She was able to squash the urge to bite her thumbnail and instead ended up picking at the ends of her butter-colored hair. Around her, the late night crowd’s noise grew to a distant hum. In her head, certain memories were running loose. Checking the rear view mirror of a car that wasn’t hers, then finding out that the world wasn’t quite as sane as she was told. No, it was beyond sane. It was tilted, askew, unsafe. Shadows could hunt you down and street lights could be the eyes of a monster.
A few tables away, his eyes found her. He wondered who she was. For a second, he was confused with her presence. What was she doing here with them mere mortals? And here, too, in a greasy diner at an ungodly hour. With her shiny hair and soft-looking olive skin, she should be summoning up a smile for the paparazzi, unblinking amidst the storm of flash bulbs and the roar of the crowd.
Back to the table by the window: She could still see the main street awashed with neon lights and yellow cabs skating over the nearly empty roads. She could still see the scene before her, could hear the beats of the music coming from the club two blocks away from the diner where she chose to kill time and energy. Most of all, kill energy. May she stumble in her own room later today, too exhausted to recall what she had seen earlier that night. Distracted, she pushed a lock of hair away from her heart-shaped face. She willed herself to concentrate on the book before her. She lasted for all five seconds before snapping the book closed. Ugh. This was not working at all. What the hell was she doing in this diner at half past midnight, anyway? Oh, right. Home was not exactly home right now. Even her own closet hid monsters, it seemed. She refused to go back there. Not yet, at least.
He watched her over his steaming mug of black coffee. So she didn’t like to read, did she? Or perhaps something was bothering her. He had seen her flipping the pages of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It was enough to make his head hurt, watching her pore over the book like that. If she wasn’t so damn good-looking, if she was the only person in this place aside from him, he’d march right over there and slam the book hard against her delicate, beautiful fingers. He would do that when the bored-looking cashier wasn’t looking and the old, tiny waitress with bird-like frame weren’t looking. He took a sip of his coffee, the heat scalding his lips but he didn’t care. Through the mist above his mug, he continued watching her. He loved people watching. But he loved trailing after someone more.
She looked around as she felt a sudden jolt. She didn’t know why but it felt like someone had pulled the emergency lever in her brain and an alarm — loud and jarring — wailed inside her. The hairs at the back of her neck stood up. Heart hammering against her chest, she took note of the cashier (who probably moonlighted as a bouncer when the occasion called for it, judging by his muscular build) who was trying hard to stay awake, the three different groups scattered around the place, the little waitress who looked like if she had to serve one more table, she would drop dead on the red and white linoleum floor. She also saw the lonely guy sitting on one of the tables near the door, sipping his drink. An unbelievably thick mist swirled from above his mug, blurring his face. She looked at the two college kids who just came from the bathroom, laughing over something she would never know. Convinced that she had become paranoid, she settled her gaze back to the cover of the book.
He felt a current of thrill when her eyes landed on him. In that brief second or two, he was convinced. Eyes never leaving her, he patiently watched as she tried yet again to read the book. Her hands, they were so delicate. He had no doubt those bones would easily crunch under the weight of the fifteen-pound dumb bells he kept in his closet back in his apartment. But he liked the way her indigo eyes scanned the room, so alive with paranoia and vulnerability. He liked watching her but sometimes, there were things better than simply watching. When this night was over, he would write a poem for her. And she would be right there beside him when he did.