Lisa Criss Griffin: Sunset Café


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Sunset Café

Lisa Criss Griffin

He blazed into her life unannounced, and completely unexpected. Even though she was barely twenty-one, Michelle had just washed her hands of men. Twice, she had given her whole heart to a couple of the despicable creatures, only to have it completely and brutally broken by emotional abuse and outright betrayal. Enough was enough. Even though she enjoyed the company of men, she had a bright future without one. And so it was, until she met Louis.

The first time she saw him, Louis was singing and playing his guitar at the little café where her friend Mimi insisted she meet her. She knew Mimi was worried about her, since she had buried herself in her studies after her last breakup. They ordered a couple of specialty coffees, enjoying the fresh air of the evening as they chatted about Mimi’s newest male admirer. 

Michelle gazed across the cobblestone street as her friend babbled on and on, drinking in the beauty of the burgeoning lavender clouds reflecting gold and scarlet rays of the setting sun across the horizon. The air held a hint of rain and the subtle fragrance of the heirloom climbing roses caressing the wall behind her, tantalizing her senses. It was a wonderful outing, and Michelle could not imagine how it could possibly become any better.

The gentle strum of a classical guitar surprised Michelle out of her personal thoughts. Mimi stopped her prattling in mid-sentence as they both turned towards the lovely music. A slim, yet muscular man bent over the instrument, his thick, auburn hair covering his face. As he lifted his head, his striking emerald green eyes pinned Michelle to her chair. He began to sing. The husky timbre of his voice took her breath away. She was helplessly drawn in, overwhelmed by the seductive sound of his voice and the lilting guitar accompaniment. It seemed as though he was singing only for her, and just to her. Their eyes remained locked as he sang of searching for his only love, of a love that eluded him, but he knew was out there…somewhere.

Michelle’s breath caught in her throat as the song ended, the last chord of the guitar fading gently into the atmosphere. She tore her eyes away from the musician in a desperate attempt of self-preservation. Mimi was sitting with her coffee cup forgotten in her hand, her mouth hanging open.

“Mimi. Hey Mimi….”

“O my heavens, girl.” Mimi turned back towards Michelle. “Did you realize he was singing that beautiful song right to you?”

“Well, um, yes, kind of.”

“Yes, you did notice. You are blushing, my friend. He took your breath away. Nooo, no, don’t deny it. I for one, am glad you haven’t been able to totally kill the soft heart you have walled off over the past few months.”

“Maybe we should go, Mimi.”

“Maybe we should stay. You can’t run from the siren call of true love, my friend.”

“True love! There is no such thing, Mimi. There are only men who suck the life out of us and then discard us like withered flowers when they see a fresh conquest.”

“I know that has been your experience, Michelle. And I am sorry for that, because it is not absolutely true. Take my parents, for example. You know their incredible love story. I want to share a love like theirs with somebody, and I want you to have it too.”

“Ah yes. That would be heaven. But I have serious doubts about ever finding someone who will love me like that. Someone who would love me for me, want to share every moment possible with me and be faithful too. It is a tall order, from what I have seen. Do I dare even hope it is still possible?”

“I think you are about to find out. Excuse me while I go to the ladies room.”

Mimi rose and made her way to the entrance of the café, passing the handsome musician as he made his way to their table.

“If you hurt her, I will seriously kill you, Louis.”

Louis nodded, knowing his intentions were honorable. He had known Mimi for years, and she had confided her concerns over Michelle’s disastrous love life to him several times. He knew who she was, but Michelle didn’t know he existed. Louis ran with a different crowd, and was a little older than she was. He had grown weary of the superficial relationships he shared with women. He wanted someone intelligent, kind and fun to share his life with. Michelle was all those things and more. 

Mimi had neglected to mention how beautiful her friend was. He was surprised by the intensity of his instantaneous attraction to Michelle. He found himself unable to tear his eyes away from her as he sang…unexpectedly finding a fresh meaning to the lyrics he was singing. It seemed like the whole world faded away as their eyes locked during the song. He felt himself drawn into her shimmering light blue eyes, mesmerized by her expression of stunned acknowledgement of his soul. He was sure his eyes had revealed his fascination with her also. She had rocked his world in that moment. He suspected neither one of them would be the same if he could break through the infernal wall she had erected around her heart.

“Hi there. I am Louis. May I join you for a moment?”

“Um, sure. I guess.”

“And your name is?”

“Oh, my name is Michelle.”

“Ahhh, Michelle, ma belle. Ohhh, those are song lyrics. I just thought they fit you.”

“You do sing beautifully, Louis. How did you learn to sing and play the guitar so well?”

“I taught myself. My family enjoyed singing all during my childhood and I wanted to learn to play the guitar. And so, here I am. Making some music on a beautiful evening, surrounded by the sweet scent of roses and one of the most spectacular sunsets in my recent memory. And then I saw you. My world stopped for a moment. There was an undeniable connection between us during that song….”

Michelle shifted uncomfortably on her chair, knowing he was speaking the truth. She was mesmerized and terrified. She didn’t know this gorgeous man, but she wanted to. A lot. She mentally kicked herself for wanting to irresponsibly jump into the deep end of the pool with him. But, his eyes! Sincerity radiated from his eyes. And something else…a little fear too, perhaps? It had never occurred to her that any man would care whether she blew him off or not. She took a deep breath and jumped.

“I felt it too, but we don’t know each other, Louis. I am not interested in beginning a casual relationship. I will not be hurt if you get up and walk away right now. Really.”

“My interest in getting to know you better is entirely honorable. I have had my fill of shallow, fleeting relationships also. I want…more. Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to enjoy something fun?”

“Something fun? What?”

“Let me surprise you. And please bring your friend if you wish. It is all on the up and up. Dress casually and prepare to laugh. We all need more laughter in our lives, don’t you think?”

“Good heavens, yes!”

“Alright. It is a date. I will meet you and your friend here tomorrow evening about 6:00. Until then…Michelle, ma belle.”

Louis raised Michelle’s hand to his lips, placing a soft kiss on her fingers. The warmth of his gentle lips lingered on her hand. She covered the tingling caress on her fingers with her other hand, willing the sensation to remain as long as possible. 

He was sincere, but there was also a slightly dangerous undercurrent about Louis. It wasn’t that he had a bad boy past…although she was sure he did. He was dangerous because if she fell for him, he would have the power to crush her heart in a way she might never recover from. But he was charming, talented and frankly irresistible. She was half afraid she was like a hapless moth, compulsively drawn to a flame that could ultimately be her demise. 

“Sooooo…did you talk with Louis? I saw him leaving our table as I stepped out of the café. Come on, out with it. What did he say? What did you say?”

“He invited us to go do something fun tomorrow.”

“Us? The both of us?”

“Yes. He wanted me to know his intentions were honorable, so he invited you too.”

“Are you going?”

“I will, if you will go too.”

“Well of course I will accompany you. But you don’t need to worry about Louis. He is a good guy. And a lot of fun.”

“You KNOW Louis?”

“We grew up together. He went through a wild phase when he was younger, but he has outgrown that foolishness. I think he is looking for the same things out of life as you are. I hope you will give him a chance. Louis is a lot of fun.”

“So this whole thing was a setup?”

“Yes…and no. I only agreed to put you both in the same vicinity. Everything else was between you and Louis.”

“Hmmmm. I don’t like being set up. But…Mimi. He is gorgeous, talented, and seemed so sincere! I am afraid he could really hurt me if this goes anywhere.”

“Honey, living is about taking chances. You still have a lot of living to do. Take a chance on Louis. Besides, if he hurts you, I will most certainly have to kill him.”

The two friends laughed and made plans for their mysterious outing with Louis the following day.

Louis was awaiting them by the café, leaning nonchalantly on a lamppost close by the fragrant roses. He was more attractive than ever. He reached for Michelle’s hand and held it gently as the three of them walked several blocks to their unknown destination. Louis purchased three tickets from the front office of a beautifully refurbished antique theater. They splurged on popcorn and soft drinks, settling into comfortable velvet seats for the movie. The movie of the day was “Young Frankenstein.” Michelle laughed freely through most of the movie, along with Louis. She was disappointed when it was over. Michelle could not remember a time in recent history when she had enjoyed herself so much. 

The three of them went back to the café for a glass of wine afterwards. Neither Louis nor Michelle noticed when Mimi discreetly left them to their own devices. The two of them quickly became inseparable and were married seven months later.

***

The sun was setting. Rays of gold and scarlet light illuminated the undersides of the purple clouds dotting the darkening sky. The smell of roses and a hint of rain wafted through the air by the old café overlooking the lake across the cobblestone street. An acoustic guitar played softly in the background as two elderly patrons smiled into each other’s eyes. He held her small arthritic fingers gently within his large wrinkled hands. His thumb caressed her fingers lovingly.

“It is hard to believe we have already shared fifty wonderful, fun-filled years together, Louis. I am so glad we took a chance all those years ago, my love.”

Louis smiled, completely enamored by his wife.

“So am I. Michelle, ma belle. So am I.”

Copyright ©️ 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

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