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Romance Adventure Fiction

On Valentine’s Day, Stella did not take her usual forty minute nap, but instead devoted more than usual time to get ready for her evening date.

She stared into the mirror, scrutinizing her face for fine lines that persisted in spite of the expensive creams that she lathered on every night. The frown on her forehead was etched forever, like a writing on a stone. It was the only living sign of struggles and sorrows that she had endured over the years. For Stella was not a weakling and at the age of seventy-three, had survived many hardships in her marriage, raised a child through dire circumstances and the final straw, the death of her partner for sixty years or so.

She gazed in the mirror at her reflection, dabbed some rouge on her cheeks and brow and stood back to survey the effect. Satisfied with the overall look, she put on her clipped earrings and a necklace on her smooth neck that dazzled and brightened her otherwise somber face. She was willing to go to any length to impress her blind date this evening on February 14th. Valentine Day.

It wasn’t actually a blind date for she had known him many years ago when they worked for the same company. His dark, handsome face and tall, lean body had set her heart on fire. Every time he walked by her desk, her heart would beat so loud that she was afraid that he would hear it. The attraction was one-sided only and she never had the guts to reveal her secret. Once she had sent him a valentine card with a romantic poem, proclaiming her love for him. She had secretly watched him wave it around the office staff, making fun of the author. She had wished then and there that the earth would open up and swallow her whole. Her embarrassment was so deep and profound, that she decided to quit her job the next day.

That was years ago and his memory had faded into the background until she saw his photograph on the dating site for seniors. He was still as handsome as before except for the grey hair and a few wrinkles on the brow. Her cheeks flushed with excitement and wonder at the thought of seeing him again after so many years. She hoped that he would bring the card with him. She looked into the mirror for the last time, admired her flawless skin and applied a bright red lipstick for a touch of drama. He will notice her tonight.

She wrapped a soft, cashmere shawl around her thin shoulders, picked up her purse and stepped out into a new world. ‘The coffee shop where she was supposed to meet him was just around the corner. She decided to brave the cold February winter and walked briskly towards the coffee shop. “No need to take a cab.” She shouted to no one in particular. The cold, bitter wind subdued her pounding heart. She reached the coffee shop in less than five minutes.

It was crowded bustling with people and busy waitresses. The bitter aroma of the coffee aroused her senses and she felt young and alive. Her eyes shone with excitement for the dying flame in her heart was still lingering like smouldering embers in a fireplace. She looked around the room, mostly occupied by young couples or lonely people engrossed in iPhones or iPads, settled comfortably in cosy little corners.

She spotted him in the farthest corner, away from the hustle and bustle, reading a newspaper. Her heart skipped a bit as she approached him. At the sound of her footsteps he looked up and smiled at her. She stood there for a moment, speechless. Her first instinct was to flee but her legs were paralyzed with fear. She gripped the back of the chair to steady herself and slipped into it before she fainted. She turned around, pretending to look for the waitress.

“ Calm down.” She scolded herself. “Stop behaving like a teenager.” She caught the eye of a young waitress in short brown skirt and sturdy boots and beckoned her over. She ordered a small decaf latte and a banana loaf. The distraction calmed her down and she turned around to face him with a sweet smile.

”Good and how are you Tony? Long time no see.”

” Oh my God, yes.” He said and laughed out loud. His voice was the same, deep and husky but cracked slightly at the end of the sentence.

“ I have been longing to see you and apologize. Stella!”

She looked at him, her eyes wide and innocent, shaking her head, pretending, not understanding.

”What are you talking about?” She queried, tilting her head ever so slightly.

”It’s so long ago,” he began, his voice quavering.” I don’t know where to begin?”

” Thirty odd years.” Se added, jogging his memory, the softness in her blue eyes turning to steel. She clenched her cup tightly to steady her trembling hands. He looked at her, startled at first and then examined her face closely for sarcasm or hint of mockery. His deep gaze unnerved her and she felt her pulse racing again.

She shifted her attention to her coffee cup and pretended to examine it for defects. He looked away and stared out of the window glazed with ice pellets and on to the street covered with snow.

” It‘s going to be a stormy night.” he said. She studied his profile his jaws set firmly, his face intent, a dark, gloomy look clouding his normally bright face. Her heart skipped a bit again. Her face flushed. She gripped the cup tightly, angry and baffled. “Why this attraction, after so many years.“ She shook her head in disbelief and looked around the place, hoping to drown the storm that was brewing in her heart.

The coffee shop was now buzzing with happy chatter. People of all ages, young and old were clustered together, beaming with joy and happiness to be in each other’s company. In the far corner, the fireplace blazed, emitting enough glow and warmth to the customers lounging on comfortable sofas. Her eyes travelled upward to the ceiling, decorated with brassy, brown tiles which shone in the dim light emitted by chandeliers that were suspended all over. It cast a soft, romantic glow in the corner, where they were seated.

Above her head, the vent blew in the cold air, reminding her of the bitter cold outside. She shivered slightly and turned towards him.

”Yes.” She added. “ A stormy night.” She waited patiently for him to say something. To bring up the topic about the card that she had sent him thirty odd years ago.

He hesitated and then spoke softly. “ I need a favour from you.”

”Yes. What is it?

“Could you please lend me $500?”

She signed a cheque for that amount, shook his hand and fled out of the coffee shop, fighting bitter tears.

February 19, 2021 23:48

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