Following chapter two of my short story, here is chapter three! This week's chapter includes both character's point-of-view.
I don't know what kind of out-of-this-world force drew me back to the town I left behind in my memories, collected under dust and layers of regret, five years ago, but something about this still-need-a-jacket weather, beautiful pink sky from the rising sun, this Tuesday morning drew me to the coffee shop I continued to crave as time slipped away. Rather than the usual quiet hum of soft, peaceful melodies playing overhead, a constant buzz circulated as if everyone in this town wanted their morning coffee at the same time, from the same place.
I recognize almost everyone – the barista is another new, fresh face probably trying to make a couple bucks to take his temporary girlfriend to a movie on the weekends with the car borrowed from mom until curfew is the only thing ruining their night. "I hope he stays like this," I thought to myself, but instead, I said, "Large dark roast – 1 sugar, no cream, 3 shots of espresso, please."
Almost snatching my coffee from the already forgotten boy behind the in-desperate-need-of-oil, wooden counter, I made my way into the caffeine-craving, zombie-like crowd. A familiar hand reached out, grabbing my arm and pulling me in like a remembered habit. Looking up, tears formed heavily in my eyes. My cheeks were red; I could feel it. Words wouldn't come out, and for the first time when it came to you, I didn't feel like running.
Before we sat down at the same table that remembered more stories, we whispered like secrets long ago, than we did, your arms pulled me into an embrace that I can still feel when a stranger in a supermarket smells of "Ocean" cologne and smiles the same welcoming smile I can still see when I close my eyes. You still smell like coming home.
"You'll regret letting her leave again," the desperate voice in my head warned. Nervous, I reached out, grabbing your arm a little too roughly, your coffee puddling on the roof of your lid. Daunting grey eyes quickly met mine causing not only time but my heart to stop. I wonder how many times I've been asked my favorite color, only to be consumed with the memories of watching your eyes slowly open every morning like they were unsure of their decision. Whose life were you trying to live?
Just before you sat down at the table that still held our whispered secrets, I drew you in my arms like I did so many times. I never thought there would be a day we would share a last embrace. You smelled like experience and a home you never belonged to.
Laughing over cold coffee, it was hard to think about why it was so easy to leave you. Sitting here, hidden away from the rest of the world, my job, your job, family, I never wanted to leave. I think if I let myself, if I planted my feet down and glued them to these hardwood floors, I could grow old with you in this coffee shop on Main and 1st Street, whispering more forbidden secrets to our table that has now become a confidant.
A puzzling, playful look came over your face as you inquired, "Did you ever start that bluegrass band?"
Laughing, I shook my head as I sipped my coffee.
"It was more of a one-man-band that had a good, living room, one hit wonder."
"Your hair has pink in it."
It was a simple statement, a clarification, yet it came out in a tone that was thick with confusion and a simple sadness that might confuse one who wasn't quite comfortable with your disappointment.
"I always do what I want."
Faintly, you whispered, "I know."
Changing the topic from my latest instrument failures and possible regretful hair colors, we settled on a conversation I never stuck around long for personal affairs. Five years ago, I predicted we'd meet here to talk about your wife, and your new life, and your mundane daily routine. I was right. You spoke about your job in a way I never heard you talk before – with a certainty and confidence you never carried before. Confident that you hate your job, that is.
"I don't just up and walk away from things" came out a tad bit harsher than you had expected it to.
Wincing like I just took a physical blow, I pursed my lips and nervously checked my phone like I was expecting a phone call just to avoid the intensity from your eyes that I could feel burning more holes in my soul from across this table. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you; I was just trying to make a joke."
"It's okay, I get it," I quietly offered; although, I didn't. How many times could I apologize for something I never should've apologized for in the first place? I will not be sorry for the things that I feel, yet here I am, doing it again five years later with the same guy in the same place, picking up the roles of the same life I tried to run away from. Quickly rolling my eyes, I thought, "How could he joke about me leaving like it was nothing?" Leaving you was the heartbreak I never let myself experience.