He brought her variety store carnations and a look of wonder when they met. Texting had been so effortless and near-constant for the past two weeks. He looked just like his profile pictures only better- kinder and more human. His eyes bore into her, wearing an intensity that made her look away for a second until he reached for her hand.
“I’m so relieved you’re real,” he said whilst allowing his eyes free reign to take in her entire body. He did this while, inexplicably, maintaining eye contact.
She tried not to coo as he ran his thumb over her knuckles and stepped closer, pressing the flowers to her chest. He looked like he wanted to kiss her already and she knew she would let him. “Happy not to disappoint,” she uttered unsteadily.
A man coughed a few feet away, jarring them both back to reality. They were in public. At a quiet cafe. Mid-afternoon. On a Tuesday.
Just do afternoon coffee, her friend had advised. It’s easier to bolt if he’s creepy. But he wasn’t creepy. He was everything she’d pictured. And yes, he was real.
He motioned for her to sit at the table he’d gotten before she arrived. Pulling her chair out for her, he said: “You being you could never disappoint, but I have been catfished before.”
She giggled. The way he said it made her feel safe to giggle. “Really?”
“Oh yeah. Three times.” He shrugged, “But I persisted.” His eyes were watching her, always watching, but his manner was light and easy. He put her at ease. “I ordered you a chai tea,” he said. “I recall you saying it was your favourite.”
And his favourite was Earl Grey. Favourite Album, Beggars Banquet. Favourite Movie, Scarface. He valued honesty. He was good with words- charming and intelligent. He made her feel safe. Two weeks though…
And their first phone call had been so confusing. It made her feel like a complete snob. He called her midday, after a long night shift. His voice was so deep, his accent “wrong side of the tracks”. She had been sitting on her bed working, editing a manuscript. When she had asked what he was doing he replied, “Sitting in the sun with a coffee and a smoke, talkin’ to my girl. What about you, doll?” The simple peace of his statement made her smile and wince at the same time. He was happy in that moment, but her mind raced: here I am editing a book that will be published by Random House and he’s all coffee and cigarettes.
Jesus Christ, I’m a douchebag.
Because he kept winning her over. Again and again. His concern was genuine. And while many men tended to be strange about her being a published author- turning immediately to boasting about their own accomplishments- he was impressed and wanted to know more, to know everything. He was fascinated.
The inflection of wonder in his voice that day matched the look he still wore now as he reached for her hand. He was so much more handsome in person. His words had always carried so much heart and soul, a depth that she had been longing for, and she was relieved to witness he carried it still. It was him. He was depth, intensity, humour and genuineness. And he was magnetized. If there hadn’t been a table between them, she’d be smack up against him. Neither of them would have been able to help it.
As it was, they’d been sitting in silence for three minutes straight. They were nervous, but not. They were shy, but enthralled. Meeting was an instant intimacy and it felt as though the people around them were intruders in a private world.
“If I invited you back to my place, would you understand why?” he asked, his voice heavy with meaning.
He flashed a smile of relief and leaving a ten dollar bill on the table, he stood and grabbed the flowers. As she rose to meet him, his hand went to the small of her back guiding her back out into the September sun. She was blushing for sure. The heat rising in her cheeks gave her away. The stolen breath, the quickened pulse- these she could hide, but when her cheeks matched her hair colour she was done for.
“You’re cute,” he said as if reading her mind just then. “I know you know I’m harmless.”
“I know,” she replied softly. And walking toward her car, a realization- intangible, yet dense- hit her, stopping her in her tracks.
“What is it?” he asked. “You OK?”
She hesitated, not quite having the words and wishing she could text it to him. Writing was always easier. But he stood next to her. He was next to her! She’d have to try her best. “I just- I had an intuitive hit.”
She turned and met his gaze. “If I let you in, you’ll never want to leave.”
He looked away for a second and smiled. He looked like a boy when he smiled, joy and youth colliding. It made her heart ache. She wanted him to smile again and again and again…
Sliding his hand down to her hip, he pulled her closer. “Is that it? Shit, doll, I already knew that.”