“Where the hell am I?” I muttered to myself, looking up at a sign hanging from the ceiling. I’d visited New York City once every two or three years, mostly because I liked the city, but I was still a tourist through and through. I was hopelessly lost, and not at all sure where to head. But, I’d grown up in a tourist city myself, and I knew better than to bug some local making their way in a hurry because I couldn’t figure out a map. I took a small step backwards to try to get a better angle at the sign and winced. I’d done more than annoy some local. From the feel of it, I’d just spilt their coffee.
“I am so sorry.” I was apologizing before I’d even turned all the way around.
A taller man was standing there, looking stunned, coffee down his front, a crushed disposable Starbucks cup in his hand. “Well, that is tragic.” He said simply, looking at the lack of drink in his hand.
“I am so, so sorry.” I repeated, “Please, let me buy you a new cup of coffee.” I hadn’t even finished the offer before he was waving his hand at me and shaking his head.
“Oh, no. That’s quite alright. I promised my girlfriend I would try to go a week without coffee, so I suppose this is fate’s way of getting me to keep my promise. How’s your back?”
I swung my jacket off, and wrinkled my nose at the coffee stain that bloomed across the blue fabric. “How bad is my shirt?” I asked, turning my back to the man.
“Not as bad as your jacket, but definitely more coffee-colored than the front.” He answered.
“Great. Not my best day ever.”
“Horribly.” My voice sounded a lot more pathetic than I wanted it to.
“Where are you trying to be?”
“West 32nd street. The New York Manhattan Hotel.”
I was not reassured when the man started laughing. “Wow. Yes, you are lost.”
“Thank you for that.”
“No problem. Here, follow me.” He turned around and headed towards a platform on the other side of station. “We’ll take this train.”
“Yes. I’m done for the day, and I don’t trust my ability to give proper directions or even be able to correctly describe the stations, so I’ll show you the way. “
I was beyond grateful. “Thank you.”
“No worries. We’ll call it my payback to karma for lying to my girlfriend.”
“I thought the spilled coffee was karma payback for lying?”
“Yes well, you never can payback karma too much.” He smiled. I’d never admit it to him, but my heart gave a bit of a lurch when he smiled. He had one of those smiles that made you want to smile right along with him.
The rest of the ride was mostly in silence, except for a few “This way”-s and “Over here”-s. I took the time on the train to give this guy a good look. After all, a nice stranger on the train who, statistically speaking, I would never see again; this was the stuff romantic novels were built on. He wasn’t bad looking by any stretch of the imagination. I couldn’t quite judge how tall he was—He was a lot taller than me, but I was only 5’1” so that wasn’t a difficult mark to make. He wore a nice coat over a button down and slacks, but no tie. I couldn’t help but wonder what he did for a living. He was thin, not terribly broad, but somehow still managed to look strong. He had lighter, curly hair, and dark eyes that seemed kind. He had an excellent ass. And did I mention the smile? The boy had a smile.
After switching trains twice times, we finally left the subway system. We started down the street, when he slipped out of his jacket, and draped it over my shoulders. I was practically swimming in it. “It’s too cold to be without a jacket in a shirt that is half soaked with coffee, and besides it will hide the stain.”
“What about you? You don’t have a coat now?”
“Paying back karma, remember? Let me be nice.”
I laughed, “Yeah, yeah okay.”
He walked me right up to the front door of the hotel. “Think you can find your way from here? Won’t get lost again?” he teased.
“I got it. Thanks.” I shrugged out of his jacket, and handed it back to him. “Thank you again, for everything. Even after I spilled your coffee”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve paid back my karma dues. Enjoy your stay in the city.” He swung his jacket back out, and with one last smile, he headed back the way we came. I watched him walk away for a moment, before dipping into the hotel lobby. I was instantly greeted by my older sister, Lindsey, who happily threw an arm around my shoulder and took me back to the window to watch him walk further away.
“Who in the world was that?” She asked, wagging her eyebrows at me.
“Just a helpful stranger.” I answered.
“A handsome, helpful stranger. Who walked you all the way to the front door,” Lindsey provided.
“Oh, don’t get all day-dreamy on me, Linds. It’s not like I’ll ever see him again.” I shrugged out from under her arm and went to head to the elevators.
“Yeah, I guess…Elliott? What in the world did you do to the back of your shirt?”