What the hell was that?
His hands were on the steering wheel, his eyes were on the road, his legs were in control of the pedals, but his mind was not in the moment of now. His body worked the routine of driving with heedless mind. It wandered a few minutes back to the surprise of their second unplanned meeting.
How could it be possible? he asked for the hundredth time. What were the odds to run into her of all people on the road he ran up and down almost everyday a mere 24 hours after spotting her from a roof top? Usually there was a voice there inside his head that had a logical explanation for about everything, but right now, as he replayed that the brief eye contact in his mind and asked questions, that voice seemed as though it never existed.
The traffic came to a stop at a red light, his car idled to a halt with an absent-minded press from his foot and he rested his elbow on the open window, liking the way the gentle summer air brushed the hairs on his forearms. Though strangely, that same air didn’t seem to get all the way to his lungs.
It angered him a little that that pathetically brief encounter of chance put him in such state. What, for the life of him, would he be like if they had started up a conversation? Only a glance. From the one woman he’d wished in his heart–for some bizarre reason– to see again.
And not two days later he had actually seen her?
Maybe that was it. His wish came true, or maybe–
The green light came up and he continued toward his next stop after every morning run, a part of his mind still speculating the unfinished possibility.
As usual the cafe and restaurant, Stella, was busy with people eating and drinking at the tables, littering the vast space of the place that shrank due to the double-line of people at the counter ordering their coffee or breakfast so that they could be off to wherever they should be off at 8:15 in the morning. Nicolas took a seat at a two-seat table that wasn’t far from the one he usually took. He came here three times a week to have his after-workout food. He liked it here in this early hour, among people he wasn’t around because their faces were attached to an assignment, people who actually did the normal things normal people did every morning. He liked to observe them subtly in the tranquil atmosphere of the cafe. It was one of its qualities, the tranquility of it even when the waiters looked as if they wanted to scream.
He praised each one of them for their self-control. A waiter came and took his order, then he sighed, slumping in his chair as he waited his order with a smile of amusement on his face. Watching people, looking at their watches and rushing their orders, he was glad that his morning routine was not stressful. It was made up voluntarily and with no need to rush through it at all.
It was one of the finer aspects of a career like his.
“What the hell is this?” An angry-looking man asked, his outraged voice boomed into the entire vicinity of the place, looking irritatedably at the young waitress who had placed a tall glass of thick juice in front of him and was just about to leave.
“What is the matter, sir? Is something wrong?”
Everybody was silent, stopped short in the act of eating, or in the middle of the sentences. And they were all turned to the source of disruption. Her question came to break the spell of string-taut silence.
The man snorted rudely “Is something wrong? Of course there is something wrong ? Where is my order?” Nicolas had the feeling that the man was angry about some thing else entirely and was taking it out on the poor flushed girl. Because really, if the order was not right, did it require all that fuss?
Nicolas doubted it, and he wished he was seated somewhere else than directly in front of that horrid man. His fists itched.
“I don’t understand sir. This is your order, you have given it to me just a few minutes ago, here–” she reached into the pocket at the front of her uniform apron, but before she could shakily pull out the order pad he interrupted her.
“Do you think I would give you an order and then say that it isn’t what I had asked for, just for the hell of it? Do you think I am crazy, you…”
He was going to call the girl something disrespectful, something that would have dissolved the girl into a pool of tears no doubt if his unwarranted assault hadn’t been interrupted.
” What is going on?” Asked a high authoritative voice of a woman from the back of the room, “Why is it that my restaurant isn’t the same as every morning?”
It was amazing how that voice stopped the man, how it cooled a little of the heat of anger from his face, and how it made him stop burn holes into the girl’s pale face and straighten. It was the power in it that made Nicolas turn in his seat and try to see the face that went with the voice.
He didn’t have to twist all the way backwards.
The woman walked into the middle of the scene then, with another waiter at her elbow, perhaps the one who informed her of the disorder.
And Nicolas’ his jaw dropped open, turning into a piece of wood, stiffening right through the blood. Later he would think that it was a work of a merciful god that his order had not yet been served. He would have choked to his death then and there.