You take a moment on her front stairs to orient yourself, and you realize that you do know where you are. There’s a coffeeshop down the street, the one where you usually meet people. You dig in your pockets and find that you have enough money for breakfast, and you go, getting a mug of jasmine tea and a muffin and your usual corner table, back against the wall. Watching the door. Usually you’re watching for the person you’re meeting; today it’s just habit.
You realize that you really do meet people a lot here. That it has become a habit. This place is perfect for the purpose, after all; far enough from home to not give yourself away to predators, close and familiar enough that you feel able to speak here. At least once a month, you sit here, back to the wall, and watch people pass through the stained-glass door. Waiting for someone who feels like you - just slightly lost.
You are not meeting anyone now, not looking. Just being, just pausing. Rooted, as much as you can be. Hands warmed by the mug of jasmine tea, the scent of it filling you in a way the tea itself never does.
The stained-glass door swings open, and he walks in.
He looks different in the morning. He looks worn down thin in natural light, like old bone china that’s rubbed nearly translucent. His hair is pulled back, bound in a series of black bands; the top and bottom bands have copper discs on them, etched with something. Knotwork, maybe. The charms are out of his hair, probably on some beautiful girl’s bedpost. He’s in tattered jeans and a worn t-shirt over grey long sleeves instead of last night’s splendor.
He is still beautiful.
He leans against the counter like he leaned against last night’s bar, weight on his forearms; his ponytail slides off his back, pointing floorward, and he tosses his head in a practiced movement to flip it back, and he sees you.
This morning’s smile is wider and warmer than last night’s. Maybe he slept better than you did. You duck your head down reflexively, study the steam twisting up from your tea. You gear yourself up to return his smile - but when you look up, once again he is headed out the door, paper cup in his hands.
You flush red to the roots of your hair. Of course he didn’t recognize you, wasn’t smiling at you. It must be reflex for him. He flashes, he shines, of course he smiles. It means nothing. Nothing.
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