Prompt text: Start your scene with this line: “Her laugh broke the silence.”

Author’s note: I recognize I’m ending this in a different place than were I started.  I think if I took this where it felt like it should go, it would turn into a whole chapter.  I just took the prompt, started the chapter and ended the scene where I thought I needed to.  For all I know, I may revisit this later.

Her laugh broke the silence.

For the first time in what felt like hours, I let out an exhale and laughed a little myself.  I held out my hand, which Hazel took in her own to try and pull herself up from the roller rink floor.  And because I was even less practiced on skates than she was, I promptly lost my balance and went down on my ass.  This time, we both cracked up.

As first dates went, this one had been a good one.  I had no idea what to expect of Hazel, having never actually met her before.  The friend who had set us up told me only a few details.  Brown hair, near shoulder length, straight.  Very friendly smile.  “But I promise you this,” Nancy told me over the phone.  “You’ll know her when you hear her.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“You just don’t hear many people like her around here,” Nancy replied.  She knew I was scared shitless about being set up, and was having entirely too much fun at my discomfort.

“Ok,” I said.  “I don’t know what you mean by that, but ok.”  I heard anxiety creep into my voice.

“Oh would you relax,” she chastised.  “You’re gonna be fine.”  I sighed, and I think she took my concerns more seriously.  “Look,” she said more gently.  “You’re a terrific guy, and she’s a wonderful woman.  The worst that can happen is y’all don’t click, have a nice night out and that’s the end of it.”

I swallowed hard.  “I…I know you’re right.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Believing it.”

I stood outside of the coffee shop, pacing back and forth.  The pacing did nothing to dispel the nervous energy I had, but it did more to that end than standing still.  My fears about arriving late had gotten the better of me, and I wound up arriving more than half an hour early with nothing to do but stew in my own nervousness.  I had already wandered through the record store and the vintage clothing store next door, trying to kill time.

Twice.

In my head, my nervousness had ratcheted up what I referred to as the “Hamster Wheel of DOOM” in my head so fast I swore I could smell it smoking.  Will you stop with this bullshit! I told myself.  It’s just coffee!

I know, but what is she likes me?  Hell, what if I like her?

Then you like her.  You have fun, maybe you guys go somewhere else. What’s the big deal?

I just…I don’t know how to handle that…I mean what do I say? What do I do? What if she’s really awesome and I feel stupid around here and

Out of the darkness of my psyche, I heard Nancy bark at me, firmly but compassionately, “For God’s sake, stop naming the kids!!!” Then as if she were there to see the chagrin on my face, I heard her more gently. “It’s just coffee.  Breathe.”

It’s just coffee.  Right.  Breathe.  Breathing is good.

Just as I’d calmed down enough that I no longer felt like pacing, a black sedan pulled into the parking lot and parked.  The driver’s side door opened, and a woman got out of the car.  She locked the car and began walking towards the coffee shop.  Then she saw me and changed course, heading directly towards me.  I swallowed and could feel my heart start hammering in my chest.  I closed my eyes for a second and heard Nancy’s voice one more time.

Stop naming the kids.

And then Nancy’s voice was replaced with one unlike any I’d ever heard outside of a movie.

“Is this Alonzo?”

I smiled, though it felt somewhat unnatural. Like my face was made of molder plastic and I was trying to shape it in a way different from how it had originally been cast.  “Yes…you must be Hazel.”

She laughed.  “Oh aye, and who else would it be?” The Scottish brogue was unmistakeable.  And then the smile Nancy had told me about shone like a spotlight.  Or in my anxiety ridden head, more like headlights from an on coming car.  And I was the deer about to be roadkill.

But there were worse ways to go.

“….raight aboot the hats.”

I shook myself out of my stupor.  “Beg pardon?”

“I sayd, Nancy were raight aboot how I’d know ya.  She said ya fancied hats more than most men yer age.” She held her hand out and I shook it delicately.  I’d completely forgotten I’d told Nancy I would wear my straw Panama to make me easy to find.  “Well, more than most men not ridin’ horses or herdin’ coos.  Isnae what you Texans do?”

I laughed despite myself.  “Not all of us.”

“Yer not all cowboys then?” She crossed her arms in mock skepticism.  The twinkle in her eyes told me she was having me on, and I was happy to let her do so.

“Technically as a Mexican, the term should be caballero or maybe gaucho,” I replied.

“Oh, hablas español?” Hazel asked.  Hesitantly, she continued, “Estoy tomando clases para aprender español ahora.”

“Uh, no,” I said sheepishly.  “You’ve probably heard about a third of my full Spanish vocabulary I could use properly.”

“Oh,” Hazel said.  She paused, and then brightened up.  “Awright.  We’ll go in then?”

I turned towards the coffee shop and proceeded to stumble upon the curb.  I regained my balance, terrified to turn around. Instead, I strode purposefully towards the door and then held it open for her.

Hazel walked past me, and as she reached the door whispered, “Guid recovray.”

Without even thinking about it, I replied, “I am, as ever, a picture of grace in motion.”

That elicited a bemused giggle from Hazel and for the first time since I’d gotten there, I smiled.


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