“I’ve met the love of my life,” I announced to the office as the clack of nails on keys rose from the cubicles.
“Again?” Marci’s fingers didn’t stop flashing across the keyboard, but her eyes met mine just long enough for me to see the raised eyebrows.
“It was Starbucks, of all places.” I removed my dripping raincoat, stored my purse away in the desk drawer and switched on my computer “It was raining so hard, there were no tables left, but we found a place to share in the corner.”
“You mean you stood next to him at the Starbucks counter.”
“Well, yes, but we made a connection. I’m sure of that. He felt it too.”
I don’t usually share my morning coffee with strangers, but the heavy rain ruled out my usual stop at the coffee cart. He had the most adorable smile. It was kind of jaunty, like the way Rick smiled at Ilsa in Casablanca.
I found out his name was Ben as he sipped his Venti with half-and-half. I was impressed he hadn’t used skim milk. Half-and-half is a manlier creamer. I’m very aware of the choices guys make. So many of my dates turn out to be boring and not romantic, even wishy-washy. I could tell Ben wasn’t like that. We talked about our jobs a little; he worked at the accounting firm across the street. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed him before.
“Is this like the connection you made with Daniel last month?” Marci handed me a printout of entries to be made and turned back to her computer.
I didn’t appreciate Marci’s mention of Daniel. It was a bitter memory, and I hated reliving it. But the scenario played in my mind as my fingers found the familiar keys.
It was to be our first weekend getaway. So far, I had only seen Daniel during lunch breaks at the office, where he was a marketing assistant. Sometimes we stopped for drinks after work. This was a chance to get to know each other better. Daniel had planned everything, and I was looking forward to a lovely weekend.
I was wearing a floral print dress and the little pearl earrings my grandmother had given me for Christmas. So I was understandably disappointed when Daniel arrived in a Black Sabbath tee shirt and cut-off jeans.
“Hey, Babe,” he greeted me. “Are you ready?”
“What’s in there?” I asked, pointing to a battered cooler.
“Beer. You don’t think I’m gonna pay the prices they want, do you?”
“They” turned out to be the vendors at a rock concert. Daniel had reserved a room at the Motel 6 close to the venue. I had been expecting champagne in little flute glasses and maybe flowers. I was so disappointed, I sulked and refused to have anything more to do with him.
“I thought you’d really like the concert.” Daniel shrugged. “It’s Snarky Tomorrows, the best indie band in the state. I thought you liked that stuff as much as I do.” He had obviously not been listening during our conversations.
“You’re just too picky,” Marci said as we ate lunch with the other girls in the cafeteria.
“You have totally unrealistic expectations,” Steph added.
Well, I have standards, and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m looking for someone who is romantic and devoted, someone like Nickie in An Affair to Remember. He was so faithful to Terry, even when she didn’t show up at the Empire State Building.
I don’t believe I’m being unrealistic. I could tell Ben was just the kind of man I was looking for. At Starbucks, when Ben gathered up his napkin, coffee cup and empty bowl, he added my cup to the tray — what a gentleman. “See ya around,” he said, and he was gone out into the rain.
“See ya around.” Of course, he wanted to take it slow. He wasn’t the type to rush into things. He knew my name and where I worked. It might be this afternoon, or maybe tomorrow. He’d call and suggest we have lunch. Maybe he’d send a small bouquet of flowers. Ben’s style would be easygoing, not wanting to come on too strong at first.
I waited all week, and nothing happened. I wasn’t disappointed. There were so many possible reasons for the delay. I made plans. I knew this relationship was really going somewhere. I just hoped we wouldn’t have to wait years like Allie and Noah in The Notebook.
“Angie, you’re really stuck in these old movie scenarios.” Marci shook her head as she sifted through the day’s mail, parceling out envelopes. “Get your head into the real world.”
“Old movies? We just saw Twilight last month.” I reminded her. “Even you said Edward and Bella are the most romantic couple ever.”
“But they’re not real, Angie.”
Steph’s head popped up from the other side of the cubicle. “Nobody’s really like that.”
I just couldn’t get them to understand that true romance is real, so I kept my plans to myself. I knew Ben and I were meant to be.
Sunday morning at the Sunrise Café as I scanned the Times and munched a cranberry scone, there he was. Ben, smiling at his new wife under a bower of beautiful flowers. I shook my head and sighed. I flung the paper away. It fluttered in the breeze and floated to the next table, where it dipped into a strange man’s coffee. He smiled as he folded the soggy newspaper and handed it back to me. I couldn’t help but notice his smooth hands — a concert pianist for sure. I smiled back.
I had been all wrong about Ben. He wasn’t the one for me. He wasn’t Rick or Noah or Edward. He was Rhett Butler and he clearly didn’t give a damn.
Kate Franklin’s novel, The Tattooed Mermaid, was awarded a Silver Medal in the Adult Fiction — Mystery category for the 2013 Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) President’s Awards. She has published short stories in the anthologies Doorways, It’s A Crime, and The Florida Writer. She is online at Flash Fiction World, Mysterical-e and Farther Stars Than These. Kate teaches college English in Sarasota Florida.