a Different Lily Christianson

After that she drops her gaze, nose back in her book. I stare at her profile for a few seconds before returning to my work, hands once again poised atop the keyboard that they knew so well.

Back to business, kid, I tell myself. Lily’s waiting for you this time.

I write her past the window, just as I always do, wrapped tightly in the red coat that marks her apart from every other person outside. She doesn’t carry any shopping bags with her today: she’s meeting a friend for coffee at the café.

The bell at the door chimes with her entrance, as it does for every customer that frequents the shop.

A quick tap on my shoulder tells me that she’s behind me, probably with a smile crossing her lips between rose-red cheeks.

I smile, too, before turning to greet her.

But it’s the new girl again.

“I just want to make sure you’re gonna keep your promise before I leave,” she says.

I think for a few moments, assembling interrupted thoughts and musings.

“Oh, right,” I stumble. “I’m here quite a bit, so I’ll try to have something ready for you next time we meet.”

“Thanks,” she smiles, but her voice trails off with the S. I know what she wants; I take the bait eagerly.

“Declan,” I offer with my own smile.

“Declan,” she repeats. “Thank you, Declan.”

“No problem.”

Her smile remains fixed upon her face as she leaves the shop.

But she’s also left me without a name, without even a promise that she’ll return to the café.

I sigh, and turn back to my laptop.

As I do, I see a familiar woman sitting on the stool the other had just vacated.

“Lily,” I whisper.

Now she smiles, too. It seems that people do that lots, especially around those people they care for. I smile for Lily, Lily smiles for me. And the new girl, too: we shared some real laughs, some smiles. Me and that… that…

There’s no name to escape me, not yet.

Lily brings me back to the café, or at least back to a present state of mind.

She asks about the new girl, asks if she’s the reason we haven’t seen each other much lately.

Her hands sit idly on the counter as she speaks this. I’m sure mine are skittering across the keyboard, but I don’t want to look for fear of rupturing this momentary rapture.

“Maybe,” I answer. I honestly don’t know the answers to either question. “I thought I had lost you, Lily, and I looked for you, I swear.”

Her only reply was to stare at me with those piercing eyes I had come to love.

“You know how much you mean to me, Lily,” I continue. “Without you, well, I don’t have much.” I finish with a nervous laugh. I’m nervous because my words are true: she’s been my muse all this time, inspiring works inside me and showing me the words to describe them.

The stare remains fixed even as she stands. It breaks only when she turns, walking off with a slight sway in her hips.

I close my eyes. I hear the bell chime. I know that Lily has left again.

She has left as a different person, though. True, she’s still Lily Christianson, but now she has a flaw in that once perfect persona: jealousy.

Midge will be happy to hear this.

The End

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