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and if you would just say hello

Title: and if you would just say hello
Author: Aspen Snow
Summary: Moments have to be made, really-- and this isn't a movie.

She locks her keys in her car at a gas station. That's how he meets her. She's already at the pump, got the hose in the tank when he pulls up behind her.

Before he gets out of the car he says, "She's cute," to his brother who responds only with a shake of his head. Because maybe him noticing her was inevitable-- he has a type you see. And she has this long brown hair, curled at the ends, that is so light it's nearly blonde. She's got stars on her shoes and musical notes on her jacket and the sun set hours ago but everything about her seems so bright. But it's not until he notices that she wears glasses-- square frames, maybe green or purple-- that he decides that she is probably, almost definitely more than a pretty face.

When she finishes, she puts the pump back in its cradle and walks around the car to the driver's side door, moves to pull it open. Except it doesn't open, not the first time, or the second and on the third time it doesn't open she bends down, moves her face close to the window, and laughs.

If he was a better man he'd recognize this as a moment. But he's never been lucky enough for his life to work in clichés so when she walks up to him, asks to use his cell phone, he just gives it to her. When she starts walking away, he goes into the Mini Mart, buys an energy drink for no reason at all (and maybe his fingers shake when he hands over the five dollar bill) and by the time he gets back his brother is holding his cell phone and she is sitting on the hood of her car.

She's got her back to him, those curled ends of her hair are brushing across her jacket and his brother is handing him his cell phone. He doesn't realize he's staring at her until his brother speaks.

"Dude, just go talk to her," he says.

"And say what?" he says. She's absently tracing patterns into the hood of her car now.

His brother turns to look at her, watches her fingers move in slow circles, maybe a little fascinated with her too, and says, "Fuck, I don't know, offer to stay with her until whoever she called gets here? That would be the, shit-- what's the word?"

"Chivalrous," he offers.

"Right," his brother says, "That would be the chivalrous thing to do. Girls love that stuff."

"Maybe," he says, and to be honest, he's thinking about it. Thinking about it seriously enough that he can see the way she'll turn her head when walks up, can see the way-- when he clears his throat with a heavy breath-- her lips will curl into one of those smiles from the movies, the ones that always hit you in slow motion.

He's almost convinced himself to take the first step when his brother starts waving a hand in his face, "You going to stand here all night?" he says.

He catches sight of a white car pulling into the gas station, watches her put her feet on the ground, push herself off the hood of the car. He turns around before the car pulls up to her, says "Let's go," to his brother.

He's put the car in reverse and turned onto the street before his brother can even buckle his seat belt. He stops at a red light a couple of blocks away and his brother says, "Should have said goodbye man. Got her name at least."

He shrugs. "That was probably her boyfriend in the car," he says, "Girls like that always have someone."

"Yeah, probably," his brother says, and then he's talking about tacos and burritos and guacamole.

He remembers, now, that when they'd left the apartment he'd been hungry. So he drives them over to a Mexican place, orders a California burrito (he likes the french fries) and tells himself he didn't actually walk away from her.

He takes a bite of his burrito and he can actually see her there, sitting across from him with her legs stretched out under the table, he can feel her shoe, the one with the stars, pressing into his thigh. Some guacamole falls out of the bottom of his burrito and hits his plate with an audible plop. he blinks at the noise and that image of her-- the glasses, the hair brushing the table, the eyes he just now remembers are blue-- it's gone and there's a ringing in his ears that sounds a lot like her laughter.

When he gets home that night he waits for his brother to go to sleep-- because yeah, he feels ridiculous-- and takes out his phone, scrolls through the recent call list until finds the only number he doesn't recognize.

He thinks if he can still remember her face in a week he'll call the number. And if a guy doesn't answer the phone, that boyfriend he had assumed was in the white car, maybe he'll even ask for her name.


The next morning she makes an appointment to get her hair cut.

It's been nearly a year since she'd had it cut last and with her hair reaching halfway down her back it takes twenty minutes to dry it every morning. As easily bored as she is the last thing she wants to do is stand in front of a mirror with a hair dryer for longer than five minutes. She inevitably ends up giving up after about ten minutes anyway, and the bottom half of her hair, which is left to air dry, is always slightly curly as a result.

She puts on a pair of shorts, a green v-neck shirt, and slips into a pair of flip flops, infinitely glad that the days are warm enough now that she doesn't have to wear regular shoes and pants and jackets. Of course, with spring in full bloom the weather makes her allergies flare up and her eyes always itch too much to wear contacts.

But she doesn't mind, she rather likes her glasses, actually.

She heads out to her car-- there is a taco place across the street from her hair place and with an hour to kill she decides to get lunch first.

She listens to Justin Timberlake while she drives because she's been wanting to dance for awhile but hasn't found the time, or the people, to go to a club downtown. She pulls into the parking lot of the taco place, parks in the back corner where all the spaces are empty-- she has this fear, irrational maybe, of hitting the car next to her every time she pulls into a space.

She walks up to the door, pulls it open and briefly wishes that places like these still had bells on their doors. She's thinking about getting a couple of tacos, maybe a bean burrito with extra cheese when the guy standing in line in front of her catches her eye.

He's rocking forward onto his toes and it’s that motion that makes her look down and when her eyes fall to the back of his leg, his calf muscle flexing, then relaxing, she sees that he has this bold, black tattoo of two letters, S and D, intertwined.

It’s the logo of the San Diego baseball team, the Padres (she's always loved its symmetry).

And she has never seriously believed in moments like this because that is the tattoo she had been planning on getting since she graduated from college last year. She'd been planning on getting it on the underside of her wrist, though, where it would be more of a declaration than an afterthought.

The fact that this guy is standing in front of her where the tattoo is all she can see makes her think he might be someone. So she takes a step back so she can look at him better.

He's wearing black basketball shorts, a black tank top, running shoes with ankle socks-- the kind real athletes wear-- and one of those 30's style hats, the fedoras or whatever. It’s got a red band around the base and she imagines all its missing is a feather. She thinks, with the hat and all, he must be one of those people who loves baseball for the way it makes you feel, for the way it sounds, for the effortless way it always, always breaks your heart.

But then she's always been fond of believing that the littlest of things are significant.

He steps forward to order and before she knows what she's doing she's reaching out to stop him. She wants to talk to him, feels like she should. She stops herself, though, from touching him. She's always been good at self control, and then he's finished ordering and is walking away, drink cup in hand.

She orders and pays rather quickly, asking for her order 'to go' as he did. It gives her an excuse, at least, to stand next to him by the counter. She thinks about saying something to him, as he fidgets with his car keys. She really wants to say 'Nice tattoo,' because she would mean it, but it is so obvious and as interesting as she finds him she is afraid of him finding her predictable.

If this was a movie she'd have something clever to say about his hat and the allure of contradictions. If this was a movie he would have stopped breathing for a moment when he saw her come through the door. If this was a movie he'd end up commenting on the flowers painted on her toe-nails and she can practically see the conversation from there, the facial expressions too, smiles even-- those half ones probably where the corners of the lips do all the work, those are the cute ones aren't they?

If this was a movie, though, she'd be watching it not starring in it and so when his number is called and he collects his food she doesn't say anything at all when he brushes past her and out the door. There is a scent, though, that lingers for a second before it follows him out the door. She doesn't know how to describe it, she's never been the poetic type but the sharpness makes her edgy. Then her number is called and when she gets her food she decides to eat it outside-- tells herself that when she pushes open the door quickly, a rush of air stirring her hair, she isn't looking for him (if this was a movie, though, he'd have a flat tire and no spare, no cell phone either and she wouldn't be the damsel in distress she'd be the damsel to the fucking rescue).

She is settling herself into one of the picnic-style tables in front of the restaurant, wondering how many moments like that a person gets, when her phone rings.

A quick glance at the caller ID and she knows it’s her brother.

"What," she says.

"We can't go hiking tomorrow," he says.

"Why?" she asks, as she turns around. Cowles Mountain is across the street, she always forgets how close it is to her hair place. She looks up, knows there's people standing at the top enjoying the breeze, she can't see them from here, though.

"Store meeting. Fucking Starbucks--" he says, "We'll have to go Friday."

"That's fine," she says, but really, she's been looking forward to the workout. She'd got a letter from the UCLA School of Law earlier in the week. One of those short, polite deals-- of the we regret to inform you variety. She hadn't really thought she would get in, UCLA is ranked, like, 13th in the country but still, she'd thought there was maybe a chance someone on the Admissions Council would read her personal statement and say 'We need someone like her here.'

Silly, maybe. She has five backup schools anyway, all her eggs aren't in one basket or however that goes.

"Hey," her brother says, "this guy called me today looking for a girl."

"Looking for what girl?" she asks, not all bothered by the sudden shift in conversation.

"No, I mean-- he said he was looking for a girl," he says.

"Right, ok, so-- did you tell him you weren't, unfortunately, a girl?" she asks.

"Funny. No. Just told him he had the wrong number. But seriously, the guy was like, nervous. Or, I don't know, sad?" he says.

"Sad? Really?" she says, "You picked up on all of this in the five seconds you were on the phone with him? Amazing."

"Shut up," he says, without any real anger, "I think maybe he was hoping I was someone else."

She laughs at that. "Well, that I can understand," she says, and really he makes it so easy.

"Whatever-- see you Friday," he says, "and try not to lock your keys in your car again, I hate driving out there."

She makes a comment about how at least she didn't get her car stolen by leaving a spare key in the glove box, he tells her to shut up, again, and she finally says goodbye. She puts her phone back in her purse after she hangs up and picks up a taco. The sun is warm today, makes her hair feel hot on the back of her neck and as she eats she thinks about that guy who called her brother looking for a girl and wonders who the guy is-- wonders more who the girl is.


The next afternoon he goes for a hike. He's been hiking Cowles Mountain for years. He likes the rocks and the dirt and the way his legs burn, already, a quarter of a mile in. The trail is a mile and half long and has a pretty decent incline all the way up. The people who come here regularly, like him, come with water bottles and iPods and hardly ever look too far beyond the path. They're here for the workout. The other people, the ones who stop by on a whim or because hiking sounds like a more wholesome way to spend their time, they stop and take pictures of Lake Murray or the brush which they mistake for wildlife. These people get in his way, these people don't understand to stay to the right of the trail to allow the faster moving hikers to pass. There's an etiquette and it bothers him when people don't follow it.

Sometimes, though, on the clear days the Coronado Bay Bridge is clearly visible in the near distance, arching over the ocean. A blue bridge hovering over blue water. Even he's tempted, to stop for that.

He fancies himself a poet, if you must know, though he rarely ever writes about things so lovely. He's never really been good at finding things or people to love-- can't seem to stop himself from trying, though, and yeah, he's tried. Inevitably he ends up writing about all the ways love just does not work.

He was forced to watch Casablanca as a child, and maybe this is where it all went wrong because he hated it. It was old and black and white and didn't say anything, at least not to him. Years later he thinks movies aren't brave enough, anymore, to give their hero and heroine an ending that breaks the heart rather than mends it. And this is the impression that really stays with him, the heartbreak.

These days he wears a fedora, like Humphrey Bogart, and when he's feeling particularly bold he'll bring it down low over one eye and mourn the loss of words like rakish and libertine and this is the part of the story where the girls always fall for him.

"You are so romantic," they always say with fluttering lashes and deep sighs and he resents them the cliché. He hasn't ever been looking for romance. He wants something heavy. He wants something with enough force, enough weight to pull him and he can't ever imagine settling for someone who can't move him.

So, he wears his hat when he hikes. Maybe because he's hoping a girl will recognize the gesture. Or maybe because he is every bit the hopeless romantic he pretends not to be (secretly he's waiting for a girl to catch his breath).

Jogging the last hundred yards of the trail the wind is cool on his skin and he has the sudden urge to close his eyes, for a moment, and savor. But he doesn't really understand the impulse, he's at the bottom of the mountain now and there is an old man with a fanny pack and knee high socks at the water fountain, a white, four door car pulling into the parking lot, and the sound of traffic, just barely louder than the music in his headphones.

This is nothing extraordinary, he thinks.

At the bottom of the mountain he's stretching, reaching down and touching his toes when a couple walks by him laughing. From his perspective all he can see is the girl's ponytail swinging back and forth-- brown hair curled at the ends-- and in her laugh he recognizes a sharpness he could describe, if he had the inclination. But it's just an idle observation, like the bridge, so he settles himself on the ground, keeps his back to them while he stretches his hamstrings.

He hears her laugh again as he walks to his car. The sound of it makes him turn around and look for her. She's already started the hike and with her hair swaying back and forth she turns to talk to the guy she's with and he can't help, all of sudden, but think that there is something about her profile that is familiar.

But it's just a stray thought that makes no real sense, so he gets in his car and pulls the door shut loudly. Driving home he can't help but think that if this was a movie she would have turned around when he'd shut the door and pined. If this was a movie the guy with her would have been her brother, not a boyfriend, and she'd be looking for the type of guy who could possibly, maybe break her heart.

If this was a movie they'd meet again and she would smile at him-- slow and lazy-- and he'd say something about fate or destiny and it would be a moment. But then, he's never really believed much in fate so he shakes his head to chase away the thoughts because really, girls like that don't exist except in the movies.

It doesn't stop him, though, from imagining running into her the next time he goes hiking. He can see her almost clearly, by herself this time, looking into the window of her car, a laugh on her lips. She's locked her keys inside, she needs his help.

He can taste their conversation on his tongue.

“Hello—“ is how it would start.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 24th, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)
I like it..Its unorthoodx.Interesting.
Dec. 24th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
i really love this and the way it's written, especially the ending because it's what it was all about – opening conversation. at least that's what i got from it. and i was half-hoping that maybe, in the end, he would finally go up to her ... but it's often never really quite like the movies, as you've so told in the story.

mm, i'm sure there is more to say but i've not enough eloquence in the morning to say it. nevertheless, this is a wonderful story. love it. :)
Mar. 12th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
I really liked that story.

"You are so romantic," they always say with fluttering lashes and deep sighs and he resents them the cliché. He hasn't ever been looking for romance. He wants something heavy. He wants something with enough force, enough weight to pull him and he can't ever imagine settling for someone who can't move him."

I think that's my favourite part. Of course I may be biased because I feel the same way although I could never put it into words the way you do.

"and she'd be looking for the type of guy who could possibly, maybe break her heart." This reminded of another great short story I read. I think you would like it. It was a Bones fan fiction but really you don't need to know anything about the show to appreciate it. It's called the dirty truth. Here's the link: fanfiction .net/ s/ 3415234/1/ Happy reading :)

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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