Some time in the past.
On my afternoon playing hookey from work I had decided to go to a coffee house. There was something about them that made me feel hip, and just a bit artistic. That was about as close to either one as I got though. I wasn't a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. I didn't do yoga, or worry about the environment aside from trying to recycle and keep power use down (mostly to save on my bill). Art had been my worst subject in high school and since then the most I had drawn were little doodles on a notepad while answering the telephone for my boss.
But coming to a coffee shop made me feel like I was like the other people who went there and it was fun to pretend. Even if I stuck out with my pale lavender twinset, manicured nails, curled ponytail and diamond earrings. My mum had told me once that pearls may be classic but diamonds set the standard. Most of her advice I ignored, but that particular piece I had kept to.
I stood in line behind a woman with a stroller and could not help but look down at the precious baby before me. The little girl tilted her head back, looking up at me as she gave a toothless smile and giggled. Who could resist that? I smiled back at the baby, then made a silly face before smiling up at the baby's mother.
I couldn't wait to have one of my own. There was just one problem: I had no boyfriend, let alone a husband. It did make the whole process much more complicated. I had gotten really depressed a few months back and had even spent some time on the internet, looking up sperm donors and adoption. I wasn't serious about it though. Not really.
I wanted to go about things the old-fashioned way. I wanted to fall in love, get married, and have a baby with a man who adored me. It had just never felt right. All the men I knew were too brash, too forward. Or they were too focused on their careers to really have time for me. I had always dreamed of having a wonderful husband who made enough money that I could stay home and raise our family.
Looking up at the menu behind the counter, I tried to decide what I felt like ordering. I wanted a muffin. What I truly wanted was some large piece of chocolate cake, but that was not allowed. A muffin would be nice though. But to go with it? I finally decided on a London Fog. It sounded sweet and just a little romantic. I liked that.
The woman with the stroller ordered her coffee and then I proceeded to order mine. The girl behind the counter had her lip pierced and I found myself staring at it, feeling a bit dismayed. I could not understand how anyone could do such a thing.
Once my muffin (blueberry) and London Fog were ready I turned, looking for a table, but there were no open ones. Not that I could see, at least. I took a few hesitant steps in one direction, craning my neck to see if I somehow I free table would appear. Then the other, peering around a corner to see one of the larger tables occupied by a man alone, looking over notes in a folder. They looked important.
I did notice him. He was quite handsome with his blue eyes when he looked up at me. Then he smiled and I felt my heart beat a little faster. There was something special about that smile that made me feel like he was looking just at me and really seeing me. He was older, probably in his mid-thirties, while I had just had my 27th birthday a few months before. I didn't mind, though. He looked dashing and sure of himself. I had always felt that age didn't really matter if you found the right person.
"There's plenty of room here if you want to join me." I couldn't help smiling back at him although normally I would never sit with a stranger. This man though, there was just something about him.
"I wouldn't want to intrude," I replied demurely. I was certain my cheeks were flushing, my palms just a little damp. He seemed rather wonderful, I had to admit. I could imagine him bringing me roses, pink ones, just the ones I like.
"My name is James Merridew. Please, sit. I don't mind in the least. Who would mind sharing a table with such a lovely woman?" The corners of his eyes crinkled just a little when he smiled and my heart flopped over in my chest. "Here. Let me."
Just like that, he stood and gently took my tea and plate, setting them on the table, then pulling out a chair for me. I had never had a man pull out a chair for me, and it felt slightly awkward having him push it back in as I sat. It was sweet though. Wonderful. Just the way I had thought he would be.
I did flush, of course, but I smiled back and broke a piece off my muffin, toying with it as I glanced at him from under my lashes. "I'm Nicky. Nicola, really, but I always preferred Nicky." For some reason I didn't mention my last name. Neither did he.
I thought maybe he would go back to his notes, but instead he closed it and I saw the logo for a brewery I had heard of. I nearly asked about it, but then he looked at me again and I felt fluttery all over.
He asked me about my day, about my work. He complimented me again. It didn't feel forced the way it did when some men said something nice. It just seemed to be the way he was. Sweet, honest. He told me that he was in town for business, and did eventually tell me that he did, in fact, work for the brewery.
I found myself speaking easily to him, enjoying the charm he exuded. He made me laugh, and with his attention all on me I felt rather like a princess. It was perfect and unexpected. An hour passed and I barely noticed. He touched the back of my hand once and it made me feel warm all over.
Then he glanced at his watch and offered a wry half-smile, an adorable tugging at the corner of his lips. "It seems I have to be going. It's such a shame, really. I've had a wonderful time talking to you, Nicky. I don't suppose... would you have dinner with me this evening? I'm sure you have plans. You're beautiful and any man would be a fool not to notice. Some successful boyfriend?"
All I could do was flush. Joy bubbled through me. He had asked me to have dinner with him! It was straight out of a story. He was beautiful and kind and it was too, too perfect. So I shook my head with faint embarrassment, although being with him made me glad I had no boyfriend. It meant I was free to reply, "I would love to have dinner with you."
His smile made me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. "That is wonderful. I have a meeting I have to go to now, but if you give me your phone number I will call you when it is done. If you have a favourite restaurant, I'll make reservations."
It was a fairy tale, something right out of one of those romance novels I read when I was feeling down. Making reservations was a sure sign he really would call. I gave him my number without a qualm and mentioned a nice restaurant I had only been too once, but had loved. It was fancy without being too snobby. He smiled and stood, walking around the table with his folder under his arm. He paused for a moment then I flushed when he leaned down and kissed my cheek.
"I hope that wasn't too forward. I just couldn't help myself. I'll see you tonight." And then he was off, determined strides but not too quickly. He even glanced back at me and smiled again before he stepped outside and disappeared into a rather nice car.
I realized then that I hadn't done more than crumble my muffin and that my tea had long since gone cold. I didn't mind, though. I picked up the plate and the mug, setting them in the tray the staff set out, then hurried home to clean myself up and decide what I would wear.