Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash
by Kelly F. Barr
Elaina sat at a small corner table in the ice cream parlor eating her honey lavender ice cream.
“A pink shirt isn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t be wearing pink shoes to go with my pink shirt.” A young man’s voice drifted to her from a nearby table.
“Well, the way he’s showering affection on that woman leaves no question as to his masculinity.” A young woman’s voice responded, drawing Elaina’s attention to the line of customers at the counter. As she scanned the line of customers, her eyes landed on a tall, muscular, good-looking man with caramel colored skin who had his arms around a short woman with ash blond hair. He bent to place a kiss on the top of her head, but the woman paid no attention to him.
Elaina couldn’t take her eyes off the pair. How could that woman ignore the gentle, loving attention that handsome man was showering on her? Elaina’s gaze remained upon them until they received their ice cream and moved out of her line of sight.
Elaina sighed, her thoughts turning to her desire to find someone who would pay her such sweet attention. She certainly wouldn’t be so apathetic toward a man like that. Instead, she’d be basking in his attention and showing her appreciation by giving him her full attention.
She finished her ice cream, tossed the napkins in the trash and walked toward the door. As she neared the exit, her gaze swept toward tables to her right, and there, at a small table for two, sat the couple she’d been watching in the ice cream line. The woman was looking at her cell phone while the caramel skinned man ate his ice cream. His eyes met Elaina’s and she averted her gaze and stepped through the doorway to the outside.
* * * *
The following week, Elaina turned a corner in the bookstore and collided with a tall, muscular man. She gasped and raised her eyes to the man’s face. “I’m so sorry.”
“It was completely my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” A smooth as velvet voice spoke and dark brown eyes met hers. It was him–the same man she’d seen with that woman at the ice cream parlor. Then he turned the corner and was gone.
Elaina picked up the latest book by J.P. Robinson and headed for the checkout line. As she approached the line, the same man stepped from an aisle and moved in front of her. She looked around but didn’t see the short woman, who’d been with him at the ice cream parlor, anywhere. She stood staring at the cover of the book she planned to purchase.
“I see you’ve picked up In the Midst of the Flames. Have you read In the Shadow of Your Wings?” The smooth as velvet voice addressed her.
She looked into his dark brown eyes. “Yes. It kept me turning pages from the beginning to the end, and I stayed up quite late one night to finish it.”
“Then I’m sure you’ll enjoy In the Midst of the Flames. I just finished reading that one two nights ago. That’s why I’m here. I needed something else to read.” He held up a copy of Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Then stepped to the cashiers’ desk to make his purchase.
* * * * *
Three days later Elaina took a walk in the park, then sat on a bench to watch the children playing on the playground, when a shadow fell across her face.
“Mind if I sit here?”
Elaina looked up into the caramel colored face and dark brown eyes of the same man. He held out a small dish of ice cream. “Honey lavender, right?”
Elaina’s lower jaw dropped but she realized it in a fraction of a second and asked, “How did you know that?” She took the dish from him with one hand and motioned for him to have a seat on the bench with the other.
“I saw you watching me at the ice cream parlor about a week and a half ago and, even though it was at a distance, I thought it looked like you were enjoying a cone of honey lavender ice cream. Today is a bit warm so I thought you might prefer it in a dish.” He smiled and his eyes sparkled as he lifted a spoonful of honey lavender ice cream from his own dish.
“I see. Well, thank you.” She made a quick scan of the area.
“She’s not here. As a matter of fact, she’s not a part of my life anymore.”
A mild flush heated Elaina’s face as she realized he had noticed her looking for the woman who had been with him at the ice cream parlor. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Your expression, when you spotted us at the table on your way out of the parlor that evening, opened my eyes. I saw compassion in your eyes when our eyes met and realized you understood there was a problem between Jill and me. That made me realize something needed to change.” He slipped another spoonful of ice cream into his mouth and swallowed. “I tried talking to Jill about it after you walked out, but she was too busy on her phone to pay attention. That night was the last time I saw her. She never even texted me when I didn’t call to see her again.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Again, don’t be. I’m glad I came to my senses before my relationship with Jill got too serious.” He ate a couple more spoonfuls of ice cream. “So what about you? Every time I see you, you’re alone.”
She raised her last spoonful of ice cream to her mouth and took her time savoring it as she considered her words. “I guess I just haven’t met the right guy yet.”
He held her gaze for several moments. “Would you be willing to give me a chance?”