The Whole Story

This is the whole story, sent over a period of a couple weeks to Jane:

You're sitting in a dimly lit cafe on a side street somewhere. It's cold, and rainy, (probably much like today). The sun has dropped below the horizon, and the clouds have taken on a silvery cast. You know you're early, and you are already on your second cup of coffee in an attempt to soothe your nerves. Except for the barista, there is only one other soul in the shop. He's trying hard to look interested in the book he's reading, as if trying to impress someone, perhaps the girl bringing his latte. From your booth at the back of the cafe, you turn and look to the large clock hanging behind the counter. It's shaped like a coffee cup, how clever you think sarcastically. It tells you that you have at best, another 10 minutes or so to gain your composure. The rain keeps drumming away at the window. 'What am I doing here... am I insane?' you whisper to yourself. The other patron looks up from his book momentarily making you think it was more than a whisper. You rock your head back into the high leather upholstered seat back and stare up at the ceiling. You consider running for the door, but take a few deep breaths and pick up the coffee cup from the table. It's warm, and it feels good on your freezing cold, slightly shaky hands.
A cheery electronic chime rings as the front door opens. It's off to your left, just at the edge of your field of vision. You can make out a figure, but you can't quite bring yourself to look over. You take another drink, and when you put the cup down, the figure is gone. Still you resist the urge to look around. You feel a sense of relief when after a few seconds nothing happens. Perhaps it was just another customer who took a seat on the opposite end of the room. Before you can finish the thought, the figure reappears immediately to your left.
He's wearing a long dark coat with the collar turned up.
'May I?' he asks, gesturing to the seat opposite you.
You pause, trying to snap back to reality 'Of course, I'm sorry'
He slides into the booth, coffee cup in hand. He places the cup on a coaster and slides it to his right. He turns his collar back down and unzips his coat part way. The orange-yellow glow of the nearest light paints soft shadows on his face. You catch yourself staring for a moment. He smiles, and you can't help but return it.
Your mind races. You scramble to think of something to say, but the words don't come.
You blurt out something stupid about the weather, you don't even know what you say. You want to bang your head on the table.
'It's letting up a bit' he replies softly
You get the sense that he's nervous too. You can see tension in his face, and his posture is just a little too straight.
'I'm glad you came' you finally say, although you aren't sure you really mean it.
'Me too, it's nice to see you'
A few more awkward moments pass.
You can see he's surveying you, and you immediately become self conscious and turn your head slightly away and look down at your cup.
'You are beautiful' he says clumsily, followed quickly by 'if you don't mind me saying so' in an apologetic tone.
Looking up again, your eyes meet for a second. Or maybe it was several seconds. So much flashes through your mind. You feel euphoric and awful all at once.
'Is it OK?' he asks
'I... I don't know.' you stammer, looking away again.
'Hey, I understand. It's OK. I'm glad to see you. If you aren't comfortable, it's OK, really' he soothes
His reassurance calms you a bit. You turn to your coffee cup and drink. It's seems cold now, and you wonder how much time has actually passed. 'It's just coffee with a friend, you can do this' you tell yourself.
You look up again at him, this time you focus on his eyes. You block everything else out. The coffee shop around melts away and becomes just a drab painting on a dark wall. You think back, recalling the feelings that brought you here to begin with. Your heart rate picks up noticeably. Brushing your still damp hair off your cheek, you bite your bottom lip ever so slightly. You take a final deep breath, plant both hands firmly on the table top and lean forward, getting up from your seat.
'I have to go' you say urgently as you exhale.

followed by 'and you are coming with me!'

 


You make for the door, but your companion remains seated with a quizzical look on his face. You extend a hand towards him, and he gets up to follow. The coffee cup clock ominously reminds you that you should be somewhere else right now.
The barista chirps 'have a nice evening'. The man looks up from his book again. You notice neither. The door swings open and you head out, into the rain.
Abruptly turning right for no good reason (you have no idea where you are going), and heading down the walk, you look over your shoulder to see if he's still with you. He strides up along side you still looking a bit confused you think. For a moment you aren't sure if you are running away with him, or from him. You slow and turn to speak.
'I'm sorry, I just needed some air' you say, shaking your head as you say it. You know it's not true, and he probably does too.
The rain has indeed let up to a random pitter-patter, but it's enough to get your hair wet again. You curse under your breath about the mess it's in again, trying to distract yourself from what's happening right in front of you.
'It's ok, really' he says again. His tone is genuine, and it eases your nerves slightly. He's always so good at that, it's almost eerie.
'Look, can I drive you home, or something?' You both realize that's a stupid thing to say. Your car is just a block away, right next to his. He puts his hand to his forehead for a moment, clearly not sure what to say next.
'This is wrong!' you blurt, unconvincingly.
'Is it?' he quickly retorts.
It all of a sudden seems so, so cold. You hold your head in your hands, as if you are about to cry. Before you can compose yourself, he moves in close. You can feel his arms wrap around you. You drop your hands to your side and bury your face in is chest through his still unzipped coat. You are glad for the rain, it will hide any tears that might have escaped. You lift your arms back up, and pull him in a little closer. You can feel the cold retreating. You squeeze a bit harder.
'I'm sorry' you mumble into his chest. You can hear his heart pounding.
'No, no, nothing to be sorry for'
You look up sheepishly.
'We tried. We said we'd do that, and whatever happens, happens' he continues
He smiles, still holding you 'I'll walk you to your car'
You mouth the words 'thank you' but no sound comes out.
He turns, reaching out for your hand. After a pause, you put your hand in his, and walk slowly toward your car.

 


You wish you had to walk across town to get to your car. His hand feels warm in yours, and it seems to travel through your whole body. You try and take in the moment, somehow take a mental snapshot, etch every detail into your mind. But these thoughts are constantly interrupted by other feelings, and confusion wins out again. Too soon the silent walk ends as you reach your car. The rain is just a mist now, but you are still nearly soaked. The silver sky has since faded to black, somehow fitting, you think. You gently twist your hand free from his, and fumble your keys from your pocket. You don't know what to think, let alone what to say, so you reach for your car door.
Before you can pull the handle, he breaks the silence.
'Jane, thanks for coming out. Really, it means the world just to see you... Are you going to be OK?'
You nod yes, but you couldn't be further from OK. Not daring to speak for fear of bursting into tears, you clench your jaw, take a deep breath, and try and go somewhere else in your mind. You think about the laundry, How much you hate your chair at work. You need milk. Anything else.
His face seems sympathetic and knowing, and it just makes you feel worse. He leans in, brushes the hair from your cheek and lowers his head to kiss you. You close your eyes, and purse your lips to accept his. But instead he gently kisses your cheek. You flush instantly, and you just know tears are coming.
Turning quickly, you open your door, not even meeting his gaze.
'Good night Jane.... Take care, please' He says as you fall into the seat. You can't say anything. Clumsily you jam the key in the ignition and start the car before the door is even closed. You drive off so quickly that you momentarily think you might have run over his foot, but a glance in the mirror shows him standing still, watching you drive off.
Banging on the steering wheel and cursing, you turn the wipers on full, but it's not rain on the window that obscures your view. Once you think you are safely out of sight, you veer the car off to the side of the road, throw it in park, and let it all out. A few minutes pass, maybe longer. Your mind is still racing in circles, but you somehow know what you must do. You aren't going to let this opportunity pass. You straighten yourself up, put the car in gear and floor it, turning the wheel hard left and you speed back to the cafe.
But when you get there, the windows are dark, and the parking lot is empty. You see the stupid coffee cup clock through the window, taunting you for not coming to this conclusion earlier. ******* time. You swear again out loud. Confused and frustrated, you head towards the highway and start the drive home, alone with your thoughts.

 


Things happen for a reason, you try and convince yourself as you start your trip in to work the next morning. The normally present background music is missing from your radio this morning. You rationalize that you were right when you drove off from the cafe last night, going back was a stupid idea anyway, and it's good he was gone. The sun rises the next day, and things will go back to normal. Once again, what you think overtakes what you feel in the endless tug-of-war match going on in your mind.

You sit down at your desk, and the computer seems to stare at you with an unfamiliar, unfriendly glare. You don't even want to touch it. You huff quietly as you boot up and log in, disgusted, but with what or whom you haven't decided. You almost can't help but think of the emotional high, the rush you used to get from checking your email. Now, you refuse to check it at all. Not right now. Focus.

Your day is busy, and thankfully it passes quickly. By the end of the day, you figure you are feeling OK, although looking at the computer still turns your stomach a little bit. The screen stares at you and the blinking cursor irritates you a bit, like it's tapping it's foot waiting for you to do something. You roll your eyes and glance up at the clock. At least it's just displaying the time, and you aren't losing your mind again as you think back to the stupid coffee cup clock at the cafe that seemed to taunt you. The only thing this clock says is that it's time for you to go home, and you waste no time doing so.

The music is playing on the way home. He wasn't that good looking anyway. Where did that thought come from you wonder? You drown out any more thoughts as you turn the music up a bit louder. You are happy to get home, and look forward to some distraction.

Normalcy, good lord, do you even remember what that is? You are sure you will find it again. Thankfully dreamless sleep comes quickly for you tonight, and carries you through til morning. Your alarm rouses you, and you immediately perk up and start to stir, but as you start to process your first thoughts of the day, your motivation suddenly wanes, and you whack the snooze button and roll over, closing your eyes.

Today is no easier for you, but you try and stay busy. Your workload is light, and you find yourself shifting piles of paper around your desk, to no end. A sigh escapes your lips. You look at the computer. It's still waiting. You have to check your email sooner or later. Other people will be trying to reach you. Reluctantly you log in. Sure enough, there's one of his last emails in the preview pane, and you quickly click on a piece of spam so you don't have to look at it. You watch your inbox fill up, and start prioritizing what to read first.

By the time you are done, there is just one email header, still in bold, unread. Subject: Please read me.

You don't often use expletives, but '**** is on the tip of your tongue as you wince and quickly click on it, as if to make it hurt less, like ripping off a bandaid.

Dear Jane,

I wanted to thank you again for coming out to see me. I know it must have been hard for you. It meant so much to me, just for you to be there. I understand now what you need to do, and I respect that, just like we promised. I hope you are OK, and I wish you all the best. Take care of yourself, I'll always remember you.

Truly,

Wendigo

 

That's it, you break down into a wholesale fit of sobbing. You'd normally be grateful there was nobody else around, but you just don't care right now. You were wrong... so wrong. You've got to fix this. NOW. You stop mid-sob grab the mouse and hit the reply button. You hastily type 'please meet me again tonight at the cafe. please' and hit send as quickly as you can. You immediately feel a bit better. You look around, grab your daytimer and start rearranging your schedule to free yourself up for tonight. Only minutes later, your email chimes to let you know there's something new for you. You whirl around in your chair, feeling that anticipation that you loved so much. You are stopped dead in your tracks, and the words in the subject line 'Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender-no such address' are like daggers in your eyes.


You try and send the email again, and wait, holding your breath. Maybe it was just an freak error, your IT department is incompetent after all. Your faint hopes are dashed when again, it comes back for the second time. Undaunted, you head for your jeep, already dialling his phone number on your cell phone.
On the third ring, finally a quiet 'hello'.
You waste no time. 'Can you meet with me again? Same place? Tonight?'
'I'm not sure it's a good idea. I can't put you in that position again'
'Can you just meet me?' you say, nearly exasperated.
'Sure, of course I can. But don't do anything crazy OK?'
Without directly answering his question, you simply say 'Good, I'll see you soon'
Somewhat relieved, somewhat anxious, you anticipate your approaching rendezvous. This time you want to be prepared.
You pull up in front of the cafe again. It's an entirely different atmosphere only 24 hours later. The afternoon sun has removed almost all traces of last night's rain, and it still hangs low and orange over the tree line. The western horizon flanking it is a swirl of pink and indigo. You hope that the change in the weather is a precursor to how your meeting will go. Before you get out, you take a minute, close your eyes and visualize how you want the meeting to end this time. Now, how do I get there? You take a couple more deep breaths, and head for the cafe door.
By your estimation this is about the same time you arrived the previous night, so you figure you will have another few minutes yet to organize your thoughts. The now familiar chime sounds as you walk in.
'Good to see you again. What can I get you? asks the barista
'Coffee. One milk, one and a half sugar.'
She makes no effort to hide the two spoonfuls of sugar that go in your cup. You shake your head slightly, accept the coffee and head for your booth. You are a bit surprised to see he's already here, seated in the booth adjacent to last nights. So much for being prepared.
'Hi, I didn't see your car out front?' You ask quizzically as you seat yourself.
'I'm a few blocks away, I figured a walk would do me good. Beautiful out there tonight, isn't it?'
You skip the chit chat and respond 'Thank you for coming again. I'm sorr...'
He interrupts 'Jane, no need to apologize. At all. This is hard for us both'
You nod 'It's complicated.'
'Very. This is the lot we drew. It's not so bad, though, you know?' he says, as if trying to convince himself. 'I didn't think I'd see you again. I thought it was all over. God it's good to see you.' he pauses 'Is it? Over, I mean?'
'No... I don't know. I hope not?' you offer inconclusively.
'Well I guess that's not the worst possible answer' he responds. This is hard for me too, you know that.
You nod. 'Do you think we can make this work?' you ask, hopefully.
'Let's try. It won't be easy, but I think we need each other. Lets make the best of what we have to work with. That's all we can do, right? he counters with optimism.
'Let's walk' you say.
'Your coffee? You haven't touched it.' He gestures to the steaming cup in front of you.
You smile 'It's too sweet anyway. Lets go.'
This time, you don't even look at the stupid coffee cup clock on your way out.

Dusk is approaching, but it's a nice night for a change. A perfect time for a walk. Once outside the cafe he suggests 'I think there is a river somewhere that way' gesturing to the left.
'Sounds good' you reply.
You walk for some time, side by side, talking. It seems to come so easily. You don't quite finish each others sentences, but not far off at times. You wonder how and why your paths crossed. And why now, why not another time, a better time.
The walk, the fresh air, the conversation, the laughs, the company. It did you good. You feel, for the first time, a sense of peace with the whole situation.
After what seems like only a few steps from the cafe, it's nearly dark now. In front of you there's an ornate footbridge across the small river, and it beckons you both to the centre. Standing at the rail, you both look down at the bubbling river.
He turns and looks at you. 'If things had been different...' he trails off.
'Maybe it's best this way. Who knows' you interject
'Maybe. You might be right' he concedes 'it's all we've got, and that means everything'
After a pause you put your hand to his cheek and gently draw him to you for a kiss, this time the mark is your lips, not your cheek. It's short, but sweet.
He pulls back for a moment, and you sense he is about to speak. Whatever it is, you don't want to hear it, you don't care. Not right now. You throw your arms around his neck and pull him in, locking your lips to his. You hold him there and don't let go. His arms wrap around your back and pull you in close. His body pressed tightly against yours, his tongue gently tracing the inside of your lips. You feel electrified and your heart races. You think a moan escapes you, but you aren't sure and you don't care. At last, the two of you break your embrace. You feel absolutely spent and energized all at once. Nothing is said, nothing needs to be said.
The low moon lights your way as you walk back towards the cafe, your hand in his again, in silence. Not an awkward silence, but rather a knowing, comforting silence.
A kiss is just a kiss, but when it's all you have to share, it is everything.
~fin~

We never got the second meeting, I'll never know how it really would have played out. I think that's the worst part, I'll always wonder. She begged me to change the ending of the story. She begged me to change the ending in our last conversation. I can't change what happened now, I can't make her unsay goodbye. Why did she ask? I can't change it. She said goodbye and I can't change that with any pen or keyboard.

TheWendigo TheWendigo
36-40, M
3 Responses Jul 13, 2010

Almost a year on, how are you doing now?

I'd almost forgotten I had written this. Hard to believe I had that kind of gut-rot-romance in me. Haha.

Thank you for your comment. I wish it had a happy ending. Maybe someday it will, maybe I'll figure out how to change the ending for her... I sure miss her.

That was beautiful. Bittersweet and tragically romantic. Thank you.