Trouble walked in wearing high heels and attitude.
Shoulder-length brown hair framed her smooth, high cheek bones. Stopping well shy of the register, she scanned the tables as if looking for someone to buy her a drink. When her eyes caught mine, they lingered a second too long. A half-smile creased her lips, disappearing so quickly I was unsure I saw it at all. Strolling casually to the periodicals rack, she picked up a Vogue and began browsing.
I sipped my coffee and tried refocusing on the Journal article in front of me, but there’d been something unsettling in her glance. Was I supposed to respond? Offer to wait in line so she wouldn’t have to? If this were a bar, with its clear, unspoken rules, the choice would be easy. I was unaware of such protocols at Starbucks however, especially ones located inside a bookstore on a rainy, September afternoon. I folded the paper and laid it down. Her dark walnut-brown eyes stayed glued to whatever page she’d turned to, her long lashes barely blinking. She wore a white silk blouse and dark-blue, knee-length skirt which showcased her slim figure and shapely legs.
Without warning, she looked up and our eyes met once more. Flashing another quick, half smile, she replaced the magazine in its rack and strode past me, the scent of Chanel mingling with the soothing aromas of cappuccinos and lattes. I watched, transfixed, as she entered the bookstore, ambling down the nutrition aisle, fingers lightly caressing the shelves.
Suddenly disinterested in the slowdown in international gold production or the market turmoil due to the aftermath of a nationwide shut down, I followed her. There was something familiar in her smile, but what? Michelle had never smiled at me like that. Nor Helen. Nor any of the half-dozen others since the divorce. I racked my brain, trying to place her. College? No, I was still too married and too naïve. My internship at Smith-Wesley Securities? That would have made sense, but by then I was too devastated by the divorce to even consider finding someone new.
She crossed into the “Relationship” section, where self-help titles like, “What to Look for in a Woman’s Eyes,” “How to Interpret Her Body Language,” and “How to Get Laid Every Night of the Week, and Twice on Sundays,” were prominently displayed. These were all written by self-anointed experts, of course, who never had any of these problems. They’re about as useful as a Stephen Hawking physics book. They make perfect sense, but the minute you try to practice their techniques, you trip over your own ineptitude and fall, face first, into a black hole, never to be heard from again.
Lost in thought, I nearly tripped over a stroller with a sleeping infant as it intersected my path, appearing from the aisle between “Cooking” and “Early Childhood Development.” I apologized, but only got a scowl from the young mother as she picked up her crying baby. Pivoting to see where my mysterious lady disappeared to, I found her standing several steps away, facing me with arms crossed and a broad smile on her face. She obviously witnessed my close encounter with infanticide, and I couldn’t help but smile as well. Holding my hands out to the side, I shrugged to acknowledge my embarrassment and closed the distance between us.
“Hi, Steven. Long time, no see.”