THIS IS A WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION
It will be serialized over the next several days, and the finale will be marked with the traditional…THE END
Aaron pulled into a parking space in the back of the town center, sat in his car and took a few deliberate breaths of recirculated air before getting out. He walked right past Charlsie seated at the outdoor table, without even a passing glance, and stood in line to place an order at a Starbucks for the first time in his life. “Tall, skinny iced vanilla latte,” he told the friendly order taker, adding, “And an ice water.”
Because she was seated outside, Charlsie didn’t hear the barista call out “Iced Vanilla Latte for Aaron!” It was now five minutes past ten, and her shaking right foot increased its speed and magnitude.
Aaron did a cursory scan of the interior of the coffee shop, and finding no familiar faces, walked outside, took a seat at the outdoor table directly to Charlsie’s left, still not noticing her, and took out his phone.
AS: Did you change your mind? 😦
CA: No. Did you?
AS: No. I’m here. Where are you?
AS: Where’s ‘here?’ I can’t find you.
CA: Well, how could you? I told you…force of will or blind faith can’t do it at a crowded Starbucks.
AS: I thought Divine Providence would intervene and spotlight you for me.
CA: Poetic. I have to admit, that’s impressive, even if it’s phony.
AS: Phony? No way. I thought you’d be easy to find. I’ve seen you in my head every day I can remember.
CA: No wonder you’re so enamored of me. I’m a fantasy. Reality’s gonna suck for you.
AS: Doubt it. Where are you? I’m eager to see reality.
AS: You can’t be. I’m outside. I can’t believe I’m actually typing this, but…what are you wearing? OMG, I feel like a pervert now. That was a necessary question. <gah!>
The woman to Aaron’s right giggled. Her laugh had a soothing melody about it that made him smile without looking up.
CA: Haha! I know you aren’t being obscene. 😀
AS: I didn’t want to be ‘scary’ again.
CA: I’m not scared. You’ve proved yourself a man of honor. You had to ask what I’m wearing. 😉
AS: Well…what ARE you wearing?
CA: Purple v-neck t-shirt, khaki shorts. I’m at a table in the row closest to the sidewalk.
AS: You wore shorts! 😀
AS: I can check out your legs. 😉
CA: !!! <blushing>
Aaron looked up and to his right to see a beautiful stranger wearing the clothing Charlsie described to him seconds before. He thought of calling her out on text for playful misdirection, but didn’t. The girl at the table was drinking the same iced coffee he’d planned to surprise the love of his life with, and he was captured by her enchanting face upon really looking for the first time. Awareness claimed him, and it incited him to make the only impulsive, unthinking decision of his life. Abashed but thankful, he determined to let the happy accident play out in full. He took two steps to the right toward a woman that was just as lovely, just as daring, and had the same name as the girl he pined for his entire life, but wasn’t her.
“Is this seat taken?” he asked with a supplemental, formal respect he felt he owed her to atone for the previous fourteen hours of presumption based on mistaken identity.
“I’m waiting for someone,” she said, suspecting but unsure that this man was who she thought he was.
“He’s friendly. I think.”
“He? Hmm. Lucky guy.”
“Well, thank you.”
“You ARE Aaron…t-take your seat.”
“Hope you’re ready for a refill,” he said, sliding the coffee across the tabletop to her. “Would have been a lot smoother if I’d found you before you ordered.”
“Well, an addict is never gonna turn down a free hit. Thank you! You got it exactly right.”
“I read it right off your text from last night.”
“You’re just drinking water?”
“They didn’t have Coke. Should have stopped at a drive through on the way here, I guess.”
“It was really sweet of you to buy me a coffee, sight unseen and everything.”
“Well, I wasn’t kidding before. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world right now.”
“I’m not that big of a prize.”
“I think you are. What made you decide to meet me?”
“You were just so…insistent. And full of…I dunno…”
“Shit?” he kidded, raising his eyebrows comically.
“PROMISE,” she laughed. “You made yourself undeniable. Calling some random number out of a phone book? That’s serious grit. And you were just so genuine about wanting to meet up with me. You don’t find that combination of senseless courage and full-on sincerity very often.”
“Totally brave to meet me here, not seeing me, not really knowing me at all. It kind of blows me away.”
“You like a spirited gal, do ya?”
“Yes. I’ve only ever fallen for two girls. They’ve both been dauntless. It’s pretty hot.”
“Tell me about them…the fearless girls you’re into.”
“The first one was when I was a kid. She had to prove she could do anything I could do, but better. Tore her legs up skateboarding down a seventy degree hill in our neighborhood. She had to get stitches and everything.”
“A little crazy, maybe. But definitely tough.”
“I know, right?”
“That what made you a leg man?”
“OK. Pretty cool your top priority in a woman is ‘indomitable.’ A lot of guys want ‘tame.’”
“They’re idiots. Don’t know what they’re missing. Strength. Competitiveness. Guts…major turn ons.”
“Tell me about girl number two.”
“She’s sitting across from me now.”
“You’ve fallen for me already? You don’t know anything about me.”
For the first time in over a decade, Aaron shared the company of a woman that wasn’t Chuck, and didn’t turn his thoughts away from the face in front of him to reminiscing about his time with her. “I know how you take your coffee. I know you’re adventurous. Now I know you have espresso brown eyes I can’t look away from. And I want to learn the rest.”
Charlsie had blind dates before, but they were fix ups arranged by situational friends. They felt skewed from open to close, and never progressed beyond heavily censored conversation. When she answered his first inappropriate question from a deserted parking lot yesterday, in spite of the outlandishness, she felt an uncanny ease with Aaron. Such pure, distilled kismet had never touched her life before, and she was overwhelmed by its peculiarity. “Alright. Ask whatever you wanna know.”
“Are you still afraid of me?”
“Oddly…no. Not at all. In fact, for some bizarre reason, I feel…safe.”
“Good,” he smiled at her, atypically composed.
“You gotta be the ballsiest guy I’ve ever met.”
“I’m actually quite a coward.”
“Had me fooled. I’m usually repelled by such irregularly high self-confidence. Not everyone can pull that off without seeming like an asshole.”
He laughed out loud at her choice of words. “I don’t even think I’m the ballsiest person at the table.”
“Did I offend you?”
“With ‘asshole?’ No. I favor a woman that will speak her mind. Even if her mind’s full of cuss words.”
“Well, how DO I make you feel? Do I scare YOU?”
“Not even a little.”
“So you really don’t do this all the time? Cold call women, gambling that you’ll get lucky and find a dumb one that will agree to meet you somewhere?”
“No. I’ve only looked up one other number in the white pages in my life. That was back in high school, when it was the only way to find someone.”
“She must have been something.”
“Well, she was.”
“First girl, right?”
“That’d be her.”
“What was her name?”
“Don’t think I should tell you. It will ruin what’s going on here, and that’s the LAST thing I want to do.”
“What have you got to lose, really? I’m just the result of an aimless search.”
“No, you aren’t. You’re the second girl. And the insistent, fortunate prospectus in my head keeps saying, ‘Not the second girl. THE girl. The last girl.’”
“Love at first sight?” She playfully asked, winking at him, flirting with a dose of laid back sass that was deviant for her, hoping the earnestness she sensed from him wasn’t false. Against all reason, she wanted to be ‘the last girl.’
“Not exactly. But something like that.”
“It won’t ruin anything. Do I know her or something?”
“There’s no possible way you know her.”
“So tell me. What’s her name?”
“I’m serious. All that brass on the phone? No way I could have mustered that had I known you were a dazzling stranger. I thought I was talking to someone I’d known since right after I started sleeping through the night.”
“I have the same name as your first love?”
“That’s incredible. I’ve never met anyone else named ‘Charlsie.’ And she has the same last name, too?”
“I don’t really know what her last name is now. I haven’t spoken to her at all in eleven years. But her maiden name was Anderson.”
“I know. Amazing coincidence.”
“Best stupid mistake ever.”
“Tell me about it. I’m glad you’re not running for the hills. I meant what I said about only falling twice. I fell fast and hard this time. Knocked the wind outta me.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Liar. You have to be thinking something. I can see the wheels turning.”
“So? After the confession I just laid on the table? Can’t be that bad,” he teased her.
“OK, I’m thinking this is the first time I ever really liked my name. It’s weird. I got teased in school all the time. No fun. Today’s the first time I’ve ever been happy to be ‘Charlsie.’”
“I think it’s a beautiful name.”
“I guess you do. You might be the only man in history to fall for two girls named ‘Charlsie.’ I thought you were a call center employee when you called me. You asked for ‘Charlsie.’ No one I know calls me that.”
“You go by a middle name? Or a nickname?”
“My old friends and family call me ‘Charlie.’ Guess that’s strange. Girl that goes by ‘Charlie.’”
Aaron mused at the near alignment with Chuck, but delighted in the subtle differences. THIS Charlsie was more polished, sophisticated, adult; or perhaps it was he who had appropriately matured. He didn’t feel the pressure of perfection with the woman sitting across from him, returning his unflinching gaze, that he had with the girl from his youth. He distinguished his preference for the present. “I don’t think it’s strange at all.”
“Are you just gonna say whatever I wanna hear? Don’t be ‘that guy.’ I don’t want a minion. I want a MAN.”
“I’m not placating you. I dig it. Can I call you ‘Charlie?’”
“You want a MAN, huh?”
“Well, not a misogynist douche. But yeah. A MAN.”
“Had a lot of experience with those?”
“Minions or douches?”
“Both. Done with it. I was starting to think there wasn’t any middle ground.”
“I’m all about middle ground. I’m ‘no man’s land.’”
“Alright, Mr. Silverman. What do we do now that we’ve established some middle ground?”
“Wanna go get married?”
“Mmmmm…maybe gimme a little while longer for that one.”
“Can I take you out?”
“That’s an authoritative ‘yes.’ What made that happen? You know…so I can keep doing it?”
“I like the way you ask.”
“Yeah. Take me out.”
If you like my short work, my novels are available to purchase here.