Natalia rose quietly in the early morning darkness. She felt fuzzy from too much expensive champagne. Blindly feeling around on the floor, she found her black jeans and put them on while sitting on the edge of the bed. She stood to zip them, then bent to find her top amidst an assortment of other gray shirts. She wondered why a man would need so many t-shirts that are the same color. Finally she found her own. Friendly pink dawn was beginning to make its way through the gaps in the blinds. Nathan was still sleeping. He had groaned softly as she lifted herself out of bed, as if wordlessly beckoning her back to join him for one more romp.
The sunlight was getting brighter as she peered into the distorted reflection of a table lamp, assessing her makeup situation. She wiped a finger under each eye, trying to make herself appear a bit tidier before her barista shift. She cast a quick glance at Nathan, debating if she should kiss his cheek before departing. She hadn’t meant to drink so much or stay the night. Sleeping with a handsome regular from the coffee shop also wasn’t on her list of things to do. She knew her abuelita would be disappointed. After piling her stream of dark hair into a messy, high bun, Natalia found her combat boots and shoved her feet into them. She wanted to leave before he woke up.
Natalia decided against the kiss and left his room soundlessly to pad downstairs in search of her purse and car keys. A set of keys was turning in the front door and she panicked – frozen. A small woman wearing headphones and carrying some cleaning supplies opened the door as if she had been here hundreds of times. Natalia let her breath out in relief. She had no idea if Nathan was married or not. The woman looked up and let her eyes settle on Natalia for a moment before smiling briefly and nodding. Slightly embarrassed at being caught after a one-night stand, Natalia took this chance to snatch up her keys and dart out the front door.
Her olive skin was glowing like amber as dawn played across her skin. She didn’t know that I was awake so I kept my eyes closed and pretended to still be sleeping. The way that the light caught in her sable hair made me want to run my hands through it. As she dressed with her back to me, I spied a small tattoo at the nape of her neck that I hadn’t seen the night before. I had no clue what the symbol meant. Whenever I came into the coffee shop, the tie from her work apron covered the back of her neck. I wanted so badly to tell her to ditch work and spend the day with me, but I knew she wouldn’t agree. A small noise escaped my mouth. I told myself to lie still and focus on pretending to be asleep.
Natalia was somewhat serious, with wise, dark eyes. She smiled often but I detected a quiet sadness. I had been gently coaxing her to go out with me for the past three months, but she always shook her head ‘no’ and smiled without showing teeth. Polite. Was she seeing someone? Once, I overheard someone mention that her mom was sick. Did Natalia take care of her? I dared to open my eyes just a bit. She was putting on her old, worn boots. I made a mental note to find out her shoe size and buy her some new ones. Would that make her mad?
I silently begged for her to kiss me good-bye. I wanted to feel her soft, full lips on my skin again. Remembering last night awakened an animalistic desire in me, but I controlled myself. She was walking out of the bedroom and I could scarcely hear her boots on the wooden stairs. Help yourself to whatever you want, I thought. Take a banana, an orange, my Mercedes. Anything you want is yours. I could hear Josephine’s keys in the front door and told myself that it was finally safe to get out of bed.