A few hours later - and a few minutes late, so as not to seem lame - she calmly struts her thang into the coffee shop. Dressed in a reasonable reproduction of his favorite outfit - a replication of style more than a true faith to his preferred view of her. An update, upgrade - still the woman you loved, but better. Her butt looks great and her smile is explosive, portraying a new sense of functionality and a bubbly, completed soul. Determined to look him square in the eye and, for once, not flinch.
But as she counts the footsteps toward their usual table, familiarity tugs at the hem of her skirt. (Mind you the hem was way, way up to her thigh), Closes its fingers around hers and yanks her in every direction at once. She's unprepared for this, for the fall to remembering. Most of all, she's unprepared for the depth of color in his eyes.
Oh, his voice. Concentrated, meant for her ears alone. "Hey, you."
They exchange overformal pleasantries as he passes her her latte - the ratio of sugar to cream to coffee, as always, just as she likes it. How many mornings had they spent like this? How many afternoons? How many conversations about the weird guy in the corner, or the new movies coming out this weekend?
After a heartbeat or two of painful yet passionately pleasurable silence, she rests her chin in her hand (a short French manicure… class without being fussy) and taps her fingers against her coffee cup. Decides to seek empowerment by way of forthright, that’s right Girl Power, ‘F*ck you I’m not playing games’ accusation. "So. To what do I owe the pleasure?" Of your company. Your attentions. Of eye contact, and the bump of your knee against mine. It's GAME TIME!!! And I am so not here to lose, to YOU and your mind games or pathetic excuses!
"We're sorry, you know." As if singular pronouns no longer applied and he was no longer an independent entity. She bites down on a vindictive response and just nods cleverly, waiting for him to continue. She's DYING to know if he realizes what he should be sorry for. "This isn't really how we wanted it to turn out."
Again, that we. I’m going to Barf. She's suddenly struck with the image of their foreheads pressed together while they designed their happily ever after at her expense. She grants that this might be unfair, but the fact remains. For all his apologies - and her apologies, by extension - he's still looking at her like a complete stranger. "Sorry?" She hopes the words come out with the right amount of detached venom in them; she's aiming for distant, bemused sarcasm but is quite sure of failing miserably. "And I suppose this is where I forgive you?"
From the quick raise of his eyebrow, he doesn't miss the slight lean she places on 'you'. Purposely, if subtly, disregarding the third party in their cruel orbit of one another. "Of course, you don't have to," he allows. "I just assumed you'd rather be civil than not. After all this time. I mean, we should be capable."
After all this time. Shared secrets, and heartbreaks. Enough time to be considered shared history. It strikes her that she's unsure of life without him only because she can barely remember life before him. And because she can't fathom their quick downshift: from domestic bliss, to his lips pressed against another woman's bare stomach. How quickly could you fall out of love? Fall in love again?
"You cheated on me." It's all she can think to say, words plucked from the white noise of blood in her head. She didn't mean to bring it up, nor did she mean for the words to be accompanied by a rather vivid mental picture of fingers and tongue and teeth. But there it is: essentially, the deal-breaker. Whatever salvation he was after, how does he expect her to look past that?
"I did, yes." At least he pays her the courtesy of ducking his head. Shamed, but not entirely regretful. It occurs to her, for the first time, that he's happy. Without her. The thought had crossed her mind from time-to-time, but had never held any truth value. She'd always assumed he'd thrown away forever for the predictable, obvious appeal of sex and heat - she'd seen this woman. You didn't fall in love with woman like that. "But not for the mere fun of it." An important distinction, in his eyes.