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As he stepped out of the building the last whiffs of tear gas were dissipating in the morning breeze and all the protesters had fled the onrushing police phalanx, leaving Calgary’s finest in complete control of the square littered with the usual post-protest detritus, and so allowing the visiting energy minister from Ottawa, who had been the object of this commotion, to get out of the area.
A block away he spotted a coffee shop and headed toward it at a quick pace, desperate as he was to find a place to unwind in and steady his nerves after his exhausting sales pitch. He crossed the subdued street and headed in.
Once inside, he went to the counter, got himself a rare shot of caffeine, turned around, and was absent-mindedly scanning the place for a seat when his eye landed on a recently vacated seat right beside an unexpected but welcome sight that lit a spark in him.
She had the right age, athletic build, nice profile, brown hair in a loose pony tail, no visible tattoos, and a black and white patterned bandanna loosely tied around her neck. Her head was bowed down and her eyes presumably were staring down into what looked to him like a half-full coffee mug. He noted an iron ring around her little finger. Cute and smart. Maybe my boardroom luck will carry over into the coffee room. He walked up to her table.
"Mind if I sit here?”
She looked up. He immediately saw the bloodshot eyes: either she had had a bad night and a worse morning, or she just had committed the amateurish mistake of going without goggles to a tear-gassed protest. Or both. She looked around. The place was quite full. She chose to be decent.
"Go ahead.”
She didn’t say no. I’m still in the game. He took his seat. For a while the coffee shop buzz filled the space. Alex enjoyed this pause, his first break in months, his first moment without a problem to solve or a call to take or someone or something not going where expected. And his first time --since how long?-- sitting near a woman where he did not expect to talk about depreciation schedules, melting points, employment law, or code control protocols. Speechless and drained after giving his all at the board encounter, he felt his strength ebbing and knew he looked as bad as he felt.
"Rough morning?”
"Could’ve been worse.”
"It’ll get better.”
From where she had been sitting near the window, had she looked up a few seconds before she possibly could have seen him coming out of the Rocsun complex, and in any case a sharp dressed man in that part of town at that time of day likely would have been dealing in black gold. And a tear-gassed refugee from a protest against a federal energy politician in Calgary, well... Their eyes met for an instant. Great conversation. We’re just clicking here. Fraternizing with the enemy may have been what they both thought. And yet, maybe there was something better, but he would not know for sure, for as soon as he thought he had seen a spark or maybe some inquisitiveness in her eyes, she drained her cup and disappeared.
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