Source: Ivandrei Pretorius, on Pexels
The popup on his screen told him that it was almost time. David closed the alert and turned his attention to the office window. When he had quit his job as a nameless drone in a big skyscraper to start his own firm, he had chosen this small storefront office because it was all he could afford. Now, he wouldn’t trade this space for a top-floor suite in the tallest tower in the city. And it was all because of her.
He had first noticed her about a month after he had moved into the space. A meeting with a new client had just ended and he was walking them to the door. As he was shaking their hand and thanking them for their business, she had walked past down the sidewalk outside. It had stunned him to the point that he literally stopped talking mid-sentence. He’d never seen anyone as beautiful as her before. The client glanced over to see what had caught David’s attention. Upon seeing the woman going past, the client gave David a little knowing smile, and let herself out.
It took a few moments for David to recover his senses. Once he had, he’d rushed out the door to look down the street for her, but she was nowhere to be seen. Saddened, he had stepped back inside and tried to get back to work. Instead, he’d found he couldn’t focus on anything else that day and closed up early.
He’d seen her walk past a half dozen times over the next two weeks. Each time, he had been with a client, or on a sales call, and couldn’t do anything. So he would force his attention back to the work at hand. It got even worse starting with the third event, as he had started calling them. As she had walked past, she had looked into the storefront window directly at him and smiled.
David had screamed internally, wishing the client would go away so he could run out and talk to this woman. But his professionalism won out and he went on through his presentation on the ideal layout for this client’s office remodel. And each time after that, she had given him a smile as well.
It was about this time that David had realized that she was passing by about the same time each day that he saw her. And so, he had taken to rearranging his schedule. And each day since, he had set the alarm on his computer to alert him when it was almost time for her. And each day since…. nothing.
Nearly three weeks now, and she hadn’t passed. But each day he would stop his work, and watch, waiting for her. The first week, he had sat there for nearly an hour each day, watching for her. Nothing. Each day after that, he waited a little less, and a little less, as his hopes began to fade. Yesterday, he had watched for only 20 minutes before being drawn back into his work.
After 15 minutes of waiting, he was already starting to turn his attention back to his work. “Perhaps it was just a dream,” he said to the empty little storefront around him. “And a foolish one at that, I guess.”
And then, there she was, standing outside his window. David leaped up, knocking his chair over, as he stumbled toward the door. He felt his face flush red with embarrassment as he could see her stifle a little laugh and glance away for a moment.
Opening the door and stepping out onto the sidewalk, he was surprised to see that she wasn’t there. She was nearly to the end of the block and walking swiftly away. He watched as she turned the corner. Just before she disappeared, she stopped, looked at him, and smiled before stepping out of sight.
David ran to the corner, dodging around and between the various people and objects that cluttered the sidewalk. As he turned the corner, he was surprised to see she was nowhere in sight. Confused, he wandered halfway down the block but saw no sign of her. This block was undergoing a “civic renovation”. None of the business fronts here were open. She must have gone into one of the apartment buildings. But without knowing what building or apartment, it would take hours, or days even, to try every one. He just couldn’t take the time.
Dejected, David walked back to his little storefront. He couldn’t understand it. Why had she run away? Had she run away? And where did she go? He was left with nothing but questions. Was she just trying to play games with him?
“Well,” he says to no one in particular, “I don’t have time for games.” And with that, he turned his focus to his computer. He had a presentation to prepare for anyway.
So focused on his work, he didn’t see the figure standing at the edge of his window, watching him, a sad smile on her face. After a few moments, she drifted off back down the street and out of sight.
For the next week, David ignored the windows as much as possible. He even went so far as to turn his desk partly, so it no longer mostly faced the front. As such, he did not see her pass by each day. Each day, she would stop and watch him for a few minutes, with that same, sad smile upon her face. Eventually, she would move on, disappearing down the way.
Then came the day when David happened to look up, and there she was, standing just inside the door. She looked nervous, perhaps a little scared. David said nothing for a moment, but then managed a meek “hi”.
She smiled a little but said nothing. After another few moments of awkward silence, David waved his hand towards the guest chairs in front of his desk. “Please, sit,” he said.
The woman hesitated a moment more, then seemed to glide gracefully across the room before sitting in one of the chairs. “Hi,” she said quietly, looking more at the floor than at David. They sat there quietly, not speaking, for several minutes. David was content to let the silence continue. He was too afraid to say something stupid in the presence of such beauty.
“I’m sorry,” she said finally. “I’m sorry that I ran off. I was… scared.”
“It’s okay,” David replied. “I’m a bit scared myself.”
She smiled up at him for a moment and to David, it was as if the heavens themselves had opened up and poured out sunshine directly onto him. But she quickly looked back down at the floor and the moment passed.
“I’m David,” he said, holding out his hand.
She didn’t take his hand or look up, but only said, “Sarah”.
After another awkward moment, David dropped his hand back down. “Do you live around here?”
She only shook her head.
“You must work around here then?” he went on.
She hesitated, then shook her head again.
David was left perplexed by that. “I…” he started. “I don’t understand then.”
She didn’t seem to acknowledge his confusion but did look up. “Tell me about yourself. Please?” she said.
David considered that for a moment, then began to talk. He told her about his work, about quitting his job to start his own business, about his hopes, his dreams, his interests. He told her about his childhood, his school, his friends. The more he talked, the more comfortable he felt with her. And the brighter her smile as she listened to him talk.
He went on about his complete lack of social life. (Why on Earth had brought that?) From there, he dove headlong into all the reasons his last girlfriend had given him for dumping him. He ignored his inner voice screaming at him to shut up as he launched into a lengthy description of his prom night, and how he had broken his arm trying to impress his date, spending much of the evening in the emergency room.
Sarah had laughed brightly at his re-enactment of his dance moves from that night. David stood up and moved around the desk in order to re-enact one particularly flailing dance move. As he did so, he failed to recognize that Sarah’s face had changed from a smile to a look of fear. It wasn’t until he lost his balance, starting to fall over towards her, that he noticed as her face changed from fear to abject terror.
He managed to twist, mid-fall, reaching out towards the arm of the chair with one hand. But it wasn’t enough. His other hand reached out and went over the arm and came down on her… nothing.
David blinked. She wasn’t there. He looked all around the room. There was no sign of her anywhere. “What?” he said. “What the….” He was still there on the floor, kneeling next to the chair when his next client walked in.
It was two months later when David was reading an article about the redevelopment of the area when he came across a section about a girl who was killed late one night on this very block five years ago, a girl whose picture David recognized immediately, a girl whose name… was Sarah.
Husband, father, gamer, developer, manager, writer, creative, blogger, model railroader, Buckeyes fan