By Raj, age 21, England, United Kingdom
The summer solstice was Katherine's favourite night of the year; great things were guaranteed to happen. It was the summer solstice four years ago that Katherine had met her ex-boyfriend. Exactly one year later they became an official couple. Exactly one year after that he proposed to her, and on this very night one year ago she dumped him. Since then she had savoured the single lifestyle, though she was open to any chance romantic encounters that the universe might happen to throw her way. So when Katherine made eye contact with Drew across the raging bonfire she knew that this would be their night; finally, after three months of flirting at the office, every Monday through Saturday, nine to five! His tanned skin was glistening in the firelight and the messy, dark curls on his head were wet. Drew staggered through the sand towards Katherine with a pitcher of sangria and offered it to her. Katherine insisted that she was already far too drunk but asked Drew if she could kiss him instead. He smiled drunkenly and said, "No," leaving Katherine half naked and humiliated on the sweaty, pulsing beach. She tugged at the hem of her mini-dress, took off her flip-flops and ran half a mile up the main road to her bed.
To make matters worse, Katherine was still drunk when she woke up the next morning. She cried as she tried to apply her make-up, shocked and appalled at the prospect of facing her colleagues, and her boss, and Drew. She tied her long, blonde hair into a neat bun and straightened her fringe, wore a demure summer dress, creating an illusion of propriety, and left her cottage for work. Walking toward the large, glass building, Katherine worried over who Drew may have told about their exchange, and how far the gossip had spread. She began sweating and could smell the sweet, summer wine from last night emanating from her pores. She swore profusely at the realization that she'd forgotten to put on her deodorant.
Katherine quietly entered the white, open place office, to be greeted by the pungent fumes of freshly brewed Columbian coffee. She grimaced as she sat in her swivel chair behind the reception desk. Luckily the phone began to ring at that same instant so Katherine was exempt from the usual morning pleasantries that the other workers were participating in.
"Good morning, StayBright Windows," she answered, feigning enthusiasm.
"Good morning, sunshine," said a chipper, male voice, sending spikes down Katherine's spine.
"You're looking particularly pretty this morning." He laughed so loudly and insincerely that Katherine momentarily turned the receiver away from her ear.
"Drew ..." She slowly spun around in her chair to see him waving at her from across the room. She felt various contemptuous glares as she spun back, and stuck her head under the desk to switch on her computer. "How may I help you?"
"We're having lunch together." She could hear the arrogant grin in his voice. "I'm taking you for a drink," and then he hung up. Katherine resisted the overwhelming urge to turn and give him a sexy smile. He must've come to his senses and wants to apologize; he'd made a drunken mistake and would ask her for another chance. She wanted to slap herself for giggling.
"For goodness sake, keep it together, Katherine." She composed herself and the anger set in. How dare he make alluring demands of her after the way he'd treated her? He had flat-out REJECTED her! INJURED her pride! CRUSHED her self-esteem! Not to mention SHATTERED her summer solstice fantasy!
By midday, Katherine's dehydrated brain had left her feeling dizzy and lightheaded. The phone had been ringing steadily all morning; other than that she'd given herself a headache from trying to arrange appointments for quotes or fittings or repairs, for windows or doors or conservatories. She believed she'd been consuming water efficiently, but when she looked at her bottle she'd probably had four sips total. She took a great swig that aggravated her rough throat, and splurted it back out on the laminate floor just as Drew arrived at her desk.
"Poor effort," he remarked. She coughed and patted her chest as she tried to take a breath. "Come on, time for a real drink."
Katherine had always been skeptical as to how effective hair of the dog was, but in her bumbling and bashful condition she wasn't capable of stringing together the sentences to argue with someone as charming as Drew. So she slumped on the black, oversized couch in the café next door to their office and waited for Drew to reappear from the bar. He came back with only one drink. It was a tall, Long Beach iced tea, which he placed on the coffee table in front of her, and then he took a seat opposite. She thanked him and took a long sip through the straw.
"Wow. That's perfect. Refreshing," she lied, and pushed it into the middle of the table for Drew to share. In truth it tasted sickly sweet and she silently prayed that Drew might finish it for her. "Good, but never mind that. Look, the reason I wanted meet with you - to talk with you - to meet with you alone, I have something to talk to you about." He stroked his stubble, in the fashion of an ill-prepared father struggling to reprimand his daughter. Katherine had never seen him so perplexed and she frowned. "Look, don't frown at me, baby." And she frowned harder. "Stop that, I said, you're really not helping matters. Look, I'm not attracted to women so you'll have to stop harassing me!" And he stormed out of café with haste and purpose.
Katherine glanced about the room but there was no one present who may have witnessed the scene. She pretended to be busy on her phone for seventeen minutes and then left herself. Back in the office there were three female colleagues who were fussing over Drew at his desk. Sitting in her chair, Katherine felt like a hopeless fool. So dating might be more complex than she had imagined. How could she not have seen it? But she had simply misunderstood something that was now, of course, glaringly obvious. Drew would surely get over this. He was always so confident and self-assured, if he continued to berate her, then Katherine would be disappointed. She wanted to laugh out loud about it, right in the faces of all the co-workers who were looking at her as though she'd caused some great offence, giving her the evil eye for violating poor Drew and compromising his integrity. She was confused that the first man she'd been attracted to since breaking off her engagement had turned out to be gay, but at least it was another great summer solstice to remember.