Suddenly, you were just there. In an unexpected place and time. Surrounded by the familiarity of friends and everything else that I had come to know, I first saw you. Why it was nothing more than a fleeting glance, a small smile and a polite tip of the head before you went on your way and I, mine, I have never known. Perhaps that is the greatest yet most beautiful mystery of it all.
Running across the plaza as fast as she can while taking care at the same time to not slip on the rain soaked tiles, Piper hurried to get to the meeting place where she could see her friends were already gathered. All but her by the looks of it. She was late and she hated the fact already that she’d spent a little too long fussing with her hair and shining her boots, even though with these long dress skirts she was wearing who was going to see them? She cursed under her breath and self consciously slowed down a little, smoothing her skirts and trying to brush the stray hair from her forehead as she saw one of the girls waving her over and shouting.
“Piper, over here!”
Mustering up the biggest smile she could manage while trying to look calm and happy to be there, Piper raised her hand and waved back enthusiastically. Internally she was a mess, but externally she hoped that she didn’t look as disheveled as she felt. She came to a stop beside one of the other women, garbed in exactly the same dress as she wore and took a deep breath as she nodded and smiled around at the fairly sizeable group that was already standing around, waiting on her. The one day, this one time where she had actually been handed any responsibility for this group and she had arrived late. The company head was already standing up front, his wife beside him, and the tall imposing looking man beckoned her forward with a not so discreet wave of his hand and she nodded once, her cheeks turning pink as she quickly pushed through the small crowd, all eyes on her, or so it felt like.
These gatherings were not a new thing. Indeed, this was one of the many that she had been present for since she had joined the ranks herself. She now stood beside the leaders and smiled down kindly at the two new members waiting on their induction, plain clothed and looking nervous, remembering exactly how that had felt. It didn’t seem so long ago that she had been standing there herself, in their place. The only thing different about this time was that the location was different, and there were a lot more gathered around for this particular ceremony than there had been when it had been her turn. She was thankful for that much, at least. Piper wasn’t good with people as it was, let alone crowds of them and even now, as she stood in front of them all, it was at a different point in time and these people weren’t strangers as they had been then, in the beginning, when they had first found her.
She startled for just a moment when the tall Au Ra man shouldered her gently and whispered, while handing her a neatly folded bundle of uniforms intended for the people in front of her.
“Your hat, where is it?”
She fished around in her coat pocket for the red beret she’d almost forgotten about and fixed it on her head quickly, tucking a loose hair away under the forehead band and then straightened her shoulders, clearing her throat at the same time.
All eyes on her, she made the appropriate speech before stepping forward to officially welcome the newest among them, handing them their uniforms before stepping back to her spot in front with a polite bow of her head, glad in part that it was over as raucous cheering and clapping erupted around her.
Oddly, although these occasions were usually full of laughter and good feelings all around, the woman could only but think of making an exit out of the crowd to take a breather. She couldn’t place a finger on why exactly. Maybe it was just the sheer exhaustion borne from so much interaction with so many of these people in recent times or the fact that she was just plain tired, but standing around making small talk with everyone was the furthest thing from her mind.
“Excuse me for a few minutes, “she murmured to the other leaders on either side of her but didn’t wait for a response before she moved through the crowd, scanning ahead for somewhere to sit or stand to regain some personal space. Nodding politely and smiling, she didn’t stop moving until she had cleared a path through the others, with nowhere particular in mind. But she halted for a moment once clear of her friends when she saw him.
Suddenly, he was just there and she saw him, for the first time. There was a new face, a stranger whose eyes immediately met hers and she found herself unable to look away. He looked at her from underneath the brim of the tall hat he wore and there was a curious familiarity there that caused time to almost stand still for a moment, and were she not so transfixed she would have realized that she was staring. That was until he smiled and that was when she smiled back, a slight flush turning her cheeks pink as she dropped her gaze to her feet, wringing her hands together in front of her for a moment, not sure what to do next. A sudden ray of late sunlight broke through the grey clouds overhead and caused her to look up for a few seconds, breaking a potentially awkward moment and when she looked back again, he was gone.
Stifling a momentary and probably ridiculous feeling of disappointment, Piper looked towards the edge of the plaza, suddenly needing more than ever to sit and take a moment, her legs heavy and feeling oddly disconnected. She didn’t even look really to even see the man again before she almost ran right into him, sitting on the very bench she was headed towards and once again she faltered, stopping and meeting his eyes again. Dumbly nodding at the space beside him as if asking for permission to sit, he simply nodded, the hint of a smile turning his lips upwards and she did just that, her eyes again transfixed on him.
Later, back in the comfort of her inn room as she sat in front of the fire, her thoughts were very much on that afternoon and of him, that man who was still nameless to her. Did it matter though, really? Why so much analysis and over thinking over such a simple and chance meeting that was really nothing beyond a few small words and a smile or two? Important or not, she still couldn’t shake the way she had felt each time his eyes had met hers and the curious yet familiar feeling that they had already known each other before that moment. But that was ridiculous, wasn’t it? She wouldn’t entertain such thoughts of fantasy. He was just and had been a stranger to her, after all, nothing more.
Yet as she lay her head on her pillow a little later and closed her eyes tight, willing sleep to come, even then, as her body and mind began to fall into unconsciousness, his eyes still lingered. She had to see him again.