A brief story based on a dream I had. Greg Looks like tom Hiddelston in my head.
|They met in at the change rooms in a shop that sold second hand clothing.
He was walking past the cubicles, there only door a curtain that could be open or shut, when she came out holding a small pile of clothes. They bumped into each other but neither lost their balance.
“Ah crap, sorry.” She said, looking at him. He was tall, with a head of blonde curls and green eyes. His satchel was slung over one should and crossed his chest, his hands in pockets. And he smiled widely.
“No problem.” He answered. She had dark, kinked hair that came past her shoulders, and wore a purple skirt and white top, her grey eyes open and apologetic. She smiled back, blushing a little. He was extremely handsome in her eyes. And he was British, too.
“Alright.” Was all she responded and walked slowly away, to put back the clothes. He watched her go, also walking backwards a few steps before turning.
But he didn’t leave then. No, later, he found her at a coffee shop next door, drinking a hot chocolate and reading on her tablet.
“Um.” He said standing near the table. Her eyes looked up and met his in surprise, though not alarm. She blushed a little again, because he was smiling that rather shy, dazzling smile again.
“Are you following me?” she said half in amusement half in shock.
His eyes looked down and a hand clutched at the strap of his bag across his chest. “Um, I suppose yes.”
She watched him curiously. He seemed rather awkward but she couldn’t help but feel flattered, and not wary, as she should have been. But she waited, setting down her coffee, for him to offer explanation. His green eyes met hers again and she felt warm.
“I don’t usually follow people around.” He said.
“Just people who bump into you in the store?” she countered, in a joking way.
That amazing smile again. “No, not even then. I just um, wanted to see you…again.” She finished off lamely.
She couldn’t help but snort at the pathetic explanation, but felt rather pleased. “Alright.”
He stared at her, as if disbelieving his excuse had been acceptable. “May I join you then?”
She scrutinised him again, willing herself to find caution, to be more wary. But she simply wasn’t afraid. She only felt warm. And she wanted to see the smile again. “Yes.” She answered shyly.
His eyes danced and he pulled out the chair opposite her, grinning like a fool. “My name is Greg.” He held out his hand.
“Sophie.” She answered taking it.
Conversation came easily that day, and all the following days.
“So what do you do?” he asked.
“I’m a writer.” She replied.
“What do you write?”
He almost spat out his coffee, and saved himself from embarrassment by a covering his mouth and snorting indelicately. She grinned openly at his reaction. “That’s incredible.” He said, completely honestly.
“It really isn’t.” she answered, also honestly, shaking her head.
“It is an essential part of human existence, instruction manuals.” He said, persuading.
“I agree. But it isn’t incredible, just ordinary.” She said humbly. “What do you do?”
“I work at the theatre.”
Her eyebrows raised in appreciation. “That sounds exciting.”
“It can be,” he answered he answered, avoiding her gaze.
“Oh dear, are you a janitor or something?” she asked, though her judgemental tone was not serious. He grinned.
“no, I am a stage director.”
She smiled widely. “That does sound exciting.”
“I started as a janitor though.” He replied and she laughed.
The afternoon wore and eventually they left the coffee shop, but didn’t part. They travelled across the road to the park and continued
together there. When the day started to get obviously dark, they grudgingly tried to say goodbyes.
“Sophie, you are lovely.” Greg said, frankly, eyes as clear as the sky.
Sophie blushed. “You barely know me, Greg.”
“Nonsense. I know you have two sisters, have lived in London for 2 years and write instruction manuals. You know I manage stages, read books and like coffee. That makes us friends.”
“Friends don’t tell friends they are lovely.” She pointed out.
He eyes grew round. “You think I’m lovely?”
She laughed, and when he asked for her number, she gave it to him without hesitation.
He called her that night and she picked up on the first ring.
After their first date, she invited him to her place and they watched a movie together on her small couch, curled around each other as if they had known each other their whole lives. And then he went home, without kissing her goodnight.
The third time they watched a movie, they feel asleep around each other. But he still hadn’t kissed her, and she didn’t make him.
When he woke up the next morning, his hand still clasped with hers, he tried to disentangle himself quietly, but she woke up anyway.
“Good morning.” She said sleepily.
He didn’t meet her eyes. “Good morning.” His voice sounded distant.
She frowned, but offered. “You can stay for breakfast.”
He shook his head, still not looking at her as he collected his jacket and shoes. “I can’t.” Was all he replied.
She sat in silence for a moment, and watched his back, then said. “Alright.”
She opened the door for him, and he left without touching her. Once the door was closed, he stopped on the stair case for a second, then went down, his shoes hitting the steps hard.
That evening he came back. When she opened the door, wearing only her tights and oversized jumper, she didn’t look hurt or confused or angry. She stepped aside to let him past. He set his bag down at her small kitchen table, and sat at the single chair there.
“I’m sorry. There was someone else…once.” He told her quietly.
She stepped closer to him, and lifted her hand to run her fingers through his hair, and he leaned into the touch. “Is that why you haven’t kissed me?” she asked.
“Alright.” She said.
He pulled her close and she held his head tenderly.
On their fourth date, he took her dancing, because she told him she loved to dance.
He met her friends, who adored him and envied her.
She met his friends, of which there were few, but as they were all theatre folk, found no problem in welcoming her into their group. She went to plays at the theatre where he worked, and sometimes they went to the after parties, and sometimes they didn’t.
They never went to his flat, always to hers. And eventually, he stopped sleeping anywhere else.
And one day, they strolled hand in hand through a street market on a brisk autumn afternoon, their scarves tightly wound around their necks. Sophie was admiring a carved wooden elephant, painted in emerald green and maroon while Greg told her it would only work if they got two and turned them into bookends for all his books which had accumulated at her flat.
A voice interrupted their banter.
Greg’s face turned pale and his merry smile vanished. They both turned to the woman who had spoken. She was willowy, with a heart shaped face and straw coloured hair that went past her waist, hanging in loose waves, and blue eyes looking cautiously up at Greg.
“It’s been years.” She said. When he didn’t respond, she noticed his companion and held out her hand. “Hello, I’m Astrid.”
Sophie took the hand politely. “I’m Sophie.”
Astrid’s eyes went from her to Greg, clearly wondering privately what she was too polite to voice. Sophie wound her hand back through Greg’s fingers, and after a moment, he gripped back. Astrid didn’t miss the movement. Her face became resigned, and a bit sullen.
“Well, anyway, it was good to see you well, Greg. And nice to meet you Sophie.” She said to them, and drifted away through the crowd.
Sophie’s eyes followed her until she diapered then looked back to Greg, who met her there. His expression seemed sad, and pleading. Pleading for forgiveness, relief, absolution.
“Why does it still hurt?” he asked her.
“Pain is the thing that shapes our human experiences.” She answered.
“No, not only pain. Love, sacrifice, happiness, longing, belief, faith…all that stuff.”
He closed his eyes against her words, and the world. She touched his face.
“Love, it is only right to feel pain. Pain at things lost, what could have been and wasn’t. Pain is giving those things their due. Pain is warning, and memory. And I promise you, one day it won’t hurt as much. But if it never hurt at all, it meant nothing.” she told him.
“I wish it had meant nothing, sometimes.” He answered.
“Then you wouldn’t be you.”
They walked away from the market slowly, preoccupied.
“So what do we do?” he asked her as they walked the familiar path to her doorway.
She was silent a moment, then answered. “We get you a damned key made, that’s what.”
He glanced at her, a small smile flickering on his face. “Is that an instruction?”
She held her head up in the air. “Well, I write instruction manuals you know. I know what I’m doing.”
His smile deepend.