She laced her gloved fingers together, bent her head, and took in a slow deep breath desperately trying to squelch the feeling of anxiety that was building in her. How she had let Kat talk her into going out to dinner was beyond her. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if Kat weren't so late. There was no one to occupy her mind long enough to forget that she was surrounded by people. She was beginning to feel claustrophobic.
A rather large sigh escaped her as she reach across the plate to pick up her water glass. Kat was right; she had been cooping herself up too much. It had only taken five minutes of sitting here alone to begin to feel the stares. She knew the stares were all in her head. There were enough uniquely outfitted people in this world to allow her to blend relatively easily. She shook her head with sigh of a laugh, "this is crazy." I can't keep doing this to myself. I need to face my demons, before they consume....
The sound of her phone pushed through her thoughts. "Hello, Kat."
"I'm so so sorry. Please. Please. Don't hate me."
She should have seen this coming; Kat was never late. "You're ditching me. You guilt trip me into going out to dinner with you. Give this whole speech were I'm like the worst friend on earth. And now you're ditching me. Nice." She managed to keep the smile out of her voice. Strangely enough, she wasn't particularly mad.
"Now you know that's not the case. Don't make me feel like more of a cad than I already do."
"It's all good. I guess I just wasn't meant to brave the world today." The idea of going home and curling up with a good book helped to melt some of the tension that had been building since she left her house to come to the restaurant.
"Don't you dare leave. You're already out. This is a good thing. Stay. Eat dinner. I'll catch up with you by the time you're ready to eat dessert."
As if. She pushed the response back. "You're joking. You know I don't like eating alone, at least not out in public. It would be one thing if the place was quite and scare of people." She looked around out the overbearing number of people. "But no. You had to go and pick one of the most popular, busiest restaurants around."
She could hear Kat sigh into the phone. "Fine. But you owe me a rain check."
"Wait. Who standing up who here." She laughed. "I don't think I owe you anything. Lucky for you, I like you. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Oh, and Kat."
"This does not mean I forgive you. You better have some major peace offering the next time I see you. Bye."
"I'll see what I can dig up. Have a good night."
As she placed her phone back in her purse, she wondered if it was wrong to leave when she had occupied the table for a good twenty minutes and only had a glass of water. Her thoughts had so distracted her that she was surprised when she turned back to the table and found out that she wasn't alone. And to think she had managed not to think about him for the past half hour.
"Hey." James smiled brightly at her.
This can't really be happening. She mustered a smile, unable to recall the last time she had been this nervous. "Hi. How are you?"
"Good." He began to reach his hand across the table towards hers, "And you?" His fingers came within inches of hers and she reflexively pulled her hand back. She saw the slight glimpse of hurt in his eyes.
She immediately felt horrible. "I'm sorry. It's a reflexive habit."
"It's okay. I understand." He gestured toward another table near the back corner near the bar. "I'm here with some friends and I saw you sitting over here alone. I just thought I'd come over and say hi."
She replaced the glass of water she had picked up and sipped from as he talked. "Good thank you. I was actually about to leave."
A puzzled look crossed his faces as he studied her for a moment than the empty and obviously unuse table settings. As he looked back up at her, she couldn't help but stare at the way brow furrowed. "It doesn't look like you've eaten yet."
"I was stood up." It took her a moment to realize how that sounded. She had told him just yesterday that she didn't date. She hurried to clarify. "My friend Kat got caught up at work. So..." She moved to pick up her purse.
He reached across the table again. The gesture was meant to get her attention, force her to look back up at him. "Why don't you join my friends and me? We have plenty of room. And I think you guys would get on well."
She smiled and shook her head. "You barely know me. How can you be so certain that your friends and I would get along. Beside, as I mentioned yesterday, I'm not really all that good at being social." She sat back the chair with a slight shrug of her shoulders. "Bad at the whole small talk thing and all."
James smiled at her. If she wasn't careful that smile could be deadly for her. "Please, as I recalled you did quite fine with the whole small talk thing. We did managed to talk for the whole hour. And besides, how you going to get any better if you don't practice." He sat back and crossed his arms like he had just won the argument. Strangely she didn't feel much like arguing with him.
She looked over in the direction of the table were is friends were sitting; one of them was looking at them. Who am I kidding? She asked herself as she shook herself out of her contemplation. "Look I really would prefer not to contend with people quizzing me about my gift."
It was as though the air itself thickened around her as he leaned forward his jaw clenched a he tried to contain the anger that seems to flare up inside him. "First you should give my friends a little more credit. Give me a little more credit than that." She watched him carefully as his bottom jaw slide back and forth in the hopes of releasing the tension. "Secondly, they don't know who you are or about your gift. They have no idea I'm participating in the research. As far as they are concerned, I met you at work."
Before she knew what she was doing, she reached across the table toward him. Reaching out toward anyone was definitely not a normal reaction for her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you, or your friends." James stared at her hand that lay between them on the table.
He shook his head, washing away the last of the raw emotions that she had inadvertently stirred up. "No, I'm sorry. I over reacted. I can't imagine what it must be like for you." His hand stretched across the table towards hers. He stop just shy of touching her gloved fingers. "So," they both looked up from their hands, "would you care to join us?"