She was sitting in the café, looking aimlessly out the window. Watching the passersby, without watching anyone or anything in particular. The latte was already cold, just like her heart.
For a moment, she debated getting up and ordering a second coffee, but the reality was she wanted this ordeal over as quickly as possible. When the phone had rung the morning before, her heart had stopped, and she could still feel in her belly the place her heart had landed in that fall.
Even now, she swallowed thinking about it. She’d tossed and turned throughout the night, dreading meeting up today. But somehow, she’d mustered the strength to be here.
For the past five years, he had been out of her life. The lying, cheating, good-for-nothing boy that she had erroneously given her heart to all those years ago, when life was idyllic. When she still believed in happy ever afters.
She looked at her reflection in the window and winced at the image that she saw… she was no summer bloom. Too many summers had come and gone. Even in the window, she could see the smattering of roots of grey hair that needed retouching at the salon.
Using her fingers, she gingerly parted her hair on the side, covering over the roots with a shock of pink strands that she’d added into her warm brown hair. She groaned inwardly, just imagining his criticism of her hair – if he dared!
She noticed a black Mercedes pulling up into a parking space a few feet down the road on the opposite side, and kept her eyes on it. Sure enough, the door opened and he climbed out. But the man that exited the vehicle was not the man that had so triumphantly left her five years earlier with the 25-year-old secretary.
He looked old and worn. Haggard, even. Much older than his 48 years.
The mane of hair that he was so proud of was now speckled in grey. His once-fit body showed signs of too much liquor and late nights. His chiselled beard was now a mess and even as he walked towards the café, she could already notice the bags under his eyes.
She checked her reflection once more in the window – rolled back her shoulders and sat a little taller in her chair. She remembered how much she’d hated her boxing instructor yesterday when he had pushed her, harder and harder, and today was silently grateful.
Life wasn’t so bad after all.
And then, like that, he was there, in front of her. He looked so uncomfortable as he asked if he could take a seat. She assented with the smallest nod of her head.
And she held her tongue. Let him speak first.
He cleared his throat, uncomfortably, looking at his hands. Then he looked up at her, with almost doleful eyes. Gone was all the arrogance. Gone was the distain.
And all she could feel as she looked at him was pity.
“I need a favour”, he said.