The breakup was bad. I mean the kind of I-can’t-help-but-gasp-at-the-mere-passing-thought-of-his-name-much-less-an-entire-intentionally-cultivated-thought bad. Yep, that kind of bad.
There was no solace from the breakup. None. My ex had fully left his stamp on my Washington State-located heart. From sharing Pike Place doughnuts to taking the ferry for day trips across the cool waters of the Pacific, he had toured the village of my life and inexplicably had the nerve to find it lacking in amenities, like a spa that forgot to have a cold plunge pool yet had everything else under the sun, and that in the highest of qualities, but greedy consumers still gave it three and a half stars. You know the reviews: While it has everything one could want in a spa, it lacks a cold plunge pool. Really? That’s what he said. I was the kind of woman he wanted because I was everything a man could want, but…I wasn’t?
We met at one of those odd intersections in Seattle with a coffee shop at each of its four corners. I was looking for a shorter line—they were all long—and had decided to take my not-so-coffee-shop-loyal self and go wait with the folks at Seattle’s Best. That caused a problem for me, though. Their hot chocolate with that stick of chocolate on top would derail my very loosely developed weight loss campaign. You know, I was sorta-kinda trying to lose a pound or maybe two when I needed to lose maybe 20? Well, I hopped myself in line behind a perky Latina beauty yakking on her phone early in the morning, doing my mental jumps between hot tea and hot chocolate. While I was busy trying to convince myself of the health benefits of tea versus the antioxidant, hip-building benefits of chocolate, someone walked up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Excuse me, Ma’am? Is this the end of the line?”
“Yes, it is,” I said without turning around. I’m not really a morning person and did not want to convince the man with the sexy drawl to start a conversation that I knew I wasn’t mentally prepared to navigate. The only reason I was up so early that morning was because I had a flight later that day and needed to finish something for a client before leaving for a much-needed vacation.
Another tap. “How long have you been waiting?” he asked.
“A minute or two,” I said, turning around, deciding to call on the manners taught to me by my parents and further cultivated through many client interactions.
“Thank you,” he smilingly replied, showcasing a set of pearly whites that even my orthodontist would have envied. He was darned good looking, too. Even my half-asleep mind took note of this.
“Do they have good coffee?”
I’m really not swayed by good looks early in the morning. My brain spends a bit too much time waking up for looks to be something to consider. Yet, this particular morning, my brain seemed to be cranking up a little sooner than normal.
“I don’t know. I’m a tea drinker.”
“Oh. Tea, huh?”
Yes, he was going to keep talking.
“I’m new to Seattle. How long have you been here?”
“Hmm. I’ve been here for seven years.”
“I gathered from your accent that you were not local.”
“No, I’m from Florida,” I responded. The line was moving, but I was still about ten people deep from clearing the shop’s entrance door. This conversation was going to continue. Why can’t he be good looking and quiet?
“I’m from Alexandria, Virginia.”
“The DMV. Nice.” That’s the abbreviation given by those who live in DC-Maryland-Virginia metropolitan area.
“Yes, it is.”
“Well, I hope you enjoy Seattle.”
“I will, if I meet some friends.”
“I’m sure you will.”
“My name is Dexter Reed,” he said, holding out his hand for a shake.
Inwardly, I took a deep sigh. “My name is Aubrey Sanders.” I shook his hand, releasing it quickly.
“Ms. Sanders, a pleasure,” he responded.
“Likewise, Mr. Reed.”
“My friends call me Dex or Reed.”
He raised an eyebrow at me, like I was supposed to reciprocate and tell him to call me something besides Ms. Sanders. No, you need to call me Ms. Sanders, thank you very much!
“Well, Ms. Sanders. It looks like they have opened another register, and your time is near.”
“Not much of a morning person, huh?”
“Does it show that well?”
He laughed. “Only when you squint your eye before speaking, like you’re trying to squeeze out a thought.”
“Really? Did you just make a joke at my expense? It’s going to be hard to meet those friends you’re whining about, if you keep that up.” Honestly, my family and friends had told me that about a million times, so the fact that he had picked up on that was interesting. An observant brother, I remember thinking.
“My apologies then. I wouldn’t want the half-sleepy Ms. Sanders to mark me off her list of potential friends before I could ask for her number.”
“You ain’t even slick.”
“I’m not trying to be “slick”. I’m trying to ask for your number. May I have your number, please? One shouldn’t be sleepy or lonely in Seattle.”
I rolled my eyes, while reaching into my handbag for a business card. I may have been sleepy, but I wasn’t crazy. Reed was good looking, funny, well-dressed, and apparently, good at what he did if the tailored suit and hand-stitched shoes were anything to go by. Again, I was sleepy but not so sleepy that my mind did not wonder about this fine chocolate brother!
“Thank you,” he said after accepting my card. He pulled out his telephone, tapped in the numbers on the card, and immediately called my telephone.
I slipped the phone out of my handbag’s side pocket, looked at his number, and saved his contact info.
“I’ll call you later, okay?” he said.
“Please. Let me purchase your tea since I woke you up.”
“Are you kidding me? So, I’m not a morning person. Some people shouldn’t talk so much in the mornings. Have you ever thought about that?”
“No. I’m a morning person. So, what will you have?”
“I’m having the largest hot chai tea latte, with a cinnamon roll.”
“Okay.” He placed my order with his. We retrieved the drinks when they were ready and walked to the corner.
“Thank you for breakfast, Reed.”
“Ms. Sanders, you are most welcome. I’ll call later today.”
“Hmm. Have a great day.”
“Don’t say “Hmm” like that. I will call you.”
“Have a lovely day, Ms. Aubrey Sanders.”
I walked away in the opposite direction from him, sipping my delicious drink, and thinking about the very unusual start to the day.
Around 2PM, my phone rang while I was reviewing a file. I looked at my phone, and it was Reed. I smiled. He had called. While I had been quite busy that day, I had still thought about his promise to call. I answered on the second ring. That began something that I thought was beautiful, but apparently, it was only the three and a half stars kind of beautiful.