Time Passed

Caroline sat, her palms just a little sweaty, her stomach just a little unsettled.

The door jangled; not Charlie. She breathed out, looked down at her tea as the newcomer went to the counter and ordered. The door jangled again; not Charlie.

Caroline lifted her mug, took a sip, and set it down. She lifted it again as she swallowed, took another sip, and set it down. She rubbed her hands on her jeans, then looked out the window, then back down at her mug.

The door jangled. Charlie was there, walking in and smiling that cute little half-smile he always used to wear. Older by six years – or was it seven? – but still Charlie. His eyes didn’t have the light they used to have, the way she remembered them. The way he used to smile at her. It was different. Distant.

Caroline stood to greet him. She started to extend a hand as he moved both arms out. They smiled uncertainly, and switched. Before she could move back to the handshake he put his arms out again and took her in a hug.

“Nice to see you,” Charlie said, breaking away quickly.

“You too. I’m glad we could do this.”

“Yeah, well, it’s been, what, six years?”

“I was just thinking of that,” Caroline said, sitting. “You can order if you want. I’ll wait.”

“Sure, do you want anything?”

“Uh, no, I’ve got my tea.”

Charlie walked to the counter. Caroline looked at him, remembering him standing at the counter cutting vegetables, remembering his body – a bit slimmer now, she thought, but still attractive – unclothed, his sleeping form turned away from her. He turned and smiled, and she realized she was staring. She threw a smile on her face, then looked away, trying act the right way.

He came back with a mug and sat.

“Irish Breakfast?” Caroline asked. “A pinch of sugar and some cream?”

Charlie looked down. “Uh, yeah. You remember.”

“Well, it’s the details, right?”

Charlie nodded, and Caroline blushed. Too far? she wondered. Maybe. They were both quiet now, and took a sip from their drinks.

“So,” Charlie paused, then said, “what have you been up to?”

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