Russ had noticed Cordi the moment he opened the door. His heart skipped a beat and his breath caught in his chest when he saw her. She was even more beautiful than he had remembered, dressed up in a form-fitting outfit that accentuated the sensuous curves of her body that the layers she had worn the other night had hidden.
He closed the door behind him, and Jake greeted him, taking his coat.
“Hey! Come on in, man. Grab a drink. There are snacks on pretty much every flat surface in the place. Take your pick,” Jake said, welcoming him with a laugh.
He nodded, having to tear his eyes away from Cordi momentarily as he returned the greetings with Jake. When he turned back around, she had disappeared. His eyes swept the room, darting from person to person, trying to see where she might have gone, but she was nowhere in sight.
When Cordi had seen Russ coming through the door, it had sent her mind spinning. She panicked, and darted into the kitchen where Marta was arranging tiny squares of white chocolate, peppermint fudge on a festive tray, preparing to set it out for the guests. She lifted the tray and held it up when Cordi approached, offering Cordi a piece.
Cordi shook her head. “No thanks. Marta! You’re not going to believe this, but Russ, the guy I met at the diner the other night? He’s here!” Cordi’s voice was quick but quiet, communicating her urgency and confusion.
“You’re kidding. Who did he come with?” Marta asked, also in a hushed voice, mirroring her friend.
“I have no idea. I just saw him walk in the front door, but I didn’t see anyone come in with him. Marta, what am I going to do?” she asked, as her eyes signaled her plea for help.
Marta thought about it for a moment. What should she tell her? She knew Cordi had hit it off with this Russ guy the other night and had heard the excitement and longing in her voice. But Graham would be here any minute, and he was expecting tonight to be a do-over with Cordi.
Marta knew that Cordi would like Graham if she’d only give him a chance, and likewise for him. Why had they both been so stubborn and difficult about this?
“Cordi, I don’t know. What about Graham?” Marta asked.
“I know, but in case you haven’t noticed, this Graham guy still hasn’t shown up yet, and he’s already stood me up once. What if he doesn’t show up again? And what are the chances that Russ would show up here at your party tonight?” It was clear that Cordi had a specific direction she wanted to go in, but wanted Marta’s blessing to do it.
“Well… I guess-”
Marta’s sentence was cut short when she saw Graham and Jake walk into the kitchen. “Graham! You’re here!” she called out with excitement.
Marta turned to look at Cordi to introduce her to Graham, but was silenced by the wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression on Cordi’s face staring at him.
“That’s Graham?” Cordi asked, pointing her hand at him as he halted his approach toward the two girls.
Confused, Marta glanced between her friends, now seeing the serious expression that had taken over Graham’s face as well.
“Yes…” Marta said in a long, drawn-out syllable. “Have you two already met?”
“You said your name was Russ,” Cordi said, now directly to him. She felt confused, but worse, betrayed. “You lied to me?”
“No, I didn’t lie. Graham is my last name, Cordi. Russell Graham.” He was beginning to realize that this situation was going south, and fast. He had to fix this, but how? Maybe he had made a mistake, he realized.
“So you just let me believe that I had been stood up. Is that it?” she asked him.
Russ’s head hung slightly in shame, realizing how he had made her feel, which had not been his intention at all. His hand went to rub the back of his neck in a nervous gesture while he tried to think of what he could say to salvage this.
Marta and Jake stood by in awkward silence, watching the scene unfold together.
Russ moved forward, closing the distance between he and Cordi, but when he got to her, she took a step back. She shook her head no, and darted out of the kitchen, heading toward the coat closet where her coat and scarf hung. She was obviously planning to leave.
Marta, Jake, and Russ stood looking at each other with disbelief.
“Wow,” Marta said. “You really messed that up.”
Jake nodded in agreement. They stood quietly for a moment, not knowing what to say, as Tim Halperin could be heard singing, “I need a Miracle,” low on the living room speakers. Then, they heard the front door open and close.
Russ’s eyes went wide, and panic welled up inside him. Did she really just leave?
“I’ve got to go after her!” said Russ as he sprang into motion. He had to find her. He had to make this right. He needed a miracle.