He sat anxiously at the booth near the front door of the cozy little café across from the bus station. He wanted to makes sure they got a clear view of the next bus’ arrival. Two mugs sat in front of him. One for her and one for him. The whipped cream on top had already melted down into the chocolate. He began to wonder what was taking her so long.
I do? He had almost said it back there in the bus station. He was almost going to say care for you as much as I do. Whoa, there. He was heading into some foreign territory, even for him. My gosh, I hope she didn’t hear what I almost said, he thought to himself. He gazed out the window and then noticed her walking towards him in the window’s reflection.
“Madonne a’mi,” he said in his best Italian as he turned to look at her. “Boy, do you clean up good.”
She had taken a few extra minutes to change her clothes and fix her hair. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans with a white peasant blouse. He notice that she’d been sure to keep on his sweat shirt. Her sandy blonde hair, which was almost dry, now laid softly almost to her waist.
He starred at her trying to memorize this moment. How could this beauty be walking towards me? he thought. Me and a college girl? He tried to shake off the awkwardness of the thought. I ain’t so bad. She could do worse.
“May I take a seat? ” she said shyly.
“By all means,“ he stood up and helped her put her duffle bag under the table. “I’m so glad you found some dry clothes.”
“Me, too. I was getting rather chilly.”
“I took the liberty of ordering our cocoa. I hoped it would be cool enough to drink when you got back. I, ah, hope you like it with whipped cream.”
“Thanks for asking the waitress to leave the can,” she said as she reached for it. She sprayed a baseball sized portion into her mug.
“A girl after my own heart.”
He watched her take a sip. He couldn’t believe how comfortable he felt with her. Why was he being so forward? It’s wasn't like anything was going to happen between them. He was from Pitkin Avenue. She was from the ‘burbs. Every doubt in the world began to surface. Why was he trying so hard? Then again, why shouldn’t he. She could do worse and from what this jerk Michael sounded like, she probably already had. This might not be for eternity,” he thought to himself. But I won’t know, if I don’t try.
He watched her take another sip and then realized that she had caught him starring. Now, he was the one with the rosy cheeks.
“That’s a beautiful necklace you have there,” he said noticing the diamond solitaire.
“Oh, thank you.” She absent-mindedly grabbed it and started running her fingers up and down the chain. It brought a smile to her face.
“It must have been a gift from a great guy to bring on that kind of smile.”
“It was. It was a gift from my father.”
She bit her lip and for a moment, seemed to be lost in a memory.
“Are you okay?” he said bringing her back to the present.
“I’m fine, really. I just hadn’t thought about it for a while.”
“No, I don't mind. It’s okay. Mother says she remembers my Dad being so happy the day I was born. As soon as visiting hours were over, my Dad started walking through the town. He came across a small jewelry store. There in the window was this necklace. He decided right then and there that he would give it to me for my 16th birthday. He told my mother that when he saw it, the diamond’s twinkle reminded him of the one he’d seen in my eye.”
She stopped talking and bit her lip again.
“He died when I was fourteen, so my mother was the one who gave it to me. She tried so hard to express all the love he had felt the day he’d bought it. I just wish he could have lived to give it to me himself. I miss seeing the twinkle in his eyes.”
He had done it again. He’d found another reason to make her upset.
“I’m so sorry,“ he said apologetically.
“Really, you have nothing to be sorry about. You didn’t know. Anyway, that was along time ago. I’m just glad to know that my father loved me. That’s what’s important.”
“I lost my mom when I was young, too.”
“Really? But back there at the station you said she‘d smack you for not being a gentleman?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, that’s what my father always said to me.” He tried to imitate his father‘s thick Italian accent, ‘Boy! If your mother saw you doing that, she’d a smack a you.’ I’ve always had a vision of getting up to Heaven to finally be with my mom and having her smack me for all the things I shouldda done. Actually, for all the things I did do.”
“I guess that’s one way to get you to behave.”
“Yeah, I guess so. She died of complications and my little brother only lived for about forty-five minutes afterwards. My Dad was afraid to tell me for the longest time. I don’t even remember how he broke the news to me. I just remember wondering how long a vacation was really supposed to last.”
“I’m sorry. I. . I didn’t mean to pry,” she said reaching for his hand.
“No, you’re not. It happened when I was really young. I don’t remember much about her anymore. I love to go into the Woolworth’s, though. They carry the kind of perfume she used to wear. It’s funny, the things you remember about someone.”
Now it was his turn to get lost in a memory.
“Who would have guessed that something so beautiful like a diamond could remind you of something so sad," she said as she lovingly stroked the top of his hand.
“Yeah. That’s okay, though. It’s nice to remember every once in a while.”
After an awkward silence he said, “Other than the sad walk down memory lane, are you feeling any better?”
“Yes, a little. Though there are some things I wish I could forget.”
“How long were you and Michael going out?”
“Is that anyway to help me forget?”
“I don’t know. I was just a curious. I mean you seem to have it bad for this guy. I just wondered how long it took you to get to the “can’t live without him” phase?”
“Two years next Thursday.”
“Two years? I guess it would be kindda hard to “live without him” by now.”
“Is your curiosity quenched? Can we please change the subject now?”
“Wait. Wait just a minute. I have a few more questions. . . for the sake of research.”
She rolled her eyes and then decided that it was all in fun. “Fine. Fire away.”
“Okay, a. . .let me think. What was the last present he gave you?”
“It was a leather briefcase.”
“Oh, how romantic,” he said sarcastically.
“How would you know? To me it was romantic. I’d just applied to Harvard’s School of Business. He was trying to be supportive.”
"Sounds like he does think of you every once in a while."
"Well, he does most of the time. Just not as much lately."
"I'm gonna kick myself in the morning, but what have you been doing to let him know you're thinking of him? You know love is a two way street."
"You know that you have got to be the most attractive annoying man I've ever met."
"So you think I'm attractive, ay?" Tugging at his shirt proudly.
"You forgot the annoying part," she said.
“Whattcha studying anyway?”
“Well, I’m a junior. I’ve got about two semesters left until I get my Bachelors in Media Arts and Sciences. If I get accepted at Harvard, I’d like to get my MBA, maybe work in Advertising.”
The shock and awe of her last statement took a moment to wear off. Boy am I out of my league, he thought. What am I doing here?
His uneasiness showed.
“Hey, don’t be to impressed. Remember I told you before, things aren’t going so well.”
“Yeah, but look how far you’ve come. You just have to have a little faith. Things might have been bad, but they can still get better. Just think, some day you could be president of one of those advertising places.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You just ooze optimism. It doesn’t come that easily to me.”
“Hey, it’s like they say, ‘Fake it ‘til you make it.’ You just keep telling yourself that you can do it until you actually find that you can.”
“I think you’ve been to one to many pep rallies.”
”No really, it works. I promise.”
“If it works so well, are you going to take some of your own advice?”
“My own advice?”
“If you don’t make the Red Stockings team, are you going to try-out somewhere else?”
“Red Sox. Red Sox. And yes, I’ll try-out again. That’s a promise.”
“Good.” A smile reappeared on her lips. "Besides, my buddy told me that one of the St. Louis Cardinals' farm teams has try-outs in a week."
"Now, I know that chickens live on a farm, but I've never heard of cardinals living on one."
He tried so hard to keep quiet, but finally broke out laughing uncontrollably.
Her face was bright red. "What did I say?"
"Don't worry about it. Just know that I'll keep trying 'til I make it."
They each lifted their mugs and toasted to their renewed commitment.
They each lifted their mugs and toasted to their renewed commitment.
“To trying to find the silver lining in life,” she joked.
“To hitting the ball out of the park as often as possible.”
They tapped their mugs together. For a second, there was nothing to say. For a lifetime, there was everything to say. He felt so amazed how two people from two different worlds seemed to have so much in common. How were they able to speak so easily with each other after only an hour? He wanted to hold on to this feeling, forever if he could. But how?
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
*Thanks angie 1379 on www.wtbr.com who got me thinking about the necklace