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Belinda zipped her BMW into the cafe parking lot and anxiously scanned the area to see if Troy had arrived.  There was no sign of a motorbike, but a gleaming Porsche was parked nearby.

A Porsche, I can see him driving a Porsche, though he’s tall.  It wouldn’t be easy for him getting in and out of that thing. What am I thinking? Am I so nervous that I’m wondering about him being too tall for a car?  I guess I am.  

Checking herself in the visor mirror, she ran her fingers through her hair, wiped a dust of mascara from below her eye, and taking a deep breath she stepped out.  Peering at the cafe window she didn’t see anyone sitting at the table they’d previously shared, and deciding the Porsche must not be his and she’d have time to gather her thoughts, she moved quickly across the lot to the door. Pushing it open she glanced around, and spying only a few customers, walked across to the counter.

“Hi there, what can I get you?”

The barista was young and perky, and Belinda found the friendly face reassuring.

“I believe she’ll have a latte with extra whipped cream.”

Belinda jumped, and spinning around she found Troy standing behind her.

“Um, yes, that’s right,” Belinda stammered.

“And for you, Sir?”

“A double espresso.”

“This is on me,” Belinda declared, hastily pulling her wallet from her bag.

“I’m bigger than you,” he grinned, passing a twenty-dollar bill to the barista. “You’re welcome to fight me for it, but you’d lose.”

“Anything to eat?” the barista interrupted.

“Two of your best muffins.”

“Thank you, I’ll bring it to your table.”

“I love that this place has table service,” Troy remarked as he collected his change.

“Yes, it’s a good thing,” Belinda replied, and you’re being incredibly nice considering I told you to take a hike this morning. Maybe this won’t be so tough after all.

“Same table?” Troy asked.

“Yes, sure,” Belinda nodded.

They settled across from each other, but faced with having to explain what happened she found herself unable to lift her gaze from the tabletop.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind,” Troy said softly.

“I’m not sure where to start,” she stammered. “I feel like an idiot.”

“At the beginning,” he suggested, “that’s always worked for me.”

“Um, well, I guess the beginning was when my phone rang around six this morning,” she sighed, and haltingly began to relay what had happened at the hospital.

Though he was quietly listening, Troy’s mind was swimming.

This is making sense, but it can make sense and still not be the whole truth.  I like her, I really like her. Maybe this is like jumping off a building, maybe I need to have more faith. My instinct tells me she’s totally sincere, that the drama of her morning caused her have that crazy, knee-jerk reaction.  Still…that crazy knee-jerk reaction…what does that say about her? At least she was brave enough to get back in touch. Hmmm.

“Excuse me, so sorry to interrupt.”

Shaking himself from his thoughts, Troy looked up to see a woman standing next to their table with a young boy at her side.

“Can we help you?” he asked.

“My son, Jeremy, he wants to know if he could have your autograph, Mr. Berenson.”

“Hi Jeremy, you want my autograph?” Troy grinned, “I’d be delighted.”

As his mother reached into her handbag for a pen and paper, Troy glanced across at Belinda. Her look of puzzled surprise filled him with relief. It was obvious she’d not seen the news.

You’re a nurse, not an award-winning actress.  What a relief. You really don’t know, you really did just have a crappy morning and overreacted. 

“I hope I’ll be as brave as you when I grow up,” the little boy said shyly as his mother placed a sheet of paper on the table. “I watch out for my little sister when we’re at school.”

“What a good brother you are,” Troy smiled. “I’ll tell you what, I have some photos at home. If you give me your address I’ll sign one of those and send it to you. Would you like that?”

“Really? Cool. Mom, can he?”

“Of course, Mr. Berenson, that is so very kind of you,” the woman replied, and taking the pad and paper jotted down the information.

Troy chatted with the boy for a few more minutes, and after watching the mother and son leave the cafe, Belinda turned to Troy with a quizzical expression.

“Are you going to tell me what that was all about?”

“Sure, but first, do you have those spontaneous moments of muddled thinking often, or was this morning an aberration?”

“Um, I guess, if I’m being honest…”

“Yes?”

“If I’m tired, or wired, or both like I was, I am prone to shooting from the hip, but isn’t everyone?”

“No, I don’t think so. Are you still wired and tired?”

“A bit. I’d be less wired if I knew, um, if I’m forgiven,” she murmured.

“You’re forgiven,” he said slowly, then dropping his voice he added, “but I think I know a way to alleviate your stress, though I’m not sure I can let what you did go unpunished. Of course, my idea would take care of both of those things.”

His words hung in the air, almost visible, and Belinda tried to still the sudden explosion of butterflies.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said quietly, ” you go on home, get some more rest, and let me know what you think.”

“What I think?” she managed.

“Yes, what do you think.  Do you want me to help relieve all that anxiety and do you deserve to be punished? You can email me your answer tonight, and we can take things from there. Agreed?”

 *****

https://www.amazon.com/author.maggiecarpenter

 

 

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