Audrey kept her head down and held her coat closed tightly as she made her way down the city sidewalk. This part of town made her nervous, especially at night, but her friends enjoyed the trendy area. They had insisted on meeting outside the popular coffee house, Khaldi’s.
Because her head was down, she didn’t notice the three men blocking the sidewalk until she was only a few feet from them. She turned to go around the group. “Excuse me,” she said politely.
Dex, a tall man wearing baggy jeans and a knit cap stepped in front of her. “Hellooooo, pretty lady.”
She tried once more to change her direction, but the shortest of the trio now blocked her path. “Stop and talk to us, Sugar. We won’t bite.” The scent of his leather jacket and cheap cologne assaulted her senses causing a wave a nausea.
“Please....leave me alone.” Tears filled her eyes. She tried to hide her panic, but it was obvious. The third man came up from behind and pressed his body against hers. “How ‘bout some lovin’, Honey?”
At his touch, Audrey’s survival instinct kicked in. Her fear turned to anger. “Back off!” She shoved the man and took off running down the sidewalk.
“We weren’t going to hurt you,” Dex yelled after her. The three laughed as they watched her flee like a pursued animal.
Audrey ran until she reached the coffee house. She flung open the door and rushed inside. She didn’t see the young man until it was too late. She smashed into him with such force, he nearly lost his balance.
“Excuse me.” Embarrassed and still shaking, she pulled away and tried to keep walking, but he stopped her.
“Whoa!” He put his arms on her shoulders and held her a few feet away. “Are you okay?”
The concern and compassion in his voice were so sincere, she began to relax. She looked up into his chocolate eyes, and felt safe. The men outside had looked at her with lust in their eyes. In his, she saw only kindness.
“Yes, I’ll be fine. Some jerks on the street were rude, that’s all.”
“Go have a seat and I’ll bring you some coffee. On the house.”
She noticed he was wearing an employee badge that read “Jason.”
“Thanks, Jason.” She smiled at him and then made her way to the table.
A few minutes later he approached her, minus the employee badge, with two coffees.
“Mind if I join you? My shift is over.”
“Not at all.” It surprised her how comfortable she felt with him.
He let out a loud sigh as he sat down.
“Rough night, too?” She blew on her coffee as she studied his face.
“Yea. I just had some rude costumers that spilled coffee, purposely made a mess, and snapped their fingers at me. They called me ‘boy’.” He mimicked the girls. “Hey, boooooy! Clean up this mess.”
She giggled at his high-pitched impersonation. “That’s terrible.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s just part of the job. I’ll graduate from the U.T. next year. Then I’ll find a real job.”
Her face brightened. “I’m a sophomore. What’s your major?”
“Business. And you?”
“Education.” There was a pause as they realized they had a connection.
“So, what had you running in here like a scared rabbit?” he asked tenderly.
As she shared her story, he leaned in, looked into her eyes, and listened intently. Finally, she glanced at her watch.
“Well, I’d better go. I’m supposed to meet my friends outside.”
“I’ll walk you out and make sure you’re safe.”
He helped her into her coat. As they walked slowly to the door he asked, “Can I call you sometime?”
“I’d like that.” She reached in her purse for a pen.
As they stepped outside a group of giggling young women approached them.
“Hey, Audrey, there you are,” said a tall, confident lady wearing too much makeup. She looked at Jason, and then back to Audrey and grinned. “You met Boy!”
Jason turned to Audrey in shock. “These are your friends?” His disappointment was obvious.
Audrey’s face turned red. She opened her mouth to defend her friends, but over Jason’s shoulders she spotted her troublemakers. Instinctively, she began to back away.
“Yo, Jason!” Dex called out. Jason turned and slapped hands with his friends.
It was Audrey’s turn to feel betrayed.
The couple parted company and left with their respective friends. They were no longer interested in exchanging numbers.
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