Timing was everything that morning. If Mark arrived too early, he’d seem like a loser waiting for Sienna to show up. If he arrived too late, she might be gone already. Of course, she might not show up at the coffee shop at all.
He decided to go around lunchtime and hope for the best. He had her phone number on a sheet she’d sent home at the beginning of the year, but for all he knew, that was a number she gave out only to parents and turned off on the weekends. Anyway this conversation would be better in person than over the phone.
He arrived at the coffee house and spied her right away with another man. Fuck. Did she have a boyfriend? Sienna squirmed away from the guy. Okay, maybe not. Her hair was up in a ponytail again, and she wore jeans and a t-shirt that was tight enough to show the outline of her bra. He wanted more time to admire her, but the guy kept edging closer to her. Chloe waved, and Mark stepped up to the counter and asked, “Who’s with Sienna?”
“I’ll tell you if you buy a ticket for our Halloween poetry night. Money goes to charity,” she said in a singsong voice, holding a flyer in front of him.
“Extortion? Really?” But he smiled and paid her, adding a Toil and Trouble with extra cinnamon to the order.
“Thank you, and you have to come.”
“They were engaged last year.”
Damn. “What happened?”
“You should ask her.”
He frowned at Chloe but knew she wasn’t going to say any more. As he walked over to the couches, instincts made him want to knock the guy out, even though the guy was huge. He’d convinced himself that last night had just been a hiccup to the start of a fantastic relationship with Sienna, but the reunion of her and her ex could be a problem. Still, she’d pushed herself back against the armrest and seemed upset, though something on the phone was making her soften. He had to intervene. He sat down on the couch across from them. “Hello, Ms. Carly.”
She looked up at him, harried, then relieved and then agitated all over again. She sat up straight and gave the phone back to the guy. Before she said anything, the guy gave a tight smile and said, “We were just going to have lunch. Please excuse us, Mr…”
“Mark,” said Sienna.
Mark couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows in surprise over her use of his first name. The guy she was with seemed taken aback as well.
Sienna continued, “This is Glen. He was just leaving. Glen, this is my lunch date, Mark.”
“Lunch date? But he called you Ms. Carly.”
“Well,” said Mark, more than happy to play along with whatever Sienna needed him to do, “she’s my son’s teacher, and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable in case you were a fellow teacher.”
Glen wanted to say something, but Sienna said, “Please give my regards to your mom. I’ll visit her soon.”
Glen frowned at Mark and then Sienna. “I’ll call you, and we can talk about everything then.”
“I’m sure there’s nothing to talk about,” said Sienna, her countenance stony.
“You know that’s not true.” Glen stood up and knocked the corner of the coffee table with his knee, making Sienna’s empty latte mug rattle against the saucer.
Mark stared at Sienna, not knowing what to say. She didn’t look at him but gripped her hands together, appearing as white as her mug. When he noticed her shaking, he joined her on her couch and put his arm around her shoulder. Her body was stiff and unyielding, but he still relished the touch until she said in a faint voice, “Please don’t, but thank you for playing along.”
Mark let her go and withdrew a few inches. Her body slackened, and she leaned back against the couch cushion and closed her eyes.