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I Think I'd Miss You If We Never Met
??His shirt is too small; the white cuffs slide up his lanky forearm as he drums his fingers lightly along the smooth surface of the bar. His caramel skin looks too tan in comparison to the bleached fabric of the collared shirt he'd bought at the beginning of last year, when he began his internship at the newspaper. He pushes the sleeves up roughly, resting his elbows on the table as he glances down at his menu.
He watches her at her the other end of the bar, his eyes trailing down long, curved legs as she takes a sip of her gin and tonic, her peach-colored lipstick smearing ever so slightly on the glass. She sets her drink down with a sigh, running a thin finger lightly in a circle along the rim.?
A few hours later, when he's calling a taxi, he sees her again. She's a few paces to his left and staring off to the side, a cigarette placed precariously between her thin lips, the smoke trailing upwards into the chilly fall air. He can't see the girl's eyes; she's wearing sunglasses, and he thinks they look like the designer ones his boss used to wear along the neckline of her stiff blouse. ?
The two make eye contact, just for a moment, before he watches the girl remove the cigarette delicately with two fingers, blowing smoke elegantly from the corner of her mouth. He watches as she taps it once, twice.
The ashes fall to the ground as her ride pulls up in front of the restaurant, and she doesn't look back as she pulls open the door and slides into the backseat.???
??She does not like them, these after-hours business parties, the kind where she has to spend her entire weekend shopping for yet another little black dress so that she can seem fashionable. Presentable. She always spends the entire party sitting at her table (or the bar, whichever is more convenient) nursing a drink or two (or three or four), watching everyone else socialize.
??She was not made for these kinds of things.
??But they are important to go to, if she wants to keep her job. And so she relents, despite the inevitable boredom, the re-telling of tired jokes and stories about a co-worker's trip to Cabo or another tourist-ridden destination. She would much rather be at home watching TV and eating Chinese takeout.
??She has listened to the messages on her cell phone four times by now, has memorized the number of the guy who called her -- Mike -- to tell her that he would not be coming over for drink after all, as something else had come up, sorry.
??The money she leaves on the bar is a line of crisp twenty dollar bills; she doesn't even bother to check to see if she left too much. ??
She fixes her hair in the reflection of her pocket mirror, sweeping her uneven bangs out her eyes, making sure everything is still in place. Out of the corner of her eye she thinks she sees a bare caramel wrist grabbing on to the door frame before disappearing and she laughs, wondering who wears short sleeves during the winter in New York City.
??It's far too early into spring for it to be this hot.??
Sweat clings to her body, despite the air conditioning being on, making the sheets stick to her skin in the most unpleasant sort of way. She shifts in the bed restlessly, unable to sleep. She can taste vodka and cranberry in her mouth; the cocktail she'd had directly before going to bed. ??
She licks her lips and thinks of the man with the naked, caramel wrists whose name she has never known. She wonders what his face looks like, if the same bronze shine on his hands tints the skin beneath his eyes. The girl thinks it would be nice if he thought of her once in a while, then shakes her head at the ridiculous notion. ??
On other nights she sometimes thinks about other guys, ones she's brought home with her on weekends, trailing them along with high priced drinks and a thousand-dollar skirt hiked halfway up her thigh. She has names for them, so she doesn't confuse herself: there's Friday, Saturday, occasionally Sunday. But thoughts of the man leak in, and so she presses her lips harder against Friday, skillfully unbuttoning his crisp shirt with ease; anything to rid her mind of the fantasy man.??
When she lies in bed next to the boy of the evening, the moonlight falling across her in thin beams through the curtains, she thinks of how she'd rather the thin, caramel arm be draped across her midsection.???
??A year later and he's forgotten all about her.??
He doesn't remember the way that old button-down shirt slid up on his dark arms, or how closely he watched the blonde sip her glass of gin and tonic. He doesn't remember scanning her perfect legs and thinking that maybe this was someone he wanted to get to know better. No, he doesn't remember any of this, until one day he's introduced to her at one of the business parties he despises so much.
??Shay Hale, the blond says, and her voice doesn't sound like a smoker's, not yet, anyway. It's light and confident and charming, and as her hand slips into his, shaking it firmly, everything comes rushing back.?
Matt Johnson, he replies. He doesn't mention seeing Shay a year earlier in the restaurant, how he stood outside watching her smoke while waiting for his ride. He just gives her the slightest of smiles, enough to be polite.
??In the parking lot he runs into her again; Shay is digging through an oversized purse that Matt deems incredibly useless. She looks up and their eyes meet in the dim lighting. She turns slowly, too slowly, and Matt can't stop himself; he steps forward, presses his mouth against Shay's, smearing her perfectly applied lipstick.??
Shay falls against the door of her black Mercedes, and Matt presses harder into her, hands gripping Shay's sides desperately. There are a thousand thoughts running through his head, but all he can think about is the memory of seeing Shay for the first time in that undersized dress shirt, and how Shay's lips are softer than he imagined.??
When they break apart, gasping, it's only for a moment.