Lauren walked into her journalism class, scanning the room, she decided to sit next to a very handsome man at the front of the classroom. Just as she was about to introduce herself he picked up his books and moved to the back of the classroom on the opposite side. She sat down, peering at him quizically as she watched him bob and weave around desks. She turned around, inconspicuously smelling her armpits. “Smells like coconuts,” she thought. She ducked behind the desk in front of her and checked her reflection in the compact mirror. “I mean I’m not a 10, but I don’t think I’m horrendous. What is that dude’s problem?”
She took one look back at him but what she didn’t see was that he had been staring at her, and if she had caught him, she would have seen the pain in his eyes, but instead, she saw him looking at his book as if the moment hadn’t even phased him.
The next day Lauren decided she was going to approach him, but when she walked into the class he wasn’t there. He didn’t show up late either, nor the next day, nor the remainder of the week. Rumor had it that he had transferred to another college. Lauren couldn’t help but think she had something to do with his departure.
She didn’t know why, it was such a brief incident, but she just couldn’t seem to let it go.
Ben had grown accustomed to the ridiculous streets in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And by ridiculous, he meant the fact that if you look at a road map, it looks as though the designer gave a crayon to a toddler and said, “Here baby, draw me a road map,” and went with it.
It was the dog days of summer, humid as all get out mid-August in Pittsburgh. He was ecstatic though, he had finally made it as a sports journalist, and he was about to interview his favorite team during a pre-season game.
He turned around and scanned the crowds, he couldn’t believe it when he spotted her, sporting a pair of skinny jeans and a Bettis jersey, She looked so hot with her hair pulled up into a baseball cap, and she was a Steelers fan! “Damnit, Ben! This cannot be happening.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking away. The minute he looked back he wished he hadn’t. She was there with another man, who was handing her a bottle of beer while wrapping an arm around her waist. Jealousy surged through him. He had to take deep breaths, he couldn’t let her get into his head. Not tonight, the biggest day of his career. He didn’t turn around for the remainder of the game.
After a long day and night of interviews, totally worth it though, he decided to treat himself to a beer at Lefty’s, his favorite bar in the Strip District.
He sat down at the bar and ordered himself a Yeumgling. Turning on his stool he couldn’t believe the sight in front of him. She was dancing to “Dark Necessities” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and singing along with the words. She was so lost in it, you could tell the words touched her, she related to them, and the music moved her, and it was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. He sighed as he watched her flip her head from side to side before throwing it back, looking up over her glasses, and making direct eye contact with him.
“Oh shit!” he muttered, turning around quickly. He took a sip of his beer, got up and turned to walk away, but he felt her hand touch his arm, and the familiar feeling was painfully blissful. He turned to look at her, “Keep up the facade.” he reminded himself.
He looked down at her hand and up to her gaze with a stern look, “Why are you touching me?”
She quickly withdrew her hand, “I’m sorry.” The horrified look on her face pained him, but he couldn’t allow her to see that.
“Look, I don’t know you, you don’t know me, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“Fine.” She said, lifting her hands as if to say “I give up.”
He took a deep breath to calm himself before spinning on his heel and heading back to Lititz, a small town in the same state. The upside to living in Lititz was that it wasn’t in the city, not many people knew of it, and it gave him that feel of yesteryear.
He had to find a way to get her out of his head.
Lauren drank her wine barefoot on the back balcony of her apartment that overlooked the city. Although she missed the mountains she used to call home, there was no denying Pittsburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in America.
Watching the sunset behind the city she decided she would take the banana bread she had made for Mrs. Hudson to her now rather than in the morning.
Mrs. Hudson opened the door, greeting her with a hug. “Oh, hello, Lauren. It’s so good to see you.”
“How are you, Mrs. Hudson?”
“I’m fine, my dear. And you?”
“I’m well, too.” She smiled at her, handing her the banana bread. “I thought I’d bring this to you tonight, I remembered you saying your grandson was paying you a visit, and I thought you might like to have it for breakfast in the morning.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet of you. Ben, come here and meet the beautiful neighbor I’m always telling you about.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize he was already here.” She said, fixing her hair and straightening her tank top.
Both of their jaws dropped simultaneously as they met each other’s gaze.
She looked between him and his precious grandmother, wondering what decision he was going to make. Would he be a dick to her in front of his sweet grandma?
“Hi, Lauren,” He extended his hand, eyes pleading hers not to call him out, and although a part of her really wanted to, she didn’t. There was something so familiar about his eyes, she hadn’t noticed before. Probably because he hadn’t stayed in her presence long enough for her to notice. His eyes were pretty. She was perplexed.
“Well, I’ll let you two visit, I just wanted to bring the bread over. I hope you enjoy it.”
Mrs. Hudson was about to insist that she stay, but Ben interrupted her before she could. “I’ll walk you to your door.”
“That’s really not necessary,” she replied, smiling.
He walked up behind her, holding the door anyway. She stood there and stared at him for a few seconds before he motioned for her to walk out the door.
As soon as they were out of hearing distance he opened his mouth to speak, but she had become fed up with his assertiveness.
“Why are you so mean to me?” She asked.
“No, you don’t get to just apologize. This is the third time we’ve met and the first time you have been decent and it’s only because you were forced to. I figured maybe you were just an asshole, but what kind of asshole moves to Pittsburgh so he can be closer to his grandmother?”
“He sighed,” I didn’t think you would be here.”
“Are you really that repulsed by me?”
“Repulsed by you? Who the hell could be repulsed by you? You’re only the most beautiful woman in the entire world.”
She ran her hands through her hair in frustration. “I am so friggin’ confused.”
“There’s no reason I could give you for my behavior that would excuse it, so why even try to bother with an excuse, Lauren?”
She turned around, looking at him in surprise. “Well, I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Listen, I’m sorry, I truly am, and I’m very confused too. I thought I had a plan figured out for my life, but as it turns out there truly is something more powerful than me out there and it has complete control, and I’m sorry that I didn’t see that before. You would have thrown a wrench in those plans, and I know that doesn’t excuse my behavior, and this isn’t an excuse, it’s the truth.”
“I appreciate your honesty, Ben. You’re right, it doesn’t excuse your behavior, but at least I can have some sort of understanding.”
“May we start over?”
“He offered her his hand again, I’m Ben.”
“Hi, Ben, I’m Lauren.”
“Would you like to have coffee with me tomorrow morning?”
“Great, I’ll come to get you around 9:00. Does that work for you?”
He could tell she was being cautious, he didn’t blame her. “Great, I’ll see you then.”
Lauren paced in her apartment trying to put off sleep, afraid she would have her reoccurring nightmare again as they were becoming more frequent. It was hard to watch herself die in so many horrible ways and next to a strange man, or at least, she assumed he was strange, she never saw his face.
Stay tuned for part four!
*Picture was taken by Moi
While writing my novel I had an incredible idea come to me, and I’ve decided to write it as a short story and see what kind of reactions I get. Depending on whether or not I can pull this story off, I may expand on it and turn it into a novel or include it in a book of short stories. We will see how it goes. Thanks for being my guinea pigs!
Love & life lessons,