Shelby nodded. “Robert?”
“You’re gorgeous!” Robert blurted. I winced for him from across the Starbucks where I had been half-heartedly writing while drinking my non-fat Chai latte. Poor guy.
Not that he wasn’t completely correct in his assessment. Shelby, I would guess, was in her late twenties, willowy, tall and blonde. I’d bet a bundle she spent her evenings working out in the fitness place next door to the Starbucks. She was professionally dressed, and looked as if she was just stopping for coffee on her way to the next meeting at the ad agency where she was the creative director.
Robert, attractive, in his mid-forties, leaned forward and kissed Shelby on the cheek. Oh dear, that was two strikes. One more and he was out. She leaned away, her nostrils flared a bit, and her lips tightened. She smiled at him, not showing what I’m sure were perfect white teeth.
Robert sucked in a very slight paunch and pulled himself together. He was wearing a white Oxford shirt, open slightly at the collar. His only jewelry was an expensive gold watch, and he had thick dark wavy hair. It was a plus for him that he wasn’t sporting a couple pounds of bling and going bald. “It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve been enjoying chatting with you online.”
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked politely, gesturing toward the counter and the barista waiting patiently for their order.
Shelby knew her way around Starbucks, that much was obvious. She rattled off a string of coffee-related words. “I’d like a tall decaf non-fat cinnamon dolce latte with sugar-free syrup. No whip.”
Robert looked a bit dazed. “Um, I’ll have coffee.”
“What size, sir?”
Robert squinted at the board. “Um…small?”
Shelby looked like she wanted to smile for the first time since she’d walked in. He did look kind of cute wearing that befuddled expression.
“What kind of coffee would you like?”
“Coffee-coffee,” Robert answered desperately. “Just black coffee, no cream, no sugar.”
Does Starbucks make regular black coffee? Why yes, they do. The barista nodded.
Robert pulled out a $20 and proceeded to pay. I decided that it was a good sign for him that Shelby allowed him to pay without protesting. She might not have wanted to be obligated to return the favor in the future, not that a $5 cup of coffee was a major commitment that had to be repaid. He also didn’t choke at or even mention the exorbitant cost of the two cups of coffee. Another check in the plus column.
Shelby led the way to a small table by the window. Robert picked up their cups and followed her. He didn’t trip, and he didn’t spill anything. I decided he might have a shot at a second date, possibly lunch.
And then he opened his mouth and started talking about his job, his kids, and his ex-wife. Crash and burn.
Shelby reached into her designer bag and pulled out an i-Phone. “Excuse me, Robert,” she said, holding up one finger. She put the phone to her ear and proceeded to murmur into it. It was odd really, because I hadn’t heard it ring or even make vibrating noises.
“I’m sorry, Robert,” Shelby apologized as she tucked the phone back in her bag. “I have to get back to the office. There’s a big…um…emergency that I have to handle.” She stood up, and he hurriedly stood up next to her.
“Of course,” he said, graciously. I wasn’t sure I could have ignored the sad puppy eyes as easily as Shelby did. She had no choice, though. Getting involved with a guy who was still hung up on his ex-wife must be a nightmare.
She stuck out her hand before he could kiss her again, and he shook it like a man. He wasn’t stupid, and he rolled his eyes and grimaced at himself as he watched her walk out the door.
“It’s hard to get back into dating at my age,” he said to me when he noticed that I was looking in his direction. He sank back down into his chair and started peeling chunks from his empty paper coffee cup.
“I can only imagine…” I answered, pushing back my hair with my left hand – the one with the wedding ring on the third finger. “…and I’m thankful for that.”