The dude slithered into the seat opposite the girl just as Matthew put his hand on the back of her seat and was about to do the same. He was tall, thin, dark complected. His hair was manicured and his smile rehearsed; Matt felt an instant nausea while looking at him.
But then, hadn't he been rehearsing what he was going to say to her as well?
Hot with embarrassment, he knew he needed to keep going, yet his hand -- so close to her hair -- lingered. There was a moment when the guy nearly looked up at him, but Matt put his head down and moved on. He had no direction, no point in being out of his seat, so he ambled toward the bathroom. Once inside, he splashed cold water on his face and looked at himself in the mirror. A sheepish grin played across his mouth, and in his mind he rather looked like someone who was about to do something foolish. Guilty.
At first he was angry for the stranger's arrival, as if Matt were about to ask the girl for a dance and the guy totally stepped in and cut him off.
But it wasn't like that. Matt hadn't been maneuvering, he was genuinely concerned about the emotional girl on the train. He had only been interested in comforting her, so the arrival of the new guy really meant nothing to him.
Maybe the guy had the same intentions.
Matt wrinkled his nose at that thought; he doubted that very much. There was something weaselly about that guy that put Matt off. He chuckled and thought, maybe it was because he beat you to the punch, there Matty. You snooze you lose.
He pulled a few disposable paper towels from the dispenser to his right and blotted his face. God, the last thing he needed right now was some kind of romantic dalliance on his way to school.
He left the bathroom and returned to his seat, making sure to catch a better glimpse of the girl's face as he did so. Her eyes were soft and deep, intriguing. She talked easily enough with the guy opposite her, and at one point turned her head to the side and smiled shyly at something witty the guy had said. She did not look stiff or ill at-ease. Matt sat down and found his ear buds in his pocket and replaced them in his ears. He set the volume at a reasonable level and hit SHUFFLE on his iPod, all the while taking in the girl a few rows down from him. He didn't want to look the stalker image, but he could not pull his eyes away.
The guy was comfortable with the girl, but that might have been his shtick, his role. For all Matt knew, the guy was friends with the girl, her boyfriend even. Matt couldn't remember whether or not the guy had gotten on with the girl. He didn't think so. Maybe the guy had already been on board, waiting for her.
But who cares? It was none of Matt's business anyway.