It was every Saturday that they met at the bus stop without ever planning.
Like usual, she would be there first, always, lost in a book – Thoreau, on the cool, crisp days or when it was raining she was absorbed in Plath – with her eyes focused only on the printed words.
He would be second, though he was never sure how much later. He would awkwardly sit on the end of the bench to her right, his hands dangling looking for a place to rest. His nervousness increased with her nearness.
The rain softly came down today as he arrived and she was engrossed in Ariel. His eyes cast down and watched the puddles that gather on the pavement. He looked down at his hands, as usual, unsure of what to do.
He felt the slight touch of her arm as she gently turned the page. The slight movement sent a waft of perfume towards him and he inhaled the hint of rose. He smiled thinking it was fitting that she would smell as sweet as a flower.
There were moments, very few, he believed himself brave enough to move closer and ask her about the book. He imagined how he would conjure a up a brilliant smile at her response, an unequivocal return of his adoration, and she would be willing to sit with him for the rest of the day and discuss life, romantic poetry, and whether or not they liked sugar or a drop of milk in their tea.
On those days he pictured them in love.
He was jolted out of his reverie as a bus pulled up in front of them. She closed her book and stood up. She took a step towards the bus – slipped and stumbled with a small cry. Instinctively he jumped up and caught her.
This was his moment, he thought, his heart thumping. His chance to say everything he dreamed about. He opened his mouth and –
Something caught his attention and he glanced down. On her fourth finger of her left hand was a delicate diamond ring, previously unnoticed by him. He stared at the ring, fixated on what he had never seen before. So many times he had seen her, and he never suspected…never thought…..
“Thank you,” he heard her say in a voice as lovely as he had ever imagined.
He breathed in the scent of roses, regret, and summer grass after the rain.
“It was nothing,” he said with a forced smile as he let her go.
He could not take his eyes off of her as she climbed aboard the bus. An emptiness replaced the brief moment of joy that was in his heart. He could not watch the bus pull away so he looked down where she once stood, in his arms. It was then he noticed her book.
He scooped it up from the puddle wanting to feel her close by once last time.
“Ariel,” he whispered the title, sat down, and got lost in the words once cherished by her. He stepped into her world ever so gently…….