My sister, Eve, was late. We were meeting for coffee. I took one of the empty tables and sat there for a minute or two, waiting. Eve had been very distracted lately because she had just fallen in love. The week before, she went to one of her self-help workshops, called Meditate to Find Your True Mate. Sure enough, it happened right there at the workshop. His name was John, and already she was spending every spare minute with him. When she wasn't with him, she was thinking about him. A couple of days after they met, I had found her spaced-out next to the big photocopy machine in our store, smiling to herself and making a hundred copies of someone's water bill, instead of just one. She kept taking phone calls from John in the back room of our store, closing the door and leaving me stranded with a growing line of customers in a hurry. Twice, she had arrived at work in the morning directly from his house, looking dazed and rumpled in her clothes from the day before.
This morning she had called me just as I was about to leave to take my children to school, and said, "Let's get together before work. I want to show you something. I'm on my way out now. I'll meet you at the good coffee place as soon as you're done at school." And now she was late. I wondered how long it was going to take before the effects of falling in love wore off.
I had my bank statement in my purse, so I took it out and started going over it. As I went down the columns checking off the ATM withdrawals, I had the feeling that someone was looking over my shoulder. I looked up and glared at a man who had sat down right beside me with his cup of black coffee. Instead of looking away when I caught him scanning my bank statement, he looked me straight in the face and smiled. He said, "Good morning. Perfect day, isn't it? Way too nice to be balancing the books. And you look like the kind of person who always comes out in the black anyway."
I gave the slightest grunt of an acknowledgment to let him know that I did not feel like chatting, nor did I appreciate his peering over my shoulder. I went back to marking off the checks I'd written.
"Where's your coffee?" he said. "Can I buy you one?"
"No," I said without looking up. "Thank you." I could feel him still looking at what I was doing, like warm breath on the back of my neck. I folded up my papers and looked around for another table. Now the place was full and there wasn't one.
"That's a pretty necklace," he said. "What is that?" He reached forward to touch the heart I wear on a chain around my neck. I drew away from his hand, leaving it stranded in midair. He smiled again. "Hey," he said. "I just wanted to know if that's onyx. I wasn't going to bite you."
I looked out the front of the place to see if my sister was coming. "Yeah," I said. "Onyx."
"Late again, huh?" he said, following my gaze to the parking lot. "I'm going to get you some coffee." He stood up. "We'll have our coffee together. No sense in us both sitting here alone. Cappuccino? Latte? Café au lait? Am I close? It's something with milk in it, right? And you don't look like the lowfat or skim type to me. Tell me if I'm on the right track."
Firmly, I said, "I don't want you to buy me coffee. Thank you anyway."
He smiled at me, stood up, and got in line.
My sister came in then. I stood up. "Eve," I said. "Let's sit outside. This creepy guy sat down next to me and wouldn't leave me alone. Or better yet, let's get our coffee to go and take it to the store. I want to get out of here."
She said, "But we still have an hour before we open, and I wanted to show you something."
"Show me at the store. Let's go."
"Wait," she said. "Take it easy. What did he do that was so creepy?"
I said, "I don't know. He said he liked my necklace, and he wanted to buy me coffee."
"I see what you mean," she said sarcastically. "Disgusting."
Just then, the guy walked up with a cardboard cup in his hand. "I decided on café au lait," he said, trying to hand me the cup. When I wouldn't take it, he put it on the table. Then he kissed my sister on the mouth. They looked deeply into each other's eyes for what seemed like the longest time.
My sister said to me, "This is John. John, this is my sister, Mary. She's called Mimi. This is what I wanted to show you, Mimi: the love of my life."
"Oh," I said. "Nice to meet you."
Text © 1992-2007 by Sara Lewis.