While the morning crowd slowly thinned, Dyer drank his latte and let his mind go blank. After a while, Myles came over again and sat down on the other side of the table. “Hanging in there?”
“Yeah, not that I have much choice.” Dyer shrugged. “Not what I expected when I walked in here today, that’s for sure. What’s with all the balloons, anyway? That’s what started the whole thing. The little girl hit me with a balloon.”
“It’s Valentine’s Day.” Myles raised an eyebrow. “Did you miss the memo? All pink and hearts and flowers and stuff? You must have noticed.”
“I hate Valentine’s Day.” Dyer traced the lid of his cup with one finger. “Never have liked it, so I usually try to ignore it. I spaced on today’s date. That explains all the pink.”
“Yeah. The pink, it burns.” Myles grinned. “Not my favorite holiday either, especially this year.”
“What makes this year different?” Dyer leaned his elbows on the table and studied Myles.
He’d seen the guy every morning for months. At first, Myles’s multicolored shaggy hair and pierced ears, eyebrow, and lips had turned Dyer off completely, but the look had grown on him. And Myles had gorgeous eyes. A mix of green and brown, with thick lashes half the women Dyer knew probably would have killed for.
Kind eyes which crinkled at the corners now as Myles said, “After what you’ve dealt with this morning, you want to hear me whine?”
“I can use the distraction.” Dyer shrugged again. “I have to go to the police station later and do a report or something. Right now, I don’t even want to think about what happened. My brain’s only going to get stuck on all the bad things. Ella’s safe now, but that isn’t going to stop the worst case reel from rolling in my head.”
“Ella was the little girl?” Myles asked.
Dyer nodded. “I heard her father say her name. Had they ever been in here before?”
“Not that I’ve seen. I think I would have remembered that guy. He had creepy eyes.” Myles smirked. “Yeah, that’s a really detailed description. You did something really awesome, you know?”
“You helped,” Dyer said. “You and your fake incompetence. Anyway, please tell me why Valentine’s Day sucks for you this year, because I really need something else to think about.”
Myles hesitated then nodded. “Okay, so my whine for the day. I was in a relationship for four years. A guy I met my junior year of college. He was a grad student a few years older, and I thought he was the most awesome person I’d ever met. Great conversation, great sex.”
“Okay.” Dyer didn’t know what else to say.
“Sorry,” Myles said. “Should I shut up?”
“No, go on.” Every weekday for months he’d said hello to Myles and made small talk, and he still knew nothing about the guy. After the way Myles had backed him up that morning, keeping Ella’s father and the little girl in the store, Dyer owed him at least a little time.
“So we were together for four years.” Myles leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. “He worked at the university. Still a grad student, but he was a TA and had a work study job or something. I don’t even know.”
“He didn’t tell you?” In spite of himself, Dyer was getting interested in Myles’s story.
Myles shook his head. “I was trying to find work. You graduate with a degree in history, oddly enough there aren’t a whole lot of jobs. Proving my parents right, which is why I work here. Anyway, so come to find out my so-called lover was banging a couple of students on the side. I found out about it when I went to surprise him at work on our anniversary back in October.”
“Oh, damn, that must have sucked.”
“Yeah, sucking is exactly what they were doing.” Myles snorted. “So instant break-up, followed by me moving in with my cousin and her boyfriend because they were the only family members still speaking to me after I came out.”
“Not a fun time.” Again Dyer wasn’t completely sure how to respond.
He didn’t mind, though. Listening to Myles’s “whining” was having the desired effect of pushing away the stress and fear of that morning’s events.