She sat in the corner booth staring into the darkness at the bottom of her bottle. Her hair curled around the contours of her face, tumbling to her long neck. Her lips were open softly, moving slowly as if she were singing a song to herself or whispering secrets into the bottom of the bottle. She looked up at the light above her for a moment, her hair flowing down her back as she paused her mumbling. Her eyes looked sad, but sad beyond the threshold of suffering. Sad like acceptance.
He knew that look.
Her eyes closed, drinking in the light on her face, then her head fell slowly back to the bottle, her hair tumbling back across her face.
He stood. He sat back down. He stood again. He sat back down and turned toward the bar, sipping his beer. He turned back and paused for a moment. Then he realized he was standing at her booth. He waved.
No, he didn’t say anything, he really just waved.
She looked at him and her brow furrowed with confusion. She didn’t say anything though, or move. She just furrowed at him. Even a ‘fuck off’ would have been useful in some way, at least then he would know what to do.
He looked around, hoping for a wingman that didn’t exist to break the ice or something. This is awkward. He thought. Then he looked at her again. Scratched his neck and went back to the bar. Fucking introverts he thought. He took a long swig of his beer.
He watched her in the mirror of the bar. She looked at him, and then down at her cup, and then back at him. Then her eyes shifted ever so slightly to the right and found his eyes in the mirror. Like magnets they just stuck there for a moment, difficult to pull away. Then he looked down and broke a peanut.
When he looked up she was sitting next to him. He jumped a little and looked down, not sure what to say. “You’re a very awkward person” she said.
He looked at her. She wasn’t looking at him, just kind of staring forward. “Takes one to know one… I guess.” He said with a goofy smile that quickly fell to uncertainty.
She smiled, still not looking at him. “Did you…” She paused. “Were you going to say something back there? Were you trying to say something?”
He thought for a moment. “I guess not, or I probably would have.”
She smiled again. Her smiles were like waves, rising quickly and then crashing and slowly receding back into the ocean. That’s a pretty flowery metaphor he laughed to himself. She smiled again at his laugh. Another wave of joy receding into calm seas. He smiled back.
“I, uh, just noticed you were sitting alone and wondered if you needed company.” He said.
“Yeah, company would be nice.” She looked down at the bottle in her hands. She wasn’t drinking it, just looking down at it.
“What’s your name?” He asked, starting to loosen up a bit. This wasn’t so hard.
“Sybil.” She said.
There was a long silence. He tried to think what to say next. Nope, it was still hard.
She started humming a nameless tune to herself. “What’s your name.” She said suddenly, and looked a little embarrassed about it.
“Oh, uh, Richard. Richard Galloway.”
“Oh, like Dick.” She smiled.
“Uh, no, not like Dick. Not a fan of Dick. I mean, the name. Well, or the… oh god.” He looked down at his beer and shook his head. Idiot.
She actually laughed. “That’s funny, you’re funny. Sorry, I won’t call you Dick.”
He looked up again, she was staring forward again, not looking at him. He followed her eyes to see what she was so mesmerized by. Their eyes met again, in the mirror. She smiled at him. That’s weird. He thought, but a part of him liked it. It was easier to look at her. I kinda like weird. He decided.
The night air was crisp but perfumed with the subtle scent of freshly budding flowers. Sybil clung to her coat as they walked in silence. She mostly looked down as she walked, but seemed to turn and peer inquiringly into the darkness of each alley. Richard tried to think of something clever to say. “I… like your hair.”
“Oh?” She said, looking up at him for a brief moment and then tearing her eyes away quickly and mumbling to herself.
“Yeah, it’s, uh, pretty.” Pretty? Really? That’s the best you got? Richard thought.
“I don’t usually… I’m not good with, uh, women.”
“Yeah, I noticed.”
“It’s okay, I’m not very good with men either.” She hastily added.
Richard smiled. “Yeah, I noticed.” He quipped, and then immediately regretted it.
She smiled and looked at him again. This time when their eyes met she didn’t look away. They stopped and stood on the sidewalk there for an endless moment. Her eyes seemed to grow as he looked at her. They expanded and filled the world. He saw galaxies spinning in her eyes. He watched them spin through time and space then fell deeper into a mass of blinding light crushing into claustrophobic darkness, into a void of everything. His head spun as the darkness condensed into a single infinite point and beyond it he could see…
He blinked. He took a step back. She looked at him with concern slathered thickly over her face. His mind was racing as he looked down at the sidewalk and watched dark dots forming randomly on it’s surface.
“It’s raining.” She said, and at that moment the black dots exploded into a wet sheen as water came pouring from the sky.
He looked at her again for a moment. Just standing there, wet in the rain. Then she smiled.
They ran for cover.
The door slammed behind them as they ducked into the narrow foyer of her row home apartment. Water dripped from their hair and soaked their clothes. Riched watched a drop fall from her chin, land on her chest, and leave a trail of wetness as it dribbled down her…
She laughed. “Wow, I am soaked.” Her smile stayed this time, warm and full.
He shook the water off his hands and ran them through his hair. “And you’re happy about that?” He couldn’t help but smile.
“It never rains on me.” She said.
“What?” He said. “You mean you never go out in the rain?”
She very nearly giggled “No, I mean whenever I go out it stops raining. I donno. Just lucky I guess.”
He laughed. “You are very weird.”
She stopped smiling.
He stopped smiling. “I’m sorry. I… uh… you’re not that weird.”
She looked down. “No, it’s okay, I am.”
“I…” He stood in awkward silence again.
She turned away from him and put a foot on the bottom step. She paused for a moment, then turned and looked up into his eyes again. “Will you… would you like to come up?” She looked up the stairs leading to her apartment.
He followed her gaze into the dark stairwell. He swallowed. He tried to find his voice. He knew he had it a second ago, if he could just remember where he put it. “Yes.”
She reached out and grabbed his hand. His eyes snapped to hers as a jolt of life shot through his arm and left him feeling dizzy. She stepped forward and pressed her rain drenched body against his, slowly lifting herself onto her toes.
His lips met hers and lingered for a moment. They parted and looked into each other’s eyes. Then she turned, paused, and led him by his hand into the darkness of the stairs.
Richard took off his coat as he stepped into the modest third floor studio apartment. Sybil closed the door behind them as he looked around the room, dimly lit by the lights of the city through the curtained windows.
“Spartan” he said, smiling.
Sybil stepped into the room and slipped off her coat, placing it over a lone chair at a small table. She took Richard’s coat and placed it on hers.
“Did you just move in?” Richard asked.
“Huh? No, I’ve lived here a while… What do you mean?”
“Oh, you just don’t have any pictures or decorations or anything.”
“Oh, yeah, no. I guess I just… I don’t…” Sybil struggled for a moment. “I guess I just never saw a point…”
He looked at her for a moment. “No, look, if you’re into the minimalist thing, then you’re into the minimalist thing. Who am I to tell you you should have more stuff, right?”
They stood in the ruddy dimness dripping.
He looked around again at the sparsely furnished apartment. He tried to find some hook, something to talk about. So you like food huh? He thought looking at the fridge. He shook his head.
She looked down, turned and walked to the window, looking out into the night.
He put a hand on the counter, watching the light from the rain pattered window dancing on the back of his hand. He wondered why she hadn’t turned the lights on. Then he heard a sound. High and melodic. It took him a moment to realize that she was humming to herself.
“Are you humming?” He asked smiling.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She said, looking down.
“No, no, it’s cool. What were you singing.”
“No, I wanna know what kind of music you’re into. Maybe you’re into some new band I haven’t heard of.”
“Yeah, something like that.” She laughed faintly.
He waited for her to elaborate.
“No, I was just singing to myself. It’s a bad habit. It wasn’t anything, like, real. You know.” She looked at him through the darkness.
“Oh.” He said.
They stood in the darkness for another long moment as he looked around the room.
“Maybe I should go, I…” Richard started awkwardly, moving toward his coat on the chair.
“No! You… don’t have to if you don’t want to. You can stay.”
“I’d like it if you’d stay, Richard.” She said, stepping closer and reaching out for his hands.
Their fingers touched again and he felt himself step closer. Their lips met once more as her hands slid up his arms and her fingers ran through his hair.
Sybil woke as a line of bright light cut across the bed. She reached out with her hand to the pillow beside her. It was still warm. She smiled as her eyes traced the slight depression in the bed beside her. She exhaled softly.
She lifted her head from her pillow, the sheets slipping from her body. She stood, naked for a moment, feeling the light of the sun warming her. She walked to her dresser and put on a t-shirt and sweat pants. She looked at herself in the mirror for a long time, wondering who the person was that looked back at her. Then she turned and walked to her small kitchenette.
The sound of the kettle whistling brought her out of her reverie. She gently dipped a tea bag in hot water, still thinking of the night before.
She sat quietly for a moment. Then she began to sing. She sang from her heart, the words flowing freely from her soul to her lips, slipping past the part of the mind that contemplates or judges. She sang for a long time. She sang about love. She sang about hope. She sang about sadness. She sang about life. She sang into the depths of her cup. Then she stopped and took a sip.
The room rang with the sad silent applause that echos in the stillness of every song without an audience. Sybil listened to it for a moment. Then she took another sip.
“Do you forgive me?” She asked the darkness at the bottom of the cup.
Always. The darkness whispered back.
“I love you.” She said to the darkness, and took another sip.