The Watcher

Submitted by Misty Naxxremis to Contest #15 in response to: Write about one character’s fundamental misunderstanding of another character’s job.... view prompt

Angie leaned back on a park bench, an open notebook on her lap, observing the public pass by with animated eyes.  Her breathing became softer as she seemingly stared into their souls. The lines on her forehead melted away, and the corners of her lips twitched slightly upwards.  


James watched her.  I really don’t get how this is working.


Watching people was part of her job.  Angie was the assistant of some fantasy author James had never heard of before.  She helped with editing, but her main task was helping to develop characters, it was her job to “make sure every character was real.”  Whatever that means.


In order to make sure they seemed real, she would spend several hours everyday “studying” whoever came into her line of sight.  Angie’s free time was spent with her “interesting” friends. And she kept notes on everything that happened. To “keep things fresh in her mind.”  That’s not creepy at all.


Angie shifted her position,  resting her head on her hands, and her arms on her knees.  Her movement brought James back to the present.


Angie’s face was practically glowing.  She only ever looks this relaxed while watching people.  James breathed softly, while gazing at his friend.  “Huh, I guess she really can be beautiful.”


“Took you long enough to realize Jamie.”  A feminine hand brushed his shoulder as the speaker flopped down next to him.  The waves in her blonde hair bounced, and flew with her movements. “You’ve known her since you were kids, you should have realized that a while ago.”  She rolled her eyes with mock annoyance. “I mean, even I knew how beautiful she was the first time I saw her. And that was after the two of you had been working out for six hours straight, you both were pouring sweat, and stank worse than my brothers shoes.  What were you even thinking back then?”


“Wel-”


“Wait don’t actually answer that!”  Her arms waved wildly for a second before resting on her lap.  “It was way too long ago. No one cares anymore, well at least I don’t.  Anyways, what are you up too, aside from creepily watching our mutual friend?”


“Too long ag-   You only met her last week!”  James’s eyes widened, and his mouth opened and closed like a fish.


“You linger on the details for far too long Jamie.  One of these days it’s going to bite you in the-”


“Wait!  Why am I the creep?!?!?  Ange is the one who's staring at strangers!”  He bounced to his feet.


“What’s wrong Jamie?  Your panties on too tight?”  A devilish smirk broke across the blonde’s face as tossed her hair.


“My name is James!”  He fumed.


“You’d better calm down before you burst your panties, Jamie.”  Angie turned in her seat, and smiled at her friends. “Hey Stacy, what’s going on?”


“You too Ange!”  James looked at her, eyes brimming with exasperation.


“Sorry Jay, I couldn’t resist.”  She chuckled


“I Ju- Jus-”  Stacy was bent double from laughing and couldn’t say anything more.


Angie brushed her bangs from eyes, and glanced at her wrist watch.


“Oh, Stace it’s almost three thirty.  We gotta go.” She swung her backpack over her shoulder, and pulled Stacy to her feet.


“You’re leaving?”  James’s eyes clouded over.


“Yup, I’m stealing your girlfriend for the rest of the day.  You don’t mind right?” Stacy teased.


“She not my gir-”


“Then you won’t mind if I really steal her right?”


“What’s that supposed to mean?”


“It means girlfriend and I are going to a movie, dinner, and then my place.”  Stacy winked.


“What?!?!”  James gaped.


“Jealous much.”  She raised her eyebrows and placed an arm around Angie’s waist.  “Come on babe, we’re going to be late.”


“See ya tomorrow Jay.”  Angie called over her shoulder as she left for her ‘date.’


“Yeah, tomorrow!”  His voice was lost in the sound of the traffic passing by.


James collapsed on the bench, and sat with his face in his hands.


“Aaaahhgg!!  What the heck?!?!”  He furiously ran his hands through his hair making it stand on end.  “What did she mean by all of that?!?!” He slumped down, resting his head on his knees, hands still clutching his hair.  “What is she even doing…” He muttered softly. “I don’t get her at all…”



*****


“Hey mister, are you okay?”


James was roused by a young timid voice.  He raised his head, and was blinded by the light of the sunset in front of him.  He held his hand to shield the sun, and looked at the young boy in front of him.


“Are you okay?”  The boy hopped from one foot to the other.  “You look kinda sick.”


“I’m fine.  Just tired.”  James answered and looked around.  “Where are your parents?”


“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”  The boy rubbed his nose.


“Oh, but you’re the one who started talking to me in the first place.”


“That’s ‘cause I thought you might be dying… You’re not gonna die are you?”


“Why would you ask that?”


“My dad died last year, and it made everyone sad… so I don’t want anyone else to die.”  A single tear trickled down the boy’s cheek. “You’re not going to die, right?”


“No, I’m not.”  James assured the boy.


“That’s good!  I’m really glad!”  The boy’s eyes sparkled as he broke into a grin.  “I’d like to stay longer, but I have to go home. Mom will be back soon, and I don’t want to miss dinner.  Goodbye mister!” The boy waved as he ran off. A little ways down the street he found a stick, and started waving it around while singing.


James leaned against the bench and watched as the boy ran out of sight.  If he hadn’t told me, I never would have guessed that his dad died.  His mom is probably working most of the time, only comes back in time to make dinner.  After school he takes his time getting back home, ‘cause he doesn’t want to be alone. Or something like that.


James lifted his head, and noticed an old woman hobbling down the street with a cane that looked too heavy for her frail body.  There was a young man with a broom outside the entrance of a small pizza joint, getting yelled at by his boss. A teen girl carrying a baby with one arm, and grocery bags with the other, stumbling under the weight.  A businessman with a briefcase, and a ragged expression was smoking on the corner.


“So many people with such interesting lives!  But you can only see them if you know how to look.”  Angie had told him once. “Once you get used to looking, you’ll start to get ideas of what’s going on in their lives.  And when you see them again, day after day, you really get to know what’s going on. I might not know their names, but I know most of these people better than their family and friends do.  Their lives are just so interesting, I’ll never stop watching the people around me. You should try it sometime, maybe then you’ll understand what I mean.”


“Yeah right,  I’ll never get you, you weirdo.”  James stood up, took one final look at the crowds, pulled his coat collar up to protect against the breeze, and walked away.

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