They talked for hours. For many hours. And it took a waiter to come to them and point out the brightening sky for them to realize how much time had passed since they started talking. Though most of the other shops and houses were now shrouded in darkness and closed blinds, two had done the complete opposite and turned on their lights to welcome the coming morning.
“How many hours were we in there?” Gerald asked aloud as he helped Patricia step onto the side walk and avoid a deep puddle that hugged the curb. Neither felt any hint of exhaustion or sleepiness as they bid the café farewell and decided to take a quiet walk down the street. The sky was becoming a carefully cultivated hue of purple and orange. Clouds mixed in the palette of the sky like a great work of some unseen artist. The air was cold with the damp dew of morning and the streets shone with the wet light shower that fell while most of the city was still asleep. “Six? Seven? Isn’t it strange and yet… amazing how there’s just so much things to talk about?”
“I know,” Patricia smiled as she spoke, “Its strange. Its different.”
“It’s cold,” Gerald observed as Patricia gave a soft shudder before hugging herself to warm her arms. Gerald slid his hands to his waist and hoped to find a jacket tied around it. Unfortunately, he realized he had left it back at the apartment. Patricia tried to convince him it was okay, raising one hand towards him as if to motion him to let things be. He, however, caught her once again shivering against the cold winds and decided she had best find some place to keep herself warm.
“This early in the morning? Where exactly do you have in mind-“ Patricia began only to see Gerald already nodding and reaching out for her hands. ”Come on,” he suggested and only added, “I know just the place.”
The two walked down the empty streets. It was far too early in the morning for anyone, be it a business man or bum, to be up and about. It was not, however for them. The very people who would wake up this early, if not earlier each morning, to prepare the dough, to slice the bread, and to bake it in the over for the hungry stomachs to feed upon soon enough.
It was a bakery. And it’s name was Dough Not Worry. The delightful aroma of freshly baked bread danced in the air, teasing them both with memories of home. Past the glass walls, Gerald and Patricia could see the three bakers already engrossed in their work. One man was kneading the dough with his bare hands. Like a potter, he massaged the clay-like dough and rolled it up again, repeating the process until it began to have a much more cooperative consistency. The second man was currently distributing already softened dough onto a greased tray, folding the palm-sized mounds into tiny hills, and twisting their tops onto themselves. Once he’d fill a tray with twelve such mounds, he’d carry it to the third man who would receive the tray and slide it into the orange-hot interior of the oven. There the dough would miraculously and scientifically transform into delectable freshly baked bread, which the third man would then take from the tray and place into a special multi-tiered rack, to allow the bread to cool.
Gerald smiled and walked towards the door, turning to face Patricia just before opening it. She raised both eyebrows in a curious yet amused way when she noticed he had not moved to let her in. “What?” she asked while she ran her hands over her arms in an attempt to build some body heat from the friction.
He could not reply. For he had suddenly realized he was staring at her and caught her in The moment. Gerald, you see, had a belief in something called The moment. It was something that everyone would actually go through during a day without ever realizing it. Literally, it was a moment during the day when everything around you worked in a perfectly choreographed instant to give you the most flattering look during that day. It was like a miniscule miracle that occurred once a day for every single person in the world and almost always lost to the casual observer.
And Gerald caught her going through her moment for the day.
As she completed that last step towards the door behind him, Gerald turned and saw her face suddenly lit by the bakery’s display window that was framed by uncovered incandescent bulbs. Behind Patricia, a van had just drove past, swamping the area behind her into a blur of dark blue and streaks of gold and red. And finally, the wind had blown that precise instance, softly combing her hair back to reveal her face.
Gerald gasped aloud.
Patricia thought he was making fun of her, poked him just below his right rib, and stepped into the bakery. Gerald, shocked from her sudden poke, blinked a few times to clear his mind before following inside behind her with a smile betraying his mock anger.
”What was that for?”
“You were staring at me,” Patricia accused him as she felt the warmth of the ovens comfortably spread over her body and bring her shivering down to a much more manageable level. “You were making fun of me.”
“I was not!” Gerald exclaimed, “I was…”
“What?” Patricia inquired, her arms crossing over her chest, “You were what exactly?”
And Gerald could only smile in response. Whether it was merely now being in a warmer place or Patricia realizing what Gerald had not said, Patricia blushed as she turned to focus instead on the busy bakers. Gerald raised both arms over his head, crossing his palms over in a strange position of lazy relaxation.
“Hungry?” Gerald asked and Patricia seemed to watch, mesmerized by the cooperative ballet the three men shared. “We can order some pandesal I guess. Peanut butter. Maybe ask if they have coffee. Or hot chocolate.”
“Oh no,” Patricia realized something as her gaze drifted to the wall calendar just behind the baker kneading the dough. Gerald traced her gaze and saw that she was staring at the dates. “It’s a Sunday today… “
“Yeah,” Gerald smiled, “We sort of chatted through Saturday night.”
“I have to go,” Patricia replied and suddenly everything felt cold and silent. Gerald felt his enthusiasm suddenly die a sudden death. He suddenly couldn’t smell the freshly baked bread anymore. Or feel the comforting warmth of the ovens. Or even the excitement of sitting down with Patricia again to start another round of stories to be shared. “Oh,” was all he found he could muster in reply.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered as she made for the door. Gerald sprung to her side and held it open for her. She turned towards him and offered a smile, “I really had a lot of fun today, Gerald. I did. I just have to go. I promised-”
“You don’t have to explain anything,” Gerald weakly smiled, “There’s always other days eh?”
Patricia smiled and agreed as she stepped through the door, “There is. I’m really sorry. I just have something I have to-”
“Tomorrow?” Gerald asked and it took him a beat to realized he had just asked her out without going through the whole struggle of fighting against his paranoia and forcing himself to find courage through all the many ego-shattering rejections of the past. Somehow, impossibly, he had simply come up and found the words to ask her without spinning in his mind all the possible things to ask instead of sounding like some clichéd schmuck. He asked her out, and though he knew he could be wrong and find himself as he usually was, rejected and humiliatingly given some inane reason once again to why he should give up, he realized that at that very moment, being seen as a fool might not be that bad. Not when it meant possibly seeing Patricia again. “Are you free tomorrow?”
”Monday?” she asked, “I have classes-“
“Right,” Gerald remembered she told him she was taking Fine Arts as a second degree. They were joking about how it was a perfect way to be free from one’s parents yet safe from the bigger demands of having to pay for all the bills that come with being free from one’s parents. “Lunch? I can drop by for lunch.”
“Lunch would be great,” Patricia smiled and stepped outside. She walked a few steps into the now sunlit street, then turned to give Gerald a wave goodbye. Gerald smiled, opened the door and stood at its threshold, and waved back. “Tomorrow then!”
Tomorrow, it seemed, was going to be a great day.
Word Count = 1479
Previous Count = 11,633
Total Count = 13,112 of 50,000