What might have happened: Vol 1 – Melt and Coalesce

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By Stephanie Hughes

 

‘Hey, guy!’ she shrieks, annoyed that this opportunity to have her curiosity satisfied is so easily, determinedly, slipping away. James slinks through the throngs of people, who chat animatedly or embrace with tears. He is unafraid of confrontation; ‘exhausted’ would be his adjective of choice. Yet her boot slams, the wheels of her fake Gucci suitcase coast the cement with the grace of an endless hock at the back of the throat.

James yearns, begs to melt and coalesce with passersby as the automatic doors slide open for them.
Please, take me into your life… I will be but a silent observer.

She shouts again, ‘Oi!’ shattering his implausible dreams.

He takes an impulsive right turn, into an almost-hallway with a dead-end so close he doesn’t understand the hole in the wall to start with. He imagines a door sliding closed behind him, as if the act of envisioning it will make it so. Close, Sesame.

And then he has to turn back, a pure insult to his entire fleeing being, and the girl stands close behind him, mocking his error and triumphant she has witnessed it. She looks as though she is about to say something, and then James realises he doesn’t care, about her comment or her judgement, and he turns from her easily. He walks now towards the first desk he sees. Virgin.

‘Oi!’ she says again. He almost spins around to hit her. Such abrupt anger from apathy mere moments before; this realisation startles, then settles him. And then he realises he doesn’t care about making a scene, all he wants is to vent his spleen. He spins to her and growls – ‘Look. I don’t know what your problem is or why you’re following me through this terminal, but so help me God, if you do not keep your ocker ‘Oi!s’ and weird little smirks trapped inside that face of yours, I will hit you so hard they can’t escape.’

This is not the reaction she is expecting. Nor does James expect it, either. Not those exact words, at least. The girl suddenly appears 6 years old after a scolding of her unintentional mistake. ‘How dare you reach out to me?’

‘I’m sorry,’ she says, voice shaking wildly. ‘It’s just that…’ Her eyes dart from his shirt to the floor and around them. She wrings her hands. ‘Nothing. Don’t worry about it.’ She spins around, grabbing her suitcase and drags it behind her, her knitted green shawl trailing in her wake.

James exhales through his nose, then grumbles to himself. He looks around, no one has noticed. But still she walks away.

‘Ah, shit,’ he mutters and rubs a hand through his hair. No, he wouldn’t have cared if her response had been as angry as he had been. In fact, he would have revelled in it. Her sudden timidity, insecurity, and pure shock at his offence, is not something with which he is comfortable.

He sighs shortly, looking from the desk to her retreating figure (dispelling the crowds easily, the very same he’d slipped into unnoticed) (almost unnoticed). And then she stops at the billboard of departing flights, and looks up.

Her pause is his invitation. He walks towards her.

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