Some small piece of me is glad I ran into you, all clumsy limbs and spilled coffee that morning in the street. The early sunlight should’ve been blinding and the ring of traffic around us deafening but my senses became devoted to you the minute we collided: the warmth of your grey tee under my hand and the steady grip of your fingers on my spine through the key hole in my dress.
“I am so sorry,” I stammered, coffee burning the skin of my outstretched hand away from you and people filing around us like the parting of the Red Sea. My glasses perched lopsided in my hair and my flats were soaked with steaming caffeine. Your jaw was cracked in a crooked grin and long eyelashes, the same color as the coffee-black-two-sugars dripping down my legs, fanned out in the rays of the sun.
I was always jealous of boys with eyelashes like that.
“Bruised ego,” I mumbled, finally stepping out of your hands. Once I was a few steps away, I realized how tall you hovered above me and my ‘thank you’ froze deep in my throat. Your grin continued to split dimples in your cheeks and I could see the warm brown in your irises, flecked with golden spots in the rim.
“That has to burn. Here,” you stated, wrestling the flannel off your shoulders. “Seriously. Use it. It’s Lily, right?”
Your voice edged my name with a bass rumble, the kind of voice I could imagine hearing in a dark room wrapped in blankets and sent spirals of goosebumps down my arms.
“I’ve seen you in here before,” you continued, pointing to the bakery behind us. The shop’s cinnamon fragrance danced heavily around us and people darted in and out of my peripheral vision while we stood there on the steps. “You’re always writing at that back corner table.”
Nodding, I finally regained a small bit of composure. I stepped further away from the entry and was pleased to feel your movements echo mine, your hand falling to rest gently on my back again. I let you guide us to the small bench against the building wall and what happened in those fleeting seconds is permanently etched into my memory.
“I’ve seen you, too. You’ve usually got your nose in a book,” I stated, fanning my dress out while you sat on the bench. You rested your elbows forward on your knees in a comfortable position and I caught myself blushing at the ease of the conversation. “I have wanted to ask you questions before but you’ve always got that look on your face like you’re in the moment between those pages. If I respect anything in this world, it’s ‘that’ look.”
A comfortable silence settled for a few passing moments, me doing my best to clean up the coffee with your shirt blotting my arms gently and my calves. Your eyes were studiously trained on the traffic.
“You know my name. What’s yours?”
“Will,” you smiled. Your arms curved into attractive arches of muscle as you raised your hands to rest your chin on. A part of me wondered just how much of what you were doing was for my benefit. I stifled a grin and placed myself next to you.
“I’m sorry. Again,” I mumbled, leaning into the back of the bench. My bare shoulder brushed yours, your knee only a few centimeters away from mine. “About running into you. And the shirt.”
You took the dark flannel from my lap and tossed it into a ball on the ground between your feet. I studied your boots for a heartbeat before glancing back up at your profile.
“Don’t apologize about that thing. It’s just a shirt. I’m more sorry you burnt yourself. I think it was my fault anyway,” you said. You looked over at me somewhat shyly but I knew most of it was put on. Maybe a part of you was trying to make me feel better. “I wasn’t paying any attention when I was walking up.”
I sighed, feeling the morning sun finally reach through the branches of the tiny tree in the sidewalk. It was early, still over an hour before I had to be at work and I greedily ate up your presence beside me.
“So, ask them.”
Your voice was curious as you turned to look back across the street and I caught the flash of a white line of scar at the back of your ear. Your hair was messy, the kind of messy guys have when they go straight from the shower, to clothes, and out the door.
“Ask them what?”
“Your questions,” you smiled, smothering my confusion. “You said you always want to ask questions but I’m too busy reading to bother. Which, is a lie of course, I’ve been trying to work up the courage to talk to you for days.”
I raised my eyebrows at the direct line but your cheeks only dimpled further into a smile.
“Well, look at you, quite the flirt,” I laughed, bumping his shoulder with mine.
I wasn’t about to acknowledge the tiny pinch of attraction building at my core much less how good it felt to flirt back.
Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou