I don't know how he does it. Somehow, he always makes me feel like an idiot, even when he's just trying to ask me out for coffee. I'm not a moron, but he's always one step ahead of me. Like now.
"I'll be at the end of Pier 9, on the bench that overlooks the bay and the city from 9 until midnight tonight."
That's what he said, and it didn't even occur to me what he really meant until I flew down towards the little diner we always met at. My first clue was actually the names of the bars, one in a garish neon sign blaring out into the night like a technicolor vomit, and the other with a simple bright light on an old wooden sign that'd probably been there since it opened: The Bay, and The City. I landed, and saw the small sign over the diner's door that said "Pier 9 Diner."
So much for the search.
I duck into the diner, my cheeks burning with embarrassment and the chill air of my flight. I keep my head low to hide my embarrassment and hitch myself up onto a stool in front of the counter. The woman working the counter ambles on over.
"Can I get you anything," she asks, her voice warm and friendly despite probably saying the same thing every five minutes every day for years. No routine phrase, she honestly wants to be helpful whether it's her job or not.
"Uh, yeah," I mutter, looking up at her. It feels good to see such a familiar face, but I can't help but feel like a horrible person for not learning her name. "Can I get a slice of cherry and a slice of raspberry pie to go? A-and a cup of coffee for here, I guess."
I don't want to go out there and face Ned, not just yet. Now that it's so close, now that he must be so close, my stomach's knotting up tight. I need just a few minutes more to get my composure back.
"Sure thing," she says, and comes back only a few seconds later with a pot of hot coffee and a cup. She pours the coffee out right in front of me, and while I've never been much for it, I toss back a fair portion of the bitter brew in one gulp.