MidReal Story

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I was standing in line at a coffee shop, waiting to order my usual when I suddenly found myself considering an entirely different life choice.
The weight of that decision, paired with the uncertainty and all the possibilities it held, was enough to send me into a panic attack.
Just as I tried to compose myself, I caught a whiff of something that was all too familiar and all too dangerous.
A few people ahead of me stood a woman who seemed to be having the same reaction to the scent as I was.
I stood there, trying not to embarrass myself and hide my sudden attack as I waited to get to the counter.
My hand clutched at my chest and my heart pounded in my ears so loudly that I didn’t hear the barista ask me for my order at first.
I fumbled around and finally managed to give her my name and order.
I stepped to the side and waited for them to call my name.
My eyes drifted back to the woman who had been standing in front of me in line, but she was gone.
I didn’t see her anywhere in the coffee shop and wondered where she could have gone.
I glanced out the window and saw her climbing into a car that was parked in the lot across the street.
She got into the passenger side and gave me one last look as the car drove away.
My heart stuttered this time for an entirely different reason as I realized who she was.
It couldn’t be her, could it?
She looked just like her, but it had been over ten years since we’d seen each other last.
I turned back around as the barista called my name, not even sure what I’d ordered at this point.
It took everything in me not to completely break down in front of everyone inside of the tiny coffee shop that I’d been coming to for years now.
The one that had one of my best friends working behind the counter thanks to some connections he’d made with his latest girlfriend.
I took my coffee and headed for one of the empty tables along the wall where I could hide from everyone while I tried to pull myself back together.
What were the chances that after all these years she’d show up here?
The same day that I showed up here?
She was home for Christmas break from school, but what were the chances that she’d come here when there were so many other places around town?
How could I have been so stupid?
Of course, she’d recognize me right away after we’d spent so much time talking back then.
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She must’ve thought I was avoiding her when I didn’t say anything, and I was, but how could I not be when she looked at me like that?
After all this time?
Could she really still want to talk to me after I broke her heart and left without saying anything all those years ago?
I didn’t even know what to say once I got myself under control and went looking for her.
I couldn’t believe it was really her standing in front of me in that coffee shop.
I thought about going back and trying to talk to her, but I was too much of a mess at the moment and I needed some time to clear my head before I did something that I might not be able to take back.
I wasn’t a kid anymore, but seeing her like that brought back so many emotions that I thought I’d forgotten.
I couldn’t let myself be sucked into that world again.
It was the last thing I needed right now when I had so much going on in my life that I needed to figure out first.
“Zach?”
I jumped at the sound of her voice before I realized that it couldn’t possibly be her again.
“Can I sit down?”
I looked up and saw the same face from the coffee shop looking back at me from across the table.
It really was her sitting here with me now.
How did she find me so fast?
Is that why she came here today?
Even after everything that happened between us?
She sat down across from me and waited for an answer while she looked around the shop and out the window of the small café we were sitting in now.
There were only a few other people sitting around us at the moment since it was late on a Monday morning when most people were at work or school.
The only sound was the soft music playing through the speakers overhead and the sound of the espresso machine behind the counter as they made drinks for the few people who were here.
“I thought you went home?”
I finally managed to say something as she looked at her watch.
“I did, but I came back.”
She looked at me and smiled while she brushed a piece of long dark hair away from her face.
It really was her here with me now and she was even more beautiful than I remembered her being all those years ago in high school before I left for college without saying goodbye.
There was no way I could ever forget her face or that smile, which was all I could see as she looked at me now across the table, even if I wanted to forget everything that happened between us and all of the pain that I caused her because of it.
“How do you take your coffee?”
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I had never told anyone about her.
I thought about lying to her and saying that she was just someone who reminded me of a girl I once knew, but that was stupid because she wouldn’t believe it anyway no matter how much I wish it were true right now.
I was already lying to myself just by sitting across from her now and pretending like none of this ever happened between us before, so I might as well just keep pretending and go along with it for now.
“Black,” I finally told her as I lowered my gaze to my hands and then settled them on my lap, so I wouldn’t have to look up and see the look on her face when she realized what was really going on here today.
“Nothing in it at all?”
I shook my head even though she wasn’t even looking at me anymore because she was too busy looking around the shop and waiting for our coffee to come out now while we sat there in silence together for a few minutes longer than either of us probably wanted to right now.
The barista finally called her name out and set a small cup of black coffee in front of her before they set a large cup of coffee down in front of me, but I didn’t look at it because I was too busy looking at her while she looked at her coffee and listened to the sound of my voice as I talked to her.
“Why did you come back?”
I asked her while I waited for a response that never came.
She didn’t say anything for a long time while she looked down at her coffee and then back up at me.
I knew what she was going to say before she even said it because I already knew all about everything that happened to her after I left and why it happened because of it.
I never forgot about her and I always wondered what happened to her after I left because I knew that she didn’t forget about me either, but I never thought that I would ever get a chance to see her again, so I never tried to look her up and find out where she went like she did with me, even if I wanted to more than anything else in the world right now.
“You really don’t know, do you?”
She finally said something as a tear rolled down her cheek while she looked at me and brushed her hair away from her face for a second time today.
I shook my head because I really didn’t know what she meant and I really didn’t know what to say right now except for how sorry I am for everything that happened before, even if I know that it’s not good enough for her now, so there’s no point in saying anything at all.
“It’s been a long time,”
She continued as another tear rolled down her cheek while she looked at me and waited for a response.
“I don’t even know where to begin…”
She looked around the shop again and then went quiet for a long time as she looked at the coffee and the tears just kept on coming while she waited for a response that never came from me.
I didn’t say anything because I really didn’t know what to say right now, but I really wish I could think of something to say to her right now that would make everything better like it was meant to be all those years ago.
I actually thought that I would feel better if I could ever find out what happened to her after I left and why, but I really don’t feel any better than I did before right now while I sat across from her and watched as the tears just kept on coming down as she looked at the coffee and waited for a response that never came from me.
“I wanted to go to art school and study photography, but my parents couldn’t afford it, so I went to work instead and I never really got over you leaving.”
I knew that she always wanted to go to art school and study photography, which was part of why we were always so close together when we were together because we both loved it so much, even though I never told anyone else about it except for her, but I never knew that she wanted to go there too.
Maybe if I knew that she wanted to go there too, then I never would have gone there myself and maybe none of this would have ever happened at all.
“I’m sorry,”
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