It was a beautiful day in New York. No, really, it was a nice day. It was a cool day with low humidity. The sun was warm enough to be comforting, but not warm enough to be annoying. It was the kind of day that you just wanted to grab a good book, a glass of iced tea and sit in the sun and read all day. This was the third nice day New York had seen in a while and the entire city was in a good mood, a rare thing by New York standards.
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The café was doing a brisk pre-lunch crowd. Just busy enough to keep the waiters on their toes, but not so busy that lunch was a debacle of roaring conversation, under cooked food and clanking dinnerware. No, the crowd was as relaxed as the day. Patrons were eating and talking casually, while the waiters topped off coffee or soft drinks. There just didn’t seem to be any rush to do anything today. It felt like a Saturday, but it was really Tuesday.
As she turned the corner, her shoes clacked loudly against the foreground of serenity that was the café’s lunchtime conversation. As she passed around the outside tables to speak with the Maitre’d , her perfume lingered lightly like a ghost window-shopping at each table. Those that saw her barely even noticed her perfume though. The rest of her was far too amazing. She was dressed in an off white power suit; the kind that all women from bankers to shop owners seemed to wear these days. This suit, though, you could tell was tailor made. It fit her curves perfectly. As she walked, everyone stopped and stared at her. Everyone, from the overweight businessman about to put a fork full of salad into his mouth to the waiter who is about to burn his customer by spilling hot soup on him, was looking at this woman. It wasn’t just that she was beautiful, and she was beautiful, but she was stunningly beautiful. There are beautiful women and then there are women that are so beautiful that you are just completely taken aback by their beauty.
She stood about 5’11”, a bit tall for a woman, but every inch of her was graceful and poised. Her long legs were perfectly sculpted and seemed to make her glide across the ground. Every curve was soft and in perfect symmetry with the rest of her body. Her skin was smooth and unmarked and had a creamy glow. Her hair was jet black and hung in the middle of her back, slightly longer than women of her station usually wear their hair, and it had the soft sheen of spun silk. Her eyes were green, but not a bright green. No, these eyes were a shade of green that made you think of meadows or of a quiet glade in the middle of a forest. Her mouth was, perhaps, her most striking feature. Even in thought her mouth slightly turned up at the edges giving her an almost perpetual smile. The color of her lips was something remarkable as well. They were a couple of shades darker than one would see naturally. This was a color that many women strive for with their lipsticks and balms. Heads followed her as she approached the Maitre’d.
The Maitre’d just stood there eyes wide and mouth open unaware that some of the menus he was holding had fallen to the ground. She looked at him and smiled, slightly embarrassed by all the attention.
“I would like a table for two, please. Preferably some where sunny.” She said in a voice that was smooth and even the tone of it was almost dulcet. It possessed warmth that automatically made one lean closer. It was as if ones ears hungered for that voice and forced the head to move closer to the sound.
“A table. . .A Table!!,” he muttered as if coming out of a trance, “Yes, right this way miss. Right this way.” Quickly, he bent and picked up the fallen menus and then showed her to his best outside table. He even pulled out her seat for her. He turned red after she said thank you, he then bowed deeply and left to go back to his desk feeling a little more than satisfied with himself. She lingered there alone for a moment, her waiter was busy primping his hair and uniform in a mirror just outside the kitchen. He wished he had shaved this morning, but he was hoping that she would like the rugged look that a two-day growth gave him. Back at the table she went about smoothing out her napkin across her lap and placing her clutch on the table next to her. She fixed the small bouquet of flowers in the middle of the table; they seemed a little crooked to her.
“Good morning, my name is Robert and I’ll be your waiter today.” He said brightly as he handed her a menu.
“Did you wish to order a drink while you look over our menu?”
“Yes, could I have a glass of ice water no lemon, please.” She asked taking the menu and opening it absently.
“Sure.” He said turning to go.
She looked over the menu briefly and decided on the shrimp scampi with the penne pasta. She figured that if things didn’t go well she should at least have a good meal. The waiter returned shortly with her drink. He looked a little deflated when she told him that she was waiting for lunch companion to join her before ordering.
After he left she began to search the crowd for her friend. In a moment she felt some eyes upon her, that uncomfortable feeling that someone is staring at you. She turned slightly to her left to see an eight-year-old boy just staring at her. She looked at him and smiled and he smiled back from behind glasses so thick he had to wear a band to keep them on his head. He looked at her with a longing that he couldn’t understand. It wasn’t lust; this was still a couple of years away for him. No what he felt was a warmth that only his own mother seemed to match. As they looked at each other a dark shadow cast over them. She turns, looks up and a large smile crosses her face. Immediately she rises and greets her friend.
“Oh, I’m so glad you came.” She says to her gentleman friend while giving him a big hug.
“I’m glad I came too.” The man says returning her hug with equal enthusiasm although a little befuddled in his mannerisms.
Sitting down they continue, “So how have you been,” she says to him knowing full well that he’s a workaholic.
“Busy.” He says, “change of season is coming and everything is just a mess. How about you.”
“No, nothing. Not a speck. I’m kind of on a permanent vacation.” She says smiling.
“I didn’t think you would show.” She says reaching for her glass of water.
“I wasn’t going to, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other and…” He stops quietly.
“What?” She asks hopefully.
“I missed you.” He says blushing a little.
She blushed back as the hopefulness she felt turned to satisfaction. Just then the waiter came back over to take their orders. He was a little taken aback by the man who had joined her. He was dressed nicely enough although the pants he wore were a size too small and the jacket that complimented the pants were a size too big. In contrast to the woman’s flawless beauty this man was rather plain. He looked a little like woody Allen, but smarter. There was a definite air of intelligence about this man, the waiter just couldn’t figure out what she was doing with him.
After placing their orders their small talk continued. She kept her topics light and interesting. He kept trying to probe her to find out the real reason she had invited him there. Both danced around the subject and in the end a palpable silence reined.
Finally the meal arrived and they ate almost silently only pausing to ask the waiter for more bread or more water. Filled and slightly sleepy the two sank back into their chairs to enjoy some coffee.
After taking a slurp and wiping his mouth with his napkin the man replaces it on his lap and asks, “So, now that we have had a nice lunch, why don’t you tell me what it is that I can do for you?”
She sets her own cup down and leaning forward in her seat she screws her courage up.
“Well, I have been thinking. It ‘s been a long time since our argument and I know that I have changed. I have tried to be more patient and less judgmental in my life and I believe that I’m a better person for it. I also believe that the time has come for me to come home. I really think we should get back together.” She quickly takes a sip of coffee to moisten her mouth, which has suddenly gone dry.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this too.” He says meekly.
From his tone she already knows the answer. She stiffens as the hurt washes over her.
“I think that perhaps it isn’t time for us to get back together. I think that you still have issues that you need to resolve; issues that can only be resolved here.” He tells her while looking down at his cup. He can’t bear to look her in the eye as he crushes her hopes of coming home.
“So that’s it then.” She throws her napkin on the table and grabs for her purse.
“There’s no forgiveness for me no matter how much time has passed is there?”
“It’s not that simple.” He says reaching for her hand to pull her back into the seat.
“It is that simple for you. You make all the rules. I know that you have broken quite a few of them to suit yourself as well, but not for me.” She says angrily. He notices though that she isn’t struggling to break his grip on her hand. She neither sits nor walks away. The tears in her eyes brim over and cascade down her cheeks. Instinctively she reaches for a tissue to dab her eyes. Gently he guides her back into her seat.
“You’re right. I do make rules and then break them, but this is different. You don’t understand the delicacy of what is going on here.” He says.
“Then explain it to me.” She says desperately. “Tell me what point I am missing. Show me what you want me to see so I can understand.”
“It doesn’t work that way. I can’t show you the answers. You have to find them on your own.”
“Why? What purpose does this serve? What greater meaning does my suffering serve?”
“The purpose is to grow to change to reach the potential that I always knew you possessed. The potential you still possess.” He tells her warmly, still holding her hand. She pulls her hand away quickly.
“Don’t you think this is hard on me as well? He tells her with a little irritation rising in his voice.
“Do you think it’s easy to go from day to day without you in my life? “ It’s his voice that has desperation in it now. She looks over at him wounded and a little satisfied that he is suffering as much as she is.
“Why not. There are others you could have.” She says fishing for more signs that he still needs her. He realizes this is what she is doing, but he also realizes that she is very lonely so he gives her what she wants.
“I could never replace you.” He tells her. The smile on his face warms her to her feet. Quickly she recovers and turns the conversation once again.
“Then why do you torture yourself and me? Let me come home. Let’s start fresh. We could build our relationship brand new.”
Shaking his head he says, “You haven’t learned what I have and because of that no relationship we could have would last.”
“So that’s it then. I’m cast aside until I learn whatever it is I need to learn, but you won’t give me any hints.” She says grabbing at her bag again. “That’s just fucking great.”
Exasperated, he starts to get up to leave.
“I shouldn’t have come here. I thought you might have made some progress, but now I see.”
Quickly she stands and as he turns away from her she grabs his arm and holds him steadfast in her grip.
Her tears flow freely now. The beauty that was her face is now pain streaked and frenzied. Her mouth, trembling and twisted spits out at him, “This is hard on you, huh? What a fucking joke. You get to sit on your ass all day with people fawning over you and kissing your ass for favors.” He tries to force his arm from her grip, but fails. She pulls his arm towards her, nearly pulling him over the table. “No one is here for me.” She screams at him.
“I am completely alone. I can’t talk to anyone here, because they don’t understand and our friends…,” she takes a deep ragged breath and tries to continue without completely breaking down, “our friends look at me as if they wouldn’t even spit on me. The blame for this whole thing has fallen squarely on my shoulders and your silence on the matter cements my guilt. I have been vilified by everyone even though we both know that this situation isn’t entirely my fault.”
Again he tries to wrench himself free. Visibly he is shaken by the fact that this woman has enough strength to hold him. She throws his arm back at him and the force of it sends him into another table. Apologizing profusely to the diners there, he turns to finish their conversation.
“Don’t even bother.” She tells him, “Obviously, there is to be no solace for me until I figure out whatever it is I need to.”
“I am sorry, but you just have to trust me on this.” He says.
“I have always trusted you. It’s you who doesn’t have any faith in me.”
With that he turns and leaves. She watches him walk away. Slowly she loses him in the crowd. Once he is completely out of sight she breaks down and sobs for what seems like an eternity. She doesn’t even notice that the entire café has stopped eating and milling about. Patrons and workers alike were transfixed by this couple arguing in their presence many had the strange feeling that they were children watching their parents argue.
Very slowly people begin to finish their meals and resume their conversations. She carefully checks her make up and fixes her hair. Her eyes are a little bloodshot from crying, but other than that she is as beautiful as when she walked into the café. As she is putting her compact away she gets that sense of eyes upon her again. She turns and sees the little boy staring at her. He looks sadly at her and all at once her tears well up again.
“Don’t cry.” He says to her gently. “The man will take you back.”
“He will, will he.” She says over a Kleenex.
“Uh-Huh.” He replies.
Looking at him full on now she asks, “And how do you know?”
“I asked God.” He says simply. “My mommy told me that God answers all prayers.”
She smiles a sad smile towards the boy. Leaning over to him she gently kisses him on the forehead.
He ponders this action for a moment, his mind trying to grasp what has just occurred. He rubs the spot where she kissed him; it is still warm from her kiss. An hour from now, a blood vessel in the boy’s head will burst killing him instantly.
“Yes he does,” she tells him, “God does answer all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.”