heart thumped wilder, that exact order reminding me of someone and unearthing a flood of memories and emotions that I’d suppressed for so long. My fingers involuntarily moved to fiddle with my pendant, closing my eyes as a mental flash made its way in my head.
“... a token of my promise. A promise that I’ll be back for you. When we meet again, and I’ll make sure we do, I promise to wait for you, Amayra. Always...”
“Did you fall asleep or something?” an irritated voice jolted me out of my thoughts and I realized I had already made the front of the line, with that man long gone.
“Look, I got a long line of customers waiting. Your order, please?”
Fuck you, jerk!
Unwilling to create a scene, I got my coffee and strolled towards my usual booth without another word, still dazed from the onslaught of emotions that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I shook my head, trying to get rid of it. It was an unwelcome feeling. Fifteen years was a long time.
My mind knew it, my heart though was a different story.
And just when I thought this morning couldn’t get any worse, I now found my booth occupied by that guy with the weird order.
That morning was just peachy.
Should I request him to exchange tables with me?
I felt so conflicted. Part of me wanted to battle for my booth, which wasn’t merely a preference but a necessity. The other part was so nervous about confronting him, seeing his face and being disappointed to see some stranger staring right back at me because damn, I wanted it to be him.
The boy who stole my heart on that blissful summer trip of three weeks fifteen years ago, and I so willingly let him; my first kiss, my first love, and probably my last, too.
The boy who had promised me “a forever”, sealing it with a kiss and a token that still rested against my chest in the form of a beautiful half-moon pendant.
“... Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I know you’ll look at this pendant and think of me, and I’ll look at my half and think of you and while I know we’re so young, I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are supposed to be together, forever...”
Except, he never came back and all it left me were empty promises made by a seventeen-year-old who probably thought with his dick more than anything and a damn pendant reminding me of exactly that.
Yet, I still couldn’t part myself from it. Because deep down, I was still that naïve fifteen-year-old, desperately holding on to a fragile thread of hope that there was some explanation.
It had been so long, even his face was a distant memory now. Except for his eyes, which held such a unique shade of green. That seething, fervent green that an ocean turns during a storm and I loved it. Not that it mattered anymore.
Sighing, I threw a longing glance at my booth before opting for a different one. I took my notebook out and worked on my next piece, but my scattered thoughts only resulted in crumpled paper balls. I could feel my anger simmering again, embarrassed at how after all these years he still had that hold on me.
I tried to move on, dammit! I never blamed him for distance and time winning over any chance we ever had. It was the lack of closure that still pricked my heart.
And, wrapped in that anger, I flung one of the many paper balls on my table when a cry dragged me back to reality.
“What the fuck!”
My head snapped at the source of that voice. Eyes widened, my hands flew to my mouth when I realized that the paper ball I threw landed square on top of someone’s head.
Shit! Not him!
Quickly averting my gaze, I pretended to work but guess it was too late because the next thing I knew he was walking towards me and I prayed for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.
“Excuse me? Was that you?”
Red from embarrassment and guilt, I tentatively tilted my head up and when my brown orbs locked with his stormy green ones, my mouth ran dry.
The sandy blonde hair, trim build, and a devastatingly handsome face; the sense of familiarity astounded me.
Or maybe I’ve finally lost my goddamn mind.
“Hello?” he waved his hand in front of my face, pulling me out of my trance.
“I... I... am sorry. I didn’t... not intentionally... I was writing... thinking... you were in my booth... ”
“Your booth? So I got hit in the head because I sat at that booth?”
Briskly shaking my head, I muttered “No! It was an honest mistake and...”
“Was it, now?” a mischievous smirk graced his face and my breath hitched as I was hit with another wave of familiarity.
“Would you like to join me at your booth, then?” he teased me with a crooked smile, and my cheeks tinted rouge but then his words sunk in, and my brows furrowed.
I just hit the guy with a paper ball and he wanted my ass to join him for coffee?
But what confused me more was my willingness to accept that offer. Oddly, I felt drawn to him, something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Umm.. Are you sure? I mean, I don’t want to impose.”
Could I be any more awkward?
“Please, I insist. Besides, you look like a better conversationalist than I am-and believe me, I know what I’m talking about. And you’re not imposing, I wouldn’t have asked you if it were the case. "He reassured me with a smile, ” and I can see how well you’re coping without your booth so might as well join me, hey?” he chuckled, pointed at the paper balls littered on my table, setting my cheeks aflame.
Walking over, I slid into the booth and slammed my ass on the seat, “Fine, but then I’m buying your next cup of that obnoxious coffee you like since you’re being so awfully kind.”
A small frown settled on his face, the corners of his mouth drooping slightly, and I mentally smacked myself, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. It was a poor joke...”
“No, it’s not that. You just... reminded me of someone.”
“Oh? Of whom?”
“Someone dear to me.”
He smiled softly as he slid into the booth, sitting across me but had a hint of sadness in it that tugged at my heart.
“Anyway, so, what’s so special about this booth that almost earned me a concussion?” he grinned, dissipating the mild tension.
I shrugged nonchalantly, taking a sip of my lukewarm coffee, “well, this is the only place that allows me to discreetly observe my victims and plan their deaths in peace.”
The mischievous look from earlier morphed into a shocked one, making me snort, “Relax, I’m a crime writer.”
“Oh! Geez, you scared me there for a second.” He shook his head laughing, "So, you like to watch people?”
“Um-hmm. I observe people, their behavior, their quirks. I mean I don’t necessarily do it for the sake of writing but even a fleeting moment could be the inspiration of an entire plot, you know?”
“So, do you come here often?” I enquired, not having seen him here before.
“For a writer, your pickup lines are definitely worthy of improvement,” he winked and I rolled my eyes.
“Well, I’m not surprised that someone looking like you thinks I’m hitting on him when I’m asking a simple question.”
He broke into a laugh that almost echoed around the shop, and I realized I quite liked it. Conversation came easy with him and for the first time, interaction with a man was not restricted by a preconceived image of Austin in the back of my mind, and this wasn’t even a date. But if given a chance, would I consider it?
And the next moment when our fingers accidentally brushed, a tingle spread throughout and both of us drew our hands back rather hastily, guilt etched on his face.
What was that about?
A quick look at his finger suggested that he wasn’t taken, and I rebuked myself for even going there.
“So, do you? I don’t think I have seen you here before.”
His lips turned into a slight frown before he smiled again, “No, I don’t live here, not anymore. In fact, I was leaving today but a roadblock delayed my bus for another three hours.”
“Oh.” I nodded, slightly disappointed, realizing that this was probably the last time I’d ever see him.
“This shop was close to the stop, made sense to wait here instead of going back to my asshole cousin, Joe’s place.”
“So, you’re visiting your family?”
He swallowed before replying, “You could say that.”
Flecks of sorrow swirled around the edges of his stormy green orbs, holding a distant faraway look. An unsettling silence fell between us, the comfort from earlier, gone. Feeling anxious, I pulled at the chain of my pendant, fiddling with the locket again when I noticed his eyes narrowing at it.
“If you don’t mind me asking, that pendant, where did you get it?” he asked, eyeing it curiously.
“This?” I smiled bitterly to myself, “this is just a reminder that even the moon disappears sooner or later.”
“What do you mean?”
I sighed, “my naivete and empty promises... that’s all.”
He stirred in his seat, discomfort apparent in his features when his eyes hesitantly met mine and he looked so damn guilty and desolate right then.
“Are you okay?”
“Lake Granby, fifteen years ago. Does it mean anything to you?”
My heart wanted to smash right out of my ribcage at his implication. Was he saying what I thought he was saying?
I always wondered what it would be like to see him after all these years. Would I be happy? Sad? Angry? I knew it’d be intense, but what I felt right now couldn’t compare to the years of pent-up feelings consolidated. I couldn’t fucking breathe.
“What are you saying?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he reached into his jacket and took out his phone, doing something on it before passing it to me. I picked it up glancing at his pitying eyes in bewilderment before looking at the picture of a couple celebrating their engagement that came into view. It took me a minute to register who they were until I noticed those green eyes and I felt something crack inside.
But then I noted the subtle differences between the man in the picture and the man who sat across me and I realized who he was...
It slipped my mind that Austin had an older brother, Derrick. We had never met before, but Austin mentioned him a few times.
“I know, I’m sorry.” He came over and tugged me closer, his warmth soothing my broken heart.
“But, he promised. He said he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt...’”
" that we are supposed to be together, forever. When we meet again, and I’ll make sure we do, I promise to wait for you, Amayra. Always.”
Pulling back, I looked into his eyes in shock, as he recited a part of that promise, word to word, “How do you...”
“I’m so sorry, Amayra. Believe me, I had no idea he was going to break your heart. I truly thought he was in love otherwise I’d never have bought that pendant or written those promises. If I knew he would just brush you off as a summer fling...”
“He did what?” I shot off my seat, rage engulfing my rationality.
" I need to go.”
“Amayra, please. Let me explain...”
But I stormed out of the place, destination unknown. Feeling so overwhelmed with everything, I had to leave. It didn’t hurt me much that he had moved on, in fact, I had expected it. But knowing the lone memory I held onto was never real, to begin with, and to be brushed off like a damn fling? That broke me.
And how ironic, the only man who managed to make me feel something after all these years, turned out to be his older brother. How fucked up is that? I needed time to process.
And, after an hour of wandering, thinking things through, I somehow found myself at the bus stop and there he stood across the road looking distraught, holding that faraway look, and I felt that same tug in my heart again.
But when his eyes landed on me, a glimmer of hope shone through. There was an unexplained longing in his eyes. Did he feel something too? I wanted to walk to him but my feet wouldn’t let me and he looked the same.
Just then the bus pulled up, standing like an opaque wall between us, and I reckoned if it was fate testing us again. It played such a big role today. Come to think of it, it only seemed fitting to let it make the call. So I stood still, waiting with bated breath for that wall to move.
And the wheels turned...