Books Magazine

In the Mood for Love? The Story of Sarah & Daniel

Posted on the 31 May 2012 by Steph's Scribe @stephverni

Dear Readers,

I wanted to share with you a short story I’ve been working on. I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up, but I thought I’d post it. I like to throw in some creative samples here and there on the blog. It keeps me fresh and stimulates my own creativity. Like “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” this story is about forgiveness, though in a very different way from BTMT.

Part One is below. Part Two will be posted tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

In the Mood for Love? The Story of Sarah & Daniel


There were days when the magnitude of it all weighed so heavily on her mind, she woke up and pulled the covers all the way over her head, sinking deeper into the darkness that lay beneath the sheets. Then there were days she felt she couldn’t breathe—that she couldn’t go on one more minute or complete another mundane task.

It had taken years to feel somewhat normal again, though she knew the word normal had to be extracted permanently from her vocabulary. What was normal? By what standards did one have to live up to being normal? If normal meant hiding her true feelings and pretending her life were all that she wanted and expected it to be, then she knew, for the time being, that she was normal.

But being normal came with a price. One must be fully willing to sacrifice being open to happiness in order to dwell in the shadows of normalcy, as she had done, and continued to do.

It all started when she had first met Daniel. The unexpected, unplanned meeting took place in line on a snowy day in the city when the supermarkets were crammed with folks desperate to purchase their fair share of bread, milk, and eggs before the deluge of snow quieted both the streets and the stores. It was innocent enough at first. They had simply made eye contact and shared a brief smile.

“I think I got the last carton of milk,” he had said.

“And I may have snagged the last loaf of wheat bread,” she replied.

“Oh, so you’re the guilty party who got it and why I’m left holding a bag of white Wonder Bread.”

She smiled, his eyes so warm and inviting, that the intensity of them made her want not only to continue looking back into them, but also to offer over her loaf of bread. She did. He declined.

She processed through the line and he asked her if she was from the area. She said yes, and that she just lived around the corner in an apartment. He said he lived in the opposite direction, but only six blocks away.

She gathered up her bags, and began to walk toward the automatic doors.

He called to her. “Do you mind waiting a moment?” he asked, as the checker had just begun to ring up his few items.

She waited to the side, just steps away from the register, her cheeks a little blush with embarrassment.

“I know this might seem quite forward,” he began, “and awfully unromantic in a supermarket, but are you free? Would you like to get a cup of coffee?”

The timing of it was all off, she thought. She was at the tail end of going through a rotten divorce and, at the count, had sworn off men for all eternity. She’d had it, and had been quite content living on her own for the past eight months with nothing but her family and friends to entertain her. Yes, she thought. She was quite through with men for the time being.

“I don’t think so,” she began, trying to disguise the disgust she felt for the opposite sex while simultaneously trying not to hurt this man’s feelings.

His face could not hide the disappointment and rejection he felt, and she immediately felt guilty for saying it so coarsely and regretted turning him down immediately. After all, men had feelings, too, and it wasn’t always easy for a man to make that first move, the fear of being slapped in the face with a “no” always looming. But she knew rejection was something to be dealt with—on both sides. If every woman said “yes” to an offer, a proposal, or a date, there’d be a traffic jam of people all trying to grab a cup of coffee together.

He mustered up a smile. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.”

She experienced a momentary lapse in judgment, for that was the moment right there. That was the moment she should have stuck to her guns, and that would have been it. None of the pain that came after “yes” would ever have happened.

But that wasn’t the case.

“You know what?” she said. “Why not?”

* * *

There was a little coffee shop around the corner, and the two of them decided to go there, but since they each had two small bags of groceries, they stopped by her place to temporarily store his bags in her refrigerator. She only had the very fleeting thought that he could be a mass-murderer or ex-convict. How could she open her door to such a relative stranger?

“Nice place,” he said. “It beats mine. I admit it could use a decorator’s touch. Did you have someone help you?”

“Nope. It’s all me,” she said.

“You’ve got some talent in interior design, then.”

She smiled, pleased that he had picked up on it.

When the food was properly tucked away, she paused and watched him as he observed her artwork, paintings, and collections.

“This is a beautiful painting,” he said, noting the one she had of the ocean landscape at sunset. “I love the ocean. The water. Someday, I hope to live near the water and get out of this city.”

“Yes,” she said. “I’m not a fan of being landlocked, either.”

He admired another one, the one Jim had painted for her. The only thing that Jim had given her that she had kept. Sometimes she wanted to throw that brilliant work of art into the dumpster, but she didn’t want to regret that decision years down the road when someday she might forgive him. For now, it remained on the wall, a constant reminder that she deserved better. Demanded better.

“My name’s Sarah, by the way.”

“I’m Daniel.”

* * *

The coffee shop was surprisingly crowded, despite the snow falling at a steady pace, blanketing the ground with two inches of snow. The streets had been so cold; the city had endured weeks of outside temperatures hovering around 20 degrees, so it was no surprise to see the sidewalks and streets covered in white.

In the background, Ella and Louis played, the coffeehouse showcasing the standards as the clientele tended to be an older demographic. Muted walls and an off-white, elegant chandelier hung from the center of the room. On the walls were contemporary sketches of coffeehouses from around the globe, namely from France, Brazil, Italy, Spain, and Australia. The owner of the place was an artist who dabbled in professional work. He had traveled and created the watercolor sketches in muted tones, with flashes of strong color that showcased the names of each. The place was cozy and welcoming; it drew people inside its doors just from the look of it from the street. Part boutique, part travelers den, it was a warm and friendly spot to share a coffee and spend some time.

Daniel kicked back in his chair, seemingly very relaxed. His dark hair complimented his eyes and light skin color, as he had no tan, which was to be expected. It was winter, and the months on the east coast could drag when winter imposed on the city’s inhabitants. There was little stubble on his face, and Sarah noticed it. After spending years with an incredibly clean-shaven neat-nick who never allowed a hair to be out of place, it was good to see a man with a five o’clock shadow.

“So, I’m sorry I was pushy,” Daniel said, “but I just felt like it might be a good time to get to know each other. I feel like I’ve met you before.”

Sarah knew what he meant. She hated to admit it, but she had experienced the same feeling, and had just been fighting it. There was an ease that came with being with him that made her believe that perhaps they had crossed paths sometime prior to today. Maybe they knew each other in another life, she heard inside her head, something her friend Sallie was keen on saying. It made her smile.

It took her a minute, but she found herself saying it out loud. “Me, too.”

“So, what do you do for a living?” he asked

“I’m sort of in-between jobs,” she said.

“How so?”” Daniel looked right into her eyes as he brought the coffee cup up to his lips and took a sip.

“I’m actually a waitress right now. Long story.”

Daniel could sense that he shouldn’t pry and that she would tell him the story when she was ready. He let it slide.

“And what is your line of work?” she asked.

“Hotel management,” he said. “This is my one day off a week.”

“That’s interesting…do you like it?”

“I do. But it’s mostly because I don’t mind working, and I like people. If you don’t like people, it’s not the right line of work.”

The barista had given them each a biscotti on the house, part of the “snow” promotion. Sarah dipped hers into her hazelnut coffee, and bit the end of it. Daniel watched her, his eyes fixated on her every move.

“Has anyone ever told you you’re gorgeous?” he asked.

She laughed nervously. “I can honestly say that no one has ever used those words before,” she said chuckling at the thought that she—Sarah Bellows—had been called gorgeous. She had brown hair, a nose she was never too comfortable with, and almond eyes that weren’t big and sexy like her friend Tahlia’s. She had an average figure, and tried to stay in shape, though she had probably put on ten pounds as she ate her way through the divorce. She wished it could have been the other way around. Some women were lucky and lost weight in a crisis. Sarah shook her head still hearing the word “gorgeous” bounce around inside it. Her soon to be ex-husband had never referred to her in that manner, nor had any other man—the few that there were—prior to that.

Daniel could see she was still processing the compliment. “I guess no one’s had the privilege of seeing what I see, then,” he said.

Sarah smiled and wondered if this guy was for real.

 * * *

It didn’t take long after the night at the coffeehouse for things to progress. Sarah allowed herself to begin to trust again. Daniel appeared to be kind, trustworthy, and honest. He never let her down. When he’d say he would meet her at a specific time, he often showed up early or was waiting for her with a smile. He enjoyed doting on her, and little by little, their relationship grew and Sarah opened up. She told Daniel about Jim—about how he’d treated her and that she wondered if he’d ever really loved her. She told him how Jim had gone away on a business trip and had come back with a new person in his life, a woman named Rosalie. Rosalie. The first time Sarah had heard her name, her knees had become weak, and she questioned whether her ears had played a trick on her. How dare he? After all Jim and she had built together—an interior design business that focused primarily on corporate and museum design—how could he turn his back so swiftly and never have a regret? When Rosalie entered the picture, a stunning, exotic Brazilian bombshell with more curves than San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street, Sarah wanted out, and Jim let her go as easily as one lets a feather float out of her hands and into the breeze. Jim bought her out of the their company, J & S Interiors—for a handsome penny—which was why Sarah was just waitressing at her friend’s restaurant temporarily while she figured out what her new direction was going to be. But it was Sarah who had built that business, client by client, and she knew it.

Daniel listened to it all and saw a woman who had been deeply hurt. He wondered and hoped that he would never hurt her the way Jim did.

How wrong he would end up being.

 * * *

 By June, not only were they—and had they been—intimate, but the words “I love you” were being freely exchanged. Sarah, who until two weeks prior had continued waiting tables, was hired by J & S’s top competitor as a senior designer. She was looking forward to getting back to doing what she loved. She had learned of the opening through a friend, and the rumor that circulated was that once Sarah had expressed interest, the interview process had shut down, and Sarah received the offer.

Daniel brought her flowers that night, and they’d celebrated by going to dinner, having a couple of after dinner drinks at one of their favorite jazz bars, and them snuggling in happily for the night.

 * * *

By September, Sarah was putting in long hours, and Daniel’s travel had picked up. He was spending a lot of time in Miami at a hotel there, and Sarah began to wonder what was going on. The current manager had become ill, and they’d asked Daniel to fill in because Daniel’s assistant manager had been trained well enough to run Daniel’s hotel in his absence. They were two busy people working hard for their respective careers.

When he came home for two nights, he watched Sarah sleep, as she’d fallen asleep during a movie on the couch. He let her sleep peacefully, so as not to disturb her. He kissed her gently on the forehead, and tip-toed out the door, quietly closing it behind him.

He knew he didn’t have a choice in the matter. He would have to tell her at some point. He just didn’t know how to do it.


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