I gripped the steering wheel tighter and adjusted my mirrors. It was just so unnerving; I tried to focus on the road. I looked out the window at the sun as it finally dipped its head beneath the horizon, shedding its orange hues across the incoming tide. The waves lapped at the beach sand, coming in and going out, beckoning to me… the way she beckoned to me. Damn, I thought, it’s not working. I shuddered and turned on the radio, as Frankie’s words floated out on the cool night air: “Strangers in the night… lovers at first sight…” I cursed loudly, as I flicked off the box; nothing was working. I took the next exit and parked the Ford off on the beach. It was getting darker, and the stars had started to blink their eyes open, twinkling in the celestial darkness, awaiting the moon’s arrival. I stepped out of the car, slammed the door shut and shoved my fists into my pockets. I walked out towards the shoreline, kicking stray pebbles, trying to focus on anything, anything but her. I felt around in my pocket and pulled out my velvet kerchief. Opening it up, the number and name that had been scrawled on it so many weeks ago at that diner were barely visible; “Lily” and then an outline of red lipstick. That had been so long ago, before the doubt set in. I muttered to myself, turned and began to stroll down alongside the lapping waves. I could remember it as clearly as if it had been only been a few hours ago, rather than a few months.
The couples walking hand in hand, laughing and smiling as they walked down the streets, sharing kisses and sunsets together, nights in each others’ arms, left me only able to hope for such bliss. A novice in such matters, almost a mere babe though I’m already 23 years old, I knew next to nothing about Love and its fickle whims. I walked into Mike’s on Amorous Street, took an empty booth all to myself and pulled a tattered book out my pocket. It’s binding weary with age, its pages far from crisp, scarred with hours upon hours of constant flicking and handling: The Great Gatsby. The light from the window was suddenly dimmed as she stood next to my table. I looked up and tried to squint through the bright sunlight that outlined her frame. I couldn’t see her clearly, so I gave up trying and just ordered my regular; a root beer float with extra ice cream. It was childish, I know, but it must’ve appealed to her because she sat down across from me when she brought it to my table. I finally got a good look at her; the window bathing her in the sun’s warmth, her hair done up in a ponytail. She stared at me, a boyish grin spreading across her face as she reached back and pulled her hair out, letting it cascade down in rich golden curls to her upper back. I had only been peering up from the book now and then until that point, until I finally decided to look up altogether. Her eyes struck me first. Dark blue sapphires gazed back at me, their centres fading into a comforting grey, like the sea after a storm. I felt like I should be more subtle, or at least more polite, but it seemed almost an insult not to stare. I must have looked so pathetic, trying to avert my eyes, but staring all the same. They weren’t just mesmerizing, they were imprisoning, and it scared me for a moment that such power could exist in so simple a thing. Yet I leapt into it willingly, without a second thought.
Things only went downhill from there. She asked me for my handkerchief, to wipe the oil from her hands, and I obeyed like a small pup; already putty in her hands. She took it, turning it over and stroked it, feeling the velvet embroidery of my initials between her thumb and forefinger. I shivered and shuddered with every gentle stroke of her fingers, every smooth caress, as if she’d captured my soul within that small fabric. She looked up at me, smiling all the while, and began to fold it neatly. Her eyes still on me, she lifted it to her lips; those lush, soft-as-petal lips, and gently kissed it. I took in a sharp breath, as she placed it on the table and slid it over towards me. She took a small sip of my float, flashed her devilishly seductive smile, that boyish grin that captured me so, got up from her seat and walked away. I let loose my breath, feeling reborn; as though every shade and every tint of colour in the world had been amplified a dozen times over. The orange walls bloomed like a pond of tiger lilies, the red ford parked outside blossomed like a bouquet of roses and the yellow doors down the street sprung to life like a row of daffodils. I sighed and looked down at her parting gift. Handwritten in a dark blue fountain pen were 7 digits. They might as well have been letters spelling my “despair”.