“Thanks, doll,” he said, smiling so large it cut his face in half.
Coming out of anyone else’s mouth, the term may have sounded patronizing. But from him, it was a secret name for an inner circle of compatriots. As if “doll” was a term reserved only for his closest friends, implying a lifetime of inside jokes and shared secrets.
In Neil’s imagination, the handsome stranger walked over to his table, flipped a chair around backward to sit in, and leaned forward, the legs of the chair lifting off the floor until their lips almost touched. “Morning, doll,” he would say. And Neil would lean in closer, touching his hands.
Neil saved his word document and took a sip of his cooling latte. He stole a quick glance at the man once more—he was standing at the counter, hands in his pockets with his back turned—before leaning back in his wooden chair and staring out the tinted glass at the city traffic slowing to a stop at the traffic light outside the window.
So far, the stranger had only caught him staring once, but he wished he’d catch him again. Neil wished he had the courage to stand up and introduce himself.
The stranger looked his way and smiled. He walked towards Neil’s table and Neil melted into the wood.