I saw him for the first time when I was sitting under the elm tree by the river. I had been crying over yet another bitter end to a disappointing relationship and he was writing in a notebook. I remember burying my face in my favorite novel (Running From Mourning by Jackson Saywall, which I like because the male lead is incredibly funny) so no one could watch me cry. It was one of those days where the sky is light as the golden hour approaches. They say the golden hour casts a warm glow and I had it on my mind as the pages wrinkled under my clammy hands. If only people could glow within for that hour before the sunset as well.
How different the world could be if something as simple as a star hovering above the earth could make people breed kindness.
I kept reading. Eventually, I couldn’t stop myself anymore; I laughed out loud. Mortified when his face found the noise I imagined myself fleeing the scene and finding haven elsewhere. I then tried to compose myself and climbed to my feet, but before I could scramble away, he caught my attention again. He was standing now too and I noticed for the first time how tall he was. I let my eyes linger on his figure, illuminated by the butter mellow of the retreating sun’s halo. He was inching towards the mossy expanse our city council advised all citizens to avoid and his steps showed no sign of trepidation. He seemed to have no intention of stopping and he didn’t stop. I watched on as he advanced until finally, his feet touched the water. I felt bad for his shoes, submerged in a body as brown as the ducks gliding on it. But when it hit his knees, I couldn’t help but laugh. In time though, he found footing on dryer land. A tenacious smile came to me as he attempted to wring himself out but this quickly morphed into panic.
He went not back to where he’d been with his notebook before, but still further away. Oh, my god, he’s headed straight for the bridge what if he’s angry oh my god he’s going to attack me for laughing at him. Sure enough, he ambled his way across the footbridge. In a few moments of birds cawing, we were face to face. He wore heavy boots the same shade of brown as his hair and had pretty eyes that resembled floral patterns covering my bedsheets at home.
“Hey, I’m Jack,” he declared. “What’s your name?” His face of gentle curiosity brought a delicate wave to the lake in my mind.
“Nice to meet you, Alaina. You know, I’ve got a younger sister called Alana who looks just like you.”
“So tell me more about her, especially if that includes an explanation for the British sentence and American accent,” I replied.
“Ah,” he mused. “I was raised here but I like how they talk better. How’s that for an American sentence?”
“Better. But I would like to know if you’ve spent time in England?”
“A little. My dad and stepmother own a house in Wales.”
“So is that where you’ve been all my life?”
“Well I spent the past five months of your life in Hawaii and before that, I spent time in Haiti.”
“You must be a jack of some decent trades to have the money for pleasure,” I remarked.
“I write about my imaginary friends all day every day. One of those became a book and thus: Hawaii so long as I call it a research trip.”
“What about Haiti? Another research trip?”
“An obligation as a human being. Hurricane season is brutal when you have no shelter, water, or food.” He infused this statement with the authority a man derives only from strength in his convictions.
“You went overseas to help people?”
“Kids. The sweetest bunch of humans on the planet. They have nothing and they’re so much happier than Americans. There’s nothing they can’t do if they have a fraction of an opportunity. You give them a map and they can answer any questions you give them. Give them a piece of gum and they’re amused for days. I dedicated my book to kids I met while building houses in Haiti.”
“Speaking of which, can I make you tell me more about this book of yours?”
“I gave it a terrible title- Running From Mourning- which is- Hey, are you alright?”
“Oh my god you wrote my favorite novel of all time and now we’re having a normal conversation this is amazing of my god.”
He laughed at that and admitted, “Yeah, I may have seen you reading a familiar cover. Obviously, I’m really glad you liked it.”
“Thought you’d engineer a meet-cute, huh?” I asked with a smile. I was glad to have met him for more than one reason now.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed this short story with multiple combined sources of inspiration. If you want more like this, you can start with these:
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