It’s time for my shift at Crux Café. Uncle Chris is out today, busy with another job, so it’s just me and the manager. While there are no evening customers, the manager teaches me how to make good coffee.
“The volume and temperature of the water is important. Especially the temperature.” Watching the manager prepare the coffee, I take note of the key points. Then, the door rings.
“Hey!” My breath catches in my throat, in utter disbelief of who I just saw walk in. The man standing in the doorway is Dylan, my ex-fiancé.
“Dylan, what are you…”
“I have something to tell you. I wanted to talk to you face to face, so I went to your place, but you’d moved.”
“How did you know I work here?”
“I was going to meet your parents here, remember? And you told me it’s your uncle’s place before. I thought someone would know something if I came here, and would you look at that, it’s the girl herself. Can I… come in?”
“Sure,” I say politely as Dylan walks into the café. I can’t hide my trepidation as I show him to a seat on our sofa. Why is he here? After all this time… what does he want?
“Thanks,” The manager places coffee in front of Dylan and me. perhaps realizing that we need to be alone, the Manager vanishes after the bar. The two of us sit in awkward silence, the scent of coffee all around us. I can’t take it anymore, so I break the silence.
“What do you have to say?”
“First… I’d like to apologize. For breaking the engagement. And in a letter, the way I did. I’m so sorry.” Dylan bows his head. “Ever since I sent you that letter, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you, Elisabeth. You might not believe me, but it’s true.”
“Why the hell would I believe you?”
“It’s the truth, so you have to.”
“Why did you have to break up with me with a letter? Why wouldn’t you just be a man and tell me? You came as far as the front door that day, right? There’s no reason you couldn’t have at least given me some dignity and said something to my face!”
“I couldn’t face your parents.”
“Of course you damn well couldn’t! My parents travelled so far. They were so excited to meet you! It doesn’t matter what you do to me. even if you absolutely loathed me, there’d be nothing I could do, and I could deal with it. But to my parent…”
“I’m so sorry,” my words appear to have properly chastised him. “When you hear my excuse, you may think me a coward, but it was my parents who made me call off the engagement.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Actually…” Dylan begins muttering his explanation. Ever since we had started dating, his parents had been pushing hard for him to marry the daughter of a wealthy family. At first, he’d gone against their wishes and proposed to me, but he broke under the pressure of his responsibility to take over the family business.
“Her family’s highly influential in the industry. It’s in our best interests to maintain good relations with them. But, even after all that, our company lost our contract to one of our major competitors. As soon as our business took a hit, my engagement was called off. Honestly, I don’t even know what I was thinking. I let my parents play me like a pawn, and gave you up just to get engaged to and thrown away by a woman I barely knew. When that happened, I decided to be honest with myself. And the first thing I thought of… was you, Elisabeth.” I stare at him in silence. “I had to get you to forgive me. That was the first thing… so that’s why I came here today. I’m so sorry for hurting you.”
Was it really that bad? It’s true, I did feel something seeing him again, but once I thought of it logically... I did feel really for myself when he first broke up with me. But, before I knew it, I was over it. I don’t even think about him these days. Instead, I think of Harry. It was Harry’s presence in my life that let me put all those horrible feelings behind me.
“We… can fix this, can’t we? Elisabeth?”
“It’s too late.”
“Is that because… there’s someone else? Of course there is.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t say just yet. I’m still confused about all this… so, just go home for now. Please.”
“I understand,” Dylan sighs and nods. I decide to walk him to the front. “I’ll be in touch. You haven’t changed your number, have you?”
“No… It’s the same.”
“Next time we meet, give me a clear answer. See you later.” Dylan walks away. I watch him go, my head spinning. The Dylan I knew would never have given up so quickly. He would have at least been like, ‘What did I do wrong?’ or ‘I’m not leaving until I get an answer’. Being at the mercy of his company and of his parents, for so long… maybe he’s finally been beaten down.
Dylan glances back and looks at me. He strides right over to me, and embraces me without a word. My body freezes in shock, and he whispers hoarsely against me.
“I know I’m in no position to say this, but I still…”