“This city is addicting. I absolutely love it here.”
“What makes you love it so much Emma?”
“The culture, the passion…not everyone can feel it but the ones who can know how to appreciate it.” Emma gave her new friend a smile. It was nice to finally date someone outside of her circle of friends from the museum. Her life has been crazy lately and she needed something to pull her thoughts away from it all until it faded enough from her mind.
She hadn’t heard or received anything from the mystery man since she put the pendants in her locker a few weeks ago. She took Hilana’s advice and said yes to a friend of hers who has been asking several times to take her out. Steven was nice, but not quite what she was looking for in a man.
“How long have you been here?” He seemed more curious than your average chit chat so she stayed guarded. She was sure Steven wasn’t the mystery man, but she always had the question in the back of her mind.
“I’ve been here about three months now. I’ve always been told I should keep to myself from rumors and stories I’ve heard but I don’t get that now that I’ve become a part of it all.”
Her mind drifted to the one man in particular that got to her, besides the mystery man. He saw her in the building she lived in but she was certain he didn’t even know she existed. She has seen him a few times from a distance, mostly in the hallways but a few times in the lobby or in the bar. He was artistic almost to a fault. He was earthy and although somewhat awkward, he had a confidence about him she couldn’t stop staring at. She was always able to avoid him for fear of making a fool of herself in front of him. He was way out of her league.
She wasn’t about to tell Steven about him though. She smiled and continued her conversation until the end of the night.
At the end of her date she kissed his cheek, politely turned down his offer for a night cap and ended the date. She might see him again, but it wasn’t something she would plan on.
The next morning she went to the café down the road before going in to work. She was running late but she needed a fresh and very large cup of coffee. As she entered the shop she was digging around in her bag for some money she remembered tossing in there someplace.
“I’ve really got to get a smaller purse. This is ridic….” She stopped abruptly when she looked up and saw him at the counter. The man who clouded her thoughts at night as she laid in bed and the man she would day dream about when she had nothing particular to think about. He was taking his change from the cashier. She couldn’t avoid him this time. She thought about just leaving or just go to a table and sit until he left. Before she could decide, he was walking toward her.
She tried to pretend to glance and give a friendly smile at him but as he walked by her, his eyes deadlocked with hers. He slowed his strut and stared right through her. It was almost like he was reading every thought she had, draining the information from her mind and keeping it for himself. His gaze never broke from her until he passed by. When she heard the bell on the door as he left she took her next breath. She didn’t move until she looked up at the cashier who was getting more irritated as he waited. Emma walked to the counter still reeling from her experience and ordered her coffee.
“What is it with men anyway?” Hilana was always trying to decipher the actions and reactions of people in Emma’s life. It was cute.
“I really don’t know. I mean, I’ve had crushes before but the way he looked at me…I thought my body was going to crumble. It makes me wonder if he is the mystery man.”
“Emma, you think every man you come into contact with is the mystery man. Just wear the damned pendant will ya?”
Emma shook her head no.
“I’m not going to play his game. If he can’t ask me out like a normal person then he doesn’t deserve my time.”
“Look how crazy it’s all making you.” Emma just took a breath and although she knew Hilana was right, she had to fight the urge to find out. “Didn’t you say he lived in your building?”
“Well, I’m not sure. I’ve seen him there a few times and he has always been alone, so I just assumed he did.”
“So, next time you see him strike up a conversation with him. Don’t you want to know?”
“Just running into him randomly clouds my mind up and I end up thinking about him for days. What would it be like if he actually talked to me…or…more? I’d be a wreck. No.” Emma shook her head. “I can’t have that kind of a distraction in my life.”
“You have more determination than I do. Not knowing would kill me.”
Maybe Hilana was right, maybe a casual conversation would help her either get to know him a little better. She needed to release the tension.
Each time she returned home after work she would look for him. She read the names of the tenants on the apartment listing in the lobby but it could have been one of many names she read. Each day got a little less stressful and her hunt for him got a little less necessary, until one Friday night after being out with some of her co-workers.
After a few martinis she decided she needed to leave before ‘one more’ got to be ‘one too many’. She hailed a taxi and within a few minutes she was taking the elevator to her apartment. She searched her bag for her keys but couldn’t find them. The elevator stopped on her floor and she slowly walked the hallway to her door as she continued to rummage through her bag.
“Lose something?” The voice came from just behind her. He never walked up to her or passed her. Even though she had never heard his voice before, she knew it was him before ever looking back. She took a breath and fought her urge to lose her composure.
“I’m just looking for my keys.” She looked back and smiled before trying to look more interested in her bag of contents rather than the smoky blue of his eyes.
She reached her door and felt the heat illuminate from her face. Secretly pleading to have her keys in her hand she squatted down and began putting things on the carpet.
He leaned up against the wall next to her and watched her. When she looked up he wore a goofy smile on his face.
“Can I help you with something?” Emma was surprisingly a little irritated at his cocky attitude.
“I would love to help you look but…” he took her bag from her and looked inside. “…I don’t think there is any room in there for me.” She grabbed her bag out of his grip and scoffed.
“You’re a real charmer.”
“I bet there is plenty of room in your bed though.”
Emma dropped her bag and her jaw slumped open. His goofy smile disappeared and that dead-locked glare he was so good at returned.
“What?” Emma was feeling more awkward than she had ever felt waiting for some sort of realistic explanation to his off the wall comment but he just stood there and stared at her.
Emma took a ragged breath, tried to play it off as a cough but knew better. He was in her head and he knew it.
“I hardly think so.” Emma figured this guy was so smooth he probably had a little black book full of women he could call on.
He knelt down next to her and slid his hand around her arm, pulling her up. He was so close to her that she could feel the heat from his breath.
“I am willing to bet that you have thought about it.”
Emma clenched her bag close to her chest and wanted to scream, “Yes! Yes I have thought about it!” But she stepped back and looked him up and down.
“I’m sure you are the kind of man who gets what he wants. I’ll even bet you have a little black book that is almost full of female names and phone numbers. You’re a good looking man, but I’m really not interested.”
He leaned in close again and whispered in a very deep voice, “I don’t believe you.”
Emma got very weak in the knees. He stepped back and smiled a brilliant smile before walking away. Emma wanted to call him back to her, find out his name, where he lived, but she didn’t. She slid down the wall, took a deep breath and let him disappear around the corner.