Eat your heart out, 50 Shades.
She couldn’t believe she was doing this.
It was insane. Utterly insane. To fall in love with a guy you’ve never met? It was something out of a romance novel. Out of a fanfiction.
And yet, this is where Taryn Curl found herself, sitting at a corner booth in Starbucks. She stared into the crackling fire, mesmerized by the flames that seemed to taunt her. Mock her.
Shut up. She thought, glaring at them. He’s going to come. I know Pete. He’ll always be there for me.
She changed the song on her iPod. She couldn’t believe she was doing this.
“When I was a young boy, my father took me into the city… to see the marching band…”
It had all started a week ago. It was like any other day in the 29th Street office. The assignment, however, was anything but ordinary: Pete. Pete Hess.
“We’re supposed to be doing what?” cried Izzie, Taryn’s co-editor. They managed the humor section of the magazine.
Damien, the online editor, looked up from his curled fetal-position- his preferred stance. “We’re going to track Pete Hess for a week. Look at his facebook, find out his interests, and write an issue about him. No biggie.”
Bo, the managing editor, piqued up, “Yeah, it should be really simple. Especially for creative types like you guys.”
Taryn and Lizzie exchanged bewildered, helpless looks. This was going a long night.
“He said, ‘Son when, you grow up, will you be the savior of the people,’….”
That night, Taryn gnawed on the end of her pencil as Izzie sat hunched over the computer screen.
“I’m finding nothing,” Izzie confessed, throwing her hands up in the air, “This guy- There’s nothing to make fun of! He’s perfectly ordinary.”
“What?” said Taryn, leaping forward. “Let me see that.”
She grabbed the 13 inch MacBook Pro from Izzie’s hands and took a look. She could barely contain a gasp.
The boy- no, the man- who must’ve been Pete Hess stared up at her, smiling. He wore a form-fitting Mario jumpsuit, that left little to Taryn’s imagination. As she scrolled down his time line, her eyes grew wider and wider. Sporty… Intelligent… Jewish… He had it all.
“So?” asked Izzie impatiently. “What do you think?”
Taryn could barely think, let alone talk. She forced the words out of her, though they came no louder than a whisper. “He’s perfect.”
…The leader of broken, the beaten….
And this was how Taryn found herself, sipping her hot chocolate at Starbucks. She had convinced Izzie that she had to meet Pete in person, to research their article. This wasn’t a lie, technically. After getting Izzie’s reluctant permission, she had sent a breathless email (could emails be breathless? This one certainly felt like it was). He responded promptly, like she knew he would. He seemed like the prompt type. They had agreed to meet here, in front of the warmth of the fireplace, right about-
Taryn jolted back to reality, nearly spilling her drink all over the table. “I-I’m sorry-“ she sputtered, before looking up.
There he was, in all his glory- and that was not an exaggeration.
Perhaps the first thing was she noticed was his eyes. Big, round, both blue and grey at the same time- like ocean waves shimmering under a stormy sky. Magnified by his lightly-wired glasses, they were hard to ignore. Or maybe
He was tall- but then again, everybody was tall to her- and lean. Fit. Smartly dressed in a blue, button-down shirt and a furry cow-hair vest (a look that, to be fair, wasn’t for everybody; but Taryn had always had eccentric taste when it came to fashion). And his voice. Gods, his voice. It sounded like… like…
“May I sit down?” he asked.
Buttermilk. It sounded like buttermilk. Smooth, creamy. Rich.
“Sure,” she replied, though perhaps too quickly.
He took the seat across from her in one swift motion and adjusted his glasses. “You’re Taryn, right?” He said.
“Yes.” Said Taryn.
“I’m Pete.” He said.
“I know!” Screamed Taryn. The entire Starbucks went silent, their stares judgment enough. Damnit damnit damnit.
Pete gave a small shrug, matching the motion with a sheepish smirk. “Ah, well. Should we get started?”
Taryn took out her notepad. She was calm now. She was composed. “Yes,” she said, “Let’s.”
Except she wasn’t calm and she was certainly not composed. She was confused and distracted and dazed and conflicted and so much more. Because his words sounded only like soft notes, his eyes looked only like a dark reflection. She was lost, spiraling out of control.
…and the damned.
She was falling, but, looking into those eyes, she knew it would be okay.