Holy shit! It can’t be. It bloody hell just can NOT be!!
It was her again. Here. Her…
Nicolas was not the kind of guy who was used to seeing a certain person, a certain group of people even, frequently. But to see that woman twice in one day… when only less than two days ago he…
In his mind, the other possibility resounded complete.
In any other circumstances he would have slipped out of the place and made plans to lay as low as possible for a few days. He would have thought that his Profile had been compromised, taking her for the one sent to take him out. He would make sure that his suspicions were correct, then he would spring into action, eliminating the threat without further delay.
But now he could only stare, could only concentrate on the fundamental act of breathing in and out until the scene unfolded… till he could… till he…
For the few seconds it took her to speak again, a loud ringing attacked his ears, and his heart was dismayed, each irregular pump sent cold blood through his veins.
Oh God, what was happening to him?
She stopped, standing between the two “What is the matter?” she asked, looking from the near-panic in her waitress’ eyes to the indignant glint in the man’s.
The man lifted an accusing finger at the girl “That… waitress brought me the wrong drink and says that it was I who made that mistake. Now do I come here to be called stupid…”
But she held a halting hand before him “There is no need for that now, Mr. Akram. I shall not tolerate any insult one way or another directed at any of my staff without my full comprehension of the situation” she said, clasping her hands behind her back, her eyes seemed to bore into his ” Not even from you sir. We have been hosting you here for a long time, in the other two branches as well” despite the the difference in their height, she stood her ground quelling every attempt he made to nose in, all the while looking him straight in the face.
She was a young woman who knew who she was, knew what she was capable of. And she was making him look like a child without him knowing it.
“Have you ever made a complaint, sir? hmm?” she asked, leaning just an inch toward him.
“No. But that doesn’t mean that the order wasn’t wrong” he replied, losing the edge of anger in his voice.
“Amira” she called to the girl –who had made her a buffer between the man and herself– inclining her head to the side “Is this true?”
The girl stepped to the woman’s side, holding out a trembling hand with the pad in it “No, ma’am. Here is the order, with the date of today and the number of the table”
She only took a look at the pad “All right, you may go back to your work now”
The girl fled.
“Aren’t you going to…”
Again, she cut him off, with a polite half a smile “Now, sir, I believe there had been a dreadful misunderstanding” then she turned to the room at large and announced “There is no need to be alarmed every one. I apologize for any unnecessary inconvenience, or delay in your schedules. You may proceed.”
It had the effect of a royal order.
“Now, Mr. Akram, would you care to carry on with this in my office? Or would you like to take it outside?” the way her face shed all expressions of civilized control of the situation and open friendliness, the way those large eyes met his told that she was all too ready to “take it outside” for real.
Mr. Akram seemed to deflate “No. Of course not. It is okay. I will just get another order”
Then suddenly her face stretched with the broadest, most genuine of smiles “Great!” she clasped her hand together “Henry” she called to a waiter, who rushed to her side like a breeze, pad and pen in his hands at the ready ” with my Morning Order get Mr. Akram his usual order. Potent cappuccino with whipped cream and no sugar” she turned to Mr. Akram, now bedazzled by her smiles “Am I right?”
He nodded “Yes. Very”
“Great. Now, Henry off you go.”
“Right away, ma’am.”
And right before he was out of ear shot “And Henry” she called
He turned swiftly to face her “Yes”
“Make it on the house” she winked. He was off.
Nicolas thought that he was glad with not having a hurried morning schedule, he thought that he preferred a shadowy existence paralleled to that of everybody else. And he thought that his runs every morning brought him a great deal of joy in a world where joy took very little part. He thought that being the best in what he was without fail brought him a little sense of justice, a way of revenge, since he didn’t choose to do what he did.
He neither choose to meet her, nor expect it to bring him such happiness.
And that was something he was beginning to learn something about right now as he looked at her while she settled at a table not so far from his, so unaware of him.
It was absurd, really, this claim, judging from the length of time he spent in … well, the outskirts of her presence.
He couldn’t look away, though.
He watched her in a state of awe. An unaffected part of his brain was aware that his body was moving through his breakfast, even though he had no memory of when it had gotten before him. His foot drummed, hand holding a sandwich, the forefinger of the other was hooked through the china cup ear. But he only registered watching her like he had never watched a target before– as she crossed her legs under the table, looked through some papers, her jaw chopping food in precise strong cuts, throat convulsing in a swallow, and how her sharp eyes observed the work of her property over the rim of her juice glass.
He remembered the first time he had seen her. How he was first struck by her hair. It was down and free, catching stray rays of sunset, now it was clipped up, forming a crown at the back of her head and falling to her neck in thick brownish fountain with little wisps escaping at the fringes and temples.
He watched and was lost to his realities.
He didn’t know what, but something in her called to him. He didn’t know how, but something kept twisting their paths together –a higher power? the hope he had felt when he passed below her window? a wish he had made upon a star that night?
Nicolas left La Stella that day knowing two things. One, a part of him was abandoned inside, clinging to the freshness of her, which led to number two.
He couldn’t see her again. Ever. He would not. In a world like his, such mundane things could not be afforded. It would do them both grave injustice.
In the following months, he committed to his decision the way he set out to complete his assignments.
But fate must have known that neither of them would make a move without a tactful intervention.
He ran into her in the super market, literally bumping into her (never mind that the intervention had a serious lack in tact). This time she looked at him, meaning him, and said she was sorry for being so clumsy, and he discovered the sweetness of her voice when she wasn’t running her own personal hive. And for one very brief moment, he felt the softness of a woman’s body. But embarrassment and the need to voice an apology were not what stopped her short in the act of moving away from him and going on with her way.
It was his eyes and how they looked into hers. Not a look of annoyance, or surprise. But a look of recognition.
It was down right crazy to think that in that moment she knew him, too, that she had taken a note of him in her restaurant, and remembered passing him by the other morning.
And Nicolas didn’t know why, but it seemed to him that there was no getting away from this one .
He watched her walk away with an apologetic smile. she was not repulsed by the scar that ran from his lift eyebrow, curved away from his cheek and jagged back to his chin? she wasn’t afraid?
she really wasn’t!
How nice. He felt a smile.
And his life was never the same.