Love is Chaos
How they met:
Jack walked into the coffee house, just as a couple stormed out almost knocking Jack to the ground. “Whoa,” he said moving past them. The guy turned back and scowled, flipping him off.
Jack looked around and saw a table flipped on its side, a puddle of coffee on the floor and customers doing their best to ignore the ruckus. He walked up to the counter and on the wall nearest the coffee bar was a forty-inch Samsung flat screen television airing a Boston Red Sox game, David Ortiz at the plate. Lisa Anderson stood at the register with Brenda, her cashier. Not knowing what else to say, Jack said, “Bad service?” and he laughed here.
“Something like that.” Lisa pulled him aside. “Can you watch the register for a moment, Brenda?”
She walked in the back with Jack following and Rob; Lisa’s husband came out from behind the sink. Embracing him, Rob said, “Thank God. You’re here.” He swept his hand through his hair. “Guessing you saw the mess out there.”
“Yeah. What happened?”
“I feel so bad for Christine.” Rob looked down, shaking his head, his long hair down his back swaying. “You know Luke cheated on her.”
“Was that Luke who raced outta here?” Jack wanted to know, scratching at his beard. Then smiling, he said, “You gonna cut that hair anytime soon?” As long as Jack knew Rob, he grew his hair long.
“That’s why I own my business,” Rob touched Lisa’s hand. “Well, our business. I don’t have to cut my hair.”
Lisa smiled now. “So, Luke comes in with the girl he’d been with and sits down at the same table with Christine. Whispers something in her ear and the next thing anyone knows, Christine throws her scalding coffee at the both of them. So, yes that was Luke who left when you arrived.”
“Good for her.” Jack pressed his glasses back, then looked out where Christine sat now, and a new admiration rose in him.
“Next thing I know,” Rob says, sweeping his hair away. “Luke flips the table over nearly knocking Christine off her chair. That’s when I had enough. I walked out and told them both to leave and not to come back.” He hugged Jack again. “We take care of the people we love. Get out there and help Christine. She could use a friend right now.”
A little further on:
Jack glanced at the room. All the tables were taken. Lisa saw this, grabbed his elbow, and guided him to Christine’s table. “You two know each other. Sit here, Jack. I’m sure Christine won’t chase you away. I’ll get your iced coffee.” Then turning to Christine, she said, “And I’ll get you a refill too. You want any food? It’s on the house today.”
Smiling now, Lisa returned to the register.
Christine peeled back one of her hands. Her eyes were tear stained and more streamed down her face. This did nothing to dissuade the attraction. Her eyes whether tear stained or not drew him in. Hazel with green specs, and her strawberry blond hair cut in a pixie made it difficult to look away.
Sighing, she sipped from what coffee she had left. A melancholy smile. “I’m fine.” More sobbing.
“I know that’s not true.” Jack reached across the table to take her hand, perhaps a little forward but at this point he didn’t care. He wanted to show some compassion. He adjusted his glasses, pressing them back against his nose.
She hid her face again but not before saying, “I’d like to be alone.”
Christine waited to hear the obligatory scraping of chair legs and when the sound failed to occur, she peeked between her fingers. “You’re still here.”
This brought back that melancholy smile. “Yes indeed,” Christine repeated, wiping her eyes. Hearing the phrase, always lightened her heart. And she couldn’t help but smile. Jack used it often and she always heard it. Almost a clarion call. In fact, she started using the phrase herself.
His brown hair cut short, and his neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard turned her head each time he visited. Jack wasn’t tall but he wasn’t short either. Christine guessed five-seven, maybe five-eight. He carried himself taller though. In pretty good shape, he looked like your average guy. Not one to turn heads, but Christine found it difficult to look away. At 30 years old, Jack made a name for himself as a photographer around the same time, Christine created her reputation as a chef, about five years previous. She had just turned 30 herself in April, a month earlier. Even now, in her distress, Christine felt her heart flutter.
“Listen, Christine, if you really want to be alone, I understand.” He made to stand up.
When she realized he moved, she reached across the table and grabbed his arm, keeping him rooted to the spot. The shock of intimacy surprised both of them and it sort of broke the air.
She pulled away growing quiet, her face turning beet red. Finally finding her voice she whispered, “Don’t know where that came from. Sorry.”
Waving her away, Jack eyed the room, nervously darting from Lisa to the door, to the coffee bar then finally landing back on Christine. “It’s—” he paused here, attempting to wrap his head around what just occurred. “it’s—it’s fine,” he stammered. But it wasn’t fine.
The jolt of electricity still stirred. And he did his best to ignore it. He felt something different now. Something shifted in their superficial relationship. Maybe Lisa’s right, he thought. Is there something here to pursue?
Christine glanced at him, and she was again mesmerized by his blue eyes. Even though she knew Jack in passing, she wasn’t sure she wanted to share her emotional turmoil with what was ostensibly a stranger. Continuing to stare at him, almost measuring him up, she shifted in her chair.
“What?” It felt like no one else was in the coffee house. The business buzzed with activity, however. Four people in line, the ten tables still occupied and more people entering. But his attention only on the young woman sitting opposite him as he reached across the table; an odd sense, because he planned on leaving in a couple months for God knew how long and he hardly knew this woman.
But that momentary touch of his arm stood between them.
Taking a walk:
The three of them strolled through the breezeway, walking around Christine’s SUV and stopped at the edge of the lawn. Gil Morgan had his head under the hood of his black Volvo.
“Still working on that car, huh?” Jack asked.
Gil pulled himself away. “Always.” Smiling, and twirling his fingers through his beard, he bowed his head. “Christine. Nice to see you again.” Then smiling at Jack, he said, “What’s this, the second time she’s been here with you? Are the two of you an item now?”
Raising his brow. “I—I guess we are,” Jack stammered.
“Well, if you ask me, it’s about time,” Gil said. “I always thought the two of you were a good match. Enjoy your walk.” And he returned to his car.
“Feel like seeing the pond where I spend so much time?”
Christine held the leash and Flicka pulled in another direction, passing Gil’s maroon house. When she reached the crossroad of Graham Terrace and Nora Street, Jack heard his name called out and there was Mrs. Strenkowski in her driveway waving back. “Who’s that you have with you, a new friend?”
Is this what I can expect now? He thought. The three of them walked over. Flicka wagged her tail and flopped down on the grass.
“Uhhhh. What a good girl.” She smiled at Christine.”And who might you be?”
Christine extended her hand. “Christine Miller.”
“Georgette Strenkowski,” she replied, getting up from the ground. “Are you with Jack, here?”
Christine reached out and grabbed Jack’s hand. “I am.”
“I’m so happy to hear that.” Georgette grinned at Jack. “He’s been alone way to long. Wait,” she said, scratching her head. “Christine Miller? Miller’s Table? That Christine Miller?”
Christine tilted her head to the side, and smiled. “How did you know?”
“I’ve gone several times. You’re an amazing chef. Have you considered a cook book?”
Now Christine laughed. “I’m actually writing one as we speak and Jack here will be my photographer.”
“I can see that.” Georgette said. She looked at her watch. “I should head in. Have to get ready for dinner. So nice to see the two of you together again.”
“Again?” Christine asked, shading her eyes from the sun.
Georgette ignored her. She nodded to Jack. “Hey. Did you know Joan Cardinal has her house on the market? Might be nice for to have you close by, wouldn’t it, Christine?” With that, she turned and walked into her house.
“Hmmm,” Christine said, wrapping her arm around Jack. “Living on Graham Terrace again. Just think,–”
It was then that she turned back to her house. “What do you think she meant by it was good to see us together again?”
“Haven’t the foggiest, Jack replied. His mind whirled. Stopping in the middle of the road, he turned to Christine.
“What is it?” She asked.
He drew in a breath and felt his heart begin to flutter. Placing his hand over his chest, he sighed out loud.
“What?” Christine said again, this time with a little more apprehension.
If this relationship stood any chance of success, Jack had to be honest. “Do you think it’s possible we could have known each other before?”
“You mean in a past life?”
He smiled. “No, but that’s an interesting subject. “No,” he replied again. “I’m talking about when we were young so young we don’t remember.” Jack started walking again and Christine followed.
Thinking about it, Christine said, “that would explain your friend saying it was good to see us again.” Now it was Christine’s turn to stop in the road. “It would also explain my sense of being here before too.” Then shaking her head. “No. This is just silly.”
Before she could respond, Christine stopped in front of a house with brick façade and a manicured front lawn with marigolds lining both side of a walk leading to a porch with a chair swing.
She dropped Flicka’s leash, racing up the sidewalk to sit on the swing.
“What are you doing?” Jack demanded.
She touched the brick. It felt course to her fingers and her thoughts drifted away. Closing her eyes Christine saw herself as a toddler, pressing her same fingers against the same brick wall, swinging on the same swing, Jack beside her. Opening her eyes now, tears streaming, she held her hand out to Jack.
“What are you doing? He asked again.
“You were right, Jack.”
Suddenly, the front door opened, and Joan Cardinal stood at the threshold. “Go on. Get outta here,” she said. Her demeanor changed when she recognized Jack. A huge smile spread across her face. She walked over and hugged him. “Been way too long.” She turned back to the stranger in her swing. “I gather she’s with you, Jack.”
Nodding, he said. “Yes. I’m sorry to have disturbed you. But Georgette Strenkowski said you were putting your house on the market and I just saw the sign that said for sale by owner.”
“Why don’t you all come in.” Joan turned to the woman on the swing. “And you are?”
“Christine, Christine Miller.”
Joan stumbled back against the door, grabbing at the knob to keep herself from falling backward. Upon regaining her footing, she said, “You better both come in.” She stared intently at Christine. “I suppose I can see it.”
“See what?” Jack implored.
Joan sat in one of the overstuffed chairs and indicated the sofa. “Sit down.” Then. “I can’t believe you two stayed in touch and stayed friends all these years.”
Confused, Jack smiled slightly. “All these years?” He looked at Christine then back to Joan, then all around the house, settling his gazes back on Joan.