I’ve felt off over the last few weeks. It could be hormonal or my recent move closer to home. Whatever is causing my discomfort and ugly feelings needs examined, but not this post. This post is the random story I started last year when I attempted Nano and haven’t looked at. You get it in its unfinished glory while I sort myself out.
The rain had found a chink in her rain coat and was crawling down her back in steady rivulets. Misery as cold as the rain soaking her gripped Cara as she waited in the downpour for the 5:30 bus to appear.
Her day had gone from tolerable to hell in a hand basket almost from the moment she’d opened her eyes. No amount of pleasant dreams could save her from seeing the texts on her now ex-boyfriend’s cellphone when she had reached over to silence his alarm. Some girl with perky breasts and a tiny figure gushed about their date last night. So much for his claims of ‘working late’. He was working all right, and if the photos told the true story, he worked pretty damn hard.
No amount of denial on his part would save the lying sack of shit and she was in no mood to hear excuses. Cara had him out on his ass in nothing but a pair of boxer-briefs before he could sputter a full apology. Garbage out before seven am.
Part of her felt triumphant. Their relationship could be Facebook statused as complicated, so the need to separate had hung over them like a cloud. The majority of her feelings fell into the category of regret and defeat. She let herself fall into a relationship without any real thought to the type of guy she was letting in. Months and years wasted on someone she thought she loved, but was really a shield against her own personal loneliness.
She was terrible romcom in the making, except who would go out of their way to date her at this point in her life? The thought of reentering the dating world gave her hives. Doing the tap dance of meeting, greeting, and trying to get to know someone new caused untold anxiety. Being single was a hell of a lot easier.
It would have been lovely to say her day hadn’t gotten worse, but it seemed like the shitstorm was just getting started.
A morning of clichés plagued her after that. A flat tire that nearly made her call her ex back to help, a bus ride in because no repair shop was open and she had to get in for work, a sea of over-due work dropped on her when she finally managed to get to work, an irate supervisor looking to blame someone for a mistake settling on her, and now a torrential downpour as she waited for the bus.
All it would take was a car splashing her with muddy water and her foray into the beginning minutes of a RomCom would be complete.
“Would you like to share an umbrella?”
He was yelling over the rain, but she could still hear the accent he carried. French, though not as pronounced as someone who just come from the country. Cara glanced behind her and for a moment was stunned. What a first glance looked like a thin guy, translated into a lithe man with well defined musculature beneath his fitted jacket. Even in the fading light, Cara could make out the stunning green hue of his eyes and it was breath-taking.
He had the umbrella extended enough that the rain was plastering his black hair to the nape of his neck. His smile was open, friendly as though offering an umbrella to a stranger was a normal occurrence for him. Maybe it was, and maybe he was a serial killer trying to lure her into his web.
Or maybe she was tired of being soaked to the skin and was ready for something nice to happen to her today.
She made a step toward him and the one thing she prayed wouldn’t happen did. A car zoomed by, its tires catching the big brown puddle and sending it into an arch that drenched her from head to toe. The icy water had perfect aim, missing her new generous stranger entirely. Really, someone just hated her guts today.
A dripping mess, Cara resisted the overwhelming urge to cry. A perfect cap to a perfectly shitty day.
“Are you okay?”
Their eyes met and she got a jolt. The sympathy in his almost brought the tears up she’d desperately been trying to hold back. No, not okay, but she mustered up a soggy smile.
“Just how the day has been going.” She shook away the rain in her eyes. “I’m fine. I’m just going to take a cab home.”
She reached for her phone in the depths of her purse and blessedly found it dry in spite of the wetness of the exterior. It was time to throw in the towel on this day. The only fix was a hot shower, something in her belly, and lots of alcohol. Cara started in the direction of the convenience store around the corner, needing out of the rain to make a call.
A hand on her wrist stopped her in her tracks. “Why not wait for the bus?”
There was something in his voice that sent a nervous thrill through her. Not scary, just a curious feeling that made her feel like she was on the edge of something.
Sometimes it feels right. What if…
“Would you like to share my umbrella? At least until the bus arrives. Shouldn’t be more than five more minutes by the online tracker.”
Cara let him draw her under the large canopy, drawing her close to his side, his hand still lightly holding her wrist. The roar of the rain seemed to dim a bit or maybe it was drowned out by the heavy thud of her heart. She could smell him this close, a clean and masculine smell that had the same effect as his hand touching her wrist. They were shoulder to shoulder, cocooned from the rain and seemingly unwilling to break the spell that had descended.
“Cara. Short for Carathum.”
She listened to him test her name out in that lovely accent of his. God, it was unbearably attractive, listening to the way his tongue rolled over the syllables pushed away the cold clinging to her.
“A beautiful name, though I can see why you go by Cara.” His shoulder pressed closer to hers. “I can see the bus coming, maybe you can tell me what has you standing out in the rain.”
It was impossible not to laugh, only it was a bitter laughter that trailed off as the bus pulled to the curb. I kept silent until we’d both paid our fare and he followed her to a set of empty seats at the back. It was natural for him to remain at her side, to seek out her conversation.
“I’m not sure you’re ready for the shit show that is my life today. My filter is thin and I’m afraid I’ll say something to embarrass both of us.”
His restrained laugh warmed her. “A little honesty never hurt anyone, and I find I could use a spot of it on day like today.”
Tell me about yourself, that’s what she heard. The way he turned in his seat to watch her face, the way he held her gaze, the way he waited for her to speak. Cara found herself starting from the beginning and off loading everything on her mind. He listened, nodding and murmuring encouraging noises until she’d spilled far more than she meant to.
“Well, you’re easy to talk to. I’ll be telling you my bra size and the color panties I like to wear.”
His green eyes blazed for a moment before I broad smile spread across his face. “I think I’ll wait a bit before I let you reveal that. I like finding that out on my own anyway.”
Cara felt her face heat at what she’d allowed herself to say.
“Geez. Pretend I didn’t say that.”
“Oh no. It’s out and now I’m wondering.” He bumped her shoulder. “I’m willing to be patient to find out. Have a drink with me tonight.”
The offer surprised her. Cara was sure she was at her absolute worst with her water logged clothes, missing make up, and messy hair. A sudden awkwardness gripped her. Why would he want to go out with her when she looked this bad.
“I’m not sleeping with you and I’ve got work early the next morning.” Holy shit was she really turning down a date with this man because of her terrible job? Something about the thought of ruining the course of their first meeting with sex left a sour taste in her mouth.
His gave a sharp laugh that startled her. “Just a drink, Cara. Let’s finish getting to know each other and I promise to have you home at a reasonable hour.”
Why was she waffling? Because this felt too good and the nerves in the pit of her belly were sending her into a mental tailspin.
“If you’d like, we can always postpone.” He gave an careless shrug that she didn’t buy.
She couldn’t pass this up, she’d regret it if she did. “One drink, two if you show me a good time and then I’m home for the night. Shake on it.”
Their palms connected and she put the nerves to bed. Nothing felt more right even if she wasn’t sure how the night would end.
They hopped off at the next stop that had rows of bars in the area. She let him lead to a tiny hipster spot relatively close to where he lived. After ordering some water, she made her excuses to check how she looked in the bathroom. The sight of her face was absolutely ghastly. No wonder the hostess was giving her the eye. Not that her hair was ever neatly coiffed, but she looked like she’d been drowned instead of a girl out with a good looking man.
She looked herself over, spotting very issue. Her mood was quickly spiraling out of control so she splashed warm water on her face and gave herself a stern pep talk.
“If he can’t like you for how you look, just how you are, then he’s not worth your time anyway. You got rid of one jackass, don’t tie yourself to another.”
And somehow those few words made the difference.
And sometimes you say no
Water dripped into her eye as she stared at him. A jolt of longing raced through her and she considered sticking around, getting on the bus with him and seeing what would happen.
Except all she could see was the look of guilt on her ex’s face as she confronted him with the truth of how he’d been running around on her. Not the first girl he’d hooked up with in the course of their relationship apparently. A serious blow to her ego.
Cara wiggled her hand and the stranger released his light grip on her wrist. She felt a moment of sadness, but squashed it.
“ThankS, but I think in this case it may be better for me to take an expedited route home.” She shook her head to rid her face of some of the water.
He nodded once and took a step back. “Completely understandable.”
Silence stretched, the engine of the bus increasing as it drew closer filled the space. It was impossible not to let regret hold her in place. It seemed to be reflected back at her from the depths of his eyes.
The bus pulled to the curb, the doors opening sending warmth swirling out. She waited for him to climb the steps, trying to get a grip on the irrational emotions raging inside her.
“You sure you’d rather not take the bus? It is here now.”
It was impossible to miss the whisper of longing in his voice, but she’d already steeled herself. Conjuring a smile, she waved him off.
“Thank you, but no. I’ll have a cab in a minutes.”
“Then perhaps our paths will cross again. Maybe I’ll get to hear the story of how you came to be stranded in the rain.”
His smile was perfect, all white teeth and sparkling eyes. “Until then. Bonne soirée.”
He disappeared into the bus with a nod. The doors closing behind him felt more final than nothing else.
It was a few long minutes after the bus pulled away, the cold rain still trickling down her back, that she realized she should have at least asked his name. A definite missed connection.
“If that doesn’t mark the end of this shitty day, I don’t know what else will do it.”
The trek to the convenience store was fast even as the rain picked up pace, the cab was even quicker and she was back in the warmth of her apartment in under an hour.
She shed her clothes, leaving them in a heap on her bathroom floor to be dealt with after a glass Pinot or three. The moment she stepped beneath the spray the regret hit. Hell, passing up on talking to him was stupid. She could’ve been staring into his green eyes, contemplating how her life had spiraled so out of control.
What was she really so afraid off? Making a mistake or meeting someone who would disappoint her again? Her dating life was a long string of disappointments where men seem to affirm every terrible belief she possessed. She was reduced to walking away from a potentially decent guy because of fear.
In her defense, she had just crawled out of a bad relationship. Using that guy as a rebound would have ended badly anyway. So maybe it was a good thing she’d declined. No sense adding another bad relationship to her long list of embarrassing ones already.
All that mental pep talk did little to dispel the regret.
Wiping the steam from the mirror, she gave her a reflection a hard look. “Some decisions you have just gotta live with, don’t you.”
The pep talk didn’t do a thing for her feelings, but the wine definitely helped dim them enough to fall asleep after dinner.
Interesting, got a bit of a “Sliding Doors” thing going for it – I’ve always liked the “what if” concept in stories and exploring possibilities.
Though that usually tends to be more the domain of scifi and philosophical narratives by and large.
If you ever work on this some more, I’d be curious to see it.
I would love to see you develop this more, I agree with the Sliding Doors comment, but it I so fascinating how a simple decision can alter destiny or if fate will always have its way, the darker side can always be the Final Destination type tale as well, really interesting potential either way
Aaaah. Nothing more interesting than ‘the road less traveled.” Great piece.