He had imagined several times before scenarios in which they would meet unexpectedly, and the setting and birthplace of those scenarios was this very bookstore. The her in his scenarios was sometimes the cute and innocent one, and sometimes the slutty-looking one.

Though he could not get a clear view of her entire person, the her in front of him right now seemed somewhat like a mixture of both. In an eternity that was but a few seconds in reality, he looked at her in silence and surprise. He could tell that she was surprised too from her expression, but it vanished when she grinned and greeted him, uttering his name in the process.

So it was she who broke the silence before it could solidify its grip – in his scenarios it was usually but not exclusively her who spoke the first word. He managed to reply and return her greeting, though for some reason he felt like he had the face of a man delivering a solemn eulogy when he did so.

He wasn’t upset to have bumped into her, but he wasn’t pleased either. First, there the awkward matter of bumping into a former crush who he had spoken of in an unflattering manner only several hours ago. Second, this was not one of his occasionally-imagined scenarios, but real life, which meant that his absurd and implausible fantasies of flirtation and intimate acts would not transpire.

As a silver lining, the conversation that sparked from that encounter and greeting turned out to be smooth and pleasant – he had for some reason anticipated very bad things. A smile that felt genuine came easily to his face, though it was also, in part at least, a mask formed from instinct or necessity to suit the situation. And with smiles on both faces they asked and replied to simple questions like “how’s life?”and “how’s college?” The typical, cliché things that everyone he knew asked in moments like these.

As they spoke his eyes would a look away a little every now and then. There were two reasons: he couldn’t sustain eye contact with anyone for long – intimacy had no bearing whatsoever on this – and he couldn’t help but be curious about what apparel she was wearing, so in the milliseconds it took for his eyes to look away and return to her face he stole glances at her.

The snippets of visual information his eyes reported to his mind told him that she was dressed in a plain white t-shirt and a pleated sky blue mini skirt. The t-shirt did not seem tight but it accentuated (fairly notably, he unconsciously noted) elements of her torso (or perhaps they were so prominent that a humble t-shirt was simply incapable of diluting their presence?) that quickly and effortlessly pulled his eyes and mind – without their consent – towards them for a bit. This happened as he was blinking, so he concluded – no, hoped – that his quick and absolutely unintentional glance had gone unnoticed by her.

“So, are you here to buy a book, or are you just reading stuff?” she asked him.

“Just reading,” he replied. “And maybe have some coffee later,” he added, slightly hurriedly.

“I’m sorry?”

“Coffee. I’m thinking of grabbing some books or mags and then head over to the Starbucks at the back of the bookstore.”

“Starbucks huh? Wow, what a rich kid you are!” she said mockingly. Then she smiled and said, “Just kidding. I’m actually heading there too, by the way.”

“Wanna grab a drink together?” he said. He hadn’t intended on saying this – he had just settled a little too comfortably with the mood and flow of the conversation. He had asked that question in one (or more) of his self-imagined scenarios however.

He anticipated a flat-out rejection, but instead there was a slight pause as she glanced to the side with her lips squeezed and pushed out a little. Slut, a part of him instantly thought when she puckered her lips. When she turned back to him, she said: “Well, if you’re paying for mine as well, I would happily oblige.”

“Hmph. I was hoping you would pay for both of us instead,” he responded. “I’ve never been treated to a drink by a girl before.”

“Tsk, some gentleman you are.”

“I’m not a gentleman,” he said with a small laugh. She looked at his eyes after he said that, and he felt as if her gaze was diving into the darkest recesses of his mind.

“Of course you’re not.”

***

Next: Part 3

Previous: Part 1