He waited an hour and a half, through three cups of coffee slowly nursed until each grew tepid and he drained their bitter dregs. The barista seemed to sense he had been stood up and refilled his cup for a fourth time with a small, pitying smile before turning away to serve more engaging customers. Tanim stared down at the dark liquid but couldn’t bring himself to take another sip. The previous cups already sat ill in his stomach, stale and acidic. The adrenaline rush he should have experienced after ingesting so much caffeine seemed instead to have hardened into a lump below his sternum. Or at least he told himself the tightness in his chest was from the coffee; he wasn’t ready yet to admit its source was instead a bewildering combination of helpless concern and unwarranted disappointment.
Tanim knew he should have left long before but a masochistic desire to twist the knife one last time had kept him waiting here like a fool too lovesick to recognize rejection. Now, though, the man at least admitted defeat, if not the rest. Daren wasn’t coming today either, that much was clear. Tanim wanted desperately to believe something had kept the man away against his will these past few days yet still he found himself wondering, what if it’s me? But that was a thought he definitely couldn’t face right now. With a sigh Tanim tossed an uncounted wad of bills on the table and stepped out into the chill night, turning his coat collar against the wind as he headed down the street. He would go home and settle his stomach with something a little stronger than coffee and put all thought of Daren and whatever their relationship was, or wasn’t, out of his mind another day. Maybe for good.
Right, Tanim thought with a deprecating snort as the rain began. Good luck with that.
He waited an hour and a half, though the winter air numbed his fingers and made his eyes water. Daren could have gone home, should have in fact, but some masochistic desire kept him rooted to the pavement, eyes fixed on the café across the street. As if he could feel Tanim’s thoughts brush against his mind, seeking his unknown location and begging for an explanation, Daren thought, Stop, Tanim. Give me up. I’m gone, you fool. Let go. We are nothing; we were never anything. This is done. But he understood Tanim well enough to know the man was too stubborn, or perhaps too lovesick, to give in so easily, no matter how obvious his rejection. We’ll both be better off this way¸ why can’t he see that?
Daren watched as Tanim finally emerged from the café and turned his coat collar up against the chill night, walking away down the street with a definite note of dejection in his gait. As much as Daren hated causing Tanim any amount of pain, he wanted so desperately to take this as a sign that maybe Tanim had finally accepted the finality of their situation. Maybe now he’d move on and forget about the man he loved without cause and find someone better suited – or at the very least someone less damaged, someone who actually had something to offer him in return.
Right, Daren thought as the rain began, sending a shiver through his already feverish form. Good luck with that.