The barista smiled at Sienna as she took her cup of coffee. She smiled back, though it didn’t feel genuine. She was not unhappy, not exactly, but it took effort to bring that smile to the surface. A maelstrom of emotions swirled around her heart, making it difficult to focus on the present.
Sienna took her place at a table by the window, one with one two seats, where she could see both the sidewalk outside and the entrance to the coffee shop. This was a new experience for her. Not getting coffee, of course. She did that every day, though she had not been to this particular shop. It was a bit too far out of her way for that.
No, Sienna was meeting a man here. The thought reinvigorated the storm in her chest all over again. She had met him online, or rather, through an app on her phone. They had chatted quite a bit. Unlike some men, he didn’t bombard her with requests for intimate pictures, or send some of his own uninvited. He also didn’t ignore her immediately.
No, this man had looked at her profile, seen her face, and it was he who had initiated their conversation. He seemed to have an actual interest in speaking with her, which was more than she could say for most of the men with whom she’d made contact on that app. The app wasn’t even supposed to be for hookups, even though most of the men with whom she spoke acted as if it was.
Sienna had only one picture of herself on the app. It was a picture of her face on a day when she’d felt her makeup looked particularly good. The scars from her teenage acne weren’t visible in that photo, thanks mostly to the makeup, but also in part due to the flattering filter she’d applied.
Her body, by intent, was not visible in that photo. Sienna did not like her body. She made every effort to wear clothes that hid the shape of it, and she did not take pictures of herself that included her body. She was neither thin nor fat, she knew, when she took a moment to truly consider herself with an objective eye, but whenever she looked at herself in the mirror all she could think of was how awkward her shape was.
Sienna’s waist was slimmer than her hips, giving her something of an hourglass figure, but her stomach dropped over her belt and her thighs were, in her mind, unpleasantly thick. Her breasts were small, far smaller than she felt they should have been, considering the size her her bottom.
The only part of herself that Sienna liked was her hair. She had gotten just the right components from each of her parents. Her mother’s hair fell in long, silky sheets, with just the faintest hint of a wave at the ends, but it was thin and brittle. Her father’s hair was thick, heavily curled, and altogether unmanageable.
Sienna’s hair was luxuriously thick, with a light wave that Sienna could easy tempt either to straightness or a full-bodied curls. It was soft and smooth and full and yet, somehow, miraculously, easy to style. It was the color of dark honey. When it caught the sun at the right angle, it shone like finely polished amber.
People flooded past on the sidewalk, some of them passing only a foot away from Sienna. She wondered where they were all going. It felt like the streets of Anaselise were constantly full, no matter where you went. If you found yourself somewhere devoid of people, that’s when you started to worry you might be someone you shouldn’t be.
Sienna drew out her phone to check the time. When she’d ordered her coffee, her date had already been late. Now he was even later. She looked up every time someone entered, hoping it might be him, though she did have some fear that she might not recognize him. Unlike Sienna, he had more than one picture on his profile, but she still feared her brain wouldn’t make the transition from photo to reality.
Would he recognize her? She couldn’t be sure. She opened the camera on her phone to use it as a mirror. She’d heavily applied her makeup today, to make sure she looked as much like her profile picture as possible. She had strengthened her eyebrows, reddened her lips, and caked on concealer and foundation in an attempt to hide her acne scars.
She glanced over the top of her phone as someone entered. A man, older than herself, with silver hair. She dismissed him, looking back to her phone again, but… wait, there was something familiar about his profile. She blinked.
He wasn’t actually that much older than her, she realized, at least not as much as she had guessed when she’d first seen him. The silvery-grey hair aged him, but the way he carried himself, and the unlined skin of his face, revealed him to be younger than she’d first suspected.
It was him, of that she was sure. He hadn’t seen her yet. She took the opportunity to hid behind her phone as best she could while she observed him. He was definitely looking around for someone. For her. He was not unattractive, but she saw now that the photos on his profile were definitely out of date.
Did that bother her? Her heart pounded as she tried to answer that question in the few short moments before he would see her sitting here, by the window, the brightest and most easily seen space in the shop. It did, to some extent, bother her that he had misled her about his age and appearance.
But then again, had she not done the same? Was she not doing so now, or at least attempting to do so, by hiding her face behind makeup and using the style and cut of her clothes to try to hide her body as well? She told herself that it wasn’t the same, because she hadn’t outright lied about anything, as he clearly had, and her picture was current within the last few months.
Still, that internal argument was just enough to convince her to give him a chance. He had been so kind, in their exchanges. He had asked about her and her life, and her hobbies, when most men seemed to care only about her breasts and her sexual desires, if they showed interest at all.
Sienna put her phone on the table, took a deep breath, and waved at him. He saw her immediately. The smile that spread across his face was touchingly genuine. He did not flee upon seeing her, as she had feared. He didn’t even look disappointed. She hoped that she didn’t, either.
Sienna was ready to give him a chance. She hoped that he felt the same way about her.