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MAY 18, 1996
Tracy and I sling our bags of laundry over our shoulders and step out of our apartment in pursuit of Sit & Spin. There are other closer laundromats, of course, but none with that certain cachet of the iconic café on Fourth Avenue, where you can sip coffee while your clothes tumble in the dryer.
“Look,” Tracy says as we round the corner to a street lined with cherry trees, all with stunning pink blossoms.
“They’re beautiful,” I say.
“Yeah,” Tracy says, “but I mean, that.” She points to a tree branch as we walk closer. Above our heads is a single red ribbon tied to an upper branch.
“What do you think that is?”
“Maybe it’s like those yellow ribbons people tie onto trees to remember soldiers at war,” she says. “But this is the long-lost-love version.”
“Trace,” I say. “You crack me up.”
“No, really,” she says. “I bet it’s a thing. Like, tie a red ribbon around a tree branch for your one true love.”
I roll my eyes as we walk into Sit & Spin. The air smells of laundry detergent and coffee grounds. Tracy and I find a table in the corner and scope out a couple of empty washing machines. Tracy pulls a textbook out of her bag. Anatomy. Not exactly pleasure reading, but it’s what you do when you’re cramming for the MCAT exams. I slide into an orange chair and take a sip of my foamy macadamia nut latte in a gigantic orange teacup. Only here could a gritty laundromat-café combo have so much appeal.
“I think that’s the guy from Soundgarden,” Tracy whispers.
I peer shamelessly over my shoulder and spot a bearded Kim Thayil having a beer with an equally burly-looking man.
“Mark loves Soundgarden,” she says dreamily. “I don’t know. I guess I do, too. But I’d really flip if I saw Eddie Vedder in here.”
I take a sip of my latte. “If I ever get a dog, I’m naming him Eddie.”
Tracy grins. “Look at you, you’ve been a Seattleite for barely a year and you’re already naming your imaginary dog after the city’s most beloved rocker.”
“Eddie,” I say, nodding. “A golden retriever — no, a black Lab.” I lift up my laundry basket and a pair of panties with a visible hole in the backside falls to the ground.
“Man, I need to go shopping,” I say.
Suddenly Tracy’s eyes widen. “Don’t look now,” she says, pushing her book aside and turning her attention to her latte, “but I think that guy from the Mazzy Star show just walked in.”
Without my permission, my heart begins to beat faster. Even though I scrawled my number on a napkin that night at the Crocodile, it has been a whole month, and I haven’t heard a peep from Cade. Did he lose my number? Did I connect more with him than he did with me? Was it just a fleeting Seattle moment? I’m not sure.
“You should go talk to him,” Tracy whispers.
“No way,” I say, playing it cool, though the truth is, I had hoped to run into him by now, and even peered into the Crocodile one night after a work dinner to see if he might be in view.
“Wait,” she continues, returning to her book, which she pretends to read, “he just looked this way.”
“Did he?” I’m instantly aware that I’m wearing my rattiest T-shirt and haven’t a speck of makeup on. Of all the days to reunite with Cade, this is not the moment.
I quickly smooth my bangs into place and wish I’d at least put on some mascara.
“Oh, hi,” I say, as my eyes meet his. “It’s Cade, right?”
Tracy almost chokes on her latte.
“Right,” he says. “It’s good to see you.” His eyes are kind and confident.
“You too,” I say, glancing down at the laundry in front of me and feeling a sense of panic when I realize that my holey panties are at the top of the stack.
“No better place to do laundry in Seattle,” he says, grinning. He saw them. He totally saw them.
“Can you imagine seeing Kurt Cobain folding his boxers in here before he was famous?” Tracy asks. Though over two years have passed since the tragic loss of the local great, all of Seattle continues to mourn him actively.
“Well,” Cade says with a respectful pause, “I actually did.”
Tracy clears her throat. “No way.”
Cade nods and points to where an anemic-looking ficus tree wallows in the corner. “He was standing right there, next to a big pile of laundry, putting a quarter in the jukebox. That was way before Nirvana even played their first show.” He shrugs. “He changed a lot after that. Fame really sucked the joy out of him, and he knew it. It’s sad, but it happens to a lot of artists.”
A hip-looking red-haired woman, barely twenty if that, approaches our table before I can respond. “Excuse me,” she says to Tracy and me with a nervous smile before turning to Cade. “Are you…Cade McAllister from Element Records?”
“I am,” he replies with a quick smile.
“Wow,” she says, gushing. “I’m such a fan. Such a fan. I love all of your bands. I mean, your record label is probably the reason I’m alive today. The music you put out got me through some hard times. You know? I mean, wow. It’s so good to meet you.”
“Thank you,” Cade says casually, and somehow I have the feeling that this kind of thing happens all the time.
“I’m Jenna,” she continues, touching her heart. “Thank you.” She looks back at me. “Sorry, I just had to say hi. I’ll let you get back to your conversation now.”
After she’s gone, my eyes meet Cade’s. “So, it seems you’re kind of a big deal.”
He shrugs. “I’m just a lucky guy who gets to do what he loves. So what’s your passion, Kailey? I know it can’t be laundry.” He winks in the direction of my basket.
“She’d spend her last dollar on the rarest goat cheese at Pike Place Market,” Tracy says.
“So will you make me dinner sometime?”
Tracy pretends to be focused on her book, but if there was a thought bubble over her head, it would be littered with exclamation marks.
“Uh, well…” I fumble with my words.
“Sorry, was that presumptuous of me?”
I grin. “Well, maybe a tad.”
“How about this,” he continues. “I take you out for dinner, and if you have a good time, then you make me dinner one night? Deal?”
I smile coyly, prolonging the moment until I say yes. “Deal.”
“Good,” he continues, turning to the door. He waves at a guy with a beard and a sleeve of tattoos who’s just walked in, before turning back to me once more. “Speaking of laundry, you wrote your number on a napkin the night we met. I put it in my pocket and then, in tragic form, accidentally washed those jeans.” He grins. “So, well, can I get it again?”
“Sure,” I say, grinning back. I dig through my purse and find a pen.
Cade extends his hand. “This time, you better write it on my hand. Safer.”
“Okay,” I say with a laugh, taking his hand in mine. I print my name and number on his palm. “Now, don’t wash it off.”
“I promise,” he says with a wink.
Tracy catches my eye after Cade is gone. “You know what I think?”
“That one,” she says, shaking her head, “is going to get under your skin.”
I don’t tell her that he already has.
Later that night, I’m in the kitchen, gently folding batter for a cinnamon coffee cake. “My grandma used to always say that cinnamon is the scent of a happy home,” I say to Tracy, smiling. “I always liked that.”
“Cinnamon?” Tracy says, looking up from the coffee table, where books and notebooks are splayed out.
“Yeah,” I say. “It was this quirky theory she had, that the more cinnamon a person consumed, the more love in her life.” I pour the batter into a Bundt pan, then lick the edge of the wooden spoon. “Cute, huh?”
Tracy nods. “The world was more romantic in our grandparents’ time. Remember, mine got married two weeks after they met. Two weeks!”
I smile. “My grandparents met at a wartime dance hall. My grandpa asked my grandma to dance, and that was that. Love, to the tune of Glenn Miller.”
Tracy holds her hand to her heart in dramatic fashion. “Moonlight Serenade,” she says with a swoony look, just as the phone rings. She answers it as I tuck the cake pan into the oven.
“Hello,” Tracy says, pausing for a moment, smiling. “Yes, she’s here. Just a sec.” She points to the phone and mouths the words “It’s him!”
My heart beats fast as I wipe my hands on a towel, then run over to take the phone. “Hello,” I say, intending to sound breathy and effortless. Instead, the word comes out like a squeak.
“Hi, it’s Cade.” His voice is somehow deeper on the phone than it was in person. I like it, and my stomach feels fluttery.
“Hi,” I say.
“It was good running into you today,” he continues. “I was thinking that maybe we could get together on Saturday for dinner. I mean, if you’re free.”
“I’d like that,” I say.
“Ever been to Wild Ginger?”
“No,” I say. “But my editor raves about it. I’ve been meaning to check it out.”
“Good,” he says. “Meet me there at seven?”
Tracy is frantically waving at me, but I ignore her.
“Sure,” I reply, catching Tracy’s eye.
“Ask him what his sign is,” she whispers.
“No,” I mouth back.
“Seriously,” she says. “For me. I have to know.”
“Tracy!” I whisper.
“Please?” she asks, grinning.
“Um, so,” I say into the phone. “My best friend is a nut and she wants to know what your sign is.”
“My sign?” He chuckles.
I roll my eyes at Tracy, wishing I’d kept my mouth shut. “She loves astrology. I don’t. But I love her.”
Cade laughs some more. “I don’t know anything about all of that, but I do know that I’m a Taurus.”
“A Taurus,” I say, as Tracy nods in approval.
“Tell her I’d love to hear my horoscope someday,” he says.
I grin. “Really, it’s best not to encourage her.”
“Okay,” he says, laughing. “See you Saturday.”
“See you then,” I say, grinning as I hang up.
Tracy squeals as I sink into the couch beside her. “Someone has a date.”
I can’t help but smile. “I do.”
“And he’s a Taurus,” she adds in a dreamy voice.
“That’s good, Kailey. Really. Tauruses are lucky in love. They’re ruled by Venus, which is known for beauty and pleasure.” She smiles to herself. “Just make him one of your fabulous meals and you’re golden.”
I smile. “That simple, huh?”
“I think so.” She brushes a bit of flour from my shirt. “Told you this is the beginning of something big.”
A ferry streams across Elliott Bay in the night, and I think maybe, just maybe, she might be right.