Here is one of the five finalists for the Write It Your Way August competition. Read it now (and the other finalists) and vote by October 1 to help us pick a winner. The theme for this Write It Your Way competition was “New Beginnings” and entrants were allowed to take that theme in any direction they liked. Click here for a list of upcoming Writer’s Digest writing competitions.
Sometimes the world decides to spin faster than you expect; and you find yourself tipping your coffee onto the guy walking in the front door of the café.
“Oh, crap. I’m so sorry,” I said, the words mashed up as I nervously dabbed the coffee from his cerulean blue tie with the little black diamonds.
“It’s alright,” he replied. I caught sight of his blue eyes—that perfectly matched his tie—and took a step back in an ‘of course you’d be gorgeous’ stance.
“I feel terrible.” My napkin was crumbing in my hand.
“No, really, it’s fine,” he set his briefcase on the table beside us. “I’m Jack,” he said with his hand stretched out toward me.
“Kate,” I replied and took his hand in mine. “Today’s such an important day for me, I just knew I’d find a way to mess it up,” I said.
“It’s just a little coffee, it happens.”
“I’m glad I didn’t ruin your day.”
“Not at all, but I think you at least owe me a cup of coffee.”
It didn’t take me long to explain why the day was so important. I had a job interview at the accounting firm three blocks away, and like clockwork, I had missed my bus. I had only enough money left from my last paycheck to pay my phone bill, not take a taxi.
“Because without my telephone I can’t call my dad and have him wire me money in case the interview falls through.”
“Sounds like a good dad. Mine would tell me to deal with it and hang up.”
We laughed. My eye caught the brown stain of coffee on his neat, but not too neat, white shirt. I could imagine him getting home in the evening and laying around in his unbuttoned shirt while he watched Bill Maher. I bet he ate Cheerios every morning and probably most nights. I looked down at our brown paper coffee cups and then to my watch.
“Ooh, I have to go,” I said reluctantly. Jack stood tall as I grabbed my things and we both pushed in our chairs.
“It was nice of you to run into me,” he joked. When I opened the door, he spoke again. “You can run into me here tomorrow at nine if you want.” I said okay and left.
I met him for coffee each morning that week. My interview turned out good, and I was called for the job on the following Wednesday.
“Friday’s the last morning I can meet you here,” I said, but I didn’t expect him to look upset about it.
“I got the job. I start Monday.”
“Oh, well then meet me for dinner.”
I have to admit I was shocked. I didn’t think that the thing we had going on was turning into something like that—whatever that was.
“I mean,” he started to say after an awkward moment of silence. “Would you like to have dinner with me?” I thought about Cheerios.
“Sure,” I nodded with a smile. “What do you normally have for dinner?” I asked trying hard not to laugh.
“Um, well…” and he proceeded to explain how he rarely ate at home. He frequented sushi bars, sandwich shops and the pizzeria about a mile from my apartment. We decided the pizzeria would be the perfect place to celebrate my new job and made plans to meet there Monday night.
I changed out of my corporate silk top and put on a cotton sweater to match the dark blue skirt I had worn for work. I felt tired from the day, without my usual coffee and all, but I couldn’t wait to see him. I entered the pizzeria at seven and searched the room for Jack. He waved me over to a corner table.
“I love how dark it is in here.”
“I know, that’s why I come,” he said. “Some nights I just want to go unnoticed, and this is the perfect place to just… I don’t know, blend in to the shadows.”
I could see what he meant from the minute I entered the building. The circular tables—dark and heavy—fit together tightly in the room. The lights were very dim and hung over the table so the only things that were clear were the broad features of his face. Halfway through the night I realized we were sitting closer to one another on the rounded bench than we had started.
“This was really nice,” I said and found my hand nearly touching his on the table.
“You should come here again… we should together,” he said.
“You know, there’s one thing I need to ask you.”
“Who are you? I mean, who are you really? I know nothing about you except how you like your coffee.” He smirked at me.
“Well, you know my name.”
“I know your name, but nothing else.”
“I only know your name, and how you like your coffee.” I smirked back.
“Then tell me something, anything. Work? Family?”
“Okay, I’m a…” he looked away and then caught my eye again with a sort of winced look, “an auditor.” I laughed loudly. “I know. I imagine you think I’m a nerd.”
“No, I just think it’s funny. I mean, we’re probably the two most boring professionals and yet I’m never bored with you.” I felt my heart jump after I said it, but it was too late to pretend I meant something else. A week had passed since I met Jack, and yet I felt as though I had known him for much longer.
It didn’t take long for us to find the inner layer of my gray, Egyptian cotton sheets. Never had my entire bed felt so warm and as lively as it had that night. Never had I let go so easily either. We sat up all night talking about ourselves; he wore my sheets and I wore his white shirt. We ate Cheerios at two in the morning and watched the rainfall over the city at dawn. I wasn’t tired at work Tuesday morning, nor was I any other morning that week. Or for the rest of the year, come to think.
I do sometimes—when I’m nestled in beside him and all I can hear is his breathing—think about the morning we met. If he had been late, by only two seconds, I would never have bump into him. It’s funny how the earth spins in our favor when we least expect.
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