Two Coffees and a Straw
This is the full story released back to me after the completed run time of the Christmas Kisses Anthology. Enjoy!
Do you ever go into a blind date thinking the guy was going to be fantastic? Neither did January. She didn't expect him to be so attractive, to be named Romeo, and to definitely not be so easy to talk to. But of course, the good guy had to move. What's a girl going to do?
I had a blind date. Ugh. I was only twenty six. I didn’t need to have blind dates. However, I was pretty bad at picking men. Maybe my friends were right about me needing a blind date. But what if he’s skeevy? What if he’s a serial killer? I don’t want to date a serial killer? Do you know how much energy I’d have to put toward not being killed by my lover? Yeah. No.
I checked my face in the mirror, making sure to rid myself of all eye and nose boogers. I didn’t want to be completely gross. I stepped out of my car, straightened my black pencil skirt, and headed into the coffee shop.
Do serial killers drink coffee?
I stopped at the front entrance and took a look around the cafe. My best friend, Henley, said my date would make it before me. There were a few rows of tables, with people seated. A lot of fake plants and the cash registers were placed in the middle of the building. I was supposed to look for a man sitting by himself with two coffees and a straw.
I spotted him sitting by a large window in the back of the coffee shop and sighed. “Oh.” He was really cute. He had on glasses, a strong jawline, and nice wispy dark curls. I bet if I touched those curls they’d feel like velvet. I didn’t touch curls though. I wasn’t the touchy type.
I walked towards him and his eyes turned in my direction. They lit with curiosity and my nerves began to kick in.
What was his name, again? Bob? Bill? He didn’t look like a Bill? He looked way too pretty to be a Bill? Maybe a Henry? Or an Aiden? Aiden was sexy. Oh my god, is he checking me out? Why can’t I remember his name?
“Hi.” I stuck out my hand and put on my brightest smile. “I’m Jan. You must be Serial Killer Aiden?”
His blue eyes widened and the color on his face drained. I wanted to kick myself. Maybe, drag myself out of the building. Yeah, that seemed like a good idea.
He cleared his throat and wrapped strong fingers around his collar. A small smile slowly appeared in the same way the sun appeared from behind clouds. He was way out of my league. Henley thought I was gorgeous enough to sit by a guy like this? Ha! She didn’t know me at all.
“Romeo,” he said. “My name is Romeo and I promise I’m not a serial killer.”
I giggled at that. “Good. I’d have to fight you and you definitely don’t want to fight me.”
He smirked and relaxed into his chair. “So what’s Jan short for? Henley tells me it’s a nickname.”
Henley liked to be as thorough as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if she told him my full name or about the small mole on my butt. Oh god. I hope she didn’t mention that.
“January.” I gave him a firm nod and a smile. His eyes were curious. He leaned forward, taking a long sip and I decided to answer the question floating around in his eyes. “I was born on Christmas, but my mom wanted a January baby. Less competition, she thought. So, she named me January.”
I hadn’t told anyone about my name in years. My mother died on Christmas day last year. Thinking about my name and how I got it was really hard.
“But you were already born on Christmas, January.”
I blinked. No one ever called me by my full name unless they were professors. I usually hated hearing it, but hearing it from him sounded different. My name sounded comfortable. Like my name actually belonged and wasn’t the odd one out.
“Yeah. She didn’t think about the naming though.” I shrugged and sipped my hot coffee through the straw. “So what’s up with Romeo? You’re middle name Casanova or something?”
A tinge of red appeared on his cheeks and he chuckled as he nodded.
“No fucking way?” I slapped my hands on the table and he let out a laugh.
“I’m serious.” He held up his hands in surrender. “You can see my I.D. if you want.”
“No. No. It’s fine.” I waved my hand. “But Casanova?”
“Dad chose Romeo and my mom chose Casanova.” He took a sip of his coffee and gave me a sexy half smile. “My dad loves Shakespeare and my mom was into movies.”
I shook my head. “That’s crazy! What do people call you?”
“Sometimes Roe. Sometimes Nova.”
I smiled and chuckled into my coffee. We chatted more about small things like college, friends, and food. Our coffees were drained and the whip cream inside was cold and grainy.
“You’ve got anything to do after this?” He grabbed his coat and stood.
“N-no.” I struggled to get my things. The date was barely a date. More like trial and error. I didn’t want to sit for hours with a guy who wasn’t interested. Was he interested? “Why?”
“I want to get to know you better.” He grabbed his cup and mine off the table and began to walk towards the door. I scurried after him. “Is that cool?”
“Yeah.” It was more than cool. Maybe I’d like this guy beyond his face. He was already interesting enough and easy to talk to. Maybe I’d like him more. Maybe I’d actually find a blind date or just a date that could handle me and my trash. “Where to?”
He wrinkled his nose and tilted his head to the side. “You’ll see when we get there and I’ll bring you back to your car afterwards.” He held out his hand. I stared at it for a second and then at his smiling face. Oh, what the hell? I should give him a try before I assume it will go bad, right? I took it and he led me outside.
“Are you going to Henley’s Christmas party?” I took January to Mainstreet. It was a little food and shopping district just a few blocks away from my home. I liked to come here to think. I didn’t know what restaurant I was going to take her to, but all of them were good, except that steak cafe place. That place was a little weird.
“Oh. I don’t know.” She stuffed her hand in a pocket, and kicked up the snow as she walked. Grazing an ornament with her fingers, a twinge of sadness flickered in her beautiful brown eyes before the wistful smile returned. “I don’t really go to holiday parties anymore.”
“It just doesn’t feel right to . . .” She focused her eyes on the ground and her bottom lip quivered. “Just not a fan of cold holidays.”
“You know . . .” I moved closer to her wanting to get a whiff of what she smelled like. She smelled like sweet vanilla and donuts. “People seem to open up to strangers. Kind of keeps the anonymity of your deepest feelings.”
“What if we end up being more than strangers?”
“Then I promise to tell you something about me.”
She lifted her head and sucked on her bottom lip. “Deal.”
“Good. I’m all ears and I think that pho restaurant would be a good place to eat.”
“Oh! I’m so hungry for pho.”
We both ran towards the restaurant, holding our coats tightly to our chest. I ordered a bowl each with some dumplings and water.
“I don’t like holidays because . . .” She took a long sip of water and cleared her throat. “My mom died last year. I didn’t really plan to go to anything after that. It all reminds me too much of her. I don’t even feel like celebrating my birthday.” She twisted the cup around in her hands. My gaze must’ve been solemn because she released a sad chuckle. “Sorry. I guess that was too deep.”
“No, it’s fine.” I placed my hand over hers. “Just sucks you can’t go.”
“I want to. I’m just afraid. I feel like I haven’t grieved enough. I should be grieving like a mad woman.” She shook her head. “My mom would hate that, though.”
“So, you should go. For your mom.”
“Maybe.” She frowned as the food showed up. We both dived in and she let out a small moan as she took her first bite. God she was beautiful. “Your turn. I opened myself up. You gotta do it, too.”
“I leave tomorrow at three. I’ll be at the Christmas party tonight.” I slurped up my noodles and swallowed before continuing. “I got offered this job in architecture, but I’m beginning to think it’s not what I want.”
“Then why go?”
“The money is good.” I shrugged. “The opportunity is big. It’s in France.”
“France? That’s awesome!” I nodded. She eyed me for a moment, tucking her short curly hair behind her ear. “But what do you want to do?”
“Own a restaurant.”
Her eyes lit up as she slurped her noodles. I felt a flame flicker in my heart at the light in her eyes. I wanted to see that look again. I wanted to feel that fire again.
“That’s cool as fuck.”
“I fucking love to cook.”
“If you weren’t leaving tomorrow, I’d ask you to cook for me,” she said. “Too bad, though. I love to eat.”
Damn. Why did I have to meet her right before I had to fly away? “I’d love to cook for you, but you’ll just have to deal with what I’m bringing to the Christmas party. If you come.”
“Hmm . . . sounds tempting.” She leaned back into her seat and lifted her arms above her head. I got a full view of her cleavage and the curve of her body. The view of her in the coffee shop was one thing, but this was different. She was more relaxed here. Not the high strung girl I saw walking through those glass doors earlier today. “I’ll think about it.”
“I hope you do.” I smirked and pushed my empty bowl aside. “I might even extend my stay for a bit.”
I’d stay just to get to know her better. I wanted to explore this. See what it felt like to feed the fire inside.
“Oh?” She lifted her brow and smiled. “I should think fast then.”
We both cleaned up our tables and exited the restaurant. I kept my pace slow as we headed back to the car. Meeting such a wonderful girl just before moving was just my luck.
“You want to hit up this ice cream shop?” She pointed to a place just a few feet from us. I nodded. I wasn’t ready to end this date and I didn’t think she was either.
“Is it weird to say that I hate that you’re leaving?” I said in between bites of this cream cheese mango thing we picked up. We got one big enough to share since a normal sized one was far too expensive for one person. However, it was really good.
“Not at all. A few hours isn’t enough time to get to know you better.” He grabbed another spoonful, as his brow furrowed, and swallowed the ice cream down with his thoughts. “You want to come with me?”
“What?” Some ice cream spilled out of my mouth and he laughed. He picked up a napkin and wiped my bottom lip with it. The name Romeo definitely fit him. I was swooning over the contact and the way he looked at me. “Y-you want me to come with you?”
“You don’t have to.” He pulled his hand away and I missed him instantly. “It would just be for a month, so we could see what makes each other tick. I don’t start working until late next month.”
A month for us to get to know each other in a country that’s known for romance. The idea seemed so romantic. The Christmas gift I had been waiting a long time for. Christmas in Paris with a good guy sounded amazing, but it also seemed rushed. Sudden. Sudden was okay when the guy you’re beginning to like was leaving the next day, right? “I don’t know. That’s a heavy decision to make.”
“True.” He chuckled. He then leaned forward, placing his spoon in the bowl while keeping his eyes connected to mine. “How about this? You think about it and then we talk about it at the party.”
“I’m down for that.”
I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this. I was standing outside of my best friend Henley’s house, blinded by the flashing Christmas lights, and contemplating bolting home. I didn’t need to be here. Being here reminded me too much of my mom and how wonderful she was. Being here was suffocating, but something pulled me here. Okay. Someone in particular pulled me here. A tall blue eyed someone named Romeo.
Romeo was the only reason I was willing to show up. It was stupid. Showing up at your best friend’s party for a guy, and not for your best friend. I should really get my priorities straight, but he was a mystery I just had to solve.
“You can do this Jan,” I whispered to myself as I held my fist in front of the door to knock. “Mom would want you to have fun. You can do this.”
I sucked in my lips, biting down hard as I knocked with partially closed eyes. The door swung open almost immediately. A smiling Henley stood in front of me.
“Holy shit! You’re actually here!” She grabbed my arm and yanked me in. The door slammed shut behind me. “I’m so happy to see you!”
“I’m also glad your blind date went well.” She clapped her hands together. “I was beginning to think my matchmaking skills were trash.”
“He’s moving tomorrow, you know?” I took off my jacket as I followed her through the house. People were standing around in groups of twos and threes, holding glasses of wine or bottles of beer.
“Shit! Really?” Her face fell and she sighed. “Dammit! I tried.”
“It’s okay, Hen.” I was hoping to see him anyway at least for one last time. Then I’d do the matchmaking myself. Henley’s blind dates always ended in disaster. She kept trying anyway. She swore someone she found would be perfect for me. I really liked the guy I met today and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take that leap with him yet. Traveling to France with a guy you just met was a huge deal.
“Get yourself something to eat, though! I hear Mr. Romeo brought some good shit!” She smacked me on the back and pushed me forward. “You can leave anytime you need too, Jan. I won’t be upset at all. I promise.”
“I think I can handle it, Hen.”
“Alright. But if you need to . . .” She waved towards the door before walking away.
I grabbed a plate from the island and grabbed everything that looked good. I wasn’t sure which one belonged to Romeo, but I had to try all of them and hope the best one belonged to him.
An image of my mom fussing over her guests, making sure they had enough to eat passed through my mind. She always sent people home with large plates of food. She didn’t want anything to go to waste. She cared about everyone more than herself, and that lack of self-care caught up to her.
My lips quivered and I struggled to scoop up the contents sitting in front of me. I miss her so much.
“How you holding up?”
I jumped and turned. Romeo was leaning against the counter. His eyes studying me and his arms folded.
I nodded. His gaze didn’t let up. He continued to watch me for what felt like an eternity. His eyes finally moved away and towards the food behind me.
“You should try that one. It’s mine.”
I turned and grabbed a large spoonful of his mac and cheese and dumped it on my plate. I grabbed my fork and stuffed some of it into my mouth. Holy shit, it was good. There were four cheeses and you could taste each one after the other. The next one better than the last. “Wow.”
A large smile grew on his face and my lips curled, too. “Glad you like it.”
I felt myself blush. He sauntered over to me and stopped with enough room for my plate. He was ready to talk and I could feel my nerves prickling the tips of my fingers.
“I don’t know about you . . .” His eyes searched mine. I couldn’t breathe. I moved the plate and he only moved closer. My heart beat into my ears. He was so close. “. . . but I’m really liking the woman I’m seeing so far. I want to explore us. See if something’s there, but only if you want this too, January.”
I melted at the sound of my name. How was he able to do that? How was he able to turn something I hated into something I’d like?
“Do you want this?”
I nodded. I wanted to get to know this man. I wanted to hear my name over and over again. I wanted to eat his food and maybe climb him like a tree. I allowed my eyes to trace the strong muscles hidden underneath his long sleeve. A tattoo peeked out from the collar of his shirt. Another one peeked out of the bottom of his right sleeve.
Yep. I definitely wanted to climb that. “I want you. I want to get to know you too. But how am I going to get over there?”
“There’s an empty seat next to mine.”
I blurted out my response before I allowed myself to think. I was allowed to have a good Christmas and I was going to seize the opportunity. “I’m sold. I’m going.”
“Fucking fantastic,” he said and I smiled. He lifted my chin. Electricity soared through my body like a wild roller coaster. He kissed my lips firm and strong like him. I was going to explode from the kiss. I’ve never exploded from a kiss before. Maybe ignited, but I was never undone. “Want to explore this party together, January?”
I nodded. I was giddy and excited. I’d never done anything like this before, but the decision felt right. If mom were here, she’d tell me to go. She’d tell me to enjoy myself and hope for the best.
He took my hand and led me out of the kitchen. Christmas had left me something good after all.