#86 – The Stranger – Jenny Huffman

“I’m not in love with you anymore.”  A simple sentence uttered in a local coffee shop.  It was still so fresh in her mind even though it had been two years since he had said it.

“I’m not in love with you anymore.”  It was so loud.  Seeing him again just made it louder.  She hadn’t seen him since the last court appearance a year ago.  She was standing next to the wedding cake watching him from across the room.  He moved to his right and she slid back behind the fake Ficus to avoid being seen.  What was he doing here?

Now would be a good time for an invisibility cloak.  Why had that randomness popped into her mind?  At least she hadn’t said it out loud…she thought.  A quirk he hated.  She couldn’t suppress a laugh.

She’d always had a distinct laugh.  Of course he’d hear it.  Well, it was inevitable.  It was a small wedding and a small room…they were bound to end up face to face.  “I’m not in love with you anymore.” hung in the air with its own invisibility cloak.  By the time he reached her, the words were pounding in her ears.  Ugh, she shouldn’t care enough to hate him.

“Hello, Amanda.”

“Bobby.”

Silence ensued.  He’d had plenty to say to her in court; it was just like him to drag out the torture.  Finally, she couldn’t take it.  “How are you?”

“Good.  And you?”

“Fabulous!”  A too wide smile escaped.  She struggled to stay in control.  Show him you’re fine without him.  You’re no longer the weeping, broken little wife he discarded.  More silence.

“So…what are you doing here?”  Well, that was unexpected.  Her chin went up at the annoyance in his voice.

“I’m a friend of Liz’s.”  Silence.  “And how do you know the happy couple?”

“Sally is Andy’s cousin.”  Slap!  He couldn’t have done it better had he used his hand.  Her hands begin to shake.  She was with him.  “She’s right over there if you’d like to come and say hello.”  His smile was cruel.  He knew she had no interest in speaking to the woman, if you could call your ex-husband’s 21-year old girlfriend a woman.  More like…Keep calm!  Don’t cry!

“No…no…”  Please don’t cry!  And please don’t stoop to his level!  “Besides, don’t you need to get back so she doesn’t get carded.”  Gah!  Too late.  The victory showed in his eyes.

“Darling, there you are!”

They both turned.  The approaching man seemed to be talking to her.  She turned to look over her shoulder but his arm circled her waist.  His other hand lifted her chin.  “What?”  Her words were lost as he bent his head and kissed her.  Her surprise meant she instinctively kissed him back.  Oh, my!  What am I doing?  It was over before she could stop herself.

He lifted his head and she saw the humor in his deep brown eyes.  No, they were chocolate.  Who are you?

“Who are you?!”  Bobby was visibly stunned, a frown replacing the smugness of a moment before.

The man turned surprised there was someone else there.  “Anthony.  I’m Amanda’s fiancé.”

“Excuse me?!”  Where did her voice come from?  A moment ago she was speechless.  And was that a Scottish accent?

“Okay, okay, you haven’t said ‘yes’…yet.”  He kissed her forehead and turned a conspiratorial look to Bobby.  “It seems her gormless ‘ex’ has jaded her view of matrimony.  I keep telling her that we aren’t all prats.”  Looking back down at her, he smiled.  “I guess I’ll just have to work harder to convince you, won’t I sweetness.”  Okay…this guy is mad.  He was still holding her.  She should move away.  “But, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your conversation, Mr.…”

The muscle in Bobby’s jaw flinched.  “Erickson.  The ‘ex’…what was the word you used?  gordless?  What does that even mean?”  She looked at the stranger still holding her.  Heaven help her!  Don’t laugh!

“Really!  Well, you’re not what I expected.  And the word is gorm-less…Google it.”  The stranger…Anthony, sized him up, “but now that we’ve met, I think I now have just the edge I need to convince Mandy to agree to my proposal.”

Don’t laugh!  You can’t laugh!  She couldn’t believe a moment ago she was near tears.

“Well, Mandy, when were you planning on telling me about this?”  She could tell before she looked that he was fuming.  Oh, this is good!  She had to play!

This smile was real.  “I wasn’t.  It’s no longer any of your business.”

“I see.”  The steam literally poured from his ears.  “Goodbye.”  He turned abruptly and lumbered off.  He was always so awkward when he was mad.

Amanda giggled and looked back to those incredible chocolate eyes.  She could see that he was having a hard time controlling his laughter, his grin wide.  And crooked, she thought.  Suddenly she was very conscious of him being so close.  She began to move away from his hold.  His brogue stopped her.

“Better to stay the pose a few minutes longer.  We don’t want all our fun going to waste.”

~ Jenny Huffman, Southern California

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