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Fiction

I work around a lot of people, so generally an individual doesn’t catch my eye. She did. The first time I saw her I was in the middle of struggling to change the trash. It seemed like everyone at the mall that day decided to throw their full drinks away. After a couple of minutes of persistence and on the verge of losing my temper, I finally hefted it out and I looked up. What I saw I will never forget.

She sat at a cell phone cover kiosk thumbing through a tablet sitting on her lap. Her hair danced as she twirled bronze strands around her fingertip. The florescent lights glimmered off it like the sun does to a golden chain. Captivating—coveted. I had never been so drawn to an accessory of the female form.

Until I saw her, I don’t recall ever having a romantic feeling in my life. I had never felt so willingly obligated to express all my vulnerabilities, my secrets, and my love. Love—It felt so odd to think the word. If she could make me think it, surly she could make me say it. I had to get to know her. She was the catalyst to discovering a part of myself I never knew existed.

I walked to her kiosk self-aware. I felt humbled by her beauty but determined to get her attention. I was so suave when I spoke. I kept away from the arsenal of cliché, garbage lines that I generally used. I wanted her to know the real me because I wanted to know the real her.

“You are the most beautiful person I ever laid eyes on.” This was the extent of my confidence. The rest of the conversation felt like I was scrambling to my feet on a sheet of ice after getting knocked down. I expected a “thank you,” or, “you’re not so bad looking yourself,” or at the worse a, “go away.” I wasn’t prepared for her reply.

“Excuse me?”

“I was wondering what you were doing Saturday.”

She giggled, “I barely know you. I don’t know you.”

“My name is Shawn. It’s nice to meet you.”

“I see that.” She pointed at her chest. “It’s on your name tag.”

“Ah, and I see by your name tag that your name is Katie. Please tell me knowing my name is your only stipulation because you have my heart about to beat out of my chest and I don’t know what to say next. I swear I clean up well… and I don’t always carry a bag of garbage with me.” I had forgotten to put it down, so I figured I’d use it in conversation.

“I’ll tell you what. You put the garbage in the dumpster, finish the rest of your shift and you can buy me dinner tonight.”

My heart skipped and my tongue stuck to the bottom of my mouth. I forced the word “Deal,” and retreated to finish my shift.

I am certain nobody alive has had a Tuesday night as wonderful as I did that night. We ate at a little Italian place across the street called “Da Vinci’s.” We drank a couple of glasses of wine and talked. We couldn’t run out of things to talk about and none of the themes were controversial, sad, or uncomfortable. We sat and we talked about whatever came to heart until after the third time of the restaurant owner telling us to leave.

I didn’t notice before due to my anxiety during our initial conversation, but she had sapphire blue eyes. I couldn’t break focus.

Every bit of me wanted to kiss her, and I’m sure she would have let me, but there was no way I was going to ruin her blushing smile. When the night was at an end, I hugged her, held her door open, and watched as she drove away. This must be what it feels like to love.

The next morning, I woke up early. I showered, worked out, ate my breakfast, and got ready for work. I was going to see Katie again today. No thought made me happier. In a way I dreaded it because I knew how hard it was going to be to stay away from her kiosk.

She came in around the middle of my shift. I waved. I’m certain she saw me because she briefly made eye contact. Instead of waving in return she briskly walked past. There was a coldness to her expression. Like she didn’t know me, or I was someone she wanted to forget.

First instinct told me I had done something wrong the night before. I gave her time to get comfortable at her station and mulled around the possibilities in my head. I knew that I was a gentleman. I never said anything vulgar or off-putting. I did get comfortable during the conversation, but I had an innate drive to treat her like a queen. I even refrained from kissing her. Or that could have been the problem? What if she thought I didn’t find her attractive?

I realized I had stopped breathing and forced and exhale. No, this was no way to treat myself. I was going to settle this and ask her what was wrong with the same boldness used to ask her out the day before. I marched to her desk.

“Hey Katie.” She swiped through her tablet like I didn’t exist.

“Katie…”

“Oh, hey.”

Her hair didn’t shimmer the way it did before. Her sapphire eyes were a lighter shade lacking the passion that first drew me in.

“Is everything ok?” I touched her shoulder and she flinched.

“Yea, why do you ask?”

“            “Well, we had such a good time last night and today you just seem distant is all.”

“Last night? I don’t know what you think we did last night but I’m not a tramp.”

“I never said you was. I would never say that.”

“Sorry, I’ve got to make a phone call.” She stood up and walked to the other side of the kiosk. She was so disconnected from the little conversation we had, that I felt defeated for I had nothing to battle. “Well, I’m sorry I bothered you—or if I offended you. I’ll leave you alone I guess.”

“Ok, thank you.” She waved and forced a smile.

I felt guilty. I recapped the night in my head over and over for the rest of my shift trying to figure out why. Nothing went wrong. Not on my side at least. I felt sorry for saying sorry without a known reason. That Wednesday was the longest day any person had ever lived. I drug my feet as I worked but I was far more aggressive than usual. I wanted the day to be done.

After my shift I walked around the mall to clear my head. I stayed on the opposite side to avoid her kiosk. Walking didn’t help. My mind just become more jumbled, fighting my insecurities. If things didn’t click on her end, I wish she would have told me instead of leading me on. Maybe I was just that inept to picking up social cues.

I realized how selfish I was. Perhaps she was having a rough day and I wasn’t top of her list of priorities. I concluded that there wasn’t anything I could say but maybe there was something I could do. I stopped by a little shop and bought a bouquet of lilies. I remembered her mentioning that being her favorite flower.

I stepped out of the shop and what I saw coming down the aisle made my body cease. I felt my grip loosen on the flowers but for whatever reason I felt the need to keep hold of them. I saw Katie walking down the aisle with someone—someone that looked just like her.

“Hi Katie.” I waved awkwardly.

“Oh, hi Shawn. Kami told me what happened today. I’m sorry.”

“We’re sorry. She didn’t tell me what happened last night, so I didn’t know who you were.”

The two snickered back and forth. I couldn’t make out what they were saying to each other, but my best estimate is that it was at my expense.

“So, you guys work each other’s shifts?” I gently slapped the lilies on my thigh.

“Yea, we actually run the kiosk together. Hey, don’t think you have it that bad. We switched dates on prom night, and they couldn’t tell the difference. At least you could.”

“Well, I’m glad I could.” I didn’t know what to say after that. My initial feelings for her made me want to move past it but I felt taken advantage of. I don’t mind being the butt of a good joke, but I didn’t like feeling taken advantage of or toyed with. I felt my heart thud to my stomach.

There was only one thing I knew to do. I extended the flowers to her and said, “I got these for you.”

Whenever she reached for the bouquet, I dropped them on the ground and walked past them. I had fallen for fool’s gold and almost drown in shallow pools of sapphire. I didn’t discover but confirmed why I wasn’t a romantic.

February 24, 2022 13:25

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2 comments

Poppy Jackson
10:50 Mar 06, 2022

Really enjoyed this! I thought the protagonist was very sweet :) I would have liked to see a bit more detail in what happened at dinner, but the rest of the story was great, the personality of the protag was very well recognized and I really felt for him. 'I had fallen for fool's gold' is a brilliant line.

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Dean Atlas
13:46 Mar 06, 2022

Thank you very much. I agree with the dinner suggestion. It probably would have created a better connection with the potential relationship. I'm looking forward to your next story.

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