Punctuality had always been something she was bound to, showing up a moment too soon or late could have grave consequences for her. So she had arrived outside the cafe at exactly 7:00, but she had spent thirty minutes on the third floor of the building across the street, waiting and watching.
Hunter had arrived at the cafe just fifteen minutes past six. He had stood outside waiting anxiously, she had noted the way he had thrust his hands into his pockets, watching the streets for moments at a time before lifting his arm to look at the watch on his wrist. When the air became crisp, he had held his hands before his mouth to warm them before heading inside.
She watched him curiously.
Why would he show up so early and stand outside, as though she would as well? She had, but more for self preservation, not because of the excitement he seemed to be wearing so plainly.
Moving across the cafe, he picked a table by the window and sat down. She watched as he periodically went from watching his watch to watching the crowd outside.
Something about him made her want to know everything about him. She had never had someone want to spend time with her, let alone so badly. It was weird, she had never had to meet anyone, at least not anyone expecting. To watch him as he waited so anxiously, a boyish grin flashing across his face every so often as though he was so sure she would come walking down the street at any moment.
No one had ever waited for her, no one had ever known she was coming. That was the way she lived. She wasn’t sure if she could step out of that life and into this one.
She walked down the stairs at 6:58, shoving her hands into her sweater pockets as she walked across the street and stood outside the cafe, walking in at exactly 7:00.
Hunter jumped up as he saw her, making his way across the cafe to stand before her uncomfortably. “Hey. Right on time.”
Unable to resist, she looked around the cafe and asked him. “Have you been waiting long?” She wondered about social etiquette, never having to follow such nonsensical rules before. She was curious to see them being used.
Smiling, he shook his head. “No, I got here not too long before you.”
Interesting, she thought to herself. She knew full well that he had been almost an hour too early, yet he said he had only just got here. Was it polite, she wondered, these little white lies? It wasn’t as though she would feel bad knowing he had gotten here so early, she hadn’t told him to do so and had given him the exact time she would walk in. Did people feel bad knowing someone had waited on them even though there was no need for it?
Shifting his weight, he looked around. “There is nothing here to eat besides cakes and other pastries. Do you have a preference on where we go?”
She knew where she had planned to go. It was an Italian restaurant not too far from here. She had gotten the blueprints several weeks ago and knew the building inside and out. It would be ideal for her, the only place she could really go where there would be absolutely no way to surprise her. “Giovanni’s.” She turned to walk out of the cafe.
Hunter followed her out, falling into step with her. “Italian it is.” He smiled, pushing his hands into his pockets to shield them from the sharp wind. “Do you eat there a lot?” He asked her, trying to kick start the small talk.
“Never.” She watched the crowd, her sweater open and the wind kissing her belly through the thin cotton T-shirt.
“Oh, did someone recommend it to you? I can’t tell you how many times a friend would tell me where I just have to eat.” When she didn’t answer, he continued. “Aren’t you cold? It’s chilly out.” he looked over at her open sweater, too thin for the fall weather that was blowing around them.
She shook her head, pausing outside the doors to the restaurant.
“So this is it.” He looked up at the red and white striped awning. “Giovanni’s.” He whispered. Lifting his brows at her, he held the door open. “Shall we?”
She walked in, noticing another social etiquette. She let the hostess seat them, not caring which table they were sat at. She knew at least a dozen ways to get out of here from any vantage point.
When they were seated, Hunter picked up the menu and began to look it over. “So…” He paused, looking over the top of the menu at her. “I am realizing now that you never told me your name.”
Clearing her throat, she looked at her own menu.
“Well,” He put the menu down. “My name is Malcom Hunter II, I was named after my father Malcom Hunter who lives here in the city.”
She thought about the last name she put in her pretty little picture box.