This story is by Kristin Skipper and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Excuse me miss, I think you dropped this,” said a smooth male voice from just behind and to the left of me. My attention was so focused on my phone I hadn’t realized I dropped the twenty-dollar bill.
“Thanks,” I said as I took the money from him without even a second glance. I would’ve been so mad if I didn’t get my coffee fix.
Glancing up, I saw I still had some time. There were five people in front of me. I was in one of those parts of the story where the love scene is finally coming to fruition. I just had to know what happened. The characters were getting hot and heavy. Not too hot, I don’t really read those kinds of books, but it still had me looking over my shoulder to make sure no one else was able to see what I was reading.
The guy behind me was too close. I turned the phone off.
“I know how you feel.” The same voice sounded in my ear again.
“What do you mean?” I didn’t turn, trying to hide the fact my cheeks flamed red.
He was quiet for a moment.
We were standing shoulder to shoulder as if waiting to see an exciting show, only a certain number would be allowed. Yet this man, he was standing even closer, like he was familiar with me. I didn’t like the intrusion. Grinding my teeth in frustration, I turned slightly, just enough to see a blurry form in my peripheral vision. I could’ve sworn I caught a smirk from the side of my vision. I was almost tempted to look at him.
He spoke just as I was about to turn back. “I mean, I think I stayed up all night reading the very same book a week ago and I was cheering for Alden and Ava to get together from the start.”
This got my attention. So much so in fact, I turned full swing. No one, not one of my friends, had read this book. It was a sappy love story, they said. They laughed at me. So, I supposed he deserved my attention.
I opened my mouth to speak, but my voice caught as I took in the sight of him. Who knew? I had thought it was just an average man who stood behind me, but it was like I was looking at the spitting image of an ancient Greek god.
As if sensing my inability to form words or coherent thoughts, he spoke again. “Hi, I’m Will.” He reached out a perfectly masculine hand.
“Um, h-hi, I’m Layla.” I smiled, but I wanted to slap myself for how unimpressive my voice sounded. I tried to come off as poised, but it fell short of the goal.
Holding onto his hand for longer than socially acceptable, I dropped it awkwardly. There was something so familiar about him. I couldn’t place him, it was like I knew him from somewhere. Maybe he reminded me of someone, but for the life of me I just couldn’t remember.
“I wouldn’t have pictured you for a romance novel reader,” I said. Thankfully, it came out more polished than my first words.
He blushed a little and the right side of his mouth curled into a bit of a smirk. Usually, I would turn away at this point, break eye contact, but there was something about that smile I recognized. His eyes, so light honey, wouldn’t let go of mine. I started to ask, “I get the feeling that we have met…”
“Ma’am here’s your order.” The woman at the register called to me, her voice sounded annoyed.
The moment was broken. I gathered my pumpkin spice coffee, savoring the foam sprinkled with cinnamon which buffered the heat from the coffee. The clock the wall read 10:02. Damn it, I was late! I smiled at the stranger who captured my attention and rushed out of the coffee shop. I’d have to hurry if I didn’t want to get a reprimand from my boss. Before leaving, I hesitated and looked back thinking maybe I should wait, but his attention was turned towards the register. I bit my lip with indecision, then pushed the door open to leave, with the feeling of regret hanging in the air.
The days of autumn flew by. It was well into the end of October and I couldn’t shake the handsome stranger from my thoughts. His face would pop into my head out of nowhere, in the middle of the work day, during grocery shopping and even in my dreams. Sometimes those moments felt like they could’ve been memories, but there was no way. I know—I know I’d never met him before, but I couldn’t get him out of my head, and I didn’t think I really wanted to.
As the leaves turned from green to orange and red, I found myself wishing he was walking the beautiful streets with me. The smells of cinnamon and spice heralded the season of thanksgiving, leaving me with a longing of wanting something more—someone to be with.
Every time I went to the coffee shop, my heart would skip when the bell chimed alerting of a new customer. My stomach clenched, hoping it would be Will walking through the door, but for weeks I never saw him.
I felt it like a lead weight holding me down, the feeling I should stick around the coffee shop that day. I ordered my coffee as usual hoping, he would be there, like the first time we’d met, but he didn’t show. It hurt—more than I wanted and I didn’t care about my tardiness to work.
The weather was so nice this morning, crisp and chill with the smell of changing leaves all around. I sat on the bench and pouted. I would spend another season without someone by my side when all those around me were getting married or making a family. I sat on the bench, shoulders slumped, head down and barely even sipping at my peppermint mocha when a figure sat down next to me.
My head shot up at the familiar warm voice and I was immediately caught in his honey gaze. “Will?” My voice came out as a barely audible whisper. I never thought I’d see him again. I didn’t know how I knew he’d be here. It had to be fate. I had the uncontrollable urge to embrace him. Every muscle in my body tensed, and judging by the smile on his face he could tell I was having a hard time.
“I’m so glad I found you Layla.” He smiled, but there was a twinge of sadness in his voice.
Had something happened that made him sad? Or maybe he was married and regretted our connection? But that wouldn’t explain why he was glad he found me. “You’ve been looking?”
He nodded, extended a hand and placed it on mine. Immediately the warmth from his touch flooded my veins and a jolt of electricity zinged up my arm. My mind was overcome with a sudden rush of memories. I didn’t understand how, but pictures of me and Will flooded through. The more that flashed, the more I felt like I’d missed Will so deeply. I couldn’t understand why we’d ever been apart.
When the pictures slowed enough to not cause vertigo, I looked up. His face still bore the same sad smile.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to find you this time,” he said. “I tried to come back, but I was held back, unable to reach you, through forces outside my own.” His grip on my hand was tighter than before.
My eyebrows scrunched together as I sifted through memories—memories of him finding me in the past. “What’s going on?” I was still so confused. It would take time to come to grips with this person who’d lived so many lives already.
“We don’t have much time, but I wanted to be here—together this time.” He moved closer and wrapped me in his arms. I didn’t protest because I finally felt like I was home—he was my home.
“I don’t understand Will? What do you mean we don’t have time? I’ll call into work if that’s what you’re worried about.”
He shook his head. “It’s not. I knew the time was coming when I saw you in the coffee shop. I promise you Layla, I will find you sooner in the next life.”
I was so confused, this should be a happy reunion, but as the sound of squealing tires caught my attention I knew, our time had again would end too soon.
My heart pounded as the car raced towards us. There was no time to move, to think. I looked at Will. “I love you.” It came out in a whisper.
“I love you too,” he said, only a second before the car plowed into us.