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  • Stella B James

Short Story: If I Fell

I will never forget the day I met you. Or maybe it was at night. You were sitting with some friends of mine as I made my way back from the bathroom. In this small town, I had seen you here and there. Always smiling, always surrounded by girls. Like now, as you leaned back in my chair, helping yourself to a couple of my fries while my girlfriends giggled at whatever clever thing you said in that enticing accent of yours. Knowing you now, it doesn’t surprise me how comfortable you can make yourself amongst strangers.


“Thanks for keeping my seat warm,” I told you, my signature smirk in place. Mouth open, mid-bite of said fries, you glanced up at me and chuckled. Stuffing your mouth full of fries, you made a show of patting your thigh and wagging your eyebrows. I shook my head and you shrugged, as if you gave it your best, before giving up the chair.


I sat, reached over for my fries to nibble at the ends. You appeared beside me, in another borrowed chair from a different table. The girls started dividing up the bill, and you offered me a dollar for the fries you stole. I giggled despite myself, and I felt clumped into those starry eyed gaggle of girls you seem to attract. But you looked surprised that I could produce such a sound, and before we left the restaurant, you helped me into my coat. You let the others struggle theirs on by themselves.


***


I didn’t see you again until about a week later in a local coffee shop that simply has the best chocolate croissant you’ll ever get your hands on. The coffee is pretty decent too. My nose in a book, I didn’t notice you at first. How long did you sit there, watching me? Did you like what you saw even then?


I jumped a little when I finally looked up and took notice of you. You chuckled, and stole my book away from me. You do love to have all the attention, don’t you? “What’s this?” you asked, flipping through the pages.


“Here in America, we call it a book.” Sarcasm has always been my greatest armor. It usually keeps one at bay, but not you. Of course, not you.


“Ha ha. Which one?”


I point to the front of the book, where the title is prominently displayed. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”


“Any good?”


“You’d hate it.”


“I’ll take your word for it.” You reached over for my delectable croissant and took a bite. The nerve! You must thrive off of that nerve. You snatched up my book again, opened it to a random page, and started reading. I sighed in defeat that you weren’t going away any time soon, and sipped my hot tea.


Over the rim of my mug, I took a moment to look at you. To really look at you. To try and see the appeal. Your accent gave you an immediate advantage. I hadn’t pinpointed it yet. French? Russian? Somewhere in between? European to be sure. And your height. Us women love a tall man, and you were well over six feet. Big puppy dog brown eyes and a roundish face. Shaggy brown hair.


“Paul McCartney,” I said in revelation. Your eyes shot up to meet mine, brows furrowed together. “Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Paul McCartney?”

You placed the book down, smiling that smile that I am sure gets you every number you’ve ever asked for. “You like the Beatles?”


“I live for the Beatles.” I offer up my own smirk, the one that usually scares men away. “But I personally prefer John.” Oh, how your face fell at that. Did you think you might have won me over in that moment? Not then, but at your reply, yes. That was probably the moment.


“I should get the small, round glasses then?” Hook, line, and sinker, I was yours. And I laughed, a true laugh that not many strangers can pull from me.


You ordered yourself a cappuccino and another chocolate croissant to share. We spent hours at that small coffee shop, and I learned the gist of you. Your name was Robert and you were from Romania. You waited tables at a fancy French restaurant and went to school for business. You liked old movies, jazz music, and red wine. Even cynical me could admit there was such a thing as soul mates in that moment.


***


Maybe that accent of yours won me over in the end. I’ve always been a sucker for a good accent. Or maybe it was the spontaneity of every moment with you. Our meetings were rarely planned, but maybe that was what made them perfect. As our time together grew longer, I noticed your gaggle of girls growing thinner. Was it then that we fell in love?


I remember the moment I fell in love with you. We crashed a wedding reception. Something I would never in a million years do, but I did it with you. You somehow convinced them I was related to the bride, or maybe the groom. It doesn’t matter which now.


We stayed, and danced with these strangers, and drank up their red wine. An older gentlemen with graying hair commented on what a lucky man you were. You pulled me in close, kissed my cheek, and without missing a beat, replied, “I am, right?”


He asked me to dance, and in my absence, some women sat beside you. But as I peered over the man’s shoulder to look at you, your eyes met mine with a wink. And I melted. My heart became yours.


***


Over a year went by, and you were still by my side. Though we never made it official, everyone seemed to know we were each other’s. I earned that right, to be called yours. I had to accept your free spirited ways, and the fact that you would always be friendly to other women. There were fights, boy were there fights! But you knew me too well.


You had this uncanny way of making me feel like the only girl in the world when it mattered. You would put on Beatles songs and sing out of tune to cheer me up. You’d keep my mug filled with coffee on those late nights I spent studying for finals. You made me feel beautiful, even on my worst days. Sure you had your faults, but mine certainly gave yours some healthy competition. What we failed in ourselves, we completed in each other.


Until that moment of utter heart break. That moment that I’m not sure we’d ever overcome. “I’m moving back to Europe,” you whispered to me in the silence of your car. I knew something had been wrong the entire night we were out with your friends. You had ignored everyone and clung to me in an unnecessary way. I felt my heart drop, and when you sang If I Fell, it completely shattered. We had less than a month together, and I did the only thing I could as a means of survival. I broke up with you.


***


I’ve ignored your every call and text. But your voicemail did me in. I love you. We’ve never actually spoken those words, even though I know we’ve both felt them. So few people know how many ways one can say ‘I love you’ without speaking the words aloud.


You fly out today. You’re somewhere in this airport. I have a month left until school starts back up, and I plan to spend it in its entirety with you. We can still figure this out, can’t we? We still have a chance, don’t we? I clutch my ticket to my heart and hope I can catch you in time.


You’re sitting at the gate, furthest away from everyone else. You’re looking down at something, watching it with a certain intensity foreign to me. What have I done to my light hearted man? My phone buzzes.


A text from you. I don’t want to leave without hearing your voice. Call me. Please. I make my way towards you, barely able to contain myself. I fall to my knees before you, and take your phone from your hand.


Your mouth opens to tell off whoever dare take away your precious communication. It’s adorable the way your eyes go wide, your mouth still hung open. I’ve never seen a frozen person before.


“Were you wanting to hear my voice on this,” I wiggle the phone next to my face, “or in person?” You grab my face and pull me in for a long kiss.


“This will do just fine.”


  • If I Fell was first published on Sunlit Storytime**

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