I shook off my reverie and looked across the counter, prepared to give my usual order, and there stood the guy from Saturday night. The guy I’d avoided sitting next to this morning in economics. My mouth hung open but nothing came out. And just like this morning, Saturday night came flooding back. My face heated, remembering the position I’d been in, what he must have witnessed before he’d intervened, how foolish he must consider me.
But then, he’d said it wasn’t my fault. And he’d called me by my name. The name I no longer used, as of sixteen days ago.
My split-second wish that he wouldn’t recall who I was went ungranted. I returned his penetrating gaze and could see he remembered all of it, clearly. Every mortifying bit. My face burned.
“Are you ready to order?” His question pulled me from my disorientation. His voice was calm, but I felt the exasperation of the restless customers behind me.
“Grande caffé Americano. Please.” My words were so mumbled that I half expected him to ask me to repeat myself.
But he marked the cup, which was when I noted the two or three layers of thin white gauze wrapped around his knuckles. He passed the cup to the barista and rung up the drink as I handed over my card. “Doing okay today?” he asked, his words so seemingly casual, yet so full of meaning between us. He swiped my card and handed it back with the receipt.
“I’m fine.” The knuckles of his left hand were scuffed but not severely abraded. I took the card and receipt, his fingers grazing over mine. I snatched my hand away. “Thanks.”
I couldn’t take any more of this night. A sob came from my throat as I tried to remain composed. “May I have my keys, please?” I held my hand out, willing the tremors to subside.
He swallowed, looking at me, and I stared back into his clear eyes. I couldn’t tell their color in the diffuse lighting, but they contrasted compellingly with his dark hair. His voice was softer, less hostile. “Do you live on campus? Let me drive you. I can walk back over here and get my ride after.”
“Lie down on your stomach and rest your head on your arms, facing me.”Source: Tammara Webber
I did as he told me. “Like this?”
He nodded, eyeing me as if absorbing details or searching for flaws. Coming onto his knees, he moved close enough to fan his fingers through my hair and let it fall over my shoulder. “Perfect,” he murmured, scooting back to his position against the wall, a few feet away.
I stared at him as he sketched, his eyes moving back and forth from my face to the pad. At some point, his gaze began to move over the rest of me. As if his fingertips skimmed over my shoulders and down my back, my breath caught in my throat and I shut my eyes.
“Falling asleep?” his voice was soft. Near.
I opened my eyes to find him on his knees next to me, sitting back on his heels. My heart picked up the pace again at his nearness. “No.” He’d left the pad and pencil on the floor behind him. “Are you… done?”
He shook his head slightly. “No. I’d like to do another, if you don’t mind.” At my nod, he said, “Turn onto your back.”