Who is that girl, Luke wondered as he stared at the woman twirling her straw. She was sitting at a table three down from his sipping on a soft drink in a place that sold mostly coffee. Seated across from her was a woman he worked with – Ella White. The sun spread across their table, across the girl, and in that moment she looked so sweet and guileless that Luke couldn’t look away. She was lovely – there was no question of that – but her beauty wasn’t what drew his attention to her. It was her vulnerability; he could actually see it right under her surface! Something raw and painful – so devastating it had almost ripped her apart. Luke didn’t think that particular ache had been a part of the girl forever. No, she sat too upright, was too focused to have always been wounded. There was even a slight smile illuminating her face as she listened to her friend. Yes, there was an inner strength in her, still – he could tell – even if it didn’t burn as brightly as it had before.
Before what, he wondered.
Luke tried to decide if she reminded him of his first, true love. The girl’s face didn’t resemble the woman he was thinking of but there was something similar about the two of them. He didn’t know if they walked with the same, gliding ease, or if the girl pushed her long bangs from her face as seductively as his first love had. But, there! – was that the same tilt of the head? The same long, graceful fingers?
It was an exceedingly rare occurrence to find Luke at the coffee shop because a) he was alone, and b) he was eating lunch. His typical modus operandi was to double-team everything he did, including lunch. He’d devour an apple as fast as he could while speed-walking to a meeting; he’d gulp down half a sandwich while conferring with a colleague. Was it fate that caused him to be alone and in the coffee shop at exactly the same time as the girl? To have the moment even to notice her?
He thought he’d stop at Ella White’s table when he left, introduce himself and see if the girl was, indeed, as fragile as he thought. He was curious to see how she affected him up close. He’d need to be careful, though. He knew that a wounded bird such as the girl would instinctively be wary of new people, guarded against any further torment. But it felt vitally important to meet her. It felt like – hell, how frickin’ corny, he thought – his destiny.
Luke smiled at himself but just then, before he could make his move, Ella White and the girl rose from their table and walked towards the exit of the coffee shop. He watched as they moved through the door and around the corner, and as quickly as a hummingbird flaps its wings, the moment was gone.
Lost. For always.