It stares back at her from the small screen. It’s the hundredth time she’s looked at the damned device since she woke up on the sofa. Even then she had hoped there would be a response but the solitary probing gesture had only invited doubt and compounded her feeling of loneliness. It was now more than ever that she felt truly single, and not in the liberating way.
The doubt is slowly penetrated by a low boiling anger. ‘Why isn’t he responding?’ Doesn’t he know what silence does to the mind? Or is he punishing her? But for what? She only hesitated, he’s the one who jumped to conclusions. Who told him she didn’t like him back? Was he expecting an instant answer? Can’t a girl think about stuff like this before she answers? He shouldn’t be punishing her. Not like this.
She looks at her phone again, hoping her rationalization has gotten through to him. Hoping he calls or even sends her a text. Anything would do right about now. But the device remains motionless.
“Hey, we’re going for lunch. Are you coming?”
It’s Martin, the guy who works two desks down from her. He smiles expectantly at her as he stands next to her desk, adjusting his watch on his wrist. He never works while wearing the accessory which means he’s rarely wearing it at all.
She stares blankly at him, never having caught the invite. “Hmm?”
“What time is it?”
“Lunch time. Come on, let’s go”
“I’m really not…I’m still working on something”
She’s lying. Though her computer is on she’s been staring at the same document since she sat down four hours ago. He looks at her, more intently, trying to decode her facial expressions. She tries to hide behind a mask but the make-up is too thin.
“Is everything alright?”
“I’m fine Martin. Go have lunch”
“We don’t have deadlines for another week…”
“Come on, it’s just lunch. Your computer won’t jump out of the window if you leave it for an hour”
But she might if her phone didn’t ring soon (At least that’s how she felt). With a sigh she shuts down the computer and puts her desk in order. Martin smiles in approval as she removes her purse from her handbag and picks up her phone.
Still no message.
The restaurant across the street is busy as always for this time of day. The host, Raheem, greets them at the door and shakes Martin’s hand warmly. He leads them upstairs and sits them on the balcony. Without taking their order he leaves.
“By the way, you look nice”
The comment comes out of nowhere and Martin sits as though he is not the person who complimented her.
“What do you mean?”
“You look nice. I thought I’d just say it”
She shoots a glance at him, today isn’t really the day for compliments. Subconsciously she rolls her eyes and he shrugs in response.
“It’s just a compliment…”
The blood rushes from her face and she sits back in the chair. “I’m sorry Martin, I didn’t mean that.”
“What’s wrong with you? You’re not yourself today”
“You’re not okay. You shouted at Kate this morning”
“Yeah. Full shouting”
“Haven’t you noticed no one’s come to talk to you today?”
He was right. It had been a slow day and no one had swung by her desk for a quick chat. Normally there was always someone hovering or sitting on the edge of the desk or consulting, but today was different. Even the interns had kept their distance.
“I can’t remember that”
Her phone vibrates on the table top. She jumps at it and unlocks the screen. Her expectations are immediately dashed when the display reads-Low battery. She puts the phone down and curses under her breath.
“I forgot to charge it yesterday”
“And you’re expecting a serious call?”
He looks at her dead in the face, almost as if he is reading her mind. She sighs and half nods in defeat. He smiles to reassure her. “There’s this guy I like…”
“It’s not me? Oh my gosh!”
Martin plasters a silly smile on his face as he says this, flicking his wrist in as feminine a way as he can. The theatric is perfect and she finds herself giggling at it, at him. Who would have known he would liven up her break?
“I always thought it would be me but oh well,” he continues in a mock tone, “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”
“Stop, you’ll make me laugh”
“Then laugh! Life is too short”
Raheem returns with two plates of soup, places them on the table and leaves. Martin discovers a spoon and slips it into his bowl.
“I didn’t order soup”
“I ordered for you. You were still looking at your phone when we got in”
“I was? How long?”
“Do you remember leaving the building?”
She really couldn’t. Her entire mind was circling her phone and the much awaited text. She looks up at Martin who is waiting for an answer but will have to settle for none. She finds her spoon and stirs the soup. A rich aroma raises into her nostrils but she’s got too much shame to savor it.
“This guy you like…he took you out yesterday?”
It wasn’t really taking her out but they were outside at night together. She nods as she takes some soup.
“And he hasn’t called or texted?”
She might have bruised his ego before communication became strained but she says nothing, she nods and has more soup.
“So what happened?”
There is a tangible silence and she can hear the soup slip down her throat and into her guilty stomach. Martin is looking at her, those eyes demanding in the most diplomatic way possible a snipet into her world.
“He said he likes me…and I said nothing back?”
“I didn’t know what to say!”
“And you’re waiting for him to call you back?”
She hesitates again. There are no right or wrong answers where she has landed. “I don’t know. I’m so confused right now”
Martin exhales in exasperation and has some healthy spoonfuls of soup. “What do you expect him to say if he calls you?”
She has no answer. And for a good ten minutes she remains silent and blank headed. She hadn’t thought about it from all sides. What was he supposed to say if he called her? Or even if he texted her? Which one seemed more appropriate? If he called would he seem too desperate? If he texted would he seem to casual? Could he be casual if he called? She didn’t have the answers, so she sat and had the soup in silence.
It was almost like being rescued from a deep coma when Martin finally spoke. “Give the guy a break. It’s not easy being turned down like that.”
“I didn’t turn him down”
She has no reply. Deep down she knows it’s true.
“Give him a day, two max. If he likes you, he’ll find you. If not, move on. Life is too short”
Life is too short, a mantra on the rugged edge. They stand to leave and she remembers the bill.
“Have we paid?”
“Yeah. You were looking at your soup when the bill came”
“How much do I owe you?”
“Don’t worry about it. My treat so you can apologize to Kate”
“And you got some soup on your shirt”
She looks at her white blouse and immediately curses at the heavens. Then her phone rings in her hand but she is too preoccupied with the stain on her blouse.
“Your phone is ringing”
“It’s just the battery…”
“Nope, looks like a call.”
She looks at the screen. “It’s him!”
“What do I say?”
“Just answer it”
She unlocks the screen and picks the call. “Hello?”
“Hi, I just got your message…”
The phone buzzes against her face giving her the most uncomfortable feeling. She pulls it away just in time to see the words ‘Good bye’ on the screen. In a blinding rage she throws the phone onto the floor and realizes her actions too late. As if in slow motion the device hits the floor hard and the back cover flies off. Other patrons stare at her as she stands in horror, a hand over her mouth and eyes wide open. What has she done?