Elena had known Jacob five years. She knew that Jacob had an ex-wife and two sons; that he had a girlfriend, and a young son; that sometimes he lived with the girl, often he didn’t. Sometimes he would try to talk to her about his personal problems, and she would cut him off. She’d say, Grow up, Jacob. She could talk to him that way because she was older than him, and he respected her. He was always telling her how much he admired her, her wisdom, her knowledge. Yeah whatever, she’d say.
He would call her in the evening; they would talk for hours. They both had jobs, but hers was more flexible, whereas he had to get up early for work. Still, he would talk to her late into the night. He would stand out on his porch in the dark to talk to her. Only when he said, I have to go, did they hang up the phone.
She was thinking about starting a small business. They talked about it on the phone and through e-mails. He’d say that she was being strung along by the people who were going to back her financially. Then he’d say that he was confident she could do it, could pull it off. Ultimately, she decided to go ahead, and he supported her. He told her he thought she was smart, honest, tough enough to succeed at the business. Shut up, she’d say.
He would ask her to coffee; they would get together for an hour and talk over coffee and pastry. One late afternoon he invited her out; it was a chilly day, the sky overcast, threatening rain. She said, Coffee sounds good. She walked the three blocks from her house, and he walked the three blocks from his house; the café where they met was on a street full of little shops, midpoint between their houses.
He bought them coffees and a cinnamon roll; usually they sat at a table or in two easy chairs but since they were sharing the roll, they sat together on a small sofa. They talked and ate the roll, which was fragrant and delicious, and drank their coffee. Through the windows, they could see the rain starting to fall. Inside, it was warm and cozy, people were sitting all around, chatting, working on their laptops, or reading and drinking their coffees.
The rain fell. Afternoon slipped into evening, finally into night. Each hour had its own beauty. The first grey and silver rain turned into glittering diamond sparkles on the lights and cars, while inside the place glowed like candles.
Finally she said, It’s late. She stood up. He stood and said, I’ll walk you. No, no, she said. But he silently insisted; she stepped outside, the chill air making her snuggle deep into her coat, and when he came out of the door, he immediately put his arm around her to give her the extra warmth. They walked briskly along, raindrops splashing cold on their faces.
The wind picked up, the rain suddenly at a hard slant; they quickened their pace, nearly running the last half block. She pulled the key from her pocket and unlocked the door, stepped inside, and naturally he followed her in; neither of them expected him to run six blocks home in the driving rain. He closed the door, and she was pulling off her coat; he helped her with it, then began to take off his jacket. It was freezing inside the house; she turned on the fireplace and said, My feet are soaked.
She went into her room to change out of her wet things; he followed her and when she turned to face him, he embraced her and began to kiss her. After the initial surprise, she felt nothing about it, including at first the need to stop him. He saw how it was and outfoxed her, slowing down so that she had to pay attention to what he was doing, had to agree and finally to submit, and at the very end, she held him close and tight.
Afterwards, he was caressing her, kissing her hair. Idiot, she said. Just marry the girl. She’ll be a good wife. She’ll put up with your crazy ass. He said nothing. You’re just scared of being bored and miserable, she said. The truth is you make people crazy just so you won’t be bored and miserable. He was quiet; the rain fell and fell and fell. You’re right, he said. I’m always right, she said. It’s the curse of my life.
They listened to the rain. Jacob burned for Elena, but he couldn’t reach her, even now, this way. He was half child, half crazy man; Elena didn’t regret what happened, but it meant they were tied and she didn’t want that burden. In the morning, they went to eat. They said nothing about what happened. They parted and went their ways. Soon after that, he got married. Had another son a year later. She remained unmarried. Her business grew and made her financially comfortable.
Nine years later, his wife died, suddenly. There was an all-night vigil at the funeral home; everyone gathered to condole with the family and socialize and eat and drink. Early in the morning, Jacob was slumped forward, drink in one hand, other hand across his eyes. Elena came and sat down next to him. She was aware of how handsome he was, in his dark suit and nice tie, with the streaks of grey in his wild hair; he still looked young and strong and wild.
He looked around at her. I would have messed up with her, if it wasn’t for you, Elena, he said. I want to tell you that. I know, I’m drunk, but still. It’s true.
She tsked, tenderly brushing his hair. Jacob, Jacob, she murmured.
Katherine Lopez has had her poems, essays, short stories, and other writings published in things like anthologies, alt pubs, and e-zines. She has been asked to submit articles and stories to various publications, and even won a contest or two. She finds it peculiar to speak of herself in the third person.