The rooftop restaurant was stuffed with patrons at almost every table, even though it was past lunchtime. There were windows on three sides, giving a great view of what must have been a view of the skyline at one point, but the surrounding area had been built much higher so now one had a choice of which building to look into. The furnishings were very fine, seeming to be imported from Europe but, in reality, some fine examples of North Carolina furniture artistry. The fabrics were lovely chintz, exploding florals like an eruption at a botanical garden had spewed the flower all the way downtown. Tourists loved the place for its of-another-era style, and old ladies, gay couples, and nostalgic locals felt the same way. Personally, she didn't like the place. It was stuffy and the uniforms on the staff never seemed be quite clean enough. It suggested the company knew it was going to close sometime soon and these uniforms would have to do until then.
She chose a table by the eastern windows. Once she was having a late afternoon snack on a Saturday with her sister and since it was early in the year, it was dark outside and the lights were on in the offices across the way. When she glanced over she saw a man and woman kissing passionately.
"Oh," she nonchalantly said to her sister. "Looky there," she said, tipping her in head in the direction of the lovers, wishing to be cool and not look there again.
"OH!" said her sister with great excitement and then, "Looky again."
The couple's clothes were coming off and she and her sister were treated to two people of middle age and questionable physical shape about to share something special on the desk.
"Check!" they called out simultaneously and laughed like they were insane.
This was the same view but today's light of day wasn't affording her a view into those offices but it didn't stop her from scanning anyway. She wanted to smile and that would do it.
"Can I get you anything?" asked the voice.
She answered before she could look at the voice, still looking at the building.
"Yes, might I have some hot tea, please?"
"I'll treat if I can join you," said the voice.
She snapped her head to see the handsome man pull out the chair across from her and sit down.
"Why did you leave that other building? I looked for you and waited around and never saw you again."
"I got transferred to another office."
"Your idea or that manager who hated you?" he asked.
She was being very calm, much calmer than she thought she could be.
"It was the idea of his boss' boss. They needed someone with my skill set and it worked out great," she said. "Everything is better. My new boss is quite sane."
"Interesting," he said. "You would have loved working for me."
"Doing what?" she asked. "And why does the giant drive such a puny car?"
"The giant! That still kills me. He liked it, too," he said.
"What was the job?" she asked.
His eyes went into slits and he leaned forward and opened his mouth to speak.
"Sorry to keep you folks waiting. What can I get you today?" asked the pleasant and not young waitress. There was an old tomato-sauce stain on her right hip.
"I would love some hot tea," she said. "And an extra pot of hot water, please."
If she couldn't have a weapon, some thrown hot water just might save her.
"Nothing for me, doll," said the handsome man. "I have to go."
He stood up and took his wallet from his jacket pocket, pulling out a ten dollar bill.
"This will take care of my friend and something for your trouble, okay?" and handed the waitress the money.
"Do you need change, sir?" she asked from habit, knowing that he didn't.
"Don't hurt my feelings, doll," he said and smiled his handsome man smile.
Before he turned to go he leaned into the table and said to her, "We'll be in touch."
"In touch how?" she hissed. "Why? To do what?"
He smiled his smile again and then his eyes got cold and hard.
"Me to know, you to find out," he answered. Then he turned and walked quickly to the elevator which one of the suburban types was happy to hold for a handsome guy in an expensive suit.
The tea came almost instantly, the waitress efficiently presenting the two pots of water, the napkin and flatware, and the little silver tray with the sweeteners, milk, and lemon.
"Is that your boyfriend?" the waitress asked.
"No," she replied.
"Your husband?" she queried.
"Not that either. Not my boss, my coworker, my associate, my friend, my cousin, brother, or son. I don't know who the hell that is. He just keeps turning up and talking to me."
There she had said it.
"Have you ever seen him before?" she asked the waitress.
"No, I can't say that I have," she answered. "He looks good but his eyes were very cold. I didn't want to say anything in case you were close."
They stared at each other.
"He thought he was being warm and generous," said the waitress, "but he was just being generous. That kind of generosity doesn't mean a thing."
She stared at the waitress and got tears in her eyes, something that happened when someone so completely spoke the truth. The waitress saw her eyes were filled with tears.
"You forget it," said the waitress. "Just go about your business. You're okay."
The waitress walked away from her and she put each teabag into each pot of water. She put some milk into the cup which cooled the tea so she could drink it quickly. She took the napkin and dabbed at her eyes, sopping up tears and some of her favorite drugstore mascara. She was no longer in the mood for a handbag and didn't want to stand and try on coats. She didn't much want to be perused and snipped up by a dermatologist but she'd waited a few weeks for the appointment and didn't want to miss the opportunity. She drank down several cups of tea, left another couple of bucks for the waitress, and headed to the elevator. If someone saw her coming, they didn't try to hold the door for her so she decided to take the escalator all the way down. As she slowly descended she thought if she got a glimpse of the coats then she might change her mind and get something in spite of her feeling of dread.