When I returned from the restroom break, Stuart wasn’t on the dance floor. I turned to the bar, and my eyes met with the lawyer. I cursed under my breath for getting myself back into Mr. Aoyama’s trap, but then, I spotted Stuart six feet away, leaning on the bar counter looking toward me. I didn’t hesitate to turn my heels and approach him. “What kind of music do you like?” I asked. He liked alternative/indie rock, which I had guessed from the way he dressed, and which was also the genre I listened to heavily at the time. We talked about bands and films, danced a little more, and had more drinks until we were the last in the venue, along with several other people from the London office.
We all walked back to the hotel together, singing and shouting and laughing. The light and shadow of the sideroad snow, white breath under the dim street lamp photographed the collection of fragmented memories. I prayed Stuart’s hand would reach mine as I watched him walk a few steps ahead of me. I must have been blabbering something under the hood of my oversized puffy jacket. Stuart turned around, and I smiled at him. He held my hand, and we walked like that for a few minutes.
Somehow I let myself into my room and collapsed on the bed with my boots on.