Dora had a plan. More of a script, really. It wasn’t so much that she decided it would happen, though. Rather this was just how she knew it would probably go. She would get there – step off the train – and Annie would be there. Their eyes would meet, and Dora would feel the smile spreading irresistibly across her face as she saw the matching grin on Annie’s. They would walk toward each other, and be pulled into an embrace. Annie would press a kiss onto her cheek, and it would be the softest touch she could imagine. She would be able to feel the imprint of those lips on her skin for days, the ghost of a kiss that lingered.
Annie would say, “I’m so glad you’re finally here. I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too,” Dora would answer. “More than you know.”
Their hands would tighten around each other, and Annie would sneak a look at her. “I think I know. What do you want to do first, now that you’re here?”
Dora would pretend to think about it for a minute. “I don’t know. Since we’re in town, we might as well go to the Bean.”
That same smile would light Annie’s face again, and their steps would turn that way without thinking. They would walk there as they had so long ago, and as they walked the memories might bloom.
Annie would say, “So Brian is living in California now. Remember how he always joked about surfers? He’s totally dating one now. At least one, that is, you know Brian.”
Dora would laugh with delight, as she always did. “Right, but did you hear that Tina’s got a job already? A steady one, I mean.”
They would talk like that, easy and familiar, until they got there. Once they were inside, with the warm smell of coffee surrounding them, Annie would walk up to the register. She’d order both their drinks, not forgetting the two extra shots of espresso that she always teased Dora for.
The loudspeaker blared and Dora started. That was her stop – it would be silly if she were so far away daydreaming that she didn’t get off the train at the right place. She heaved her bag to her shoulder and edged down the aisle, past the knees and handbags that spilled out past the seats. As she stepped onto the platform, she didn’t hear her name. She had to wait and look around before she spotted Annie, hurrying toward her. She’d cut her hair – it was curling around her jaw now. Dora blinked at her, a little disoriented by the swarm of people rushing around her. Annie reached her and stopped, then leaned to peck her cheek.
“Hi,” Dora said.
“Good to see you.”
Annie smiled, a strained expression. It looked like she was biting her lip. “You too. It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah, it really has. Do, um, do you want to get a cup of coffee?”
They walked side by side through the streets. Dora’s mouth was dry, and her hands were clenched on the strap of her bag. When they reached the front door of the Bean, they both tried to go in at once. After a moment of shuffling out of place for one another, Dora stepped back and pulled the door open for Annie, who flashed that strained smile at her again. Dora followed her inside.
Annie stepped up to the counter and Dora stood next to her, and when the scruffy teenager walked over to the register they both started to speak at once. Dora snapped shut her mouth, and forced a smile.
Annie said, “I’d like a chai, please. And for her, could you make a mocha? With two extra shots of espresso, right?” She grinned, a real smile, and Dora smiled back.
My heart squeezed. You managed to play with my emotions so much in such a short span of time – from gladness to sharp sadness to a final sense of relief.