A Rare Find
The rain fell softly that gloomy February day. The sky had turned several shades of gray before settling on the same translucent color as the angora sweaters displayed in the department store window. Darcy passed these in such a hurry on her way to the Callahan Café, she didn't even notice her own reflection in the glass.
She was running late. As usual.
Forced to stop at a busy intersection, she turned to admire the winter clothes display on her left. She glanced at the filmy silver cardigans but preferred a thick, black wool sweater covering a mannequin off to the side. It looked warm and inviting to Darcy's damp, chilled body.
The wind ran its long, icy fingers through her hair, making her long blonde strands take flight behind her. It whipped through her thin wool coat and stocking-clad legs. She shivered, mentally urging the traffic light to change to walk; when it did, she strode through the crosswalk as fast as her near-frozen legs could carry her.
She finally approached the café and prayed she would make it on time. Ever since Darcy had started working there, she tried to improve her punctuality; a year later, she had to yet to cure her tardy tendencies.
As Darcy pushed the glass door open, she was greeted with warmth and the smell of coffee and fresh biscotti. She wished she had time to grab a hot mocha, but told herself later and hurried to the break room to hang her coat and purse.
Although she hated the stress of running from her 2:00 p.m. class to work at 4:30, Darcy
loved being in the Callahan Café. Decorated in rich shades of red and plum, the atmosphere instantly cheered her.
Darcy tied a red apron around her white oxford blouse and black skirt. She bolted out of the break room but was stopped in her tracks. Coming through the door was the last person in the world she wanted to run into: Saige Callahan.
Darcy lowered her eyes and tried to brush past him. She liked Saige, but preferred to keep her distance while working. With wavy brown hair and blue-green eyes, he just happened to be the best-looking guy she'd ever seen. This fact happened to make him the most unattainable bachelor at Chicago's Roosevelt University. He also happened to be one of her closest friends. Darcy had managed to keep her feelings to herself for the past year, but running into him unexpectedly always left her flustered. Really, by now she should come to expect that he would visit his family's restaurant on occasion, but he came by there so little that she sometimes forgot he pretty much owned the place. In fact, he was the reason she had become employed there at all.
"Hey, Darcy, how's it going?" Saige grinned at her with his little-boy-smile, dimples and all. This was the smile that made every girl melt, but to Darcy it was only a stark reminder that he saw her as a sister of sorts, and nothing more.
"Saige... what a surprise," Darcy managed. She made quick eye contact, smiled, then headed to the kitchen.
"Wait a minute." Darcy felt Saige tug at her elbow. What could he want? She turned to see his blue-green eyes boring into hers.
She swallowed, hard. "What's the matter?"
"I need to talk to you."
Darcy stiffened in his grasp. "What about?"
Saige sighed and raked his fingers through his hair. "Okay, it's like this... Monique asked me out."
Oh great, Darcy lamented to herself. I get to hear more of his "girl trauma." Her heart slammed into her stomach.
"The only problem is, I don't really like her as more than a friend. You know I'm not interested in dating right now."
Right... which is exactly why all the girls fight over you, The Ultimate Unattainable Guy.
Darcy merely nodded her head to let Saige know she was listening to him.
"It's not just Monique... It's all the girls I run into! They just never stop!" He paused for a moment. "Except you. That's why you're such a good friend, because you don't bother me like all the other girls do." He paused to look at her more closely, and Darcy squirmed under his gaze. "You are such a rare find, you know that?"
A rare find. It wasn't the first time Darcy had heard him say that. If only he knew that she was really just like all the other girls who admired him from afar. But how could anyone blame her? Saige had more than just looks going for him. He volunteered as the youth group leader at the church his family had attended all his life. He spent time visiting elderly folks in nursing homes. He was also talented and athletic, playing guitar, taking art classes, and playing on the soccer team. On top of all that, he had maintained a 4.0 in college and was studying to be a doctor. If anyone was a rare find, it was Saige.
Darcy still blushed at Saige's comment.
"No, I'm not, really. All I can tell you about the whole girl situation, though, is to just follow your heart. If you're ready to start dating again, then go for it. Your heart may be broken from the past, but it's still beating in there." She punched him playfully in the chest to illustrate her point, causing Saige to break out in another big grin.
"Hey, that's pretty good advice... you should save that for when you start writing dating columns in the paper."
Darcy rolled her eyes. "Well, take it or leave it, Romeo... Now I have to get to work." She smiled to let him know she was teasing, then headed into the kitchen to begin her shift.
As Saige watched Darcy leave, he realized his problems were bigger than he thought. The more time he spent with her, the more he fell for her. He realized his friend was stealing his heart and feared he'd never get it back. Darcy, however, seemed completely oblivious to his feelings. That was why he brought up the subject of other girls to her; he had hoped to get a jealous response so he could figure out how she felt. But every time he said anything, she just gave him sound advice and support. I guess she'll always look at me as a brother of sorts.
Saige sighed to himself as he flopped onto the break room's couch. Darcy had no idea what a great girlfriend she would make. She was adorable, with her silky blonde hair and gray eyes. She had a caring, sweet disposition and always put others above herself. She taught Sunday school at Saige's church and sang in the choir. She was also extremely smart and planned on being a journalist. Perhaps what he loved most about Darcy was the fact that she was the only person he knew that could match him in a Soul Calibur battle on his Playstation.
She should be my girlfriend, Saige decided. But there was the nagging possibility that they would break up. He frowned. I can't let that happen…. I can't lose my best friend. He decided to wait until the time was right to reveal his true feelings.
As Saige watched Darcy work from his spot on the couch, he saw sadness etched in her features. Maybe something had happened today that she hadn't told him about. Saige could have kicked himself for failing to ask how her day had gone. He decided to make it up to her after her shift was over; he would make her favorite mocha and take her someplace fun, like the skating rink, to cheer her up. Saige was working out the details when Justin Bacchaidus burst through the door.
Justin had transferred to Roosevelt at semester, and he was already considered the best catch in the sophomore class. Tall with blond hair and green eyes, he was an obvious addition to the basketball team, even if it was at the last minute. All the girls and teachers loved his charming ways, but Saige knew what the real Justin was like; he lived in Saige's dorm. Saige had heard all of Justin's bragging about his various "conquests" with different girls. This was not the kind of person Saige liked to see in his family's restaurant, but there was little he could do about it.
"What's up, Justin?" Saige offered in the friendliest tone he could muster.
"Not much, Preppy." For some reason, Justin insisted on calling Saige that. At least it's better than Lawn Fairy, Saige reasoned, remembering his high school soccer nickname.
Darcy arrived like clockwork to take Justin's order. Justin's eyes widened as she asked the obligatory question, "May I take your order?" Saige realized the two had never met before.
"No thanks, I'm waiting for a friend," Justin replied.
"Well, how about some coffee in the meantime?"
"Sounds great, angel." He winked, and Saige actually saw Darcy blush.
Justin's "friend" never showed that evening. He ended up waiting around for Darcy's shift to end and asking her to a movie, which she shyly agreed to.
That night, Saige helplessly watched Darcy walk out of his life and into Justin's. The days turned into weeks, until two months passed. In that time, Saige only saw Darcy at church, classes, and the café. When she wasn't studying or teaching her Sunday school class, Darcy was going on dates or to Justin's basketball games. Saige felt like something had been pulled out from underneath him.
He managed to find Darcy alone at the café one Sunday afternoon, closing up after lunchtime. Taking a deep breath, Saige managed a "Hey, how's it going?"
"Hi, Saige." Darcy barely met his eyes as she cleaned the counter. "What's new?"
"Not much." Saige perched on one of the stools behind the counter. "Listen... I'd really like to spend some time with you again. Are you free today?"
"Oh... No. Justin's taking me sailing." Darcy's eyes brightened. "Isn't that romantic?"
Saige nearly fell out of his seat. "But you hate boats!" he scoffed.
"So? Justin doesn't know that."
"What if you get seasick or something?"
"I'm trying to talk myself out of it. I mean, how can I get seasick on Lake Michigan?"
Saige couldn't help but laugh at that. "Well, if you're busy today, how 'bout tomorrow?"
Darcy sighed and put down the washcloth she was using. "Listen, Saige, you don't understand. Now that I'm dating Justin, he doesn't want me to spend any time with you alone. Really, I can't blame him for that."
Saige fought to control his temper, but he was overwhelmed. "So, that's it?" he spat. "We're over?"
"I'm afraid so." Darcy walked to the kitchen sink and wrung out the washcloth. "Honestly, Saige, what else did you think would happen? You and I weren't dating or anything, so we didn't have a hold on each other. Didn't you think we'd eventually meet other people and start dating?" She untied her apron and slung it on a vacant hook. "I mean, how long could we be just friends?"
A thunderclap sounded outside.
"Oh... rain," Darcy moaned. "There goes sailing. Oh, well, I'm sure we'll find something else to do."
Saige just sat there, numb.
Darcy's eyes narrowed. "Hey, I heard that Amy Wilcheski asked you out, and you turned her down! Is that true?"
Saige merely nodded.
"Saige..." Darcy sounded sympathetic. "It's time you get out there and start meeting girls. I know you had your heart broken in high school, but you can't let that hold you back forever. Sooner or later, you're going to let a good opportunity pass you by."
I already did, he lamented.
The sound of a car horn broke the silence that had fallen between them. Darcy leapt up, called "See you around" to Saige, then skipped out the door to Justin's car.
How gentlemanly of him, Saige thought sarcastically. It's raining, and he can't even come to the door for her? For crying out loud! He pounded his fist on the counter. Darcy was really gone for good. He had let her slip through his fingers like sands of time; now they gave way to winds of change. Saige wished Justin had never walked into the Callahan Café.
As he sat in melancholy, his cell phone rang. He answered with a despondent "Hello?"
"Hi, Saige, this is Amy..."
"How did you get this number?" Saige snapped.
"Darcy gave it to me."
Darcy... She must really want me to move on.
"Listen, Saige, I know you said no the first time I asked you out, but I'm going to stick my neck out and ask you again. So, what do you say?"
Saige sucked in a breath.
"How about dinner tonight?" Amy pressed.
He squeezed his eyes shut. "Okay. I'll pick you up at seven."
He heard Amy squeaking happily as they ended the conversation. Saige merely sat in shock for a few more minutes, or perhaps hours, before rising from his seat. As he headed for the door, he noticed the sky had turned black in the wake of the storm. He pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head, shrouding his face as he walked into the dark.