Mario checked his watch: 7:40 a.m. The rolled newspaper by the door was a punch to the stomach. Eva was not up. Was she alone? For the past month he had been having coffee at her house every morning at 8, save for yesterday when the paper was gone but she failed to answer the door bell. He had pushed the buzzer three times before giving up at 8:30 a.m.
He was convinced they would soon be kissing. They were comfortable with each other. But she had disappeared from sight nearly 24 hours ago. He worried that something bad had happened to her. He also thought she might have found someone new. Today, he was going to get an answer. He leaned on a tree across the street and waited.
7:45 a.m. Time was passing so slowly. He tried to free his mind of Eva, but couldn’t. Had she been kidnapped, or assaulted? He couldn’t stop the haunting notion that she had met someone new. After all, it was Sunday morning and he hadn’t seen her since he left her apartment Friday around 9 a.m. He called her after work, but she didn’t answer. He remembered she said she had a class that night and would be home late. He stopped calling after 10 p.m., figuring he’d see her at 8 the next morning. Maybe she stopped at a bar on the way home?
7:50 a.m. He walked around the tree that was at most ten feet high. Trees on either side of him were twice that height. What did it matter? He walked around it again, mumbling what she had said in the beginning: “I get the paper at 8.m.—that’s when I’ve made my coffee and am ready to face the world,” she had said. “You can buzz when you don’t see the paper.” Unlike yesterday, the paper was there.
7:53 a.m. It was close enough for him to be at the bottom of the brick steps. They’d make eye contact and then he’d know if there was someone else. He crossed the street.
7:56 a.m. He went up the four steps and stood by the paper.
7:57 a.m. He picked the paper up.
7:59 a.m. The door knob turned slowly—his heart pounded.
It wasn’t Eva. A woman in a man’s white dress shirt that touched her knees smiled. “You must be Mario. Coffee?”