When I See Your Face, Part 10
“Since you liked the day and don’t think me a mean slave driver…would you…do you want to help me finish the work tomorrow?” he blurted out.
She stared at him for a moment, the sentence she had been dreading and wishing for ringing loudly inside her with all its delicious possibilities and uncertain shadows. Before he had the time to take his suggestion back or stutter some explanations, she nodded, hopefully not too eagerly.
A smile flashed across his face, brighter than all the smiles before and making her want to hug him. The urge was so strong that she actually took a step back. His gaze darted toward her feet and his expression lost some of its boyish enthusiasm.
“Great! See you tomorrow?”
“Yes. See you tomorrow.”
He leaned forward a fraction, and she wondered whether he would kiss her goodnight. Her feet took another step back and she almost toppled backward because her heels met with the first step. During her ridiculous effort to regain her balance and stop blushing bright red, he shot out a steadying hand. It stayed on her arm a little longer than necessary. She wouldn’t look up, afraid that he was laughing at her, equally afraid that his eyes would still look at her with such longing.
The spot where his hand had rested felt cold when he withdrew it. She felt cold all over when he stepped back, obviously ready to go. These village evenings sure got chilly all of a sudden.
“Bye,” he half-whispered before he turned and walked away, picking up the bicycle he had leaned against a wall.
Uncertainty and something else that she couldn’t put into words gripped her and made her call after him.
He wheeled back toward her so fast that he was a blur of color, like a running dog yanked back by its leash. There was so much hope on his face that she felt all shaky inside again. How could a man’s face express such emotions so openly? Why had Mark’s face always been as clean as a white sheet and as unreadable as a closed book? Remembering Mark did the trick, as usual. She returned to her senses and asked, “I was wondering when and where we should meet tomorrow?”
A flicker of disappointment marred his face, or maybe it was an evening shadow and she was interpreting way too much into all this.
“Well, I didn’t get a chance to buy my groceries today. So maybe today’s time at the shop?”
She nodded. With a strange determination not to prolong this goodbye, she went up the stairs and opened the front door. When an inexplicable wish made her look over her shoulder, he was still standing where she had left him, gazing after her. He raised a hand and waved at her, a smile on his face. Then he turned and walked back the way he had come instead of riding his bicycle. She watched until he turned a corner and hastened to her room, a dozen different emotions warring inside her.
She was dreaming. She must be, for she was sitting on that table in the office cafeteria where Mark had spoken to her for the first time. Here he was, entering the cafeteria with that utterly masculine confidence of his, head held high and shoes clicking on the tiled floor. She blushed just from looking at him, knowing how much she—and the majority of the girls in the room, heck, in the whole building—wanted him. He was scanning the tables until his gaze fell upon her. Magically, he walked right over to her table and sat down opposite her as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
Mark Nolan, sitting down with her, opening his mouth to speak to her and not one of the other, more beautiful and more suitable women, and looking like the catch of the year in his black pin-striped suit and with his toothy million-dollar-smile. She remembered all too well what his first lines had been: “Hello. I’m Mark Nolan. Would you care to be my date this evening?” At that time, she had nearly fainted and been unable to answer with anything but a squeaky “What?”
Now, in her dream, he opened his mouth and said something totally else: “Remember me. We will meet again.”
Out of the blue, his hand shot out and slapped her so hard across the face that she fell backward, her chair clattering loudly to the tiled floor and the back of her head hitting something hard with a dull crack.
(To be continued tomorrow!)
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