He leans back in his chair and watches her, enjoying the way she studiously avoids his gaze. She studies the menu in front of her, bending over it, giving it more attention than it needs. Her hair falls over her face and his eyes follow her quick move to tuck the strands behind her ear. It’s a sweet, school-girlish gesture and he realizes that he’s smiling.
She’s nervous. And she knows he knows it. With the little cool she has fast running out, she stares unseeingly at the menu, racking her brains for something sophisticated to say. Too quickly, the waiter comes to take her order and flustered, she orders something she doesn’t even want. As she watches the waiter walk away she resists a ridiculous urge to call him back so she wouldn’t have to be alone with this man. Not that she didn’t want to be. He just made her nervous in a way she couldn’t quite understand.
With the waiter gone, he knows she’s run out of stalling time. He grins openly at her as she is forced to look at him. The nervous tension that tightens her features relaxes into a look of exasperation when she sees his broad smile.
“What?!” she demands.
He can see a flush rising in her cheeks and finds it utterly disarming. “What?” he returns, innocently.
“You’re looking at me. Stop it” she says, lifting up her coffee to take a sip, something to do. Unable to keep a straight face, she laughs into her coffee cup. A bit of cream rubs off on her upper lip and she licks it off. He finds her sexiest in these little accident moments.
“I have to look at you. I’m sitting right in front of you” he says, maddeningly calm while she’s making a fool of herself. She hates and loves the way he stares at her with that almost insolent gaze. A gaze that plays at innocence while actually having absolutely no sense of decency about it. Confident. Brazen, even. Maddening. Sexy. She can feel him searching her face, enjoying her discomfort. It tickles and annoys her at the same time.
She bites her lip and finally meets his gaze. Holds it. Everything she is feeling for him – the attraction, the genuine liking, the half-fear – he can see it all in her face…in the uncertain biting of her lip to her flickering eyes – at once bold, at once faltering.
“So”, she announces with a burst of confidence. “Say something”. She smiles. Challenging. Playful. He has an sudden, uncharacteristic urge to lean forward and kiss her regardless of where they are.
She wonders what he’ll say. Struggles not to cave in and grin like a five year old while she waits for his answer.
To her surprise, he looks at his Blackberry for the time. “I have to go” he announces, all business. She feels her smile flicker and fade, unable to hide her disappointment. The meeting was a chance one, and possibly a risky one too, but she had hoped it would last longer.
“Oh” is all she can manage.
He watches her for a moment. Takes a breath and says, “Let’s meet. On purpose”.
He smiles inwardly at the look on her face. She opens her mouth to say something, thinks better of it and remains silent. Regards him warily.
He leans forward till his fingertips are brushing hers on the table top. Her face registers the touch – her eyes quickly flick downwards and then back up to his face – but she says nothing.
“We’ll talk” he says lightly, breaking the tension. She gives him that smile that he likes so much – the one she breaks into when she can’t hold it in.
“What’ll we talk about?” she asks curiously.
He grins at her. “Of cabbages and kings…”
With that, he gets up. The fingers that had touched hers so briefly on the table rise to gently rest on the base of her chin, tipping it up to him. He doesn’t say anything, just smiles into her eyes and walks away.
She watches him disappear and appear again, amidst the crowd in the busy cafe. Sees the light blue of his t shirt for a split second before it vanishes out the door. She settles back in her chair.
Of cabbages and kings, she thinks with a slight smile.
Somehow, it was the perfect answer.