Olivia Beaton, Liv to her friends, felt like a stalker, she probably looked like one too, as she sat in the window of the coffee shop observing Him. She took a deep breath as she watched him climb a ladder while wearing a holder across his shoulders full of bricks. He looked so masculine, so strong. It didn’t even look like he was breaking a sweat and they had to be heavy.
“There you are.” A voice accused, making Liv jump in her seat.
Crap. She’d forgotten about meeting up with Ava. “I’m sorry,” she said guiltily. “Time got away from me.”
“Yeah, that’s obvious.” She narrowed her eyes. “What will you do when he finishes the job?”
“What are you talking about? I come here for the delicious coffee.” She took a sip and tried to hide her grimace, her coffee was now stone cold.
Ava smirked. “Yes, I can see it looks delicious and it might have been when you first bought it, but it definitely isn’t now.”
Liv shrugged. It wasn’t as if she could argue that fact.
Ava sat down, her face full of concern and Liv braced herself for a lecture. “Don’t you think your obsession is a little unhealthy?”
Liv didn’t pretend not to understand. “I’m not obsessed.” She disagreed.
Ava raised her eyebrows in disbelief. “Honey, you changed coffee shops after you noticed him for the first time.”
“No, I didn’t. I just happen to think they make better coffee here.”
Ava smirked. “I don’t think you’ve ever had a hot one. Might I suggest ordering an iced coffee instead? At least that won’t spoil while you stare at him.”
Why hadn’t she thought of that? Liv shook her head. “I don’t stare; my eyes just glance over to him occasionally.”
“And stay there.” It was Ava’s turn to shake her head and Liv tore her eyes away from the pity she saw in her eyes. “Do you even know his name?”
“No, and I don’t need to either.” Liv frowned. Ava was right; she had been perving on him for at least a month. Ever since she’d first caught a glimpse of him she’d felt alive. She hadn’t felt that way since Ryan. It had been two years since he’d died of cancer, so young, only twenty-seven, and left her behind. Liv had become a widow at twenty-five and convinced she would always feel such pain, such loss inside, until she had seen Him. A brown-haired, dark-eyed man who wore tight fitted jeans and flannel shirts and who had constant stubble on his face. Her eyes slipped down to rest on her hand and the wedding ring she still wore there, she didn’t want to take it off. She wasn’t ready to.
Ava grimaced. “I’m sorry Liv; I wasn’t trying to make you feel guilty.”
“I know and even though I’ve been mooning over another man, I don’t feel guilty. It’s not as if I’m ever going to approach him. I don’t think I’m his type, anyway.”
“Why would you say that?” Ava asked.
“Well, he’s so sexy and I think I’m about average.”
“Liv, you couldn’t be average if you wore a bin bag.” She smiled. “Do you want to get a hot coffee and stare some more at the hunk or shall we go shopping?”
“I suppose we should go shopping. I do need a dress.”
“Yes, one that isn’t black.”
“I like black.”
“No, you like bright colours.”
“I used to.” Liv said with sadness.
“Ryan would not want you to wear black for the rest of your life.”
Tears filled Liv’s eyes. “He loved it when I wore yellow. He said it matched my sunny personality.”
“Then wear it. It’s been two years, Liv; you’re twenty-seven now.”
“The age he was when he died.”
“Yes, but you have your whole life ahead of you. You can’t go on like this. Everyone is worried about you.”
“You’re not fine, you’re just plodding along.” She shook her head. “Ryan would kick your ass if he were here.”
“But he’s not here, that’s the point.”
“No, baby, he isn’t, but let me ask you this, if you were the one who’d died and he was going about his life the way you are, wouldn’t you hate that?”
Liv nodded and her tears started to fall down her cheeks. “I miss him so much.” She whispered in a choked voice.
“I know Liv, we all do, and I’m sorry for being blunt, but maybe you need somebody to be.” Ava said sadly. “It’s been two years; it’s time to start living again.”
“Maybe.” Liv said. Taking the tissue Ava pushed over to her, she tidied herself up. She felt someone looking at her and when she looked up, her eyes collided with a pair of dark ones. Blushing, she looked away in embarrassment.
“What’s wrong?” Ava asked noticing her alarm.
Liv shook her head and Ava looked behind her turning back to face Liv with a giggle. “He does not have the best timing.”
“Nope, he really doesn’t.” Liv agreed. Of all the times she’d sat here, hopefully looking pretty, he had to walk in when she had a red nose and tear-stained cheeks, “We should go.” She whispered to Ava.
“Ok, if you’re sure. I could find out his name for you?” She offered.
“No, I think I’ve had enough for today.”
“Ok,” she said again, this time her worried eyes searched Liv’s.
Liv rolled her eyes. “I’m fine, I’m just embarrassed.” She hadn’t looked up again, she dare not in case she gave herself away. He had no cause to know she was embarrassed that he’d seen her crying, but she felt like he knew. She felt sure she could feel his concern for her and that told her she was crazy. Collecting her coat from the chair next to her, she slipped her arms in and stood up.
“Let’s go.” Ava said as she moved to let Liv go first.
Liv walked towards the door, keeping her eyes low, she walked right past him, her heart hammering in her throat with each step. Finally, she made it outside into the fresh air. She never saw the way he looked at her, but Ava did. Liv hadn’t gone unnoticed if the look in his dark eyes meant anything. Ava decided not to say anything to Liv, she’d let whatever his name approach her. Besides, Liv certainly wasn’t in the right frame of mind and with Ryan’s birthday coming up it wasn’t the right time. The whole family were concerned about her, but her Aunt had been on at her to take off her ring and to lay Ryan to rest. Ava knew Liv wasn’t ready for that. The ring was her last connection to her husband. Ava understood, but she also thought Liv needed to see that life went on. She didn’t want her to forget about Ryan she just wanted her to let some happiness into her life. Who knew, maybe the builder would be the one to do that. Grinning to herself, she followed Liv to her car. Liv gave her a funny look but didn’t say a thing.
“Liv, if you pick up one more black dress I will scream. The shop is quite full so people will stare.” Ava warned.
“Ava, I want a black dress. I like this one.”
She held it up and Ava had to admit it was a great dress, but it was black, again, the colour of mourning. “It’s your nephews christening, you can’t wear black.”
“It’s in a church; I bet most people will be wearing black.”
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
Liv only smiled.
“Fine, I won’t scream as long as you get a yellow bag and matching heels.”
Liv took a deep breath, “Fine.”
“Good. Let’s go and get them before you change your mind.”
Liv rolled her eyes. “I won’t change my mind.”
“Sure you won’t. You had better wear them on Sunday; actually, I think I’ll get ready at your house just to make sure.”
“I figured you would, anyway. I would rather walk in with you than on my own and suffer the usual pitying looks.”
“They care about you.”
“They do, but they’ve also moved on after Ryan and hate that I haven’t. I get it, they’ve all grieved for him, but I’m the one who loved him and nursed him to the end of his life. I’m the one that was there when he took his final breath.” Liv had tears streaming down her face by the time she finished talking and Ava pulled her into a changing room closing the curtain behind them.
“I’m sorry.” Liv sobbed.
“His birthday is coming up, that’s why you’re so emotional.”
“Yeah, I’m finding it harder this year. The pressure to move on, to fall for someone else and the feelings I have for the builder have me all mixed up inside.”
“Liv, there is no pressure to move on, ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. Maybe, the way you feel about this man is your first step at letting go of Ryan.”
“It might be, but I don’t feel ready yet.”
“Ok, say no more. Dry your tears. We’re going to finish our shopping and then we’re going for a glass of wine somewhere.”
“That sounds good.”
“Great, there’s that new wine bar that’s just opened up a couple of streets away. We’ll go check it out, see if it lives up to its hype.”
“Ok, I just have to tidy myself up again.” She looked at Ava. “I’m sorry I’m such a watering can.”
Ava laughed, “Its watering pot, you silly girl.”
Liv chuckled. “Oh, I thought it sounded daft when I said it.”
Ava shook her head. “Only you could get something like that mixed up. Shall we go now; you’re as pretty as a picture.”
Liv looked in the mirror and saw she wasn’t going to do much better. Her eyes were red, but apart from that, she didn’t look like she’d been crying again. She nodded. “Let’s go.”
After they paid for their things, Ava led the way to the wine bar.
“Ava, I think it might be too posh for us.” Liv whispered with a grin as they approached the glass doors. It was all lit up inside with chandeliers running along the centre of the room and spotlights on the walls. The tables were dainty with high stools. It looked both stylish and uncomfortable.
Ava laughed. “Don’t be daft, we’ll have one, and then we’ll leave.”
Pushing open the door, Liv groaned.
“What’s the matter, did you break a nail?”
“He’s going to think I’m stalking him.”
“Who is? Oh dear, maybe he won’t notice us.” Ava said as she got a look at who Liv was talking about.
“Too late,” Liv grit her teeth and headed towards the bar, Ava followed behind her grinning like a loon. He had seen Liv all right and his eyes were eating her up. When he realised Ava was looking at him he grinned at her. Wow, it was a sexy grin; his perfect white teeth gleamed from his kissable lips. Ava had to shake herself, he wasn’t even her type, and he had her mesmerised.
“What do you want to drink? We need to be fast. I’d rather leave, but it would look silly if I walked straight out. He might think it’s because of him.”
“We don’t need to rush. I don’t think you have any need to feel embarrassed.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Just a feeling I have.”
“You’re probably right. I doubt he even remembers who I am or where he’s seen me before.”
Ava shook her head, but she didn’t correct her. “Find us a table and I’ll bring our drinks over.”
“Ok, thanks, I think I’ll have a white wine today.” Liv said gratefully as she walked away. She chose a table by the window so they could people watch; she and Ava loved trying to guess what people did for a living just from what they were wearing. She didn’t see Him leave the bar until he was walking past the window she was looking out of. He turned to lock eyes with her and gave her a charming smile. Blushing bright red, she managed to smile back and watched as his smile turned into a grin. She wanted to swoon. He was gorgeous in his usual clothes, but put him in a dark suit and he was magnificent.
“That was quite a smile he gave you.” Ava said, as she sat down, evidently, she’d seen their exchange.
“He probably smiles at every woman like that.” She shrugged.
“I don’t believe that.”
“Why not? We know nothing about him.”
It was Ava’s turn to shrug. “You’re right; he probably sleeps with every woman he sees.” She grimaced as she caught Liv’s hurt look. “Ok, I’m not sure what you want from me?”
“I’d love for you to take these feelings I have for him and make them go away.”
“No can do I’m afraid, but I can get you drunk.” She grinned.
“Better not. I’m not a very good drunk, remember?”
“I remember. Two drinks and I can’t get you off the table. It’s been a while though.”
Liv laughed. “Yes, it has and I’m not about to do it now. One glass and that’s it.”
“Spoilsport.” Ava pouted.
“Yep, now, drink up and then we can go to my place and order a takeaway.”
“Yummy. What do you fancy?” Ava asked.
“I’m thinking Chinese.”
“Sure, and you’ll have the same as you usually do.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Liv asked.
Ava took a sip of her wine and sighed. “You could have something else. Change is good for you.”
“Not when it comes to food. What if I try something new and I don’t like it?”
“Then you don’t order it again.”
“Yes, but then my tea is ruined. Best to order what I know I like and then I won’t be disappointed.”
“You have some weird logic, Liv.”
“It’s not weird, it’s practical.”
“So you say.”
“What are you going to order?” Liv asked her.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“So, you’re going to have the same thing as you always do?”
Ava opened her mouth to deny it, but nodded instead.
“You’re no better than I am.”
Ava sighed. “I guess not. We really should try new things though.”
Liv lifted her wineglass. “We are.”
“You’re right. Cheers.” Ava said with a grin.