“How’s it goin’, Jeff?” Tara walked up to the register of her favorite coffee shop.
“Not too bad. It's been a slow day. So the usual? A tall Vanilla Latte?” Jeff, the 5’7, slim and short bleach blond hair barista smiled.
“It’s not always the usual. I’ve ordered other drinks before... not as much but I have.” Tara returned the smile. “But yes, a Tall Vanilla Latte, please.”
Java Lounge was Tara's favorite underground coffee shop. It was an average looking place on the peaceful side of town where nothing interesting ever happened. It was well lit but not so bright with modern art decorated on the bright lavender walls. It wasn’t one of those big company coffee shops, just a family owned, underground, kind of coffee shop, where they knew their loyal customers names. They didn’t get as much business but their friendliness and willingness to go up and beyond to make their customers satisfied and welcomed always brought back their business. Tara was one of those loyal customers.
“So when’s the wedding?” Jeff wanted to know if Shane, Tara’s fiancé had finally set the date for their wedding.
“I don’t know. Shane kind of seems to be avoiding it.” She answered.
“Why would he avoid it? He asked you to marry him. You’d figure he’d want to help set the date.”
“I know but I’m just gonna give him some time. He’s been working overtime for the past month. He comes home exhausted. So how’s Stephan?” Tara was curious to know how Stephan, Jeff’s boyfriend was doing.
“He’s great, just waiting for him to put a ring on this little finger.” Jeff popped out his left ring finger as he handed Tara her drink.
“Don’t worry, you guys will get there soon enough.” She grabbed her drink out of his pale but always moisturized hand.
“Oh he better.” He winked.
“I’ll see ya later.” Tara chuckled. She absolutely adored Jeff’s attitude. He always made her smile, even if it was just a simple, small conversation like they just had. They have become great friends over the two years Tara had been going to Java Lounge. She was the only person Jeff would truly open up too, he was never judged by her and he never judged her. She was the sister he never had.
“Later girl.” Jeff walked over to the register to help another customer.
Tara took a step backwards and quickly turned around, accidentally crashing hard into a man who also had a drink in his hand, making the liquid explode out of their cups and onto their clothes and floor.
“Oh crap! I’m so sorry!” Tara apologized, overfilled with utter embarrassment.
“Oh man, that’s… that’s real refreshing.” The 5’9 stranger with coffee stained on his white shirt responded.
“I’m such an idiot, I am so sorry. Please, let me help you clean that off.” Tara looked around for some napkins but her mind was spinning out of control that she never noticed the napkins on the counter behind her.
“It’s okay; it’s no big deal, accidents happen.” The man looked into Tara’s eyes, understanding that it was an honest accident. He didn’t want to make her feel worse than she already seemed to be.
“No, no, no. I insist, let me help.” Tara’s fingers gripped over the strangers left wrist and dragged him into the restroom. She closed the door behind him, grabbed a few paper towels then started rubbing it on the brown wet spot of his shirt.
“Ok, um, this is so not going to work but the honest thing to do is pay for your dry cleaning.” She noticed that drying it off with a brown paper towel would never do the trick and was wondering to herself why she thought it would even work in the first place. Yet she was still lightly rubbing the paper over his chest, but at this point, where her mind was at, she didn’t have control of her hands.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s totally fine.” He assured her.
“Oh my gosh.” It finally dawned on her. “Did I just drag a stranger by his will into the restroom?”
The man chuckled; amused with the strange woman whose hands were still on his chest.
Her face slightly turned pink. “I am so embarrassed.”
“It’s really no problem at all.” The man stared down at her hands.
Tara gulped and removed her hands from his chest, now realizing that her hands were resting on his chest. “Now I’m even more embarrassed.”
“Well if we knew each other’s names it will probably be less awkward and embarrassing.” He tried to lighten her mood. “I’m Ryan.” He held his right hand out for a handshake.
Tara smirked, knowing that it was still going to be awkward and embarrassing but went along with it and shook his hand. “Tara.”
With that handshake, Tara was stuck with volts of anxiety as his hand firmly gripped hers. His grip was strong, yet gentle for her delicate hand.
With Ryan's hand still firmly gripped onto hers he had to ask. “Tara, may I tell you something that might make this situation less or even more awkward?”
“Umm… sure.” She hesitated.
“You have a beautiful name.”
Ryan saw the embarrassment in her eyes but he couldn’t help but smile, he was captivated by her beauty. Her layered wavy dark brown hair that ended in the middle of her back, her deep sugar brown eyes, the curves of her body that were beautifully complimented with her dark blue skinny mid rise jeans and a grey stylish Chiffon Splicing V-neck T-shirt that showed the very start of her breasts but stood hidden behind the shirt, keeping it clean for the public’s eye and leaving it to the viewers imagination. She’s a beautiful woman and he wanted to flip the pages in her book to know more about her.
“Whoa.” An elderly gentleman had opened the door to the restroom and quickly closed the door as he saw Tara and Ryan standing in the middle of the restroom. Ryan quickly released Tara’s hand and his smile grew as Tara cleared her throat, not knowing what else to do.
“I should get out of here, let you clean up.”
“Uh, yeah. Okay.” Tara pursed her lips.
Ryan’s right foot was about to take a step forward but he stopped himself to tell her one last thing. “By the way… I don’t think you’re an idiot.”
Tara stared at the floor, not able to make eye contact. “Thanks.”
Ryan quickly eyed balled her up and down then walked out of the restroom. Tara locked the door behind him and took in a huge breath and exhaled deeply, trying to take in what just happened. She grabbed a few paper towels damped them and tried to clean off the spilt drink on her shirt then dried it up as much as she could with a few dry ones. She washed her hands then looked into the mirror.
There was something about this man. The way his blue eyes made contact with hers, lingering, not once did he looked away from her as they talked, the long two inches of dirty blonde hair that was stroked back and tamed with just a little mess in the front with the sides of his head clean shaven, the hair style she loved on a man, the faux hawk. Or maybe it was the way he was dressed, with a white shirt with two out of four buttons unbuttoned, faded black, slim jeans with what seemed to be a small tattoo on his left wrist written in Japanese but was hidden behind a half inch black bracelet that looked handmade or that orgasmic scent that ran through her nostrils or maybe, just maybe it was the genuine smile he flashed at her that showed his pearly whites.
What am I doing? She snapped out of her thoughts. I’m engaged, I shouldn’t be thinking like this about another man. She walked out of the restroom, praying the mysterious man had taken off.
“Vanilla latte, right?” Ryan held out the drink in his hand, surprising Tara.
“I can’t let you pay for that.” Tara pulled out her wallet from her back pocket and plucked out a ten dollar bill.
“No, it’s alright. It’s on me.” Ryan insisted.
“No, I wouldn’t feel right. I already messed up your shirt. The least I can do is pay for that and your drink.”
“If you really want to make up for it, how about you accompany me?” Ryan suggested as he hand motioned her over to the corner booth where his new drink was waiting for him. “That is unless you have somewhere else to be?”
“I uh.” Tara wanted to make up a quick excuse to leave the man hanging but staring into his hypnotic eyes made it difficult to reject him. “Okay.” Ryan smiled as they both sat down across from each other.
Jeff looked over at the table and quickly knew what Ryan’s intentions were. He stared at them talking for a while and hoped that Tara wouldn’t do anything she’d regret. He knew that Tara and Shane had some issues and he was afraid that it would eventually drive her into the arms of another man.
“So you’re a kindergarten teacher. How do you like being the molder of young minds?” Ryan was intrigued with everything she had to say so far.
“The pay isn’t the best but to be able to mold children’s minds and to see how innocent they are compared to us adults, it’s rewarding in its own ways.
“What school?” Ryan followed up.
“No way, my niece Celeste starts there tomorrow. How many kindergarten teachers are there?”
“Just two. So she’s going to be in kindergarten?”
“Yeah, small world huh? She might end up with you.”
“Awesome, guess we will find out tomorrow.” Tara smiled. “So what do you do?”
“Well I actually work two jobs. I’m a shop assistant at Pottery Barn and a waiter at Chez Loma.”
“Oh that fancy restaurant that opened a few months ago?”
“That’s the one.”
“I’ve always wanted to go there. What kind of food do they serve?”
“It’s French cuisine. Anything French they have except French toast.” Ryan caught himself at a bad joke all too late and hoped she wouldn’t find it foolish.
“And French Fries, right?” She giggled.
“Right.” Ryan smiled, relaxed that she giggled at his bad joke. “I’m trying to get into the music industry, so two jobs help pay the bills and the rest is savings to get me settled in once I move to L.A.
“Oh, so you sing?” Tara started finding herself in awe with the man. “Solo or band?”
“Band. We play at some local bars for now and a few coffee shops, read some poetry at a couple of poetry reading slams, places like that.”
“Wow, well I’d love to see you play.”
“Yeah, totally. I’m playing down at Romeo’s this Friday at 8. You should stop by.”
“Sure. I’ll check you out.”
Ryan smirked at her remark.
“I mean the band…check out the band.” Tara turned red in the face.
“You two enjoying your drinks?” Jeff walked over to their table and butted into their conversation.
“Yes we are.” Ryan smiled, his eyes never leaving Tara’s.
“We’re good.” Tara looked up to Jeff, realizing why he butted in.
“Great, tell Shane I said hello.” Jeff raised his left eyebrow at Tara and walked away conspicuously.
Tara looked down and realized how it was all starting to look.
“Shane? Your boyfriend?” Ryan quickly caught on.
“Fiancé.” Tara confessed.
Ryan glanced at her left hand and noticed no ring on her finger and Tara saw where his eyes shifted to. “I took my engagement ring in for a smaller band. That’s why I’m not wearing it.”
Ryan felt like a complete idiot, embarrassed that he was almost about to ask her out. Tara noticed the change of look he took on. “I uh, think I should apologize. I think maybe I gave off the wrong impression that…”
“There’s nothing to apologize for. Two adults can’t talk without it meaning anything more than a friendship?” Ryan capitalized.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Tara thought about it.
“So, should I be expecting your appearance on Friday?” Ryan stood up.
“I don’t see why not.” Tara stood up as well.
“Great. So uh, see you Friday.” Ryan put out his hand for a friendly handshake goodbye.
“Okay.” Tara shook his hand with a warm smile.
-Later That Night-
“You’re over 18, right?” Shane instant messaged a woman online. He found her on a dating site that he signed up for three months ago, the day he asked Tara to marry her but never had the time to browse local women until now.
“Yeah, 19. Too young for ya? Because I don’t mind the age difference. You seem like a mature man and I’m really tired of all the lame games boys play.” The blonde, petite, big breasted girl responded.
“I definitely don’t mind, sweetheart.”
“So why are you on this site anyways? I browsed through your profile and you seem like a genuine, nice and very hot guy ;)?” The girl quickly instant messaged Shane back.
“Just wanted to try it out and see where it takes me. It doesn’t hurt to see who’s out there, am I right?”
“Exactly. :) We should meet up; grab a bite to eat or something.”
Shane heard the front door open and quickly jolted up. He clicked on the red X button on internet explorer, the internet browser that he knew Tara wouldn’t use since she uses Google Chrome, shut the laptop and paced downstairs.
“Hey baby.” Shane went in for a hug.
“Hey, how was work?” Tara returned the hug.
“Uneventful. Wanna grab a bite to eat?”
“Um, you know what? I think I’m just gonna eat something here. I just want to take a long shower and read a book or something.” Tara rubbed the back of her neck.
“Yeah, I’m sure. I just need to relax.” Tara slowly walked up the stairs, feeling guilty for having Ryan on her mind. She just barely met the guy, so why was she overtaken by him? She just wanted to read a book, catch up on writing her short stories that she keeps to herself and hopefully the thought of Ryan would diminish.
Shane stood there watching his fiancé walk away and couldn’t help but wonder if making their relationship official by getting married was a good idea. He loved her but he was starting to have a little inch of doubt. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to give up the excitement of having other women.