Her phone vibrated again in her hand. He had sent another message to reassure her that there would be no flowers this time (he was actually in a meeting). She smiled despite her earlier discomfiture, and pocketed her phone as she stepped off the train.
Breathing in the cool morning air — today comprising the crisp scent of rain and the aroma of coffee, offset by the odour of car exhaust and stagnant water — she left the station and headed down the street amongst a sea of umbrellas and hunched shoulders. Lightning and thunder continued to stretch across the sky, peeking in around the skyscrapers in search of an audience.
A roar of thunder followed her into the lobby of her building. She turned and watched the passing crowd, pelted by rain, eyes widened or brows furrowed, marching steadfastly on toward safety. She wanted to join their ranks. She imagined walking out, skipping work, following the rain clouds wherever they went, until they found the ocean and she could drift away.
Behind her, a man cleared his throat and excused himself. Blinking away her reverie, she turned to face the man, and promptly stepped into the puddle that her umbrella had created on the polished tile floor of the lobby. He offered to take her umbrella and put it in a bag. She apologised earnestly, and explained that she had been lost in thought. He nodded his understanding, and told her not to worry about it.
That was about the extent of their first conversation. It was a seemingly innocent meeting — unremarkable, commonplace and inconsequential. She didn’t give it a second thought. She didn’t give him a second thought.
But it would be followed, in coming weeks, by charming smiles, lingering eye contact and the accidental touching of hands that would all nourish it from a common shoot into a magnificent blossom. Their relationship would become a beautiful dance — he would lead, and she would follow, and the whole thing would feel effortless, like gliding on a cloud. She would be entranced, enthralled, besotted.
The sight of him — the very thought of him would delight her, and send shivers of excitement through her body. In him, she would find asymmetry, blemishes, imperfection. He would only ever be perfect in his love for her.
They would dance in the rain and marvel at storms together. He would soothe and quell her inner turmoil whenever it threatened to resurface, thrashing its head about and snapping its jaws. He would hold her, and impart a sense of strength, security and constancy. Together, they would fill the ravines and build bridges, and open their worlds to each other. There would be trust and acceptance between them.
But she did not realise any of this then — she could not have foreseen this future after that first meeting. Her life was fear, devastation, disappointment. It was a constant breaking and healing and breaking again. She was always stumbling through her steps, tripping on her own feet or that of her partner, always anticipating the fall.
He stole a glance in her direction as she stepped into the elevator. He watched the numbers on the wall tick up to 12, pause, and then count back down to G. He sighed, shook his head, and told himself he was being foolish.