This story is for a little challenge issued by the incomparable Patient Lee. The idea was to turn on regular radio and write a story inspired by the next song that comes on.
My song was You’re Beautiful by James Blunt. The specific lines that spoke to me are:
You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.
You’re beautiful, it’s true.
I saw your face in a crowded place,
And I don’t know what to do,
‘Cause I’ll never be with you.
I don’t normally write short stories, but this might just be the seed idea for a new novel. So… Here goes.
Ali Hart tightly gripped the pole as the subway jostled along the tracks. She grimaced as she caught her reflection in the window, her red hair hanging in loose waves around her shoulders, her brown eyes looking tired from the strain of the past week. The car was surprisingly packed for this time of day and she shifted in an attempt to move away from the man who’d stepped on her toes for the third time. I hate the city.
“But Alison, it’s not like you have a real job. You can’t possibly expect Brendan and I to just drop everything and run to New York to deal with Dad.”
Ali replayed the conversation in her head. “I do have a real job. I just happen to do it from my home. In Florida, I might add.”
Her sister Megan had rolled her eyes. “You write kids’ books. Big woo! Anybody can do that. And you don’t have a family like we do.”
It was true. Ali lived a solitary life in her condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Juno Beach. It wasn’t as though she never dated, she’d simply never found anyone she could see spending forever with. It could be that she’d never met anyone who matched up to her idea of the perfect man.
Ali had always been her Daddy’s girl. Jackson Hart, Pulitzer prize-winning author, had never been an easy man to live with but by the time Alison was born, age had mellowed him a bit. The fact that she’d turned out to be a writer had pleased him endlessly, much to the disdain of her older brother and sister, Brendan and Megan.
So when the old man had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the Hart sibling consensus was that Ali was the natural choice to deal with the fallout.
As the train pulled into the station, Clumsy Feet stepped on her toes for the fourth time and Ali glared at him. “Oh, thank God,” she muttered to herself, allowing the sea of commuters exiting the train to wash her out onto the platform.
Ali was pushed along as everyone hurried on their way until the crowd thinned enough for her to see the 86 on the wall. “Eighty-sixth? Shit!” The Alzheimer’s care center she’d been headed to was on 96th. She turned just as the doors closed and the train moved out of the station.
“Great! Just fabulous.” Walking ten blocks wouldn’t normally be a problem. But the temperature was an unpleasant thirty-eight degrees and there was a nasty sleet coming down. There was nothing to do except wait for the next train and hope she’d still be on time for her appointment. I hate the city.
“My God, Logan, the wedding’s in six months! We have to make these decisions!”
Logan Pryce rolled his eyes as he juggled his phone, his brown leather messenger bag, and the rolls of plans while he walked down the stairs into the 86th Street subway station. “I know, Catherine, but honestly, I trust your taste. Pick what you like.”
“Sometimes I’m not sure you really want to get married,” she pouted into the phone.
Sometimes I’m not sure myself. He rolled his eyes again. “Catherine, I’m working. My client wants to build some retail space in the subway station. That’s where I am right now.” He aimed for patient and reasonable. “Listen, pick the flowers you like or wait until I get back to Chicago tonight. Either way will be fine. I promise. But I’ve got to go.”
He disconnected with Catherine and looked around for the clients he was meeting. Winning the bid for the subway retail space was a big coup for his architectural firm. Pryce Designs was highly successful in Chicago but this job would open the doors to the lucrative Manhattan market.
As he scanned the crowded station, his gaze was drawn to a woman who’d just gotten off the train. The first thing he noticed was her brilliant red hair. Even in the dim white light of the platform, her hair gave off a golden glow and he had the sudden urge to see it in the bright sunlight.
She reversed direction as if to re-enter the train but the doors closed and the train left. Even from his distance he could see her annoyance. He wondered what was wrong. Perhaps she’d forgotten something. Or she’d gotten off at the wrong stop. Goodness knows, he’d gotten off at the wrong stop a time or two. He grinned at the memory.
Then, as if she felt him watching her, she looked up straight into his eyes and he felt a jolt of electricity. He watched her brown eyes widen as she looked back at him. It felt as though everything in the busy station stopped as they gazed at each other across the heads of hundreds of passersby. Logan felt his breath leave his body.
Suddenly, a large man barreled into the woman and she went down. Logan was by her side in an instant. “Are you alright?”
“I think so,” she answered shakily. She was sitting on the filthy floor of the platform.
“Let me help you up.” He took her hand and gently helped her stand. “Are you sure you aren’t hurt?”
Again, those deep brown eyes bore into his. “No, I think I’m alright.”
They stood that way, lost in each other’s eyes. “Can we…” Logan began as the next train arrived.
The woman moved her gaze to the train. “I have to go. I’m late for an appointment. This wasn’t my stop.” She seemed apologetic.
Logan stepped back to allow her past him and onto the train. She stood just inside the doorway and as it closed, she placed her palm on the glass. Logan pressed his palm to the outside of the glass and they stared at each other until the train left the station.