The smell of spiced cider wafted through the small, sparsely populated and festively decorated diner as a waitress brought over a steaming cup and laid it on the table in front of Cordi. A smile and a nod, and the waitress was off, leaving Cordi to bask in the dim, hanging lights to sip her cider and wait in solitude.
What was she waiting for? The more appropriate question was who, though she really couldn’t answer that, either. Her friend, Marta, had insisted she be set up with a guy she knew through her own boyfriend, Jake. Cordi, as usual, had her doubts. She agreed to the date, but she wasn’t getting her hopes up that Graham was going to be anything short of disappointing.
Now, there was a word she was used to in the dating department. Disappointment seemed to follow her around like a persistent house fly. She was convinced she was a magnet for guys who still lived at home in their parents’ basements or expected her to pay for dinner. If she met one more guy who ghosted her after only a couple of weeks, she thought she would just give up dating altogether. At thirty-two, who needed it?
She watched out the glass door covered in blinking Christmas lights, green garland, and red bows as the agreed meeting time drew closer. The wind howled as it whipped an empty, Styrofoam cup in circles on the sidewalk outside. It sent a chill through Cordi as she looked further past the door and up toward the clouds that held a promise of snow. She cupped her cider in both hands, taking in its warmth as she huddled in her chair.
When a guy matching Graham’s description – dark-brown hair, chiseled jaw, and piercing blue eyes – approached the door and entered, Cordi found her hopes rise ever-so-slightly as she waited to see if her assumption was correct. Could this hottie be her date?
Her eyes followed him as he stepped inside, paused to look around the empty room, and then turned in her direction drawing closer to her. She was just about to stand and greet him when he took a seat at the table next to hers, effectively quashing the hopes that had involuntarily continued to build.
Of course this fine-looking dude wouldn’t be her date. She should be looking for someone a lot less yummy, she had no doubt. It was never her luck to get the guys she was instantly attracted to.
She settled back into her chair as she continued to wait, in the meantime watching the hot guy as he shrugged out of his wool coat and gave his order to the lone waitress, black coffee and buttermilk pie.
Michael Bublé sang Feliz Navidad in the background as Cordi stole glance after glance at her watch, wondering what was keeping her date. When she got to the bottom of her cup, the waitress came back around asking if she’d like another, and she agreed. If her date hadn’t arrived by the time the next cider was done, she was out of there.
“You waiting for someone?” the guy asked once the waitress headed off toward the kitchen. His voice was deep and smooth, Cordi noticed.
She looked over to see him looking her way. He was talking to her, she realized, as her heart leapt in her chest. Who else would he be talking to?
“Yes, blind date,” she admitted. Her hands motioned dismissively in the air, aiming for nonchalance. “You?”
“I’m here for the pie,” he said as a grin spread across his face, lighting his handsome features.
Cordi gave a knowing nod. The local diner was known for their pies, and had it not been for the impending snow storm that was scheduled to hit later that night, the place would have been packed as usual. As it was, it seemed everyone in the neighborhood was already settling it in before it got too bad out. Everyone, that is, except for Cordi and this gorgeous lad at the table next to hers.
“The pies are amazing,” Cordi said. “The cider isn’t half bad, either,” she added with a smile as the waitress returned with her second cup.
“I guess that means I’d better try it, then,” the guy said, looking to the waitress to make sure she heard and understood the order.
Cordi nodded, but remained quiet, not wanting to encroach on the gentleman’s time. Another minute passed before he spoke up again.
“Would you like to join me until your date gets here?” he asked, using his foot to push out the chair sitting next to his and motioning to the empty seat as he looked to her for her response. “I could use the company,” he added.
Cordi hesitated for a moment. What would her date think when he walked in to find her sitting there with this insanely attractive guy? If he walked in, she supposed. At this rate, she was beginning to think she had been stood up, anyway, and if not, then Graham was certainly not getting off to a good start being this late.
“Alright,” she agreed. Then she stood, pushing her own chair back as she grabbed her coat hanging from the back of it, along with her cider that she picked up from her table, and moved the few steps over to join him.
“I’m Cordi, by the way,” she said as she held her hand out for a handshake once she sat down beside him.
“Cordi, nice to meet you. My friends call me Russ,” he replied as he returned her handshake.
The heat of his touch radiated through her, warming and comforting her in a way that she hadn’t felt before. She thought how different she expected this night to go. She had been nervous to meet a new guy, a date that she would feel obligated to impress. She had thought she’d be on edge all evening, trying to play the game of getting to know someone new.
Sitting there with Russ felt different. She felt at ease without the added pressure of expectations, and she found herself hoping Graham really had stood her up after a half hour of easy and light-hearted conversation.
The snow began falling around a half past nine, and Cordi decided she had better get going if she was going to get home before it really started coming down. She lived in an apartment just up the block, and it was going to be a cold walk home.
Even though Graham had never shown up, she couldn’t help but feel a giddy sense of contentment at the direction the night had taken. She figured those warm thoughts would get her through the cold, the wind, and the falling snow on her way home.
“It was nice to meet you, Russ. I’d better get going. Maybe you should, too, if you don’t want to get caught in the storm,” she suggested, pulling on her coat.
He insisted on paying for her ciders before offering to walk her out, and she wasn’t going to protest to either. She really hated for this evening to end.
Once they got outside, Cordi began heading down the block toward her apartment as Russ went to open the driver side door of his hard-top Jeep. He turned to look back at her and noticed her walking onward down the block in the freezing cold.
“You’re not walking home, are you?” Russ called to her through the biting wind.
She pulled her collar up around her neck and wrapped her arms tight around her as she stopped and turned to look back. “Yes,” she called back to him.
He motioned for her to come back. “Get in. I’ll drive you home.”
She thought about declining the offer. It wasn’t that far, after all. The wind whipped past her once again, chilling her to the bone. The warmth in his eyes was all the convincing she needed, and before she knew it, she was climbing into the passenger seat next to him.
“Where to?” he asked her with a wide smile.
“Thirty-fourth and Main.”