Owen rubbed the hair pomade to a warm slickness between his fingers before touching up the style. This beeswax stuff smelled quite nice— a stark improvement from the fat and lard-based goop he’d been using last century.
His hands were shaking a bit from the nerves. It was an important night, but mostly he was looking forward to seeing her. He wondered what she would be like. Would she be as chatty as the others? Would she like him? Would she like his hair this way?
He picked up the images of his long life again, yellowing photographs and cameos mixed in with hand-painted portraits. He was determined to impress and maybe there was something that had looked a bit more debonair on him.
He chucked everything from before the 18th century into the drawer and flipped through the short and slick modern cuts of the past few hundred years. But, he’d never been able to predict this kind of preference.
He looked in the mirror again and worried he looked like he was trying too hard. He ruffled the strands up a bit, but that only made things worse as it took on a fluffy quality. He could only hope she’d like the beeswax scent. If she got close enough to smell the pomade in his hair, the spearmint of his toothpaste, the eucalyptus soap on his skin. He hoped she would.
With thoughts of his own senses full of her, he rushed out the door.
Mia couldn’t believe her bad luck. Why she had accepted a blind date in the first place, she couldn’t fathom. She’d been ghosted enough times to understand she shouldn’t be jumping in and surprising them with her particularly odd self. It wasn’t fair to them, really. Everything about her was less than soothing to the senses; from the bushy curls she could never tame to the funny smell of antiques that she couldn’t seem to wash off after the work day. She was an acquired taste, like wasabi ice cream. Perhaps she could convince him she was just pistachio ice cream for a while. She could do the poised, femme fatale thing for one date. She turned the corner to the restaurant, practicing a slinky, sexy walk when— crack.
As if on cue, her boot heel snapped. Well, fuck. As she waddled a few steps more, looking for all the world like a very confused duck, she thought she should have expected this kind of thing. She always seemed to find a way to look ridiculous right when it mattered most.
Approaching the door, her waddle turned into a sort of hopping twirl on the spot as she rifled through her bag for anything to fix the shoe. Unfortunately, the twirling took effect quickly. Seconds later she was throwing her arms out as the world tipped. With a revolting squish, her hands planted firmly in the flower box of the restaurant’s window. A fat banana slug twisted under her palm.
“Eeeeuuyygh!” she squealed and flipped around, showering herself with soil. It was at this most elegant of moments for Mia that he appeared.
He was incredibly handsome, well-dressed and hair coiffed in casual perfection, and she was… covered in dirt and slug slime, and standing on one foot.
“Mia?” he asked. He seemed to be pressing his lips together to keep from laughing. His eyes were shining with amusement. Her face was feeling very hot.
“Um, yup” she said. Femme Fatale, indeed. “Sorry, you must be Owen?”
“I am,” he said “can I help you with…” She didn’t blame him for his loss of words here. It was a challenge to describe the mess of her current state in any polite terms.
“Actually, I only live a block away. You can wash up and I have glue for your shoe,” he said.
She nodded, desperate for any way out of this situation. It wasn’t until he was opening the door to a very well-appointed apartment in a building she could never afford that the alarm bells started going off. Going home with a stranger on the first date? Completely and utterly stupid.
As he set off with her shoes to find the glue, she covertly shot off a text to her roommate with her whereabouts, but by the time the response came— a series of red flag emojis— she was too busy ogling the place to notice. This guy had to be the richest bastard she’d ever met.
The place was massive. A pleasing mixture of classic structure with modern style. Great, wide windows provided an unending view of city and stars, creating a sea of sparkling light beyond the frames. Her eyes, however, were drawn to walls of shelves that held treasures uniquely beautiful to someone like Mia.
Among the items were sculptures ancient enough to be completely priceless, kitschy knick-knacks from decades long past, and hundreds of books covering centuries of print. But, what stood out to her most were the scraps of seemingly worthless junk displayed among the riches. Her fingers lingered on rusty headlight, she recognized it from the body of a Tin Lizzie, the Ford Model T.
“All set,” he called as he sauntered back in with her repaired shoe. “What happened? Are you alright, Mia?”
She hadn’t noticed the tears on her face. How odd. She wiped them away with a chuckle before he decided to kick out the mad, crying girl touching all his antiques.
“Sorry! I think I was just too excited by your things. I work in an antiques shop, you know?”
“Right,” he smiled at her. “Glass of wine?”
When the wine was poured and she took her first sip, she was delighted to find it rich and full-bodied. Exactly to her taste. She closed her eyes and hummed in pleasure.
Owen smiled pleasantly at her reaction and pulled an old record from the shelves, lining up the needle until a slow, jazzy tune filled the room. Mia had always thought of jazz as either pretentious or for those whose pitch was a bit off kilter, so she was surprised to find that she enjoyed it very much. It was cozy and relaxed, and made her think of slow dancing in a speakeasy where candlelight sparkled against brass.
They sat together quietly for a while, listening. Eventually, they spoke more of her work and she found herself telling him about her quiet love for old things, the way she could hold something and feel connected to its past owners. Like, perhaps, they weren’t so far away or lost to time after all. She spoke of her fear of the future, of the way the world seemed so unstable, so uncertain.
And slowly, quite unbelievably, she came to think he might just be the solid ground she needed. Feeling more secure and peaceful than she could ever remember, she fell asleep resting against his chest where she fit quite perfectly.
When she woke, Mia stretched luxuriously, enjoying the feel of the slippery silken sheets. Wait— bed sheets? She shot up.
She was alone in his bedroom, still dressed. He must have carried her to the bed when she fell asleep. Pulling open the long curtains, she was greeted with a very lovely view of the sunrise. She had slept the entire night at a complete stranger’s home. A complete stranger who she had spilled her heart out to after knowing for, what, an hour?
She was mortified. How could she go out there and face him after babbling all night, drinking his wine, and passing out in his arms? What a mess.
The only thing to do was to procrastinate facing the inevitable awkwardness with some very necessary snooping. She liked this guy, after all. And what if he was an axe murderer?
At first, her discoveries were very boring. He had extra sheets and blankets, a gorgeous watch, more books. The bathroom was equally vanilla— eucalyptus soap, pot of beeswax hair gunk, toothbrush and paste. She wandered into the walk-in next, running her hands over the expensive fabrics of his clothes and peeking in drawers at folded socks and ties.
In the next drawer, she found a stack of photos atop small painted portraits. In every single one, a different version of Owen dressed up in a different period costume. And beside him, holding his hand, posed and close, was Mia herself.
She dropped them with a squeak. And beneath it all, more pictures of her.
Her graduation photo. Her student ID. That selfie from last weekend.
Owen was a goddamn stalker.
Mia ran barefoot out the bedroom, right out the front door, and all the way home.
Owen was just piping the filling into the deviled eggs, the last thing he remembered them eating together, when he heard the bedroom door creak open and her feet pattering quickly across the floor. His lips turned up. He had found her in every lifetime these many centuries past and she was always this haphazardly full of life. The perfect balance to his immortal stillness.
It felt wonderful to have found her again. It wasn’t just the happiness of new love, but a blessed relief of a grief he had been holding onto since her last incarnation had died in the car accident.
When the front door slammed, he ran to the windows only to see her sprinting barefoot down the block. Confused, he went to the bedroom and found their memories spilled across the floor.
He sighed deeply. He hadn’t scared her off like this in lifetimes, usually content to know her slowly. He couldn’t see a way to explain this or reverse the damage of her discovery. But, he’d waited this long and a lifetime was only a blink in their story. Before he tucked them away, he smiled at the many faces of the woman he loved.
“See you next time around, my dear”