A Short Story

cafe

To Be Seen

By Chelsey Whitlow

 

Annie huddled protectively over her book and cinnamon tea; tiny curls of steam escaping through the cracks in her fortress. She chose her position in the small bookstore café unconsciously; always in search of out of the way corners at an attempt at invisibility. Years of insecurity had rounded her shoulders and taught her eyes their downcast habits.

Tucked away into a dark corner table, she buried her chin deeper into the folds of her floral scarf, releasing a heavy sigh. Inhaling then the spicy cinnamon steam, she prayed it would somehow magically transform her into someone beautiful and courageous…someone who didn’t slump in corners or shy away from passing glances. Her insides had always felt like so much more than the bent shoulders and armor of layered clothing on her outsides; she just didn’t know how to uncover them yet.

Carefully opening her book to the bookmarked page, she sank quickly into a world where confidence became her second skin…instead of the fear of being discovered.

James watched her quietly from a book shelf nearby, pretending to straighten the row of books at his fingertips. Long red hair, the colors of a desert sunset, washed down over her hunched shoulders and concealed her face. He’d seen her walk by moments earlier. Anxious eyes met his for only an instant as she hurried past him. That instant was long enough though, to catch a glimpse of the most incredible eyes. They couldn’t really be described as a singular color, but more a portrait of a thunderstorm; all swirls of gray and green and blue brimming with electricity and ready to crash out over the universe.

Beautiful.

How easy it would be to get swept up in that storm…

Standing a few inches over six feet, James could just see the curious red-head over the top of the bookshelf, without making it too obvious he was staring. He watched as her shoulders lifted in a sigh, her head burrowing deeper into her book. Silently, he willed her to turn those stormy eyes in his direction. “Just lift up your head…” he whispered to himself. “Let me see…”

He’d never wanted a girl to see him so terribly.

Annie felt the weight of a stare pressing between her shoulder blades, tearing her from the safety of the story beneath her fingers. She froze, like a rabbit cornered by a wolf, her breath catching in her throat. Her heart beat picked up, reverberating loudly in her ears. Blinking at the now unfocused words in front of her, she wanted so badly to look up, curiosity scratching at her eyelids. “You’re just being paranoid.” She reprimanded herself. “No one would be looking at someone like you.”

A squeal of laughter broke out over the café. Forgetting her paranoia, her eyes snapped up in the squeal’s direction. The source turned out to be a tall, gorgeous blonde, unabashedly flirting with the slack-jawed barista. She’d seen her before. “If only ….” Annie thought, envious of the blonde’s particular brand of confidence and beauty.

Sweeping a strand of hair behind one ear, Annie absent-mindedly scanned the room on the way back to her book. Just before her eyes returned to the safety of her story, they were captured by warm honey colored eyes and a shock of shaggy, dark blonde hair, peering out over a bookshelf. Her heart stopped for a beat, a tiny gasp escaping her lips.

Someone was watching her.

“Whoa.” James exhaled in a rush; not realizing he’d said the word out loud. Though her face was plain and her build slightly bigger than average, the force of her thunderstorm eyes and sunset hair struck him deeply, nailing him in the chest. A potent combination.

He couldn’t breathe. Drawn to her, he slowly edged around the bookshelf, desperately hoping she wouldn’t run.

She couldn’t look away. Frozen in place, she knew she was caught.

Time stilled around them.

Unable to stay away, he took the first step in her direction. Something told him those eyes held a secret begging to be unearthed and he wanted to be the one to uncover it.

Unable to even blink, she watched him approach as if in slow-motion. Something told her she wouldn’t walk away the same as before.

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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