He had known her in passing for years. Struck by her blonde curls and sometimes pigtails, her mismatched knee high socks, the writing on her shoes, and the intensity of the jade in her eyes, he had watched her from afar throughout his series of sad relationships.
And were he a bolder man, he might have told her of his feelings long ago, whether either of them had been simultaneously single or not.
But now he was thirty, and freshly divorced, and feeling the sting of missed chances.
Was she single? Was she ever single? Who could tell? She wore a multitude of rings, several on every finger, some on her toes, in her ears and in her nose and there was always one or another younger, larger, considerably more symmetrical and well-muscled man around with whom she seemed acquainted if not necessarily beholden to. So… who could know?
She was there now, standing lackadaisically half the room away, one foot tucked behind the other and her head cocked to one side, lost in thought as she skimmed through the back cover reviews of some mass-market pulp fantasy novel. Now was the moment to act. Now. Right now. Do it now or never look her way again.
He bit his lip.
To hell with it.
Today was the day.
He crossed the room in three strides, put his hand on her shoulder and when their eyes met he took a deep breath and let out everything he had been holding in for months.
What followed was a shrill, ear-piercing shriek punctuated by several loud sharts.
They both stood motionless, both locked in horrified, wide-eyed, silence for several anxious moments as a dozen or more people backed slowly away and a terrified spaniel leapt through a plate glass window.
Finally, she pulled his hand from her shoulder, cradled it meekly in her hands, and looked away, toward the surplus stacks of John Grisham novels.
Then she broke out in a series of beeping sounds, pops, clicks, and whistles which, in the language of her people, means, “It’s ok. I’m awkward as fuck, too.”
Then following her uncharacteristic openness, she was set upon by a sudden wave of overwhelming self-consciousness and, taken by the inexorable instinct to relieve her anxiety, she hiked her skirt up over her head, clasped his hand in hers, and the pair merrily skipped out of the bookstore.
Straight into a tree.
Awkward as fuck, indeed.