“Forty-nine dollars. I’ll only charge you thirty, though.”
I sigh. I’m not so sure that little boy’s smile is worth thirty dollars. I walk my pageant trophy back to its home and pluck a much cheaper, much less appealing trophy from the shelf. I take it to the register and pay for the shattered pig and my first place bowling trophy. When the man hands me the sack and my change, I head toward the door. Right when I go to push it open, I remember the guy who was watching me from the second-floor railing. I glance up before I walk out the door but he’s no longer there. Somehow this makes me feel even heavier.
I walk out of the store and cross the street, heading for one of the tables near the fountain. I’ve lived in Hopkins County my whole life, but I rarely make it down to the square. I don’t know why, because my love for it was solidified when they put up the strange crosswalk signs. The signs display a picture of a man crossing the street, but his leg is lifted high in the air and it’s exaggerated to the point that it could pass as a silly walk out of a Monty Python show.
There are also two bathrooms the city had installed a few years back. They’re two glass structures that look like a tall cube of mirrors from the outside, but when you’re inside the bathrooms you can see out. It’s disturbing that a person can be sitting on the toilet doing their business while watching cars drive by. But I’m drawn to unusual things, so I’m one of the few who probably take pride in the strange bathrooms.
“Who’s the trophy for?”
Speaking of being drawn to unusual things.
The guy from the antiques store is standing next to me now and I can say with complete certainty that he is most definitely attractive. His eyes are a unique shade of light blue, so they’re the first thing to stand out. They seem out of sync with his olive skin and severely dark hair. I stare at his hair a moment. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen hair that color of black on someone with eyes that color of blue. It’s a bit jarring. For me, anyway.
He’s still smiling at me just like he was from the railing in the antiques store. It makes me wonder if he smiles all the time. I hope not. I like the thought that maybe he’s smiling at me because he can’t help it. He nudges his head toward the sack in my hand and I suddenly remember he asked me a question about the trophy.
“Oh. It’s for me.”
He tilts his head in amusement or wonder. I don’t really know which one he’s feeling, but I’m fine with either. “You collect trophies you didn’t win?”
I nod and it makes him laugh a little, but it’s a silent laugh. Almost like he wants to keep it to himself. He slides his hands in his back pockets. “Why aren’t you in school right now?”
I didn’t realize it was that obvious that I’m still in high school. I drop my sack on the table next to us and slip off my sandals. “It’s a nice day. I didn’t want to be locked in a classroom.” I walk over to the concrete fountain that really isn’t a fountain at all. It’s a section of concrete, flat on the ground in the shape of a star. The water comes out of holes around the star and spits toward the center. I press my foot over one of the holes and wait for the water to reach me.
It’s the last week of October, so it’s too cold for kids to be playing in the water like they usually are in the summer. But it isn’t too cold to get my feet a little wet. I like it when the water hits the bottom of my feet. And since I can’t afford to get a pedicure, it’s the next best thing.
The guy watches me for a moment but honestly, I’m getting used to it. He’s starting to feel like my own personal, slightly more attractive shadow. I don’t look directly at him as he casually slips off his shoes. He stands next to me and presses one of his feet over the holes.
I glance at his arm now to get a closer look at the tattoos. I was right—they’re only on his left arm. His right arm doesn’t have a single visible tattoo on it. But the tattoos on his left arm aren’t what I expected. They’re random and unrelated and none of them connect. One of them is a tiny toaster with one slice of bread sticking out of it. It’s on the outside of his wrist. I can see a safety pin near his elbow. The words, “Your turn, Doctor,” are sprawled across his forearm. I drag my eyes up his arm and he’s looking down at his feet now. I’m about to ask him his name when the water hits my foot unexpectedly. I laugh and step back and we both watch the spout of water shoot toward the center.
The water hits his foot next but he doesn’t react to it. He just stares down at his feet until the water stops and moves on to the hole next to him. He lifts his eyes but when he looks at me this time, he isn’t smiling. Something about the seriousness in his expression makes everything tighten inside my chest. When he opens his mouth to speak, I hang on to every word.
“Out of all the places we could be, we’re right here. At the same time.” His voice is laced with amusement, but his expression verges on bewildered. He shakes his head and steps closer to me. He reaches his tattooed arm up and slides his fingers down a strand of my hair that’s come loose. The gesture is intimate and unexpected, kind of like this whole moment, but I’m more than okay with it. I want him to do it again, but his arm falls back to his side.
I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve ever been looked at like he’s looking at me right now. Like I fascinate him. I know we don’t know each other at all and whatever this connection is between us will probably be ruined the moment we have our first real conversation. He’ll probably be a douchebag or he’ll think I’m weird and then it’ll get awkward and we’ll be more than happy to go our separate ways. That’s how my interactions with guys usually go. But right now in this moment, knowing nothing about him other than the intensity in his expression, it allows me to imagine he’s perfect. I pretend he’s smart and respectful and funny and artistic. Because he would be all those things if he were the perfect guy. I’m content with imagining he possesses these qualities for as long as he’s going to stand here in front of me.
He takes a step closer to me and it suddenly feels like I’ve swallowed his heart because I have all these extra beats in my chest. His eyes drop to my mouth and I’m certain he’s about to kiss me. I hope he is. Which is odd because I’ve literally only spoken a couple of sentences to him but I want him to kiss me while I’m imagining him to be perfect, because that means his kiss would probably be perfect, too.
His fingers feather up my wrist but it feels more like he has both fists clasped tightly around my lungs. My chills chase his fingers up my arm until his hand is resting against my neck.
I don’t know how I’m still standing with the unreliable legs I seem to have right now. My head is tilted back and his mouth is inches from mine, as if he’s hesitating. He smiles and whispers, “You bury me.”
I have no idea what those words mean, but I like them. And I like how his lips connect softly with mine right after he finishes saying whatever it was he just said. And I was right. It’s perfect. So perfect, it feels like the old days in the movies when the male lead would press his hand against the woman’s back and she would curve her body backward against the pressure of his kiss like the letter C while he pulls her against him. It’s just like that.
He’s pulling me to him when his tongue slides across my lips. And just like in the movies, my arms are dangling at my sides until I realize how much I want to be in this with him and finally begin to kiss him back. He tastes like mint ice cream and it’s perfect because this moment ranks high on my scale of favorites, right up there with dessert. This is almost comical—this stranger, kissing me as if it were the last thing left on his bucket list. It makes me wonder what compelled him to do this.
Both of his hands move to hold my face now, like we have nowhere else to be today. He’s not in a hurry with his kiss and he definitely doesn’t care who sees this because we’re in the middle of the town square and two people have already honked at us.
I wrap one of my arms around his neck and decide I’ll just let him continue for as long as he wants because I don’t have anywhere to be right now. Even if I did, I’d cancel my plans in exchange for this.
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