Looking up from his phone screen (where he was flipping through social media) (and nothing was catching fire), thinking about what he wanted to do for lunch (and what friends might be available today), he considered the skies outside the windows. (Well, where else would skies be?)
Classes were out. He didn’t go to college (he’d graduated years ago) but somehow, most of his friends were younger than him and students, and had gone home for the holidays. He didn’t, because Mom and her boyfriend went to Mexico for the holidays, and Dad was already in Europe with his second wife and that family. His sisters each had invited him to their homes but they were their homes. He’d done that before, going to Kendra’s home for the holidays once, but he’d felt like a stranger, and didn’t want to do it again.
(Plus, of course, was the sadder part that he didn’t want to dwell on, that he and his partner of four years had broken up the day after Thanksgiving. He’d been planning the holidays with her. Most of the people outside of the young people that he knew were her friends, because he was the transplant to his valley. Not thinking about all of that made it easier to manage.)
Winter had clearly arrived in the valley. Light rain was falling but cold air was drilling through his clothing (he should’ve dressed warmer but he thought it would be a nicer day). It could snow, he thought, even though the forecast didn’t say anything about snow. Forecasts can be wrong, his father used to say, but that was back when he (and Dad) (and weather modelling) were younger. They knew a lot more about weather modelling and forecasting than they did twenty or thirty years ago.
A woman entered the coffee shop. Recognition flashing through him, he stared, unable to stop himself. She glanced his way but kept going toward a table. She looked just like Ilya. He’d worked with Ilya down in California in a past life. It’d been, what, ten years?
Wow, ten years. They’d been in relationships, so they hadn’t dated. It clearly wasn’t Ilya (because the woman didn’t recognize him) (and she was too young) but everything from the strange, fuzzy auburn hair to the athletic (but hippy) figure to her height, weight, the way she carried herself…wow, it was Ilya down to every detail.
The woman glanced his way (probably because she felt his stare’s weight).
He looked away (because he thought it rude to stare at others) (and only did that when he was drinking heavy, which he no longer did). Yet, he couldn’t help but look at her again when her back was turned. Walking across the coffee shop to the counter, it was just like watching Ilya.
His cappuccino finished and his stomach rumbling, he decided to venture into the day to find food. Passing the woman as she left the counter to go back to her table, he said with a small smile, “I’m sorry that I was staring at you.” They stopped, she with a leery glance. He said, “You just look exactly like a woman I know, except you’re about twenty years younger. But you could be her daughter.”
That would be wild, he thought, and laughed to himself. Then, he said impulsively, “You’re not Ilya’s daughter, are you?” He guffawed at his silly joke.
Her eyes widened. “No, but Ilya is my name.”
“No way. Are you serious?”
“Wow. It’s just…wow. Well, you look just like my friend, Ilya. You could be her clone.”
Ilya smiled at him. “Maybe I am.”
Was it him or was something happening with them? “Are you in a relationship, Ilya?”
“Not yet,” she said. “Let me give you my number. Maybe we could get coffee.”
“I’d like that,” he answered. “I’ll give you my number, too.”
“Okay, I’d like that, too.”
Outside, afterward, he couldn’t help grinning up at the sky as flurries swirled around his head. Looks like the forecast had changed. Then, although it felt like the temperature had dropped, he took his time as he walked up the sidewalk, smiling at himself, recognizing, something had changed.
Whatever it was felt really good.