Chapter Three: Oz
Here I am at Martha and Bros. Coffee Company, waiting on Willow. I was a lot less nervous the first time I asked her out in high school, since I was pretty sure she was going to say yes that time. It helped that I was a cool guitar player in the band back then. Now, I am a computer programmer trying to get gigs. Not as sexy now, but since Willow is apparently a program analyst who might still practice witchcraft, she might dig the newer me too.
And she just walked in. She looks exactly the same as she did in high school: strawberry red hair, dove skin, just taller than me, slender. Some people just don't age. She just sported the giddy Willow smile. That's a relief. Maybe she will give me another chance.
Sometimes, I wish I hadn't left her back in college, even though I thought I was doing so for the right reasons. It's funny how one decision can change everything that happens afterwards. The domino effect is real, and sometimes, things don't just bump; they crash.
"Hey," she says, with genuine enthusiasm, as she plops her hippie flower purse on the floor. She definitely has the same scent, perfume and all. The werewolf in me is asleep, but not dead.
"I got you a drink," I say as I gesture toward the steamy mug in front of me. I hope vanilla chai with almond milk is still her favorite.
She smells it. "You remembered." She smiles a little wistfully. Score one for Oz. She gestures toward my own mug with her left hand, "iced black coffee, no sugar, no cream?"
"Always and forever." Because no matter how confusing and unpredictable life can be, some things just…are. It's taken me almost 30 years to realize that change can be good, but some of the best things in life remain steady.
There's a silence, but it doesn't feel awkward. It feels more like we're taking each other back in, like fresh-ground coffee after a long, deep sleep.
"So…what brings you to San Francisco?" Ah, she throws down the gauntlet.
You, is what I'm thinking, but I can't exactly say that…yet.
"Well, uh, I got a new job as a programmer at Apple. Plus, I was ready for a new city, a new life, a fresh start, y'know?"
"Which is why you reached out to your old girlfriend from a city of ours that literally burned down to the ground." She tilts her head and smiles. We both crack up at the irony, although our laughs have an awkward high-pitched quality to them. What happened in Sunnydale is funny now, in some ways. But our eyes tell each other that it still haunts us both.
"What are you doing the rest of the day," she asks, not trying to hide her enthusiasm. She's not the shy high school girl anymore, I can tell.
"You tell me." And my answer is earnest. I would go anywhere in the world with this woman.
"Well, good, because there's something I really want to show you."