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A Familiar Face

A Troubled Memory

His left hand carried his black briefcase. It was time for the much needed social coffee pause. Half past twelve. The queue was long. Nothing new about it, he thought. His height towered over those in front of and behind him. The bitter smell of coffee merged with the cologne coming from the man sitting on the table to his left. Ambiance music filled in the gaps of the conversations that escaped from the main hall. It was the same as always. And he loved it.

He ordered a large cappuccino and a slice of carrot cake. The card machine made a beep of approval. He scanned the room for an available table. Most customers were chatting. Some of their faces showed the seriousness of the topic. Others were just staring through the window at the passers-by. A couple of tables were empty but still uncleared. At last, there it was, he thought, an empty and clean table.

After putting the tray on it, he placed his briefcase on one of the chairs, undid his jacket and hung it on the back of the same chair. His movements were slow. Rather than slow, they were calculated. He cared for the right position of his suitcase.  For the amount of gel he spread on his hair. How he would comb it. His tie had to match his spotless shirt. His shoes required the right amount of polish so that they would shine impeccably. His trousers boasted that neat line you only see in very well ironed clothes. His smooth face looked so pristine that one would believe he had shaved five minutes ago. His thick eyebrows looked too perfect to be natural. Yet they were.

He sat down and had a long but quiet sigh. Life was perfect. A short sip of the foam gave him a pleasant relief. Caffeine had that effect on him. Out of his suitcase, he took one of the three books he was reading, a crime novel written by Jo Nesbo. At home, next to his king-size bed, a horror book lied on the night table. The last one was in his office: The Mechanics of Economics. He cut a bit of his carrot cake. He ate it and got ready to read his book.

His mind began recreating the settings in the novel. The characters and their movements. The action taking place. He was halfway through his book. After five pages, he stopped. He always did. It was time to have some of his cooling coffee. It would give him time to look around. He loved observing people. Not in a creepy way.  He admired the simplicity of life.  The mundane moments elapsing without the fear of halting.  His glance started to wander.

There was the lady with a black T-shirt and her baby. He marveled at her commitment to the little human. Her long messy hair and the bags under her eyes were clear signs of how tiredness walked hand in had with maternal bliss. He felt sorry for her: nails that had not been done in ages, bushy eyebrows and her legs needed waxing. Yes, he felt very sorry for her.

Then the elderly couple talking about their holidays in the summer. How they would visit Greece for the seventh time. How they would eat their favorite meal: Barbouni. Or how they will spend their money buying presents for their only granddaughter. That was his ideal life. One day with his wife, they would be doing the same.

There was the young man playing with his phone. He must have been looking at some videos or perhaps his social media accounts. Very likely, he thought, funny memes were sparking his intermittent laughter and regular nods and head-shakes. That reminded him to put his phone on silent.

Behind the young man, a couple in their thirties were having a quiet argument about, without a doubt, a pointless issue. He kept gesturing with his hands as though that would help her understand what his words were failing at. She ignored him, making him feel very uncomfortable. She would only look at him to show her disappointment and frustration. He could not remember the last time he had fought with his wife. They barely had time to even speak.

Not far from his table, he noticed four friends, all girls and all of them wearing their wedding rings. They were gossiping about friends and family, about the latest on the trending TV series of the season and about their boring husbands. However, they were experts at avoiding to talk about themselves.

Back to his book. Reading and thinking at the same time. He loved how the darkness of his mind began to fade away with images, places, and situations. He wished he could have been a great writer. He wished he could describe all his creativity in the way those great authors did. But he couldn’t. His talent was different. He was good with numbers and investments. His job as a finance manager gave him the lavish life he wanted and had had for the last ten years. His expensive car. His two-month holidays with all his family. It allowed him to buy expensive gifts to his loving wife, with whom he had sex nearly twice a week. He could afford the toys for his twins. He could even afford a second house, although his wife did not know such a house existed.

Time to have some more coffee. The quarreling couple had left. The young man kept playing with his phone. Addiction, he thought. The elderly couple was now silent. He was reading his newspaper, whilst she was just there looking at his 70-ish-year-old-beloved husband. The baby played with toys and laughed out loud, whilst her mother kept using her phone: taking pictures of herself and at some point a couple of the baby. The four girls were still talking, laughing out loud and whispering. Suddenly, one of the girls drew his attention. It wasn’t that he liked her or that she had seen him. It was something different. It was something he saw. He saw a familiar face.

Where had he seen her? He could not place this face anywhere. He knew he did not know the girl. And very likely she did not know him. Yet, her face took him somewhere in the past. A place or a moment he could not figure out.

His brain began roaming memories. Trying to work out where he had seen that familiar face.

The first place he thought was the bank. Two-thirds of the people who worked there were women. He tried to remember of any girl who had that similar hairstyle— long and split in the middle. Although the color did not feel right. The girl with the familiar face was blonde and his memories had a clear recollection of a brunette.

Her eyes were deep blue. They did look the same color as of the forgotten girl. Her eyelashes were fake, though. His forgotten girl’s weren't. He was both frustrated and amazed to be able to remember some of her details and yet not to be able to remember her completely.

No, the forgotten girl didn’t work at the bank. That was for sure.

He tried to go back to his book. He began reading. His dark mind tried to picture the characters. It tried to build the places and trace the actions. But he could not concentrate. He was distracted. His head kept going back to the girl with the familiar face. He could see her staring at him in the middle of his mind. Her face kept filling that dark room blocking the rest of his ideas, thoughts, and memories.

He would look at her with stealth. He did not want to seem intrusive. Maybe he had seen that face at the gym. He went there every day at six in the morning. Not many people her age, in her early twenties he fancied, would turn up that early. He might have seen that face on a sporadic customer. However, his memory kept denying him what he was trying to find. Her face was not that sporadic either. Her face had some meaning in his past. His frustration began to rise like the cold that was consuming his coffee.

He closed his book and put it on the table. He grabbed his cup and began drinking. There was no point in trying to read. He had to know. He had to remember where he had seen her face.

It is worthwhile mentioning that he did not like her. She was very pretty, one must be fair. Her silk red blouse enhanced her beautiful breasts. A thin golden necklace was hanging from her long sublime neck. Her ripped bleached jeans revealed her tanned thighs. She was indeed stunning. He did not find her attractive, though. He found her rather a run-of-the-mill girl.

The four girls kept telling stories. This time they were secretive. No wayOh my! Get out of here! The story was now a very serious account. They all looked worried and distressed. All of a sudden, the girl pulled a face in shock. A mix of fear and bewilderment. He caught her doing this just by chance. And then it all clicked. He knew where he had seen that familiar face.

For he now remembered much more than that face. His memory was now rebuilding every detail of that familiar face. He now remembered her whole body. He remembered the red lips. The small nipples. The unshaven pubis. The soft thighs.  The painful deep groans. Of course, it was her.

How could he have forgotten about her?

It had only been two days since then.

A smirk showed his contempt and satisfaction.

She was just another one of those. She was just another girl he had raped.

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