She sat at a small, wooden table, an island in the quiet sea of the coffee shop, next to a window hand-painted with fading bargains. Across the sagging stones of the street, sometimes visible through the constantly rippling curtain of passers-by, she could see another window, and he would be sitting there eventually.
A year of letters had been a prelude to this moment, a weekly arrival of small penned intimacies, fragments of colorful lives closed in photographic cages, and hints in ink and stationary. They'd met by accident, as mystics of their particular philosophy often did; in this case, a misplaced phone call, an intrigue of voices stalking each other in digital blindness.
She remembered his voice, smooth and warm, with hints of the same earthy darkness that Adele tasted in Wudei'a's mint tea. With a breath, she looked down at the neat stack of letters before her, and with each pass of the eye over each pass of the pen, the sounds moved within her mind as his voice.
They'd never actually seen one another; that was part of the rule, in these things. They did not describe one another in the letters, and yet, each time she ran her fingers over the delicate pressed fibers of the paper, she saw another color, another shadow of his face. She pictured the movements of his lips, and the delicate shapes they would make when he spoke.
Sipping at her tea, she smiled softly at one of the letters, a short poem he’d written, a prelude to the inevitable step in this dance, which had brought them hundreds of miles from their homes, to a pair of cafes. It was the last letter in the sequence, and as she finished the last sentence
(“…I cannot wait to see you at last, but I must.”)
she finally turned, bringing her gaze up towards the window across the street.
Like the first rays of dawn, finally clearing the horizon, light shot between them, a new day beginning. She could almost feel his breath on her cheek, and count the small hazel flecks in his jade-colored eyes, and there was a moment within her, as if a rope had twisted around her lungs. The tension was there and gone in a heartbeat of the eyelids, because he could not contain a smile at seeing her, a simple pleasure that overwhelmed him just as the kindling fired behind her own eyes. She returned the smile with great warmth, and then, as the ritual demanded, turned away again, looking down at the letters.
With a sigh, she took out a sheet of paper she’d made herself, specifically for this moment. It was pale blue, marked with watercolor-dappled stars and a moon, and she immediately began to pen a note to him, concentrating on the delicacy of her handwriting, and trying to channel her whimsy and wonder at the meeting as much as she could into the letter.
A timeless cup of tea that did not last long enough marked the end of the letter, and she quickly tucked it into an envelope, covered in watercolor tidal pools that matched her eyes, and sealed it. It would be mailed once she returned home, but she did not think of that; her anticipation of what was to follow was singing inside her, making her bones violin strings.
She didn’t notice the warm smile of the café attendant as she left, slinging her bag over one shoulder, and when she moved into the stream of people outside, she felt as if she were dancing through the orbits of countless planets, all with their mysteries and atmospheres unknowable, all constrained to their path, unlike Adele herself.
She was a comet.
He was walking out from the café on the other side of the street, and neither looked directly at one another; it was not how things were done. Though the temptation was there, Adele shivered within and kept her face silent, eyes fixed on her reflection, dodging around other reflections in the shop window across the street. From the aching corners of her eyes, she saw him coming towards her at a casual pace, an unconcerned man on his way to somewhere other, and when they passed one another, a well of heat and gravity formed between them.
They allowed a touch of hands, a brief and silken clasp of fingers, and she felt every line of his long fingers, the thunder of his pulse brushed by her fingertips, a spike of humming metal pounded through her heart with one decisive stroke. Then it was gone; they passed by one another, Orpheus as he should have done.
Adele walked down the street, the ritual done for now, the longing locked deep within her as a well of mercurial power, for there was no greater power than desiring, and between them, there would be more of it.