I Saw Her: A short story

As much as I don’t want to frame anyone’s judgements or personal views on this story, I will say that it is based on people’s perceptions of one another and fantasies they allow themselves to indulge in. However, it is also about knowing when those fantasies end, especially for a man coveting a woman.

There she is. I saw her at the gym yesterday, running on the treadmill in front of me, long dark hair swaying side to side as she ran to the beat of an unknown song playing from her headphones.

Now, here she is, waiting for the tube. My tube. I have never seen her here before. Is that strange? Could she be following me? I have never seen her face. I wonder if it’s pretty. I hear my brother’s voice in my head, letting me know that I sound ridiculous and misogynistic. What does it matter if she’s pretty? Coincidences like this just do not happen to me. She is my soulmate.

As the tube breezes to a halt, she stumbles backwards. I smile and shake my head. She’s so cute. She gets on, and I board the same carriage one door down. I can tell that she is playing a game on her phone, winning. The pulse in her neck quickens. She is breathtaking. Her face is still frustratingly blocked by another commuter’s bag. She prepares to exit the tube at Marylebone. I do the same.

I follow her, brushing past confused and dazed London first-timers, not even bothering to take in the latest book advertisements colouring the musty grey walls of the station. I watch her gait as she bustles along with her fellow commuters onto the escalator. Her movements are so graceful it’s intoxicating.  I am so fixed on her that the blur of the faces passing on their way down does not draw me in as it usually would; I don’t concern myself with whether they’re wondering if life is really worth it, or merely what they’re having for dinner tonight.

As I reach the top, I take in her body bit by bit. She’s wearing chunky black boots with a low heel, black skinny jeans with a light pink leather jacket casually slung over her shoulders and an oversized black handbag. Her hair hangs to just below her shoulder blades.

I wonder what is going through her mind. Has she done anything important today? I bet that everything she does is important. Following her is exciting. I mirror her actions, taking out my Oyster card when she does, swiping through the same barrier. I walk right behind her around the coffee shop in the middle of the station, then past House of Chocolat and outside.

Not realising where she is headed, I nearly bump into her when she stops at the bus stop. She doesn’t notice the near-collision, and I take this opportunity as she turns to check the bus times on the digital board, to look at her face.

It is stunning; wispy black hair framing a heart-shaped face of soft skin the shade of a perfect latte. Her eyes are two smoky quartz gemstones, reflecting the early evening sunset.

She turns away to answer the phone, which I hadn’t heard ringing. I gage that she’s speaking with her mum, who she promises to visit this weekend. Her voice is gentle, but deep and controlled. A voice you would take orders from in an instant. I imagine her giving me feedback on my writing as I twirl her hair, distracting her, that lovely giggle filling the room, transforming into a whole-hearted laugh as we transcend into a tickling war. What a perfect scene. What a wonderful woman.

The bus pulls up and I notice her frantically texting. We step onto the bus side-by-side, me giving her as much room as possible. I follow her up the stairs where she takes the front seat. Perhaps she is new to the city, or simply just as transfixed by it now as she was when she first arrived. The time for my bold gesture has arrived.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” I hear myself ask, gesturing to the empty seat beside her. She shakes her head and smiles, moving her bag to the ledge in front of her, propping her feet up next to it. “I know that there are other seats available, but I love watching London at sunset.” She looks at me for a moment and I hope that she isn’t too put off by my boldness.

“I completely agree,” she nods, “I love this city more every day, and it’s only been two years.” This personal omission takes me by surprise. “These views have been entertaining me my entire life,” I disclose. She turns again to her phone.

I am about to offer to walk her home off the bus when I see the text over my shoulder. It’s from ‘Jamie’ with a little heart by the name. ‘I’ll meet you off the bus, honey. We can get takeaway tonight then… [wink face]’. I feel a lump form in my throat. “Well, this is my stop,” I tell her, pressing the button. “Have a good one,” she smiles. I get off the bus and wander aimlessly for a while.

She’s not mine, I concede, and check my phone for the next bus home.

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Author Joanne Reed

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