This is just a short nibble I wrote several years ago. Thought I’d post it here, again. It was going to be a sweet, light, romantic moment.
Then it took a turn.
He saw her at nearly the same time every day.
She drove a BMW 335i, painted in a splashy red shade that shouted, “I am worth watching!” Most days, a boy was with her. The watcher judged the boy to be about nine or ten, and he wore a collared shirt. Probably, he guessed, a school uniform. The woman herself had hair the color of sunshine and small hands. That was all he ever really saw of her.
Excepting her smile. He saw her smile. Every day.
She and the boy — her son? likely — were always in the middle of a conversation whenever he saw them. Both of them had infectious grins and once, he had heard her laugh. Such a laugh. Enthusiastic, rich, vibrant. It was such a laugh! Almost enough for him to leave the comfortable anonymity of his bistro table in front of the coffee shop to jog to her car, offer his card, and just introduce himself before the light changed.
Once, the woman and her son were not laughing. Their faces were serious as they stopped at the traffic signal. Talking, yes, but serious. It was so rare that he noticed and wondered about it, making all kinds of stories in his head about them, as he often did. The next day, though, their usual hilarity had returned and he chuckled himself, into his coffee cup.
Thus it went for months. Through the holidays, when the sunshine-haired woman had piled presents behind her. Into spring, when her windows were rolled down and her laughter was audible once more.
One day in late April, he saw her car in a parking lot. The lot of the local hospital. He was going there himself to visit friends and their child, who had been injured in a crash. He wondered if the smiling woman was visiting friends, too, and he felt a strange anticipation that she might be, and he might get to introduce himself. In his mind, he tried out different ways of saying hello that would not make him sound like a stalker.
On the floor where his friends’ son was staying, he saw her. The hair, her hands. Walking into a room.
“I’m here, honey. Mom’s here.”
The voices were subdued. Low. Broken. Raspy.
The watcher’s eyes misted over all at once and he had to lean against the wall to compose himself before striding down the hall to see his friends and their injured son — they were expecting him. The son would be fine, the doctor had said, so the visit was pleasant. Just making sure, keeping him overnight. He’d be back home in forty-eight hours, tops.
Encouraged, he said all the right things and, at length, left the hospital room.
The door on the smiling woman’s son’s room was closed.
He didn’t see her again for a few weeks, though he did keep an eye open for the flashy red 335i from his usual table. May was in full swing and looking forward to June when he next saw the car.
But now, the passenger seat was empty. The sunshine-hair was laced with a black ribbon, and the woman’s smile was gone. Though he watched and waited, he never saw it again.
© 2009 Sandi Layne