Some relationships are meant to be... A Holiday Short Story Entry
|It’s Just Coffee …
Chris stood before the produce shelves testing a honeydew melon for ripeness when his concentration was broken by, “Excuse me. Are you going to buy it or marry it?”
Feeling his face flush, he turned quickly but the scathing repartee that was balanced on the end of his tongue dissolved. “Julie?” he asked in astonishment. He knew it was her even as he felt a flood of emotions renew the color in his cheeks. They had gone together through Junior and Senior High School. They had a future planned but, when he received a scholarship to an out-of-state college, the plans they made evaporated over time.
Her familiar laughter was answer enough. “Oh my gosh, what’s it been? Two years?”
“Actually, it’s been three years since you dumped me,” she said with a wicked grin.
“I didn’t … It was …” he stammered, indignation crossing his face.
“I love it when you falter like that,” she laughed. She reached up and patted his cheek. “Poor Chris.” The last brought another laugh to her lips.
“You always did know my weaknesses,” he confessed.
“So, how are you and Emily doing?” she asked casually.
Chris’s face clouded over. “We broke up about a year ago. It seems we were too compatible. There just wasn’t a spark, if you know what I mean.”
“We certainly never had that problem. Quite the opposite, as I recall.”
“You have a good memory,” Chris grinned. He glanced at her hand and didn’t see a ring. “Say, would do you have time for a cup of coffee?”
“It’s just coffee …” she giggled.
Chris stared at her blankly for a moment.
“That’s the line you used on me when we first met.”
“Hey, it wasn’t a line. We had coffee … didn’t we?”
Once more her laughter filled the air. “Yes, Chris, we had coffee.”
I really miss her laugh. Chris pulled up memories he had pushed aside many years ago. He remembered all the good times they’d had and felt a pang of loss. “How about it, then? I mean, if you’ve time and …” He let the question trail off.
“And I’m not spoken for? I saw you looking for a ring. No, I’m very much single. You caught me between affairs.”
Chris wasn’t sure if she was serious or not until he saw the devilish twinkle in her eyes. “Ok, ok – you got me again,” he finally said. “It feels like old times.”
“No, not really. Your sense of humor seems to have improved - marginally. Let’s get coffee and test my theory,” she giggled.
“Joe’s over on 8th Avenue?”
“As soon as you’re done accosting the produce,” she laughed.
“I’ll avoid the honeydew’s if you’ll forgo the cucumbers,” he shot back, feeling more comfortable with unexpectedly meeting her.
“Very good, Chris. Very good. I’ll see you there in fifteen minutes,” she threw over her shoulder as she waved and headed for the front of the store.
As Chris pulled up in front of the coffee shop, the first thing he noticed was Julie standing there. She looks good. He dipped back into his memories, trying to pin down exactly why they’d broken up. It was probably some silly argument over nothing that neither of us was willing to back down on. The second thing he noticed was the “CLOSED” sign.
Julie came to the car window. “It seems everything changes with time. It looks like they’re out of business.”
Chris’s mind raced, trying to come up with another coffee shop they could go to.
“Don’t bother, Chris,” she smiled, reading his mind. “Look, my apartment is just around the corner. You may remember that when we split up, I got custody of the espresso machine. Why don’t you just come over and I’ll let you make me an espresso,” she chuckled.
He hesitated for an instant. She flashed her wicked smile. “It’s just coffee,” she said.
Chris got off the elevator and went to the apartment door. The familiarity of the elevator, the corridor, even the door with the crooked number brought back memories. With a sigh, he knocked and the door was immediately opened. “Oh, that’s right; you don’t have a key anymore.” She laughed. “Close your mouth and come in.”
She had the espresso grounds and measuring tools laid out on the counter. He looked at her with a smile. “You weren’t kidding about making me the barista, were you.”
She sat at the counter and they made small talk while he busied himself making the drinks. “I remember doing this on Sunday mornings. We’d sit out on the balcony and talk for hours. I miss that.” He paused. “To be honest, I miss you.”
“I do too,” she said wistfully. “Well, it doesn’t have to be Sunday to do that. Bring the coffees out.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said with a grin.
They sat for an hour, catching up and rediscovering each other. Finally, Chris said, “I’m ashamed to admit it but I really don’t remember exactly why we split. I remember the anger, the recriminations, but lost is what started it all.”
Julie smiled a thin, humorless smile. “I remember. I think that’s a woman’s curse. We remember too much.” Her smile brightened. “Unlike men, however, we also have a unique talent for perspective. Not everything is black or white and time is a great lens that allows us to see clearly.”
Chris smiled. “I’m going to guess that means you’re not going to remind me.”
Her infectious laugh filled the small balcony. “Nope. That was then, this is now.”
Chris glanced at his watch. “I can’t believe how late it’s getting. I think we should do this again … soon.”
Julie smiled. “Yes, Chris, I think we should too.”
“Well, how about in the morning?” he laughed.
Julie stared at him, caught off guard. She slowly nodded “yes.”
“That leaves only one question.”
Julie looked confused. “One question?”
“Yes. Should I call you or nudge you?”
Julie burst out laughing. “I told you I thought your sense of humor has improved.”
“It’s just coffee …” Chris challenged, trying unsuccessfully to suppress his grin, and waited for an answer.
An entry for the May round of "Holiday Short Story Contest"
Prompt: Write about a couple, in a long term relationship, going on a date together.
Word Limit: 2,000 maximum
Word Count: 1100