Short Stories, Writing

The Girl on the Bench

Ten minutes.

I stare at her from my window, rehearsing the conversation in my head.

It’s been two weeks since I spotted her on that bench. I’d just gotten off a particularly frustrating phone call with a client when I glanced outside, and there she was.

She was pretty, of course. I know that now. But at the time, I probably wouldn’t have noticed her if it weren’t for the book.

It wasn’t the book itself. It was the way she read it, so focused on the pages in front of her that nothing—not even a dog that wandered up to steal what was left of the sandwich she’d set down—could pull her attention away.

I’d never seen anyone read like that, craving words like they were the only sustenance she needed. She absolutely devoured them.

I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Not then. Not now. I want to know what she’s reading, who taught her to love books, what made her choose that bench, and how she likes her coffee, for starters.

We’ve eaten lunch together nearly everyday since—I at my desk by the window, she on that bench across the street. Twenty-five minutes. Everyday.

Which is why I have ten, no, eight minutes.

I have to know her, and today is the day. People are friendlier on Christmas Eve, right? Small talk is easier.

I hope.

I run my hand over my chin, wishing I’d shaved this morning. I turn from the window and say “Hello” a few times to the air, smoothing my voice. Maybe I’ll ask her about the book.

I slip my arms into my jacket as a trot down the stairs, moving quickly before I lose my nerve. A blast of cold air greets me as I push open the door of my building.

I take a few steps and look across the street. The bench is empty.

No.

I missed her.

I look to my left, then my right.

Nothing.

My gaze falls to the sidewalk and I turn, spinning back toward my building and directly into a petite brunette with bright blue eyes and a book in her hands.

Her.

“Merry Christmas,” she says.

I’ve seen her smile before, at the book, but now she’s smiling at me and I’m paralyzed. I hesitate entirely too long before replying, “Hello.”

It comes out quieter than I’d planned.

She lowers her gaze and giggles as she steps around me.

I freeze, adding her laugh to the list of things I need more of in my life, and then she’s gone.

Did I even smile at her?

Her scent hangs there before flowing past me and I turn with it, not ready to let her go.

When I do, she’s looking back, too.

This time, I smile.

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