Zehira couldn't help but smile as she walked toward the train station. Apparently, her smile was contagious because several people who walked in the opposite direction nodded and smiled as they passed by. As she road the escalator leading down into the train tunnel, she could smell the sweet berry-cocoa-vanilla scent of her hair which again made her smile. "I 'm really going to have to check out these Oyin products when I get home," she thought as she walked through the turnstile.
Just as the train arrived, Zehira felt the vibration of her cell phone through her tote that was thrown over her shoulder. She hurried to the nearest empty seat, fished in her bag, pulled out the phone, and answered before the call was sent to voice mail, "Hello".
"I'm surprised you answered, being it's your 'secret' day off and everything I didn't think you'd want to be bothered," came the whispering voice on the other end. "Hey, I see you were able to figure out I took off so I guess it wasn't such a secret after all," Zehira responded.
Zehira was not surprised that 'L' - short for Lauryn- knew she had taken the day off. Lauryn was Zehira's oldest friend, and ever since they were teens she would always lecture her on how predictable she was and that she needed to be more spontaneous. Well, she sure wasn't her predictable self today, because not even Lauryn could have imagined Zehira cutting her hair. She couldn't wait to see the look on Lauryn's face tonight at the book club dinner.
"Like I always say, you're so predictable, Z, when you said you had a quote 'appointment' end quote - and it was on a Friday, I knew you would be taking the day off," Zehira strained to hear Lauryn say. "So did you really have an appointment, or did you just make that up so you could take the day off?"Lauryn finished. "Well, Mom, yes, I had an actual appointment today. I am on the train, as your sleuth ears have probably already picked up, leaving from my appointment," Zehira responded.
"Funny," Lauryn said. "So, what's with all the secrecy anyway?" she asked. "Well, like I said it really wasn't a secret, it's sort of a surprise," Zehira responded. "What kind of surprise?" Lauryn asked getting excited and talking a little louder. "L, you're going to have to find out tonight, just like everybody else. What were you whispering for anyway?"
"Girl, we got some nosey people up in here I tell you," Lauryn responded again whispering. "Well, maybe you should stop whispering on the phone and get back to work. I'm trying to get through the last pages of the book anyway and I have to go," Zehira said.
"I'm going to have to call you back so we can discuss this matter further," Lauryn said- now speaking louder using a professional tone. " Zehira knew this was Lauryn's way of making it known that her supervisor was near. "Don't get fired," Zehira laughed. "Whatever, I wish they would," Lauryn whispered with an attitude, and the call ended. Zehira put her phone back in her bag and pulled out her book. "Is that any good?" she almost jumped at the deep voice that came from the seat near her.
"It's really interesting," she began as she looked up and locked eyes with the man who belonged to the voice. He was wearing a worn baseball cap and she could see small dark curls peeking through. "I wonder if my curls will look like that once my hair grows out more," she thought. Zehira figured he was some type of sports coach because of the whistle and stop clock that hung around his neck. His jeans, tennis shoes and white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up led her to believe that maybe he was a teacher.
Possibly a physical education teacher. I wish I had a gym teacher that looked like him when I was in school. "Curly hair, brown eyes and curly lashes would have kept me in class everyday," she thought holding back a smile. " His books usually are good," the man continued waking Zehira from her thoughts. "I've read his other books and they were pretty good," he added.
"Well, this is actually the first time I've heard of him, I'm reading this with my book club," Zehira said as she opened the page to where her bookmark was placed. To her, this was a signal that the small talk had ended, but apparently the man didn't see it that way. "I also write," he continued without missing a beat.
Zehira looked up from her book. "I'm in the process of looking for a publisher for my first book, and I also write poetry," he went on. Resolving that he was not going to let her read for the remaining ride Zehira closed her book and said, "That's interesting," purposely keeping her response short. "So, you said you belong to a book club," he said - now really trying to start a full blown conversation. Giving in Zehira smiled and said," Yes I do. We try to meet about once a month to discuss the books we read."
"I see you have a 'Z' on your bag does that stand for the name of this club?" he questioned. "Oh, he is good," Zehira thought to herself. Out loud she responded, "No, we don't really have a name for the club. It's not that big yet, just me and three other friends, " she responded. "So, what's the 'Z' for?" he asked. "Yeah, he's really good," she thought again to herself.
She made a mental note to thank Lauryn again for coming up with the idea of everyone making each other's Christmas gifts last year, and her mother for giving her a name that started with a Z which made it nearly impossible to come up with a fake name that started with the same letter. "It's actually my inital. My name is Zehira, and my friends one of which who gave me this bag as a gift, call me Z."
"Now, I undertand your hesitence," he said. "What do you mean?" Zehira asked. "Well, in Hebrew Zehira means protected, but it can also be interpreted as careful or cautious. So far your name fits your personality," he smiled.
Zehira shook her head in disbelief. Maybe along with teaching gym class he was a history or language teacher. This was the first time she randomly met someone who not only pronounced her name correctly after she pronounced but also new the meaning, not to mention other translations.
"Okay, so you know all about me. Tell me something about the stranger that has interrupted my reading,"she jokingly replied. "First off, my name is Vince. Short for Vincent so not as fancy as yours," he started and extended his hand to Zehira. "But of course Zehira is fitting for a beautiful women such as yourself just as Vince is good for someone as plain and dull as me," he smiled as he shook her hand.
"I see you're trying to intrigue me with your poetic prose," Zehira said as she gently pulled her hand from his firm, soft grip. They both laughed. Almost an hour later Zehira and Vince sat on the train talking about everything from books they have read to childhood dreams.
She learned that she was totally off about his profession, he was actually a computer engineer who volunteered through his job as a basketball coach at the Boys and Girls Club. As she talked with him it felt as though she had been talking with an old friend and not at all like someone she had just met.
Neither had noticed that they had both missed their stops, until Zehira looked up and realized that they were approaching the end of the line. "You know, what Vince?" she asked. "What's that, Z?" Zehira hadn't remembered at what point in their conversation he had started calling her Z. "We, or at least I have missed my stop," she said.
Vince looked through the smudged window of the train to read the sign. He turned back toward Zehira, "This is the end of the line. Looks like I'm going to have to ride back as well, because I missed mine too," he smiled.
As the train pulled out of the station heading back in the other direction, Vince said, "I was supposed to be meeting a friend of mine for lunch, but I'm sure he's probably eaten by now." "I'm sorry," Zehira said. "No, it's not your fault. As they say time flies when you're having fun. I'll just meet up with him later. I'm sure he would prefer me buying him dinner anyway," he said.
"Will you be late getting to wherever you were going?" he asked. "No, I was just going to do a little shopping and grab some lunch before heading home. So, I'm in no hurry," Zehira answered.
"Well, would you mine if I join you?" Vince asked. "Shopping?" Zehira questioned. "No, I'm going to have to pass on the shopping. Unfortunately, I've experienced that journey that you ladies call shopping - it can go on for days without you actually buying one single item," Vince laughed. "What I meant was lunch. Would you mine if I joined you for lunch?" he asked again.
Predictable Zehira, being as though she just met this guy would have said maybe some other time, but the new, natural, spontaneous Zehira was now in control and before she knew it, Zehira responded, "Yes, that will be great."
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