By the time he was done with all the explanations it was late. Even Rachel began to look tired, and, when the conversation lulled, she stretched and yawned.
“Carlton, this has been great, but I better be getting home.”
He looked at his watch, 1:25 AM. “Good grief, I had no idea.“ He looked around the empty Café. The bored Barista had all but given up on life. “You’re right. Thanks, Rachel, this has been the most fun I’ve had for ages.”
“You need to get out more.” She smiled. “OK, let’s get out of here. Walk me to my car?“
The Barista perked up when he saw them get up, followed them to the door, and, politely, wished them a good night. Rachel and Carlton both laughed. They walked in silence for a few minutes. Carlton had done more talking this evening that in the last two weeks put together and he was tired. He was also uncertain how to proceed. It was OK though, because Rachel, in her dependable way, began speaking again.
“Will you be doing the maintenance on the library computer?”
“Yes, and it will be under warranty for three years too, so if anything goes wrong…” he paused and inwardly winced, “you know who to call.” He felt himself being drawn to the edge of a precipice: emotional entanglement. Panic began to well up inside, warnings began to sound in his mind. In a millisecond Carlton lived through a whirlwind romance with Ruth all the way up to the inevitable painful ending.
“Great,” Rachel noticed the flicker in Carlton’s countenance, and summed it up with accuracy and insight. However, she was not here to play games, and had an agenda that Carlton knew nothing about. Her heart went out to Carlton. He was like so many others she had met, so desperate and so small. So afraid.
“They probably have your number at the library, but why don’t you let me write it down now?” She smiled, but did not look into Carlton’s face, rather, she rummaged in her pocket-book. Then they were at her car. She thanked Carlton again for a pleasant evening, and chuckled as he clumsily fumbled the car door. When she was seated she put the key in and rolled down the window.
“One last thing. Do you go to church anywhere?”
“Yes, I just started going to Anchor Baptist Church, why don’t you come Sunday? Oh, Tomorrow!”
Carlton frowned, talk about curve balls. “I’ll think about it.“
“OK, bye.” She checked the mirrors, looked over her shoulder, waved, and drove off into the night.
A chasm opened up below Carlton’s feet, and her stared down into oblivion. So, not only was he going to get his heart broken, again, but he was going to get drawn into a bunch of religious clap-trap while it was happening. He sighed. Shook his head in an attempt to clear it, then walked to his own car contemplating the trials and pitfalls of life. Only yesterday he had been safe and secure in his introverted bubble. Now he was naked and exposed in a situation that, though he had dreamed of it for years, he didn’t want to be in.
It was Rachel though. It wasn’t some random woman that he blundered into. His heart was already leaking blood from the anticipated wounds as he made his way home. Home, that was a convenient distraction, but another situation that he really didn’t feel like dealing with right now.