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The Perfect Stranger (Preface pt. 1)
Love is a funny thing.
It seems to congregate around those who want it least, and find a way to escape those who desire it more than anything. I smiled to myself as I thought of this, a crooked, sad smile. The beauty of love. My smile screwed into an angry grimace. Scuffing my foot against the pavement, I looked up toward the sky. Each puffy white cloud seemed to want to flee the sun that bore down mercilessly on the sweaty, lazy victims below. It really was much too hot. The metal of the bench I sat on would've burnt deep into my flesh had I not worn jeans shorts.
But, no matter what the temperature, nothing changed the fact that I was sitting here alone. I cast a quick glance around, noticing a few couples walking up and down the boardwalk, fingers intertwined and hearts alight with joy. My wandering gaze continued on, out over the sand of the beach and toward the water. It crashed in waves that never seemed to end, hitting the beach and pulling back, only to return and soak the sand once more.
I sighed, mind reeling. This was stupid. Sitting here like this, alone and hating it, was my real problem. If I could just get up the energy and call my friends, maybe I could have a real smile on my face, maybe I could actually enjoy myself for once. But, then, would they want me? The image of them walking without me, laughing and loving my absence came to my mind, filling me with dread. Honestly, I was beginning to doubt if even they loved me. Once I was hanging out with one of my best friends at this very beach. A few of her other friends walked by and beckoned to her, calling her name. She didn't even spare me so much as an apologetic glance before joining them.
The realization that no one would ever call to me so hit me hard, as if someone had punched me. Since then, I hadn't really had the drive to call them, knowing that if I did I would be a last resort. Another sigh was beginning to form, I could feel it. The feeling of falling, a lonely helplessness that was inevitable enveloped me, tugging at my heart strings.
I almost didn't notice the voice. In the space of a few moments, I let it sink in, loving how each syllable sounded. It seemed an eternity since anyone had cared what happened to me. And this voice was one I didn't mind hearing. It was strong, but soft like a pillow you could easily fall back on. And it was deep and...wait...deep? My head snapped up to face whoever had spoken the moment it hit me that the voice belonged to a boy.
And, my, what a boy he was. I took a moment to look it him, savoring the sight and placing it somewhere in my mind. After all, this may have been the only time I boy would ever care how I felt. His hair was dark like the color of a midnight sky, and rested in a slightly tousled but not unkempt way on his head. His physique was strong but skinny, and, in general, rather gorgeous. But what really got me were his eyes. They were the color of ice, tinged with blue.
I shrugged in answer to his query.
"Oh, bull. There's gotta be something wrong." He eyed me skeptically, seeming to size me up as he spoke, just as I had to him. I didn't even want to think about what he saw. A normal girl, that wasn't curvy and gorgeous like most, but tall and lanky, with hair the color of mud and eyes a hideous hazel green. Instead, I pondered his observation. For a few moments, I thought about the fact that I didn't want to reveal my thoughts...to anyone. But, hell, he was a total stranger. It's not like anything I said could really do anything harmful.
"I don't know. I was mostly thinking about the ocean."
Bull s***. I jumped. Was that my thought? It sure didn't sound like it. I mentally shook, trying to get rid of the strange feeling lapping at the edges of my brain. Only then did I notice that I'd been blushing. I quickly fumbled for words.
"And, erm...about how love is...funny." Oh god I was a loser. I stared at my feet, waiting for him to laugh at me or simply walk away.
I looked up to see that his head was slightly cocked to the left, eyes inquisitive. "Oh...uh...it seems to cling to everyone who really doesn't want it at all, y'know? But when someone wants it almost too much to stand...it avoids them like the plague." I laughed a dry laugh. "It's a sick process. Probably meant just to torture the poor saps that waste their lives searching for it."
He had a hard look in his eyes. They suddenly appeared to look more like ice than they had before...as if he were angry. Oh no...I'd said the wrong thing. I wanted to slap myself in the face. Why would I tell this random stranger my feelings...and why did it matter so much that he was mad?
"Don't say that."
His eyes flickered to something that looked like pain for a moment. Then, back to their normal self, no longer mad or upset or anything, he gestured to the bench beside me. "Mind if I sit?" Surprisingly, I simply shrugged. God I was losing it. This was a stranger for god's sake. One that, upon second glance, I realized could easily take me down in a fight.
"So what brings you out here on this brutal day?" He asked, staring out at the ocean. The sun made him look nice, almost golden as it spread like a blanket across his face.
"I don't know. I usually just come out here to think."
He cocked his head to the right again and gave me a mocking smile. "Oh? You don't just 'hang with all of you friends and, like, talk about how cute Jimmy looked yesterday?'" His voice mimicked that of a teenage girl, causing me to laugh in spite of myself.
"Nah, mostly I like to be alone." I sobered as I said it, looking away from him and toward the waves.
"But maybe being alone isn't such a good thing...all the time." It sounded like it could've been a question or a statement. I didn't press the issue any further, confused on which it was.
"Well, then, why do you come out here?" I countered instead.
He smiled a mischievous smile. "Just thought that today seemed like a good day to sit with a pretty girl." I blushed, ducking my head and returning my attention to the waves. "And then I saw you, and decided that maybe I could cheer someone up instead."
I cringed as if I'd been hit in the stomach. Tears came to my eyes and I blushed all the redder. How could I have thought he'd meant me? That was just stupid. And why did I feel so disappointed? He was a stranger. Nothing more. I lifted my head to look at him, contemplating whether to be angry or crushed.
Instead, I was confused.
His face was contorted as if he was holding back laughter. "Oh, no. No, no, no." I said, punching him in the shoulder a little harder than necessary as realization hit me. And then he doubled over on the bench, laughing so hard that I doubted he would ever stop. The laughter spread around me, slowly making me giggle and then laugh, peals of delighted laughter that chased away any remnants of sadness.
He sobered so abruptly that I wondered if I'd been going crazy. His eyes alighted on mine, a smile still held in their depths as he looked at them. "You know, you're the most interesting girl I've met in a long time."
"You know," I said, smiling too, "you're the most interesting boy I've met...ever."
"You gotta name?"
"Yeah." It only took me a moment to decide that, yes; I was going to trust this stranger with my name. It was harmless anyway. "My name is Lily."
I let the name slowly spread through my brain, remembering the way he said it, connecting the sound to his image, his voice, his eyes. Without warning, he lifted his hand to my face. "Lily..." he whispered, as if committing it to memory. His hand felt good. It was cool in this hot weather, like cool water spreading over a burn. And then his hand was back at his side, his eyes playful again. I still sat there, leaning now against emptiness, mind a haze, wondering what had just happened.
"Well, Lily, I'm glad I met you. It's great to have helped someone." He stopped suddenly, eyeing me with a seriousness that simply had to be sarcastic. "I did help you, right?" I thought for a moment. Of course he had. So I nodded, coming back to my senses. Seemingly satisfied, he continued with what he'd been saying. "But I have to go now." He waved, looking back over his shoulder as he stood up and walked away.
My heart soared at first. No one had ever turned back as they walked away, or even seemed to regretful about doing it. But then, like a bird shot out of the sky, my heart sank low. I would never see this boy again. Gabriel. Maybe if I was lucky, I'd see him on the beach one day, passing by, a girl walking next to him with her arms around him...their fingers intertwined and hearts full to bursting. One last sigh passed my lips before I stood up, head held high and shoulders back.
I would not get heartbroken over a perfect stranger.