Wandering the busy streets of London on an overcast yet warm spring day, a woman carrying a cloth bag of free used books looks up and smiles at the world. She was an interesting looking woman, but pretty nonetheless. Her wide green eyes were captivating as well as wise and reflective, and her simple loose brown curls ensured her more striking features took the credit. She thought her head too big for her body and her arms too long, but she loved the way a patterned wrap dress fit across her flattened chest and floated down around her sharp hips. On this particular day she was wrapped in an off-white variant of the aforementioned dress type that tied at the neck, which had the daintiest green leafy embellishments along the hem. It’s slight glint offset her gold sandals perfectly and she felt completely put together.
Years of the most enjoyable work and research left her more than comfortable at her current point in life, one might almost say she was well off. This fact did not matter to her so much as the fact that she absolutely loved every second of what she was paid to do. Because of this people were drawn to her magnetic personality, resulting in an even more successful career.
She was in London on what felt more like a vacation than work, promoting her latest book. It was a selection of mostly true short stories from her travels around the world, a guide book with an entertaining and occasionally dramatic twist thrown in for good measure. She was proud of this book, more so than any of her others, and she was thrilled that Travel Book Co. in London was putting her up to come in and do a meet and greet, slash book signing. It was a long way from her home in America, and she never imagined her works would reach so many people abroad, but she did have a rather terminal case of humility.
As she floated down the street, having just come from the event with her bag of complementary travel literature, she found herself in need of a hot drink to calm her slightly jostled nerves. It had been a surprisingly popular event, more so than she had anticipated. A line out the door and around the corner to come and meet her. She had met some very interesting and strange people, as well as a few local authors, whom she was honoured were interested in her work. The woman rolled the course of this morning’s events over in her head, while subconsciously searching for a Costa or Cafe Nero, otherwise, she was more or less completely oblivious to the rest of her surroundings.
And suddenly, like a cold brisk wave smashing against the boulders along the edge of the sea, she obliviously collided with a Demi-God. Their shoulders clashed and they both spun in the direction of the other, resulting in a fiercely locked gaze. At first glance she saw a tall, dark, high cheek-boned Adonis, and then, to her euphoric horror, she recognized him immediately. Memories of an early Disney film and the tune of “Once Upon a Dream” rang in her ears.
“Pardon me” He said, reaching out and gently touching her recently struck shoulder with his hand.
She could have died right there and then, being perfectly and completely satisfied with what life had presented her…but something deep inside her took hold of the situation, and what followed felt like a dream beyond her control.
“Uhm, Coffee…” was all that came out of her mouth.
He responded with a completely justified confused look. His proximity and long dark coat made her feel so much smaller than him. She was easily overwhelmed.
She closed her eyes and quickly shock her head to bring some sense back to her brain. “I could use some coffee, would you like to join me? There is a fantastic Cafe just around that corner I understand, my treat?” It was a complete long shot, she knew that, but a part of her was determined to avoid regretting not taking the chance.
He looked her over, in a tactless manner but he was a man after all, all she could blame for that was nature. He pulled out his phone, thought for a moment while scrolling through what she assumed was his calendar, and then he looked up and laid a cheeky, confident grin all over her.
The Universe seemed to have decided to convince two complete strangers to go out on a limb, take a chance and make the leap. The rest was entirely in their hands. They walked side by side around the corner of the next street, she didn’t dare say anything from fear of fouling up the whole situation right off the bat and having him rum away faster than a chicken about to loose his head. She just wanted a cup of coffee in her hands and knew she would relax and come around.
They reached the door to the Cafe, and he held it open for her, she brushed past him, inhaling his intoxicating aroma that incidentally made her knees weaken. They stepped inside and she scraped up the remains of her confidence and turned to face him.
“What would you like?” She asked in a slightly too loud a voice. Damn those nerves again… “I’ll grab our drinks if you want to find a seat?” she followed up with, hopefully compensating for the embarrassing volume influx previously. He glanced up at the drinks board.
“I’d like a Irish Cream with sugar please.” Seemingly pleased at the selection.
“Mmm, good choice.” They parted and went about their prescribed tasks. She saw that he chose a seat for two by the window, which she thoroughly approved of, as she loved people watching, particularly in this wonderful city. This was quickly becoming her favourite place in the whole world, and that is saying quite a bit, as she had been just about everywhere one could think of because of her work.
She ordered the drinks, an Irish Cream with sugar for him, and Cappuccino for herself with a double shot of espresso. ‘That oughta keep me from a state of complete and utter panic’ she thought to herself. When they were ready, she carried them to the table, praying to any deity in the general vicinity, so she didn’t trip and spill them everywhere. The drinks made it to the table safely, and she sat down across from him and tried to make herself comfortable. ‘That is one damn good looking man’ she thought loudly as she looked at him, hoping no one could hear her. He was looking down at his coffee, stirring the dark liquid in the glass mug with a shiny spoon, making rhythmic clinking noises as the spoon went around. She tried desperately not to get too turned on, but at this point it was nearly impossible. she had been squeezing her legs together essentially since the moment they met. Couldn’t be helped.
“So, do you have a name my dear, or are you just a pretty face?”
She did her best not to turn to mush right there, trying to keep her composure, remembering the eternal words of Bridget Jones, ‘ “I will not get upset [flustered] over men, but instead be poised and cool ice–queen.” Yes, that mantra would do just nicely. I’m a professional woman for fuck sakes…’ She realized she had been thinking too long and quickly snapped out of it and tried to think of something clever to say.
“Nope, just a face… made for getting a passport rather difficult though”… ‘Oh God, please laugh, please think it was at least slightly humorous’
“I have the exact same problem, yeah.” he laughed, then took a sip of his coffee that was too hot, and tried to look like he wasn’t flinching in pain.
“I’m sorry, I hope you didn’t have to be anywhere at the moment, I’m sure you’re up to your ears in press related whatnots and that sort of thing.”
“Naaa, sort of a day off. Seems you know who I am though. Doesn’t seem fair really, as I don’t know anything about you, not even a name. What is it you do for fun Miss Mystery Woman?”
“I am a writer actually…”
“I said for fun..”
“Oh I don’t think you can get much more fun than flying around the world, causing shenanigans and getting paid to write about them.”
“I guess so” he paused “So are your and shenanigans worth reading about?”
“No it’s all Crap,” she grinned widely wile narrowing her focus, waiting for an amusing reaction. When she got one she finished with “Naw, It’s funny, amusing and all that but people love reading about misadventures, and if I can throw in a bit of helpful tourist hints and educate my audience even a little bit the end product is worth it.”
“Sounds fantastic, so what are you doing in London, you’ve got that sound about you that hints you’re from America”
“I am, actually, I’ve just come from a book signing at that Travel Book Shop in Notting Hill….you know, the one from the movie, actually come to think of it, it’s a wonder I didn’t spill orange juice all over you.”
“What?” He looked rather concerned, thus clearly hasn’t seen said film…
“I wouldn’t worry, you’re safe. Anyhow, they’re putting me up to do a bit of customer relations stuff, so to speak. I’m here till Tuesday then I fly to New Zealand to do another event.” She took a long sip of her Cappuccino, trying not to get foam all over her face.
“Well it’s terribly unfortunate that you’ve got to leave again so soon.”
“I know, this is just so surreal” ‘Can’t believe I just said that’ she thought. ‘Thank goodness he won’t catch the quote, whatever you do, don’t say “surreal, but nice” and offer him honeyed apricots’. She grinned to herself, yet felt slightly ashamed. ”
“At least tell me your name so I can find your book.”
“Here.” She reached into her bag and pulled out the copy she had on hand. She grabbed her pen and scribbled something on the inside cover for him and handed it over. “It’s all yours, with any luck it’ll be worth a fortune when I’m dead, 1st edition and all.” She rolled her eyes sarcastically and giggled. He grinned through his coffee mug, tilting it up finishing the last few drops.
“I’m very glad I bumped into you, Miss…” He paused and looked down to read the cover. “O’Brian, but I’ve got to get going, I’m so sorry. Thank you for the coffee, I’ll have to remember this place.”
“Yes, it is very lovely. As are you, and I’m so happy I got to meet you.” They got up and collected their things. A sharp feeling of sadness washed over her, thinking she may never see him…well…in person, ever again. But she will be eternally grateful for this opportunity. They cleared the doors of the shop, and stood on the sidewalk outside for a moment, facing each other. Something was drawing her to him, and he couldn’t help but reach out and put his hand on the waist of her white dress. She stepped closer to him, so he could feel her breathing. With his other hand he clasped hers and pulled it to his lips for a sensual yet innocent kiss. He held it to his lips for a moment longer, looking into her eyes, feeling like he had missed something important. He raised an eyebrow and lowered then released her hand. She stepped away from him, her heart beating as if it were ready to explode.
“Goodbye” She said with unimaginable confidence, and turned to leave up the street.
“Wait!” He called after her. “How do I know this isn’t your pen name?”
She turned her head in his direction and smiled a cheeky and devious smile.
“It’s just a chance you’re going to have to take.”
As he walked away he opened the cover of the book to read what she had wrote, assuming it would just be a signature. As he did so he stopped mid-stride, turned in her direction, his mouth agape. his heart both floating and sinking simultaneously. She was gone. Lost in the sea of people on the street. He needed to find her again, no matter what it took.
‘Well, if anything this little adventure has made it’s way into my next volume, that’s for sure.’ she thought to herself as she skipped down the London streets, beaming with perfect happiness.”
Miss Hailey Jane