Amy lept up and moved a chair away. She set it against the patio’s fence, leaving a tiny gap so the chair back would not bang against the railing.
“Thanks for letting me share your table. I love this café, but it’s really hard to get in to.”
“Yes, it’s very busy.”
“No. I mean literally. It is inaccessible. There are steps everywhere. I can maneuver this chair pretty well, but climbing steps is still out of the question.” The young man’s smile shone from his mahogany complexion. “My name is Bhisham.” He reached out to shake Amy’s hand.
She took a deep breath and gave his fingers a quick squeeze. “Amy. Nice to meet you.”
Bhisham, ordered a coffee and a gluten free cookie. The server brought their orders to the table at the same time.
“You live in the neighbourhood?” asked Bhisham. He noticed Amy discretely wipe the spoon with the hem of her shirt.
“Yes,” said Amy. She turned her cup so the handle was projecting 90 degrees to the right, carefully stirred her latte, so as not to cause any foam to spill into the saucer, then set the spoon on it at a 45 degree angle.
“I’ve only been here for three months,” said Bhisham. “It’s a great neighbourhood. I don’t drive, for obvious reasons, and so it’s nice that there’s a market, drugstore and liquor store all within a two block radius.”
Amy knew she was expected to contribute to this social interaction. A raggedy bit of skin on her left thumb was tormenting her, but she did not want to bite it off at the table in case that made it bleed. “I like it here very much,” she said. “I have lived here for…” she did some mental calculations… “5 years and 7 months.”
Bhisham laughed. “Well, Amy. You are very precise. What is it that you do for a living?”
Amy was concerned that he was laughing at her. She regretted her offer to allow him to join her, but it was too late to change that decision. “I am a copy editor Harlequin Publishing. I work at home.”
“Harlequin. They’re famous for romance novels, right?” Bhisham dunked his cookie in his coffee.
Amy pictured the mushy cookie crumbs that would accumulate in the bottom of Bhisham’s cup. She imagined how they would feel touching her lips and shuddered. “They publish women’s fiction in a variety of genres. Some of the categories are; Action and Adventure Romance, African American Romance, Body, Mind and Spirit, Biographies, Christian Fiction, Cozy Mysteries, Crime Thrillers, Erotica, Fantasy Romance, Gothic Romance,
Historical Romance, Inspirational Suspense, LGBT Fiction –
“Okay, you’ve made your point. They publish a much wider range of… literature than I had thought.”
“Of course I do not edit African American or LGBT because I am not qualified to do so.”
“But you are qualified to edit Erotica and Crime?” Bhisham laughed, but realized from his companion’s facial expression that she did not understand he was joking.
“I mainly handle language conventions and continuity issues. Occasionally I have to do research to determine whether or not the content is realistic.” Amy was not drinking her latte. She was concerned that it might cause a foam moustache. She decided to initiate a new topic of conversation. “What caused you to be in that wheelchair, Bhisham? If you don’t mind my asking.” She sat back and linked her hands in her lap, confident that his response would fill in a significant amount of time.
“Broke my back in a skiing accident. A tree jumped out in front of me when I was travelling 80 km/hr.” He continued to dunk his cookie.
Under the table Amy tugged at the skin on her thumb. “That’s unfortunate.” It wasn’t quite long enough to grasp with her fingers, but her teeth could tear it off in a second. She planned to do it quickly the next time he dunked his cookie.
“Yeah, I was pretty bummed at first. I was really in to extreme sports, so I got some counseling and that really helped me to adapt to my new circumstances.” Bhisham thought that Amy’s curly hair and furrowed brow were adorable. “I still work out. Upper body only, naturally. My apartment is specially modified so I am totally independent. Well except for multi-level patios, but then the benefit of that is being asked to sit at a pretty girl’s table.”
Amy made eye contact for the first time. “Do people often ask you to sit with them?”
“Well, no actually,” said Bhisham. “This is the first time.”
“But you said–”
“I was joking.” Bhisham dunked his cookie and tried to think of what topic might work for conversation. When he looked up Amy quickly withdrew her hand from her mouth and put it back below the table. “Is there something wrong with your latte?”
“It’s just that… you haven’t touched it.”
Amy dropped her left arm to her side and picked up the cup with her right. She took a sip of latte taking great care not to tip it too high and thus cause a moustache. When she set it down she suddenly raised her left arm and let out a tiny shriek.
“What’s wrong?” Bhisham leaned forward to see her hand.
“I’m bleeding.” Amy appeared to be trying to hold the hand as far away from herself a possible.
Bhisham picked up his napkin, took hold of Amy’s wrist and gently drew her hand towards him. He wrapped her thumb and applied slight pressure. “It’s okay. I’ve got this. Relax and let me help you.