I go back in time--has it really been over month already?--as Hayden heads north, towards... wherever we're going. It was a Saturday and I was out in the suburbs; a college classmate and friend of mine was getting married at the Lincolnshire Marriott. The day before, Alex had to go out of town for a work emergency, leaving me with a non-returnable (and rather expensive) new dress and no date. So I went. Alone. I went, apologizing for Alex's absence to the bride and groom, forcing myself to socialize even though the last thing I really wanted to do was be there.
He was there, a co-worker of the groom's. We were oblivious of one another's existence until the reception... after dinner and cake, the dancing began, and I was sitting there by myself, slowly turning the stem of the champagne glass between my fingertips. He appeared seemingly out of nowhere, clearing his throat, tilting his head.
"Excuse me. I couldn't help but notice you sitting here alone, and I was wondering if you would be interested in a dance?" His eyes were taking me in and his voice was low; I nodded without a word, drinking what was left in my glass. He offered me his hand and led me out to the dance floor (my fingers were entwining with his before I even realized it). We came together in a fluid motion, his right hand at the small of my back, left hand clasping mine as we swayed back and forth. I realized I was much more tipsy than I'd thought, just sitting there at the table...
"My name's Hayden Wakefield."
"Rachel McHenry," I replied, that voice of mine coming from out of nowhere. "It's nice to meet you."
"You as well," he replied, his lips close to my ear. We moved slowly to the steady rhythm of the music. "How do you know the newlyweds?"
"I went to college with Annie," I answered, taking a deep breath. Hayden explained his acquaintance with the couple and the air between us fell silent again; small talk was unnecessary and for some reason and anyway, I couldn't find the words to adequately describe what I was feeling. There I was, dancing with a complete stranger, a man I had literally just met, and... there was this twinge of electricity flowing through my veins, a certain longing for something I was unable to name. Hayden was quiet, too; he held me tightly, the length of my body pressed up against his.
When the song was over, he lingered in his separation and pulled away slowly--he stood back and looked at me with those dark eyes (so brown they were almost black), intense reflective pools. I struggled to regain my composure and ran a hand through my curls. "Thank you for the dance, Rachel," he said.
"You're welcome," was all I could manage to reply. Just as quickly as he appeared, he turned and left again. I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me. I grabbed another glass of champagne and went out onto the patio to get some air. Something happened when he put his arms around me and moved with me to the music: an inexplicable rush of energy, a very physical connection. It was something I'd experienced before, however distant (in the early days with Alex) and the fact that I had found it with someone I had just barely met, combined with the alcohol I'd already drank and continued to consume...
The next morning I put it out of my head as a chance encounter, something that would only happen once. After all, I was pretty drunk, and it's not like I would ever see him again. Life went on--for about a week and a half, anyway. I was behind the counter at work (manager of a bookstore and coffee shop in Lincoln Park) when there he was: Hayden Wakefield. I was surprised to see him. We made small talk and he ordered a cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. It was a brief meeting, but again, it was enough to knock my whole world off of its axis. What was it about him that left me so uncertain about everything?