Love has an interesting way of working itself out, like a river managing to find its way back out to sea. Well that’s the way I see it anyways, but who am I to talk about love? I’m just a simple man—one that I’m not certain who’s completely whole. In any case I was certainly not expecting to be swept up by the river that I call love. In fact I was so taken by surprise that I didn’t even have time to prepare a raft or boat, instead I could only bobble in the current and pray I hit the sea before I drowned.
I set the cup of coffee down on the counter, satisfied as the warm drink heated my belly. Eggs, scrambled with a hint of salt and pepper, awaited consumption on a glass plate, comforted only by strips of bacon and toast. To my right and left on the long, wooden counter sat patrons of the restaurant that were closer then family.
Families with their children chattered happily away at tables, while eating their breakfast. Emily, the lone waiter for the small diner, walked to and fro from the kitchen to the hungry customers. Her smile never left her pretty face, which I knew was more real then the air I breathed.
There was only one peculiar thing—a face, that had me puzzled as I munched on my toast. Everything else, the food, families and employees were normal, almost painfully so. Except for the brown haired girl that sat farther from me then anyone else, the morning was normal. Her table occupied the space near the window and she was biting nervously or habitually on a strand of her chocolate coloured hair. She had a nice smile.
It was a strange thought, though true: she had the nicest smile that I’d had seen, much better then Emily’s. There was no lipstick I could see and her blue eyes were nothing other then ordinary. But that smile! Dear God it could melt the heart of the harshest of killers.
That was when I decided that I would talk to her. It wasn’t so much a curiosity that needed satisfying or a strong romantic inclination, no. I told myself it was the smile, strange and beautiful. Later I would realize that I’d just been swept up by a raging river that would completely up-end my life. Only when I was safely swimming in the sea, would I notice what I had done by introducing myself to the smiling girl.
A few heads turned to watch Steven Walker, that would be me, walk over to the girl with the beautiful smile. Emily stopped what she was doing, squinted, and then resumed serving an old man with a strong appetite for French toast.
“Hey, I’m Steven Walker.” I stuck out a hand; a greeting I thought would suffice for such a meeting and waited for her to respond. It wasn’t overly charming; I had not meant it to be. This wasn’t a come-on like I was trying to get the girl in my bed; no it was a friendly greeting. I put on no smooth smile or composed pose, instead I stood at the foot of her table and waited.
“Oh,” the strand of hair she’d been biting fell from her mouth. “Um, hi.” It came more like a question then a greeting. Perhaps she thought this was a come-on—my face burned and I knew my face must’ve reddened a shade.
“Sorry if I’m interrupting.” I took a step backwards, getting ready to make a hasty retreat back to the counter.
“Oh, you’re not.” She smiled weakly and I thought my knees would give out from under me. “I’m Kristen...” she paused then added. “Ryte, spelled r-y-t-e.” She grinned and her face flushed. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“No,” I had prepared something to say to this question but at the moment I couldn’t conjure it up. I was like a deer in the headlights of a semi—a single twenty-six year old deer that was a rich columnist—but a deer nonetheless. I stuttered and came up with a respectable answer. “You had a beautiful smile, I had to come over.” No! No! No! No! If I wasn’t in front of her, I would’ve torn my golden hair from my head. What a stupid response! That wasn’t what I wanted to say to her at all! I wouldn’t blame her if she got up and left, maybe put in a slap or two. What had happened? I had a beautiful and safe answer, not the bold-faced truth that stumbled out of my mouth!
“My smile?” Her already flushed face, reddened even further. “Thanks, I really like your eyes.” She tucked a strand of her brown hair behind her ear, smiling despite how uncomfortable she appeared.
At least she hadn’t slapped me, I realized with a grain of relief. I even got a compliment, though there’s nothing particularly great about my eyes. She’s probably just saying that because of my idiotic ramblings. “Do you mind if I sit down with you?”
I might’ve well just asked her to dance around the diner naked with me, her eyes sprung open and she shook her head. “I really got to go actually. I have an important meeting pretty soon.”
“You haven’t even eaten breakfast yet.” I sounded desperate even though that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I hadn’t come here to seduce the poor girl! I was inexplicably drawn to her, like a moth to the flame. Now she was staring at me as if I was the most horrid person she’d ever met.
She proffered me the empty mug that had been hidden by her elbow. “I just came in for coffee.”
“Are you sure you don’t have time for some more?” For the second time it felt like I had no control over my mouth! I was okay just to let the girl walk away, sort of… not really—but if she wanted to, what was it to me? And why did I suddenly care that this girl was rejecting my greeting and offer to talk? Could her crazy smile do all that?
“I’m…” her lips quivered and I wondered if she wasn’t on the brink of crying. Dear God what had I done? “Oh why do you care? You don’t even know me!” A flash of anger sprung out of her words like a wave but quickly rolled back.
“But I want to know you.”
She opened her mouth to speak and then pressed her lips together in a whimper. A tear grew at the corner of her blue eye and to my shock was followed by many more. “You want to know me? You have no idea what I’ve done. Who I am or what I’m going to do.” The tremor in her voice was growing and a few customers turned to watch us.
The fear that had once grappled my heart, the same anxiety that nearly sent me back to my counter, died. Just like that the fear slipped away and I let the drawing on my heart towards her, take over. “But I want to, I can’t explain it. For some reason I was drawn to you, I had to talk with you.”
“That’s crazy.” She sputtered.
“Yes it is.” I shook my head, wondering what kind of madness I had stepped into. Even though I still clung to doubts, I knew that I wouldn’t back down now. “But it happened anyways and all I could do was go along. Now I want to go along, it’s hard to explain. I just want to be with you.”
“Are you saying you care about me? Me? The worst person you’ll ever meet, you have no idea what I’ve been through.”
“You’re right I don’t. That doesn’t mean I can’t listen though. I want to be here for you Kristen. Even if it’s over a cup of coffee at a lonely diner—I want to be here for you.” A smile crossed her face and spread to mine. “I don’t know why, I don’t know how. Just please say yes.”
I, along with nearly half the restaurant who was paying rapt attention to our conversation, waited for her answer. A bird of hope fluttered in my chest and the feelings of love I had not felt in a long time, doused me like a bucket of water poured over my head. And if she said no, then I would take the answer like a gentleman.
Kristen looked down at the floor or my shoes as a grin split her tear stained face. “You know what, Steven Walker? Just today I came in here for the last cup of coffee I would ever have. Life has been beating on me for years; no one’s given a damn about what I want or who I am. Today, after all the drugs, abuse and misery, I wanted to end it all. Just one last cup of coffee—an hour of peace—before I would end it. No one cared, not a person in the world would cry to see me leave.
“But then you came Steven.” Kristen leaned in close to me, and then embraced me tighter then I thought possible. “So yes,” she left the embrace, dipped her head and stole the breath from my very lungs. “I want you to care for me.” The rest of her words were lost as her mouth met mine. Her mouth parted for only a second, “And I want to care for you to. You saved me Steven Walker.” Then we kissed as the restaurant stared in mouth-hanging shock.
So now, as I stare at the beautiful girl across from me in our living room, I know for sure of love’s unpredictability. I only came in for breakfast, she came in for a final drink—both of us fell into a river too deep and wide to measure. I want to say it was perfect after that first meeting and kiss at the diner, but I’m no liar. Like most rivers there were the choppy currents, rapids that sprung out of nowhere—sometimes our love would plunge down a waterfall. At times it was all we could do not to be drowned by the very river we lived in. However the river had a way of turning itself back on course. And now I can safely swim in the sea, hand in hand with the most amazing girl I’ve ever met. The storm’s have passed and in the end taking the plunge ended up saving us both.
But like I said, love has an interesting way of working itself out. All you have to do is pray for dear life, expect the rough times and hang in there until you reach the sea. And when you do, get ready.
Cause there’s nothing quite like it.