The Opportunist Page 2


I watch him pick up the boxes one by one, stacking them in his free hand. He smiles at me and I get the feeling he is amused by my reaction.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

So polite. And there was that damn accent again.

“What are you doing here?” The words tumble from my mouth before I can stop them.

He laughs. “I’m not stalking you, I swear. Actually, I wanted to thank you for the music suggestion in the store the other day. I liked it—a lot actually.” His hands are in his pockets and he is bouncing up and down on his heels.

“Wine,” he says, spinning his thumb ring with his forefinger. He used to do that when he was nervous.

I stare at him blankly.

“You asked me what I was doing here,” he says patiently, as though he were speaking to a child. “My girlfriend likes this wine and one can only get it here…Organic.” The last word makes him laugh.

Girlfriend? I narrow my eyes. How is it that he remembers her and not me?

“So,” I say casually, opening one of the coolers and grabbing the first thing I see, “You remember your girlfriend?” I was trying to sound nonchalant, but I couldn’t have sounded more strangled if he had his hands around my throat.

“No, after the accident—I didn’t remember her.”

I feel a little bit better.

I immediately think back to the first time I set my blues on her, three years ago when I was performing the ritual of post breakup spying. I decided that I needed to see my replacement for closure. It was crazy really, but we are all entitled to a little bit of stalking.

I wore my grandmother’s red derby hat because it had a ridiculously wide rim that would hide my face, and it was as melodramatic as my personality. I took Pickles for support.

Leah Smith. That was the little beast’s name. She was as rich as I was poor, as happy as I was miserable, as redheaded as I was dark. He met her at some swanky party about a year after we broke up. Apparently, they hit it off right away, or maybe he hit it right away, I can’t be sure.

Leah worked in an office building ten minutes from my apartment. By the time I slid my car into a parking spot, I had an hour to spare before her shift was over. I spent it convincing myself that my behavior was normal.

Leah walked out of the building at exactly five after six with a Prada purse swinging cheerfully on her forearm. She walked like a woman who knew she had the world staring at her breasts. I watched her clip clop along the sidewalk in her green stilettos, while strangling the steering wheel. I hated her long red hair that hung in fat curls down her back. I hated the way she waved goodbye to her co-workers with a tinkling of her fingertips. I hated the fact that I liked her shoes.

Searching his eyes for answers, and trying to get my head out of the past, I ask, “So what—you guys are still together even though you don’t know who she is?”

I expect him to be defensive, but instead he slyly smiles. “She’s really torn up over the whole thing and is a great girl to stick with me through all of this.” He doesn’t look at me when he says “this”.

Like any girl, in her right mind, would let him get away—except me of course—but I have never claimed to be in my right mind.

“Would you like to grab a cup of coffee?” he asks. “I can fill you in on my whole sob story.”

I feel a tingle start at my feet and work its way up my body. If he remembered anything about me, this would not be happening. It was crazy—exactly the type of situation that I could completely take advantage of.

“I can’t.” I feel so proud of myself that I stand up a little taller. He takes my response the same way he’d taken all of my rejections over the years we dated, smiling like I couldn’t possibly be serious.

“Yes, you can. Think of it as a favor to me.”

I c**k my head.

“I need some new friends—good influences.”

My mouth opens, and lets out an extended Pffffffffing sound.

Caleb raises an eyebrow.

“I’m not a good influence,” I say, blinking rapidly.

I shift from one foot to the other, distracting myself with a bottle of maraschino cherries. I could grab the bottle, toss it at his head and run, or I could go get coffee with him. It was only coffee after all. Not sex, not a relationship, just some friendly gabber between two people who supposedly didn’t know each other.

“Okay, coffee.” I hear the excitement in my voice and cringe. I. Am. Disgusting.

“Good,” he smiles.

“There’s a coffee shop two blocks from here on the northwest corner. I can meet you there in thirty minutes,” I say, calculating the time it would take for me to get home and de-slobbify. Say you can’t make it. Say you have other things to do……

“Thirty minutes,” he repeats, watching my lips. I purse them for effect and Caleb ducks his head to hide a smile. I turn and walk calmly down the aisle. I can feel his eyes on my back, making me tingle.

I abandon my shopping cart as soon as I am out of sight and gallop toward the front of the store. My flip flops slap against my heels as I run.

I reach home in record time. My neighbor Rosebud is knocking on my door with an onion in her hand. If Rosebud catches me, I will be involved in a two hour one-sided conversation about her Bertie and his struggle with the gout. I hide in the bushes. When she gives up five minutes later, my thighs are burning from crouching and I need to pee.

The first thing I do when I walk through my door is rescue the picture of Caleb from the trash. Dusting it free of eggshell, I shove it in my silverware drawer.

In fifteen minutes, I am walking out the door feeling so nervous I have to make a conscious effort not to trip over my own feet. The three block drive is torturous. I swear at myself and twice swerve into the turning lane to go home. I make it to the parking with a mild case of whip-lash.

The coffee shop is full of dark blue walls and mosaic patterns. It is intense and depressing and warm all at the same time. With a Starbucks only three blocks away, this place is reserved for a more serious crowd—artsy-fartsy types that brood over their Mac books.

“Hey Livia,” the little punk boy who works the counter waves at me.

I smile at him. As I pass the bulletin board, something catches my eye. A printout of a man’s face is tacked among the flyers. I walk closer, feeling prickles of recognition. Along the bottom of his face the word: WANTED stands out in bold letters. It was the man from the Music Mushroom—the one with the umbrella!

Dobson Scott Orchard, born September 7, 1960.

Wanted for kidnapping, rape and assault.

Distinguishing feature: birthmark on forehead.

The mole! That was the birthmark the poster was referring to. What would have happened had I gone with him? I shake the image out of my head and memorize the number at the bottom of the page. If I hadn’t seen Caleb that day, I might have let him walk me to my car.

Dobson escapes out of my head when I see Caleb.

He is waiting for me at a small table in the back corner staring absently at the tabletop. He lifts a white porcelain cup to his lips, and I get a flashback of him doing the same thing in my apartment years ago. My heart accelerates.

He spots me when I am a few feet away.

“Hi. I got you a latte,” he says standing up. His eyes sweep from my feet to my face in one quick motion. I clean up well. I swipe a dark strand of hair out of my eyes and smile. I am jittery, my hands are trembling. When he extends a hand toward me, I hesitate before reaching out to shake it.

“Caleb Drake,” he says. “I would say that I usually tell women my name before I ask them out for coffee, but I don’t remember.”

We smile awkwardly at his terrible joke as I allow my small hand to be swallowed in his. The feel of his skin is so familiar. I close my eyes for a brief second and allow the absurdity of the situation to wash over me.

“Olivia Kaspen. Thank you for the coffee.”

We sit down awkwardly and I begin pouring sugar into my cup. I watch his face. He used to tease me about my coffee being so sweet it made your teeth hurt. He drinks tea, hot, the way the British drink it. I used to think it was charming and distinguished, I still do actually.

“So what did you tell your girlfriend?” I ask, taking a sip. I am swinging my shoe off the end of my big toe which is something that used to annoy him when we were together. I see his eyes reach my foot and for a second, I think he’s going to grab it to stop the motion.

“I told her I needed some time off to think. It’s a horrible thing to say to a woman isn’t it?” he asks.

I nod.

“Anyway, she burst into tears the minute the words were out of my mouth and I didn’t know what to do.”

“I’m sorry,” I lie. Strawberry freckle face is cuddling with rejection tonight. It is a wonderful thing.

“So,” I say, “amnesia.”

Caleb nods, looking down at the table. He absently traces a pattern of circles with his finger.

“Yes, it’s called Selective Amnesia. Doctors, eight of them, have told me it’s temporary.”

I suck thoughtfully on the word “temporary”. It could mean my time with him is as temporary as hair dye, or an adrenaline rush. I decide I’ll take either one. I am having coffee with a man that formerly hated me, “temporary” didn’t have to be a dirty word.

“How did it happen?” I ask.

Caleb clears his throat and looks around the room like he’s gauging who can hear us.

“What? Too personal?” I can’t keep the laughter out of my voice. It feels strange that he is hesitating to tell me. When we were together, he told me everything—even the things that most men would be embarrassed to share with their girlfriends. I can still read his expressions after all these years and I can tell that he is uncomfortable sharing the details of his amnesia.

“I don’t know. It seems like we should start with something simple before I tell you my secrets. Like my favorite color.”

I smile. “Do you remember what your favorite color is?”

Caleb shakes his head. We both laugh.

I sigh and fidget with my coffee cup. When we first started dating I’d asked him what his favorite color was. Instead of just telling me, he’d forced me into the car saying he needed to show me.

“This is ridiculous, I have a test to study for,” I complained. He drove for twenty minutes, blaring the terrible rap music he liked to listen to and finally pulled up beside the Miami International Airport.

“That, is my favorite color,” he said, pointing to the lights lining the runway.

“That’s blue,” I said. “So what?”

“That’s not just any blue, its Airport blue,” he said. “And don’t you ever forget it.”

I turned back to the runway to study the lights. The color was eerie, it looked like fire when it burned at its hottest and turned blue. Where was I going to find a shirt in that color?

I looked at him now, the memory clear in my mind and gone from his. What would it be like to forget your favorite color? —or the girl that smashed up your heart?

Airport blue haunted me. It became a brand to me, a trademark of our broken relationship, and my failure to move on. Airport f**king blue.

“Your favorite color is blue,” I say, “and mine is red. Now we’re best friends, so tell me what happened.”

“Blue it is,” he says smiling. ‘‘It was a car accident. A colleague and I were on a business trip in Scranton. It was snowing heavily and we were on our way to a meeting. The car skidded off the road and wrapped around a tree. I sustained serious head injuries…” he rattles it off as if he is bored with the story. I imagine that he has recited it hundreds of times already.

I don’t need to ask what he does for work. He is an investment banker. He works for his step-father’s company, and he is rich.

“And your co-worker?”

“He didn’t make it,” his shoulders slump. I bite my lip. I’m not good with death and the words that you’re supposed to offer as condolence. When my mother died people said stupid things that made me angry! Soft, fluffy words that carried no weight; “I’m sorry”—when it clearly wasn’t their fault, and “if there is anything I can do—” when we both knew there was nothing. I change the subject rather than offer empty words. “Do you remember the accident?”

“I remember waking up after it happened. Nothing before that.”

“Not even your name?”

He shakes his head.

“The good news is the doctors say I’ll remember. It’s just a matter of time and being patient.”

The good news for me is that he doesn’t remember. We wouldn’t be talking if he did.

“I found an engagement ring in my sock drawer.” His confession is so sudden, I choke on my coffee.

“Sorry.” He pats me on the back and I clear my throat, eyes watering. “I really needed to tell someone that. I was getting ready to ask her to marry me, and now I don’t even know who she is.”

Wow…wow! I feel like someone just plugged me in and threw me in the bathtub. I knew that he had moved on with his life, I spied on him enough to know that, but marriage? It made me itch just to think about it.

“What do your parents think about your condition?” I ask, steering the conversation in a more palatable direction. The thought of Leah in a white dress made me want to laugh. She was better suited for slutty lingerie and a stripper pole.

“My mother looks at me like I’ve betrayed her in some way, and my father keeps patting me on the back, saying, “You’ll get it back soon, buddy, everything’s going to be fine, Caleb.” He imitates his parents to a “t” and I smile.

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