As I let the steam from my freshly brewed coffee rise to my face, I wondered where she was and if I would see her again. We were both running away from cruel hands; hers dealt with a blow to the face and mine dealt by tragic fate.
That evening, I was walking home from work. It had been a week since I’d found her at my door, and now she was waiting for the light to change with a cigarette dangling from her slender fingers, backpack slung over her shoulder.
The light turned green. I called her name, “Amy!”
She glanced my way and lurched across the street with strides as long as she could manage. I crossed the street to try to slow her down enough to exchange a few words. But what did we have to say? We knew nothing about each other.
“Hey, wait up!”
She turned and fixed me with a fierce stare. “What do you want?”
“You just took off. You could have at least said goodbye, or how about a thank you?”
“Thank you,” she said curtly and turned to walk on.
“Wait, what are you doing right now? Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”
She stopped and shook her head. “Ok,” she said with her back still to me, “But I don’t owe you anything. I appreciate you helping me,” she turned to face me, “but I don’t need anything else from you.” She took a drag from her cigarette, dropped it, and stamped it out.
We stepped into a little cafe owned by a Lebanese friend of mine. “Farid! How are you? Can I get two regular coffees, black?”
“Sure thing, boss,” said a stocky, balding, sixty-something man with olive skin, a broad nose, and a gold tooth. He’d told me once that in a former life he’d been a debt collector for a loan shark in the rough side of Beirut, but I couldn’t imagine him hurting a fly. “You want that served in golden teacups, or are these old second-hand mugs good enough for His Majesty?”
“Very funny. If it’s not too much trouble, we’ll just take it over here in the corner.”
I turned around, and Amy was gone. I took my seat and wondered if I would see her again, but just as I was deciding that she had duped me, she emerged from the restroom and joined me.
I took a moment to take her in. She seemed to have grown a layer of toughness since that late-night weeks before. The bruise on her left cheek had mostly healed. She boldly returned my gaze, unflinching; her dark eyes, long dark wavy hair, and brooding eyebrows. Her face was young, but her eyes stared back at me with a maturity beyond their years. In that moment, I saw her beauty.
Farid dropped two coffee mugs on the table and made a habitual clucking sound with his tongue.
I raised my mug to Amy and said, “Cheers.”
She let out a slow breath and raised her mug to mine. “Cheers.”
A long silence followed our toast. We sipped our coffees and stared out of the window at the passersby and a black man wearing a toboggan hat and a tattered coat asking for change with one of Farid’s mugs.
“So, what’s with you?” I asked. “Do you have a place to stay? Do you need some cash?”
The city was growing grayer as she sipped her coffee, perhaps considering her next move. “Buy me dinner,” she said without looking away from the window.
I was surprised. “How old are you?” I asked.
She snickered unsmilingly. “How old are you?”
Perhaps she pitied me; I was just as lost as she was. Maybe she was just hungry. Whatever it was, I was hungry, too, and for just a little while, I thought I might find solace in a lonely world with another runaway.