Coffee with Virginia Woolf
by
Muri McCage

Kerri was having coffee with Virginia Woolf.  Of course, Virginia wasn’t drinking any because she was in printed form, and Kerri was engrossed in the deceptively simple life of Mrs. Ramsay.  She sat hunched over the open pages, the noisy ambiance of the city street all but disappearing into the greater mental clamour created by the beauty of Woolf’s prose.  Lingering over a particularly lovely description of Mr. Ramsay’s features, Kerri sighed wistfully.

Just as she was reading of Mrs. Ramsay’s visit to the colorful and enticing harbor, Kerri caught a glimpse of a man’s face as he passed by.  Something made her look up fully, and try to locate the momentary attraction.  She saw a casually dressed older man striding purposefully down the sidewalk.

She shrugged and almost went back to the well worn first edition–found treasure from one of the antique book shops she loved to prowl.  Instead, a sudden flash of his features threw itself into her brain, as if a movie were being projected there.  With a gasp Kerri leapt from her seat, and hurried down the sidewalk after him, abandoning Mrs. Ramsay and her houseguests.

Realizing she still clutched her sloshing coffee cup, she tossed it into a nearby trash can, and quickly covered the distance between them.
“Excuse me. Sir?”

“Yes?”  He turned, with a polite smile.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but have we met?  You look awfully familiar.”  Lame, Kerri.  Lame.

He studied her for a moment, a fragment of the smile lingering to turn to slight puzzlement.  “Why no, I don’t think so.”

“Oh.”  She didn’t know what to do next.  He was about to leave and she’d never have the chance again.

The pleasantly weathered features cleared.  “Ah.  I teach law at the university.  Perhaps you’ve seen me there.”

“Perhaps.”  Inspiration struck.  “Actually, I’m thinking of going to law school.  I must have seen you when I toured the campus.”

“Of course.”  Still friendly, slightly dismissive, he glanced at his watch.

“I’m sorry, but I must go.  Young minds await, and all that.”

“Sure.  Well, maybe I’ll see you around.  If I end up there.”

An absent nod, as he took out a worn wallet and offered her a crisp, white card with businesslike lettering.  “Here, have this.  If you decide to attend here, and need advice about classes please look me up.  I try to help the students any way I can.”

Kerri took the card, barely even breathing.  “Thanks.”

They stood there for another awkward moment, and she waited for him to walk out of her life again.  Impulsively, she stuck out a hand.  When he automatically shook it, she grasped the warm, strong fingers for a second too long.  She couldn’t help it, and he didn’t seem to notice.

She watched as he hurried across the street, then looked down at her fingers.  They seemed to radiate warmth, and imagined love.  She could hardly believe she’d been so close to the father she had only seen in the one photograph her mother owned. 

Once he was lost in the crowd, Kerri went back to her table, but she closed the soft, leather cover on Mrs. Ramsay with her embroidery hoop, the tangy sea air, and the lighthouse across the water.  There was too much on her mind to read anymore.  She was too busy trying to figure out how she was going to afford law school.

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