You sit in the brown and white overstuffed chair common in most little jive coffee places, staring across the room. There, dressed in tattered jeans and a faded band shirt, is the first guy you ever gave your heart to. He’s sipping a cup of what you assume is coffee (he’s really a no frills kind of guy) and his right ankle is resting on his left knee. He looks so contented sitting there sipping his grande whatever, and yucking it up with his wife.
You know she’s his wife because you’ve visited her social networking site just about a million times since you first discovered he has a page, thus realizing he’s got a little wifey with a page as well. That was in the beginning though, when the shock was overwhelming and you just couldn’t get past the fact that he’d done the thing he swore he would never do- get married again. Now it’s only now and again that you visit her page, not even bothering with his. He doesn’t update it anyway. As you’re thinking of this you realize it has been a full month since you’ve even thought about him or his mousy little woman.
There you go being catty again, something Stella warned you about.
“There’s no sense being mad at her,”you hear Stella chide. “She’s done nothing to you.”
You wanted to yell at her that day that, yes this girl has done something to you. She’s married the guy you have loved since you were thirteen years old. She should be shot. Or maimed. Or just given a good talking to.
You take a sip of the still-steaming cappuccino purchased mere moments before he had entered, ruining a perfectly good Saturday morning, and try to turn your attentions back to your book, but it’s no use.
What the hell is he doing in your favorite coffee shop? You think you might just walk over there and ask him, but decide against it when your phone rings. You look down to see the name STELLA glaring out at you. Damn, does she have radar?
“Hello?” you answer.
“Hey, girl, where ya at?” She’s got some rap song blaring in the background and you hold the phone away from your ear to stop the assault.
“Can you turn that down?” you quip.
“Now, what did you ask?”
“What’re you doin?” she asks.
“Sipping coffee at Nan’s, trying to read a book.” You ponder whether or not you should tell her.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bug ya.”
“It’s not you,” you say with a sigh. “Guess who I am staring at right now?”
“Well,” you say. “Guess.”
“I don’t know,” she says, but you can hear that caution in her tone.
“Ben,” you say, raising your cup for another sip.
“Ben?” There’s a pause. “You’re not stalking him are you?”
Before you can stop it coffee is shooting out of your mouth, following your laughter. “No!” you screech. Grabbing the bunch of napkins you’d had the good sense to pick up, you dab at the drops of coffee currently staining your favorite vintage top. “Of course not!”
With a glance upward you see you’ve attracted the attention of almost everyone in the room, including your ex and his significant other. Though how she can be that significant you’ll never know.
“Shit,” you breathe.
“What?” Stella asks on the other end. She’s got an edge in her voice.
“You made me spit coffee all over my favorite peasant top, number one,” you snip. “And number two, he’s seen me. Him and his mousy little wife.”
“What’s he doing?”
“What he always does. He’s just staring at me, like I’m some kind of sideshow freak!”
“Get out of there!” she yells. “Leave!”
“No!” I yell in a whisper. “I was here first and this is my favorite coffee shop!”
You try to turn your attention away and act as though you haven’t seen him. He turns his attentions back to his wife, but she is still staring at you. Is it possible that she knows who you are?”
“What’s happening?” Stella asks, practically screaming.
“I’m giving up on my top. You owe me one.”
“I don’t care about your top. You probably only paid three bucks for it anyway! What’s happening with him!”
“He’s talking to her, but she’s staring at me.” Your heart seizes as she stands up and begins to walk your way. “Oh my God, she’s coming over here. What the hell!”
You can see why he’s attracted to her. She’s skinny and jerks like him always go for the skinny, although you were always curvaceous in high school, as were a couple of other of his girlfriends. You guess he’s lost his sense of what’s attractive because this girl is almost rail thin, no boobs, and small feet. Okay, maybe he doesn’t care about her feet. Men are so easy when it comes to a skinny girl, as if that makes one interesting. You shift your size sixteen frame in the chair, trying to look as intimidating as possible.
“No she’s not!” Stella gasps.
You pretend not to notice her when she stops in front of you. Inside you’re screaming oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, but outside you try to remain cool and calm.
“Excuse me,” she says.
You look at her, then past her to him. His eyes are transfixed on the situation at hand, but he doesn’t dare move.
“Stell, hold on, k?” you say into the phone.
“Don’t hang up!” Stella screams.
You laugh. “Just hold on.” You look up at her. Her name is Julie, you know this because of the webpage, and you know that she has a one-year-old child with the man who used to be the boy you loved. You smile. “Yes?”
“Is your name Charlotte Edmonds?”
Damn, damn, damn!
“Yes,” you say, maintaining your smile. Your mind is racing with thoughts, wondering what he may have told her about your relationship and hoping she’s not gonna hit you. Mousy girls can fight too! “Have we met?”
“Um, no,” she says. She looks back at Ben and you feel your stomach erupt again. “I’m sorry, my husband said I shouldn’t bother you, but I just couldn’t help myself.”
Still wearing the smile, though it feels more than a little awkward at this time you say, “You’re no bother at all. How can I help you?”
“We kind of met last month. You came to the Arts Guild.”
You remember the Arts Guild, but do not remember her being there. She must have been one of the late walk-ins.
“You spoke about your book, 25 Things Men Do Wrong.”
You laugh and you can hear Stella laughing on the other end. “Y-yes, I remember speaking there, but I’m sorry I don’t remember you.”
“I came in late.”
You laugh. “That explains it.”
Something has happened. You’re floating above your body, watching this bizzaro scene. Your first love’s wife has come to speak to you about your book. This means he hasn’t mentioned you to her at all.
“Have you purchased a copy?”
“Yes. My husband hates it.” She laughs and you suddenly find yourself liking her a little more.
“Why would he hate it?”
She leans closer. “He says I am using it to grade him.”
You laugh despite yourself and on the other end of the line you hear Stella howl. Your first love is married to a woman who purchased your book and she uses it to tell him what he is doing wrong! It’s the sweetest revenge!
“I’m sure he’s overreacting.” You can feel the sparkle in your eyes. You look over at Ben. He’s fiddling with the lid to his cup, and his face has turned the same shade of copper as the mop on his head. You laugh again.
“It’s specifically number 17,” she continues, seemingly oblivious that she is making this the best day of your life.
“Number 17… Oh, number 17. Wow.” You look at him again. He is mortified. You love it! “Well…” You want to tell her the book is all in good fun. Nothing to take too seriously, but you have been where she is. You have been with this man whose hands are better than the rest of him. Well, that and his kisses.
“Could you come and meet him?”
When the howling scream erupts from the phone you hit the little red end button. “I don’t think so,” you say.
“Oh. Not even for a moment? He’s really angry with me, but if you speak to him…”
The devious part of you wants to say yes. That part wants to go over and gloat over him wallowing in embarrassment. That devious part, you know, comes from years of making a fool out of yourself over him and being a laughingstock because you just couldn’t get past him, but mostly it is from the foolishness you feel for having loved someone so much who’d never once loved you.
You look over at him once more and know that if you walk over to that table you will be that same sad girl that couldn’t move forward. You’d still be that girl waiting by the phone for him to call back, or waiting on that email message after you’d found him online. It never came because he’d never cared enough for you to give you a second thought.
You smile at her. Leaning forward you cover her small hand with your own. “I am so glad you purchased my book,” you say. “But I can’t go over to that table. I can’t go backward when I’ve already come so far.”
She looks dumbfounded.
“There is nothing there for me.” You gather your belongings and stand up. She stands as well. “I’m sorry, but I have to go now.”
You don’t look at him as you leave the coffee shop. There is no need. You know that she is already back at the table and he is chiding her for bothering you, but he still will not tell her that you used to be his girlfriend.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” a handsome blond man says, stepping in your path.
You smile and say, “You’re right on time.” Gathering him up in your arms you kiss him. “Have I told you how much I love you lately?”
He looks suspicious. “Yes. Why?”
You laugh. “No reason.”
He smiles. “Are you ready?”
“I need to call Stella back and then we can go.”
“I’m gonna step in and get me a beverage then.”
You laugh at the exaggerated way he pronounces beverage as you step off to the side and begin to dial the number.
“Well!” Stella answers after half a ring.
“She wanted to talk to me about my book,” you giggle.
“I know! Number 17! I couldn’t remember it, so I got the book out and looked it up!” She cackles. “I guess some things never change!”
You laugh. “I guess not. She wanted me to go and talk to him.”
Stella’s laughter stops suddenly. “Did you?”
“Nah,” you say. “There’s nothing there for me. Never was.”
“I’m proud to hear you say that.”
“Thanks.” The door opens and she is joined once again by her beau. “Look, Stephen and I are going shopping. Can we stop by later?”
“Sure! See ya then!”
You slide your phone into the leather satchel circa 1975 hanging off your waist, and look at Stephen. “What’s up?” you ask as you begin your descent to the parking lot. Five steps count!
“Ben was in there.”
“Really?” you say, chucking the remnants of your coffee in the bin. “I didn’t notice.”