Just before Phaedra flipped over the sign to show we were open, my cell phone buzzed.
Made it. On time. Love you.
“Oh, that’s good,” Kirby said. “That’s not the best drive when it’s snowing.”
“Sorry,” she said. She greeted and then seated the first customers of the day.
I responded to Taylor’s text and then slid my phone into my apron before walking over to a table with glasses of water. Tourists—an older gentleman and his white-haired wife—settled in at Don’s favorite table. Chuck had had a small plaque made, and Phaedra had replaced the beat-up, rusted Alaska license plate that hung above where Don used to sit. I glanced up at the words engraved in the gold plating.
THIS TABLE IS DEDICATED IN LOVING MEMORY OF
The gentleman removed his hat and propped his cane against the wall.
“My name is Falyn, and I’ll be your server this morning. May I get you a cup of coffee to start?”
“Yes,” he said, opening the menu Kirby had set in front of him. “Half-and-half, please.”
“You got it.” I returned to the drink station, pouring them fresh cups of coffee.
Kirby strolled from her podium and around the bar to where I stood. “You have a look.”
“A happy look. More than happy. Things seem to be going well with Taylor.”
“I have to say, I’m a little surprised that you even gave him a chance. You haven’t given any hotshot the time of day since I met you.”
“He must be because those are the famous last words of every girl left behind around here, and I would never have thought I’d hear you say them.”
“Leave her be,” Phaedra said, shooing Kirby away.
Kirby offered a cease-fire with a wink, leaving me for her station.
“She’s just teasing you,” Phaedra said. “We all know that Taylor is one of the good ones.”
I loaded the saucers with coffee cups and silver creamer full of half-and-half onto a tray. “He is.”
The day passed both quick and slow, seeming to drag on and then the hours flying by near closing time. Now living for the weekends, time in general either passed too fast or too slow. Time seemed to move in fast-forward when Taylor and I were together. There was no in between.
Valentine’s Day came and went. Taylor and I both worked that evening, so he stayed in Estes Park, but we more than made up for it that weekend.
I began my mornings and ended my evenings on the phone with Taylor. If I were really lucky, he would get impatient for one of us to have a day off, and he’d drive down to see me, only to have to drive back early the next morning. On the rare occasion when we both had the weekend off, Taylor would drive straight to the Springs early Saturday morning and stay until just before dawn on Monday.
I was looking forward to spending the weekend with him in St. Thomas.
“The second wedding on the island is next Saturday, right? Will Taylor be here Friday night?” Phaedra asked.
I wiped down the last of the tables.
“Taylor leaves Thursday for Eakins. There’s a bachelor party on Friday night. I’m flying straight to Saint Thomas on Saturday,” I said.
A steady beat of knocking came from the door, and I looked up to see Gunnar standing there, pointing to Taylor standing next to him.
Kirby opened the door, letting them in, and I dropped my rag before throwing my arms and legs around Taylor.
Taylor pressed his lips against mine. “Hi, gorgeous!” he said, lowering me to the floor.
I kissed him again, and then I picked up the rag off the floor. My heart was pounding in my chest as if I’d just run a marathon. It didn’t matter how many nights I saw him standing on the other side of the glass. It made me feel the same every time.
Chuck walked through the swinging doors, putting a hand on his round belly. “What time did you leave Estes Park?”
Chuck laughed. “You must drive like a maniac. You need to quit that, boy, or you’re going to end up launching off a ridge.”
Taylor bent down to kiss me. “I drove a little fast, but I was careful. I was in a hurry to get here.”
“It’s snowing,” I said. “You can’t drive fast and careful when it’s snowing.”
Gunnar and Taylor each took a seat on the stools, catching up and cracking jokes with Chuck and Hector. Kirby and I finished our duties, making sure not to leave anything for Hannah the next day.
Kirby and Gunnar looked at each other.
Gunnar nodded. “Sure. I just have one paper to write this weekend. It can wait.”
We said good-bye to everyone, and then Kirby and Gunnar followed Taylor and me upstairs.
“The good thing about having a girlfriend who doesn’t drink?” Taylor was bent over in the kitchen, rummaging in my fridge. He wheeled around with a beer bottle in his hand. He popped the top with a smile and flicked the lid into the trash. “I know she won’t drink my stash while I’m gone.” He strolled over to the couch, making me bounce when he fell into the cushion next to me.
I leaned into his side, letting that relaxing wonderful feeling that filled the loft when Taylor was there warm me like a blanket.
He stretched his arm over the back of the couch, touching my shoulder with his fingers, and then he held out his bottle to Gunnar. “There are a few more in the fridge.”
Gunnar watched him take a gulp and then shook his head. “I’m going to need all my senses to pull off this paper.”
“I like school,” Gunnar said, gesturing toward Kirby. “I don’t like being away from her.”
Kirby hugged his arm. “Just keep kicking ass, and we’ll be in Denver in no time.”
Gunnar looked both proud and excited. “I’ve just got to get some money saved up and find a place once I transfer.”
“Gunnar’s applying for the physician’s assistant program,” I said.
“Oh, yeah? That’s fucking awesome, man. Good for you.” Taylor held up his beer again, as a toast this time. He looked to me. “What are Phaedra and Chuck going to do when they lose you both?”
“Have you had any luck applying here?” Kirby asked.
“Nope,” Taylor said. “But I’m solid at the station in Estes.”
“But don’t you live with your brother?” she asked.
Taylor set his beer down on a coaster even though the coffee table was scratched and already covered in water rings. “Okay. You two have been discussing. Let’s hear it.”
I squirmed. “It’s just that … it feels wrong to leave Phaedra high and dry after all she’s done for me. And I’m not sure I’d like your brother as a roommate. I don’t really want to ask him to move out, and we have a perfectly good place here. I can save more if I stay here.”