"You're joking," Breanna said, blushing under the piercing gaze of the man sitting across from her. She put down the cup of cheap, mildly hot latte on the dirty linoleum table in front of her, at exactly the same spot marked by the coffee ring. She had never been as mindful of this obsessive-compulsive side of her as she was now, trying to meet his grey-gold stare with nonchalance and disguised confidence. The disconnected voice of the train announcements and the whirring of the coffee machine melted in her consciousness as she tried to focus on the way his lips moved when he spoke.
"I'm telling you, 99% of romantic movies these days have the male and female leads meet randomly like this. There is no chance of something like that happening in normal life." Breanna wanted to believe him, but she couldn't for the life of her figure out how he had ended up sitting with her anyway. One minute he was striding into the tiny jam-packed diner, ordering a coffee, his delicious perfume filling up the whole place, and the next minute he was standing beside her, asking if she wouldn't mind if he sat with her. She could only nod her head since words had failed her, and now they were laughing as if they had known each other all their life.
"So tell me, who are you waiting for?" he asked.
"I'm here to pick up my Aunt Natalie. She's coming in from Ipswich today to visit," she said, trying not to stare at the way his Adam's apple bobbed up and down with every sip he took. "What about you?"
"I'm just waiting for the next train back to London. There's just something so charming about travelling by train."
"Really? And I thought that my aunt was old fashioned."
"I kid you not. It is just so much better than aeroplanes. Imagine, for a few hours, you are stuck with total strangers, just swaying to the rhythm. You automatically feel compelled to share your deepest secrets with them, safe in the knowledge that you will never meet them again."
"Oh my God, you're such a hopeless romantic, aren't you?"
"I guess you could say that. Or maybe it's just the effect of your company."
Breanna blushed even deeper, which was concealed by her melanin. She studied him better now, the casual show of his expensive watch, the well-tailored suit, the shine of his leather shoes. She felt that she knew him well, but somehow she was missing an important detail, something that she could not put her finger at. She decided that maybe she wasn't listening to him adequately.
"Are you with me?"
"Yes, yes of course I am."
"Then tell me what is your favourite rom-com?"
"Okay, let me see. Ummm, maybe 'Sleepless in Seattle'?"
"I love that one too, but I prefer 'When Harry Met Sally'. It seems to me that it would be a more probable situation than falling in love through a phone call."
"So you would be able to fall in love like that? With someone you meet on a journey?"
"I sure hope so. Wouldn't that be one heck of a story to tell your children? What do you think?"
"I think that every story is beautiful, no matter how and where it happens."
He nodded in agreement with her, and there was a lull in conversation while both looked in different directions. Breanna spoke again.
"Take our situation, for example. Do you really think that we could fall in love with each other?"
"I believe anything can happen, anywhere."
"But think about it. I could have been lying to you this whole time."
"Why? Why would you lie to me? You don't even know me."
"That's the thing. Since I don't know you, I can make up any story I want."
"I don't think so. People don't lie to people they just met."
"If I was trying to impress you, I would make up a more glamorous background story."
"And yet you didn't. Instead of telling me that you're here looking for love or something, you just told me that you're here to pick up your aunt."
"That could have been a lie."
"No, you cannot have come up with that right now. You see, to pull off a convincing lie you need to know all the details about it. You can't think of things that fast."
"So you're saying you believe me?"
"Yes, just like you believe me when I tell you I'm waiting for a train."
Breanna got to thinking again. Why is this man so hell-bent on making her believe he was right? When he had decided to sit with her, she had thought that maybe he had an ulterior motive. Maybe he was trying to sell her something. Now that she thought of it, maybe he just did want to sit with her.
"Let's put your theory to test," he said.
"How?" She was intrigued.
"Let's say you have been lying to me. I will ask you a few questions about yourself, and you have to answer whatever you want to. Then I'll tell you whether you're lying or not."
"Right on, I'm ready."
"Okay, here goes. What is your relationship with your aunt?'
"She's my mother's sister."
"Why is she coming to meet you?"
"She comes to visit every year. It's my birthday next week."
"What does she give you every year?"
"Mostly her cookies, and maybe sometimes she'll give me cash."
"So you come to receive her every time?"
"I try to. Sometimes something comes up, and then my dad has to pick her up."
"Does she live alone?"
"Right now, yes."
"No husband or children?"
"Uncle died a few years back. Her children live in different cities."
"You're an only child?"
"How long have you been waiting here?'
"About an hour. Maybe more."
"And how long have you been in the money laundering business?"
"For a…." And then she stopped. Her smile dissolved as fast as it had appeared.
"You heard me. You and your aunt, that's what you really do, don't you?"
"Is this a prank of some kind?"
"No, it's not. My team and I have been following you for months now. You and your aunt have been trying to fool us for a long time. We have been waiting to nab you in the act at the correct moment."
"Who is 'we'? What are you talking about?"
"We are the State Police Force. And you are under arrest."
"What!? This is absurd. I am just waiting for my aunt. She must be coming any time soon. She's old and cannot travel alone."
"Don't you worry. We have a special welcome planned for her as well."
From the corner of her eye, she could see two other police officers coming towards her.
"Breanna Marshwood, you're under arrest for……"
She had already tuned him out. She had just recalled that she had never asked his name. Never mind, she would have time later, at the station. He was worth the wait.