A few months later...
Sera's heart thrums in her chest as she wanders along the busy street. Huge buildings sprout up all around her. They loom above, shadowing her in their massive wake. Her eyes dart across the numbers over the storefronts. Where is it? Her hand wraps around the vial dangling from her neck, and she continues to look around. People pass her without a second glance. She hears a few snickers or sighs as she ambles into their way.
She turns to a lanky man in a suit, "Excuse me, can you-"
The man passes by without even glancing up from the phone in his hand. Discouraged, she turns around and attempts to grab the attention of another. As Sera opens her mouth, the woman pushes past her as if she weren't even there. Will no one help her?
She twists around, glancing at the passing faces until they turn into a blur, and the numbers on the stores make no sense. Everything swirls into a massive tornado of confusion.
A bump from behind causes her to tumble forward. Her knees break the fall and her hands feel like they will have gravel engrained in them forever. Sera rocks back onto her heels and climbs to her feet, attempting to wipe what looks like a gum off of her hand. A glare of light sparkles in her eye and takes her attention from her dirty palm. She glances up to meet the light dancing back and forth across her face.
The sea of suited people part and cause. her eyes to focus on a lone figure. He's fussing with a watch on his wrist, causing the glare to shift back and forth across her eyes. Behind him, the sun is setting between the buildings casting a romantic orange hue around him. His other hand pushes a stray hair back as he turns her way.
Their eyes meet. A smile slowly spreads across his face, his blue eyes alive with a light brighter than the sun behind him.
She makes he way toward him, finding her hurried New York pace. She quickly becomes the one that pushes her way through people. He watches her, amused, and she rushes up the street towards him.
Sera is a few feet away from the Handsome stranger when he extends his arm for her. Her fingers outstretch, reaching for him. Her hands twitch, begging to graze their way across his strong jawline, and she stares up into his beautiful blue eyes that put the Caribbean Sea to shame. Before she can reach him, he too, becomes only a blur of orange and red hues of the sunset.
"Mm, No! No. No," Sera mutters, rubbing her face back into pillow. "Just s few more minutes. Just a few more." The harder she tries to return to the dream, the more awake she feels. It's the dream about that guy again. She dreams of him frequently-at least once every night since she turned eighteen. Sometimes she will spend all night just trying to find him. Just like all dreams, it must come to an end. With a sigh, she lets the mysterious stranger with blue eyes vanish.
The light purple walls of her room come into focus when she rolls onto her side. Sera is still reminiscing about her dream. It's so hard for her to wake up sometimes. Maybe she could sleep forever. She finds herself wishing she could live in the other world, the one her subconscious has created. She's still contemplating this when her alarm clock blares to life behind her. Sighing to herself, she rolls over and out of beed to begin the routine that is her daily life.
Sera climbs over her little stool and settles onto it. Her fingers begin gliding foundation across her skin. She blinks rapidly, finally focusing on her reflection. Her head tilts in a curious manner, leaning closer to the minor. Those bags under her eyes seem to be getting darker. No matter how many hours of sleep Sera seems to get a night, it will never seem to be enough. If she didn't know any better, she'd wonder if she were actually participating in those dreams of hers. Although, she wouldn't mind participating in the ones involving the handsome stranger. His eyes are bluer than anything she's ever seen, and they seem to haunt her even at night. Her fingers move her auburn hair behind her ear. Even that seems dull under the morning light. She twists a strand between her fingers, inspecting those split ends of hers. Before her fingers fall to the necklace at her throat, they trace their way down the little vial before dancing along the silver cord at her collarbone. It's the only piece of jewelry she ever wears. She never even takes off, not even to shower.
The cell phone beside her chimes to life with an incoming text. She jumps. Whoops, if that's Amanda it's probably because she's running late, again.
By the time Sera's white sedan pulls up to Jack's Coffee Bean, she has shaken the thoughts of her dream and replaced it with a hint of anticipation. When she notices her parking spot right in front is free, she realizes this might be one of the good days. There seem to be so few of them lately. One look at the small shop with the green awning and big welcoming windows and things just seem better. Lately, the coffee house is the only place Sera seems to feel at home. It quickly became her favorite place—besides her subconscious—a few months ago. It's quiet, relaxing, and their coffee is pretty addicting. Not surprisingly, it's the only coffee shop in the little suburban town of Angelica, N.Y. Angelica is the kind of town that's just far enough from any city to not have a corporate coffee chain, but just big enough to not know everyone you went to high school with. The small, homey feel is what makes her like it that much more.
Her smile deepens when she notices Jack is behind the counter today. Jack and Sera seem to have developed a little flirtatious banter ever since he opened the small shop. His back is facing her as he puts the finishing touches on a customer's drink. His curly, golden hair and tan skin are stunning even under the florescent lighting. He epitomizes the whole California-surfer look. Sera doesn't miss the way his back flexes when he places the lid on the cup before turning around to hand it to the woman in front of her. His blue-green eyes meet her gaze as soon as he turns, his face lighting up in a smile. Secretly, she's had a crush on him for months now, but she's too shy to actually admit it. Besides, a bad break up almost a year ago has caused her to take dating off the table, but maybe for him, she'd make an exception. Her fingers twist slightly as Jack makes his way to the register. Redness creeps into her cheeks, and she glances away pretending to read the menu behind him.
"Good morning, Sera, What can I get for you? The usual?" A huge grin covers his face as he leans his hands on the counter expectantly.
Sera can't help but return his big smile. She's flattered he even remembers her name, let alone her drink. "Am I here that often to have a usual? Oh Lord, I'm going to have to switch up my routine then."
"Nah." He turns, grabbing a cup off the counter and flipping it high into the air before catching it, now facing the other direction. "I wouldn't have it any other way." His last words are just barely audible as the machine next to her groans when he flips the nozzle. She attempts to distract herself, by glancing down at her cell phone. "Headed to work?"
"Yeah." A deep sigh escapes her lips.
"Aw, come on, it can't be that bad." His eyes echo his smile when he hands her latte.
"Do you ever jus have one of those days where you think to yourself, if I see one more cup of coffee...?" Her fingers wrap around the cup, only Jack doesn't seem to release it right away. Their hands meet, both holding the coffee, when he leans in slightly smelling of the wonderful coffee that always fills her with comfort.
"What are you doing after work?"
After months of daydreaming about it, here it is: one simple question. Stunned, all she can manage to stutter out is, "Uh, nothing."
"Someone called in sick, I've got to work double. You should stop by after work and keep me company." His finger slowly slip through hers, finally releasing the coffee to her. Jack then leans his elbows on the countertop intently awaiting a reply.
"Yeah, I'm sure I can stop by later." For some reason, she's finding it hard to wrap her mind around the fact that he wants to see her agin. It's been a while since she's been hit on. She hides another blush before starting to leave; all she can think about is making it safely to the car before she does something completely embarrassing.
"Maybe I can prepare a snack... or dinner or something? I mean you're going to be starving coming from work and all," he calls after her, drawing her attention. The group of high school age boys in the corner begins to snicker at them, if she wasn't scarlet before-she is now.
She glances over her shoulder. "Sounds great, I'll see you later," she tells him, hoping that it sounded casual before walking out the front door. Jack's eyes are on her back the entire way. She can feel them through the window. Once she closes the door of her car, closing her into a cocoon of safety, she finally feels like she can breathe again. Her hands grip the steering wheel before resting her head in between them.
"Oh. My. God. Did Jack just ask me out?" she mutters to herself her fingers toying along the necklace at her throat. I have to tell Amanda. The last thought is what gives her the drive to get to work on time, for once.
The oval driveway feels longer than usual as she navigates her way up toward the office. The three-floored, glass medical building sits atop a freshly manicured lawn. The morning sun reflects on the windows and glares into Sera's eyes while she continues her journey up from the employee parking lot. Sometimes, she hates going to work. It seems like she can hardly get herself out of bed anymore. The only thing keeping her going today is the gossip she has for Amanda and her pseudo date with Jack. Once through the automatic double doors, she's hit with the sharp scent of antiseptic. Ducking her head and holding her breath, she heads straight for the elevators. Stepping inside the elevator, she presses the button for level three. Normally she can deal with a small space, but elevators are the one thing that makes her heart race. Just something about a rickety tin can held up by a pulley system that doesn't sit right with her. The metal doors close and the contraption clangs to the top. By the time it reaches the third floor, she releases a sigh.
The third floor is the building department of the Angelic Medical Center. Situated in the horseshoe pattern are cubicles that section people like cattle. Oh, they decorate them with pictures and festive holiday figurines, but it doesn't make the place feel any less suffocating to Sera. She veers off down the right side to head for Amanda's cubicle. Her closet friend is also her complete opposite. Whenever Sera thinks she has things figured out, Amanda seems to prove her wrong. Amanda has always known what she wants and stops at nothing to obtain it. Sera finds herself a little jealous of her friend art times. Even though Amanda's younger than her by a year, (okay, two) she appears to have the world all figured out. Meanwhile, Sera has always felt life was like getting off a ride at an amusement park-fumble around until you catch your balance. Amanda's main concern now, besides boys, is nursing school. In an effort to help her ambitious friend, Sera finds herself doing all that she can to help her get there, including correcting ten page papers until three in the morning. Being total opposites doesn't hinder the two at all. If anything, they mesh better that way. If there was one person to get Sera to break out of her shell, it would be Amanda. That's why she needed to tell Amanda this juicy news since she has been trying to get Sera to go out on a date for almost a year now.
As Sera approaches Amanda's desk, she finds it empty as usual. Amanda would probably be flirting it up with one of the new interns down in the break room on the first floor. Winter break always brings fresh meat, as Amanda like to call them. Bursting at the seams, Sera slips into the cubicle anyway. Plucking a hot pink Post-It note out from the top drawer, she leaves her a message. Come see me when you get in. She sticks it to Amanda's computer screen before reluctantly heading around the bend to her own desk.
Amanda doesn't make it to Sera's desk for another couple hours, leaving Sera's mind reeling until she is finally able to pull up some work and get lost in the mess of codes and charges. Amanda sneaks in like nothing had happened and props herself on the edge of Sera's desk, crossing her long, lean legs. Her short, dark hair swishes across her shoulders as she goes on and on about a hot orthopedist she met downstairs.
"You don't understand, Sera, he's so dreamy!" Her dark doe-like eyes drift off into the distance, reminiscing about the wonderful five minutes the two shared.
"Oh really?" Sera finds Amanda's antics amusing like always.
"I think he may be my soul mate. Can you imagine me, a doctor's wife?" Her hands press together almost like she's sending out a silent prayer to the universe. Amanda leans her long slender frame against the wall of Sera's cubicle and she can practically picture her best friend mentally piecing her new life together in her head.
"Oh please, you said that about our waiter at Bob's Bang'n Burgers just last week," Sera begins to reason with her, although there is no point.
"You don't understand." Amanda must have caught Sera rolling her eyes because she squints her own in response. "He gets me." There's a slight pause before she adds, "And he's totally hot!"
"Oh, he'll get you alright," Sera mumbles under her breath.
"Did I mention he's a doctor, I mean it's like meant to be, right?"
"You seriously don't see anything wrong with this picture?" Sera reasons, "I mean you work in the same building."
"I know, isn't it perfect? He's the smoking hot doctor, and I'm the sexy secretary. It's like every guy's fantasy." She's biting the edges of her perfectly manicured nails now. In typical Amanda fashion, she has bypassed all logical reasoning and gone straight for the 'Hot' factor.
"What, Sera-Crusher-of-All-Dreams, what do you want to say?" Their eyes finally meet in a playful testing of wills.
"Let me just paint you a little picture here." Sera takes a deep breath. "Dr.Hot-Stuff and you are hot and heavy for a while. Then he breaks up with you for no rhyme or reason. You come into work the next day and have to stand side-by-side in the elevator for a few seconds, or eat lunch across from him downstairs. Is that what you really want? To be walking on eggshells at work?"
Amanda gives her a familiar glare. One that means: you're lucky I love you. "You're right... as usual." Her shoulders sag in defeat. "Can't a girl dream?" Slipping off the desk, Amanda turns to leave; probably to get a second opinion, when Sera finally gets her chance to catch her off guard.
"So, I might have a date tonight." Her voice is low, but Amanda stops in her tracks all the same. Her head whips back to Sera sitting at her desk hiding a smile.
"What?" she almost screams before sliding back on top of the desk. "You? The I-Will-Never-Date-Again-Sera?" Once she's situated with her legs crossed, she commands Sera with one word, "Dish."
"Jack from the coffee house kind of told me to stop by after work." Sera grows sheepish.
"Sexy-Coffee-Jack?" Amanda shrieks, clapping her hands together several times. A few of the older women toward the back pop their heads up to see what all the commotion is about.
"Shh, Mrs. Valentine will hear you." The truth is, Sera doesn't care about the tedious lectures from the boss. She just doesn't like to participate or be the subject of workplace gossip.
"Oh, no. I did not wait a year for this moment for absolutely nothing, tell me every juicy detail."
Sera's mouth opens to begin, but the more she thinks about it, the more she realizes maybe this isn't a date. "He just asked me to stop by after work. He did mention something about dinner, but maybe he was just being social. Maybe—"
"Nonsense, Sera, you get hit on all the time you just don't know it." Sera doesn't even bother to hide the rolling of her eyes as Amanda continues, "You've got that mysterious, good-girl aura about you."
"Why is being a good-girl mysterious? Maybe you should try being a little more mysterious."
Amanda pauses for a second. "I see what you're trying to do—stop changing the subject. What are you going to wear?"
"What do you mean? What's wrong with my outfit?"
"Nothing for work, but for a date, you want something that says, 'Hey, Jack, I'm a mysterious good girl, come and find my naughty side.'"
"What, I'm just trying to help you out. We both know how long it's been."
Sera shoots her a look that Amanda can read like a book. A look that screams I-know-damn-well-how-long-it's-been-stop-reminding-me.
"I'm not going home to change, he just asked me to stop by after work, so that's what I'm going to do." That's what She decides on the outside, but internally, she is singing a different tune. If it is just casual, why is her heart beating expectantly? She knows she should listen to Amanda; she's definitely more experienced. She's been off the market for a while, mentally and physically, so she could use any advice given. Stubbornly, she sticks to her guns instead.
Silence grows between the two girls. If they had been strangers, it would be awkward, but Amanda knows better. She's waiting for the right moment to say what she's been meaning to say from the start. "Sera, do you think Jack has been waiting all these months to ask you out for nothing? Of course it's a date."
“How do you know he's been wanting to ask me out?".
"I told you—he likes you. He memorized your drink and your very unusual name, but he can't remember that I like my coffee cold, not hot. There's something up with that guy. Plus, I was turning up the charm last Thursday, and he couldn't tear his attention from you. I swear his eyes follow you around like a lost puppy."
Amanda shrugs. "Fine, don't believe me. Go another twelve months!" At that, Sera winds up for a swift jab to her arm. Amanda's laughter drifts off and her face grows serious, those manicured nails are now twirling around the tips of her hair. Sera knows that face means she's trying to think. "Now, what are you going to wear? We need an outfit that says (I-just got-out-of-work-but-I'm-still-sexy-casual).”
Sera just stares at her. "I don't even know what that means."
“Don't worry about it." Amanda shakes her brunette tresses about and adds, "Leave it to me." With a twirl of her hand, she indicates she has everything under control. Amanda once again scoots off the desk and turns with her hand on the edge of the cubicle. "And I want to hear all about this date and Jack's beanstalk."
“Amanda!"she reprimands. If she had said it any louder, half the floor would have been all over the gossip like a lion devouring its prey. Their mouths salivate at the slightest notion of drama or information. The pen in Sera's hand goesflying past Amanda's head, and she ducks just in time. Her laughter echoes behind her all the way back to her desk, leaving Sera to stare blankly at her computer screen for a few seconds before scooting her chair in and returning to work. If she doesn't keep busy, she'll be stuck reminiscing about the possibilities of tonight. It seems like that's all she ever seems to think about, the possibilities of what could be...