Headlights

"Nothing lasts forever." It started with a tube of bright red lipstick and ended in the rain.

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2. Drinks

I’ll write your name.

Hailey felt like an idiot hiding behind a glossy edition of Vogue as she lurked around the Starbucks at the intersection of Morningside Drive and 125th Street. What was she doing? She could be doing so many other useful things—such as picking up her nephew and niece from their daycare center. She could easily make coffee in her brother’s highly up-to-date kitchen, disregarding the fact that she barely knew how to use the microwave there. So what was she doing?

She was in it to meet new people, she told herself and rubbed her red lips together as she bit her lower lip.

She technically wasn’t lying—who knew who she could meet in a café in a center of the world?—but that wasn’t true. Not necessarily.

All right, maybe it was because of Green Eyes. She fiddled with the tube of lipstick in her coat pocket. Yes, maybe it was because a little part inside of her still believed in the movies and romance books, all of which her sister-in-law Maddi had given her for her birthday. Maybe she could see him again.

Maybe.

She took a sip of her scalding black coffee, wondering what the hell was going on in her head when she was ordering. She hated black coffee. Why didn’t she take the chai tea option as usual? It was probably because she hoped for something out of seeing a pretty face.

How idiotic of her.

She hid her face behind her magazine when the door to the shop opened, letting in a stream of chilly winter air. It was getting colder now that it was getting closer and closer to Christmas. She didn’t know if she appreciated it or not; no matter how she felt, there was no prospect of a white Christmas this year anyway. She resisted the urge to wrap her scarf around her face again.

Something pushed her to look up from her magazine, and so she did. It was a person in a black wool jacket. He had a Rolex watch on his wrist, she noticed, as he strode up to the counter. Her heart skipped a beat. She could barely keep her breathing regular as she watched.

Turn around, turn around, she chanted.

After a devastating moment, he did, but then her heart crashed back into her ribcage.

Oh my God. He had green eyes, but it couldn’t possibly be him. She was sure Green Eyes had something more extraordinary in him, something that she had seen in him the other day. This guy—he looked almost normal. He acknowledged her eyes with a nod and seated himself at a coffee table three places away from hers. She bit her lip numbly and stood up, pulling her scarf around her. She couldn’t stay now that he had seen her.

Pushing out of the coffee shop with her coffee cup and purse in hand, she stumbled outside, where the first wave of red-hot humiliation hit her square in the chest. She was sure her cheeks were rosy, but not from the cold or good health. Why was she being so unusually hopeful now? Maybe it was this Christmas cheer getting to her. It wasn’t healthy.

She joined the steady stream of people on the streets and pushed toward the subway so she could go home.

“Remind me again,” Hailey said as she flashed her ID to the bouncer, who let her in without a second glance, “why we’re here tonight, would you?”

Teagan, her friend, laughed. “Come on, when was the last night you were out? You’re always housesitting for your brother or babysitting your niece and nephew whenever we ask.” She walked purposefully toward the bar and sat on one of the high chairs. Hailey followed more slowly.

“They’re precious, Tea. They won’t be that little forever.”

“Yeah, but you need to enjoy yourself sometimes, you know? Sometimes I wonder if you were made to hang out with your family until the end of infinity.” Teagan turned to the bartender, who nodded and turned away to make her drink without a word.

“How often have you been here?” Hailey asked. “The bartender knows your drink without even asking.”

“Oh, he’s a good friend. I might have slept with him a couple times when I was too drunk to tell my head apart from my toes, but it’s nothing big.” Teagan took a swig of the glass that the bartender, with a wink, set down in front of her. She winced. “Mm, this is strong.”

That was why I don’t go drinking with Teagan, Hailey thought, and turned to the dance floor, where couples were already getting started… rather provocatively. She raised her hand for the bartender. “A Manhattan,” she said to him, “on the rocks, please.”

When her drink arrived, she took a tiny sip and set it back down. “You know I’ve got to be one of the most boring drinking buddies you can find, right?”

Teagan shrugged. “At least drinking you is less boring than nanny you.”

Ouch.

A dark figure in a fitted button-down with the sleeves rolled up sat down on the stool next to Teagan. Hailey couldn’t help coolly appraising him for a second—then her heart skipped a beat.

Green Eyes.

This had to be the very stranger she had seen days ago. Strangely enough, he did look like the man she had noticed in the coffee shop earlier that day…

Her mouth was suddenly dry, and she quickly picked up her Manhattan to take a long drink. When she set down her glass again, he was already standing up from his seat to approach her. She resisted the urge to take another drink.

“Have I seen you before?” he asked, his voice low and husky and everything she had imagined. Oh, God, this couldn’t be happening. Oh gracious.

Teagan glanced sideways at her with raised eyebrows as if saying, “Who is this hottie?”

Hailey swallowed. “Perhaps.” Shit, her voice came out raspy, as if she was a chronic smoker.

Green Eyes frowned, his eyes smoldering in the warm, dim lighting. “It was in the bookstore, right?”

“Yes. With my nephew.”

He nodded. “Your nephew.”

An awkward silence fell, so uncomfortable that supposedly oblivious Teagan sent her an alarmed glance and cleared her throat. Both Hailey and the stranger turned to look at her. Teagan fidgeted—which was so unlike her—and nodded toward the dance floor. “I’ll just, um, go now.”

Hailey didn’t even have the time to nod before Teagan rushed off more quickly than Hailey had ever seen her move. She turned back to Green Eyes. “Nice to meet you,” she said, holding out her hand. “What’s your name?”

He smiled, his eyes darkening almost imperceptibly. “You first, gorgeous.”

Gorgeous? She was tempted to retort with something cheesy like, “What, this little old thing?” But she had outdone herself today in her little black dress, and she could never play things off well. Almost out of habit, she reached up and fiddled with a tendril of her dark, loose hair.

“Hailey,” she said after a pause. “I’m Hailey.”

Green Eyes took her hand, his grip warm and assertive. “The name’s Calvin.”

He released her hand and turned to the bartender to order himself a drink. Hailey took the chance to study his profile. That face… His eyes weren’t everything. There was his ruffled dark hair, his strong jaw, that alabaster brow. God, she had really lucked out with this one. Or maybe she was exaggerating everything.

By the time he looked back to her, she was sure she had transformed into the stereotypical stalker—after all, she had spent the best of two minutes staring at his face. She bit her lip. Should she say something? Or should she wait for him to make the first move? Maybe she wasn’t being assertive enough. Should she…?

“So you’ve been here a while?” He appraised her face coolly.

It took her a moment before she could react. “Yes, I have,” she said, licking her lips. Shit, the lipstick.

There was another pause before he spoke again. “I suppose I should have bought you a drink, pretty lady.” He leaned back against the counter, regarding her face coolly. “But you’ve already got one.”

“Too bad you came too late.” She leaned in closer to his face, close enough to feel his minty breath on her lips. His eyes were wide and teasing, daring her to make the final move. But she moved back, resting her arm against the counter herself. “But I’m sure you’ll redeem yourself at some point.”

“I’ll look forward to that time,” he responded. He nodded in the direction of the dance floor. “Your close friend?”

“You can say that.” Hailey glanced over to Teagan, who was barely visible among the other moving bodies in the crowd. At least she had found someone to grind with, Hailey thought with a smirk.

“I have a feeling that you’re very taciturn,” Calvin said, his eyes following hers intently.

“No shit, Sherlock.” She looked back to him. “But you’re not supposed to be making conversation at a club after all, are you?”

He shrugged. “I’m not fond of the music. I’m more into the ‘70s, ‘80s scene. Have you ever heard of the New Romantics?”

She rested her chin against her palm and let out a loud laugh. “If I have to be completely honest, I despise disco music.”

He shook his head. “’80s music isn’t all about disco, you know. New Romanticism was a reaction to punk at the time. The bands—they wore the shittiest costumes you can ever see. But you can’t let that define them. Give them a try.”

“Thank you, but I’m sure the music acts today can beat them by a long run.” As she watched him chuckle, shaking his head slowly at the ground, she realized that she liked making him laugh. Not already. They had barely met. She was letting herself get involved emotionally too soon, and that wasn’t like her. How odd. But maybe those green eyes, and the rest of his face, had something to do with it.

“I don’t think I can ever change your mind, can I?”

“No. You should go further back, to the ‘50s with Frank Sinatra. Now that’s real music. And that was when the artists weren’t caught up by drugs and war and other hippie shit.” She took a long draught of her Manhattan, surprised that most of it was already gone. She usually didn’t finish her drinks this quickly.

“But Hollywood was more corrupt back then,” he retorted. “By the time they were in the ‘80s, they didn’t have to deal with all the glamor that they had before.”

“You’re going way back to the ‘20s, Wonder Boy,” she shot back. “You must be thinking of Judy Garland. She’s history.”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself too, Grace Kelly. At least they had something to focus on for their lyrics. You’ve never heard ‘Peace Train’ by Cat Stevens, have you?”

She racked her brains for the name. It sounded faintly familiar, like something her parents must have played a long, long time ago in her childhood. “‘Peace Train’?”

He groaned and rolled his eyes at her playfully. “Come on, honey; that song’s a classic.”

Hailey took a quick breath through her lips as she caught his eyes twinkling at her. God, that face would be the death of her. Concentrate, concentrate, she told herself. “I’ll have to look it up some time later.”

Calvin nodded, but he didn’t respond further. They sat, both observing one another's countenances. Perhaps he's trying to catch my slipups, Hailey thought. Or perhaps she really did look presentable tonight. Either way, it didn’t matter. She hadn’t had an intelligent conversation about music with anyone in a long, long time.

After a while, Calvin said, “You’re a very fascinating person, Hailey.”

She nodded sarcastically. “Of course I am.”

His eyes flickered to her, gleaming wildly. “But have I seen you somewhere else other than that bookstore?” he pressed on. “Hailey?”

“Perhaps.”

“Perhaps,” he repeated with a dark little smile. “Perhaps.”

From the way he said it, Hailey knew instantly that he was trouble—a package of unrestraint, schemes, and hidden intentions all rolled in one. But she kept leaning in, picking up her empty glass of alcohol. She’d make this last. After all, didn’t she come here to have fun?

.

Well, I feel like I've really outdone myself today! Thank you for reading, and I very much appreciate all the feedback that you guys give me. Happy holidays, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

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