It isn’t this place

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The email said to meet her at a small Caribbean place in the west end. “It’s been years since I’ve been there, but it’s a decent place. Discrete.”

The wind is cold, and I didn’t wear a warm enough coat. Wished I had worn that red scarf. But that may have been too much. Too bright. Trying too hard.

Shaking. Could be the cold or the anticipation. Or both.

I’m early. The missive indicated 12:30. For days I planned the bus route, checking timetables on my phone, planning fifteen minutes’ buffer time in case of delays or missed transfers. But the trip moved precisely, each connection clicking into place. And I’m here at 12:15. Ready.

What isn’t perfect is the location. The pages and pages of newsprint covering the inside of the window is browned and losing its stick, revealing a dark dusty gloom within. I don’t bother trying to find dates or read the stories. It’s obviously been closed for a long time.

Until now I hadn’t questioned why she wanted to meet me, what made her finally change her mind after all of these months. But being chosen at last was delicious enough. Was the best thing that could ever happen.

But now, the questions come. Why this day? Why me? Why this place, papered-up and abandoned?

I don’t even know what she looks like. Not really. But I have pictured her a thousand times: dark hair, dark eyes, a scare smile tugging the right corner of her mouth upward.

The plan was for me to arrive first and wait for her text message. “Instructions to follow.”

It’s 12:35. Panic sits in my throat. I have no way to contact her: just an anonymous email address. No phone number. And she has my everything.

I’m leaning against the grimy window, hand clenched around my phone. 12:40. 12:45.

And then, the vibration shakes my fingers loose.

I can’t wrench the phone out of my pocket fast enough. And it drops to the sidewalk. My cold fingers scape the pavement in a mad fumble to bring the screen to my face to read her message.

“I’m here. Where are you?”

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