Rain may be a bit strong of a word. Constant drizzle. That is what it actually is. The light wind blew the rain with just enough force to push it past the eaves and onto Will’s small apartment window. It had been doing this for a week straight and had no signs of letting up. Contrary to popular belief, Seattle, or just north of it where Will lives, did not get a lot of rain. At least in total inches. What it did get was a near-constant mist all winter long.
The drip, drip, drip of water that leaked from his window pooled at the corner to eventually drip into the Tupperware bowl strategically placed under the window sill, waking him up. As sleep faded and he came to awareness, he groaned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He overslept, not that it really mattered. He wasn’t late for work; he still had two hours before his shift at the library started. He sat up and stretched and checked his phone. No new texts, no new emails. Perfect.
He followed his usual morning routine of shit, shower, shave, get dressed, and raid the fridge for some afternoon snacks for work. Check the weather forecast to see how many layers to put on, and head out the door to his favorite espresso shop.
He got to the library early, as usual. He hated being late for anything. But starting work early for fear of being late wasn’t the real reason. He just really enjoyed being there. It wasn’t even work, to be honest. He sat at the desk sipping his coffee, contemplating that he had never even approached breaking a sweat at the library. And it is not work if you are not active enough to break a sweat.
He sat at the desk sipping coffee, staring into space, lost in thought. Another reason why he liked working there. It was quiet, and you could let your mind go where it wanted. A loud thump on his desk made him jump, banging his knees on the desk and shooting a little squirt of coffee out of the little hole in the lid of the coffee cup, landing across his face, just barely missing his eye.
“Farfegnugen!” He sputtered out. And looked at the stack of books that was just slammed onto his desk. On purpose, of course, his heart stopped, and he felt as if it wasn’t going to start up again. “It’s you.” He blurted. “Gees lady, do you have to keep scaring the crap out of me?” He said while wiping the coffee off his face and shirt.
“Farfegnugen,” Chemy replied flatly. “It was ‘bejesus’ the first time,” she said with a mischievous smirk. “Are you okay? Every time I see you, you are well, like a zombie.” She said, sounding concerned.
Finishing the reboot cycle, his heart thumped hard in his chest.
“Uhhh…” That was all he could get out.
She tilted her head, looking at him quizzically. “You are a strange one.” She said amused
He suddenly felt self-conscious and a little embarrassed. His face started heating up, and he could tell it was turning red. “Uhhh…” He stammered with a blank look. His eyes flitted from her face to his coffee, then back to her eyes. “Umm, you want to get some coffee or something?” he blurted out as if it was one word. Then he turned pale, shocked at himself.
Her eyes glanced at the coffee cup in his hand. “Nice recovery.” She said, as if it was a question but had no hint of malice behind it. He followed her eyes to his coffee.
“Um, I mean. Uh, like you know. Sometime? In the near future, I’m at work and all.” He continued, feeling like he was digging a hole he couldn’t get out of.
“Well, when you put it that way, how could I resist.” She said, amusement still on her face.
He looked forlorn, like someone had just kicked his puppy, and sighed. She looked at him curiously. “You do know I said yes? Right? She asked, starting to look like she regretted it.
He snapped out of his haze and shook his head. He had mentally prepared for rejection and was astonished that he was successful. “Um, Yes! Awesome!” He exclaimed cheerily, a broad smile on his face. Chemy subtly nudged the stack of books towards Will, hinting that there was an actual reason she was standing there. Will looked at the books taking the hint, and started scanning. Chemy reached into a little box that had a handful of three-inch-long pencils and a stack of notepaper that was on the desk. She took one of each and began writing as he scanned the next tower of mind-numbing philosophy books.
“Dostoyevsky, Kierkakgard, more light reading, I see,” Will said with a matter-of-fact tone. “At least it’s not as bleak as nihilism.” He continued as she finished scribbling on the paper and looked up at him. Her fiery hazel eyes locked him in place for a brief instant as she handed the paper to him and smiled.
“Here is my number; gimme a text sometime.” She said with a genuine smile. “You know, in the ‘near’ future.” She went on, this time a little more wryly, and winked. Will’s cheeks flushed at that a little, but his nerves were calming down now that the awkwardness had passed. The last book he scanned was “Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.” He glanced at her suspiciously. she noticed the look and defended herself. “Hey! I can read for fun too.”
Will lifted his hands as if Chemy was pointing a gun at him. “I’m not judging!” he retorted. “It just looks like there isn’t enough time in the day to read all of this, let alone for fun.” He said, smiling as he gestured toward the tower of books she checked out. She smiled back at him, obviously not offended.
“That’s a good one, though. I read it last week.” He continued
“Did you?” she asked, but it sounded like an accusation and glanced at the Necronomicon tablet case.
“Okay, okay, I listened to it, same difference.” He said with a shrug
She gave him a reassuring smile, saying, “I’m just messing with you.”
There was a soft tapping on the well-worn carpet behind Chemy. They hadn’t noticed a line of people stacking up behind her, and the guy directly behind her was looking impatient. In a soft but stern tone, he said, “If you two love birds are done flirting, I really would like to get out of here before my lunch hour is over.” They both blushed deeply. Not that will could tell if she was. Her smooth skin was so black, but the sheepish look on her face was enough to know. She gave the man behind her an awkward, polite smile, slid the stack of books into her bag, and turned to leave. The man moved up and put a couple of paperbacks on the counter and his library card. Will watched as Chemy made for the exit. Just before she pushed the door open, she looked back at Will, pantomimed texting on her phone, and pointed to herself with a wink.
The rest of his day went by in a hazy blur. It had been a few weeks since their first encounter, just long enough for Will to resign himself to the idea that he would ever see her again and had essentially given up. He grabbed his backpack and headed out toward home. His stomach rumbled, right on cue. Noodles, it is Will thought. Maybe there is some kind of magic or Something spiritual that he didn’t understand going on, and he should have noodles again, the same thing he ate the day he met Chemy. In the back of his mind, Will knew that he wasn’t kidding about there being Something magical happening. His parents would know if he asked them. But he wasn’t in the mood to go down the spiritual path they would drag him down. He got his noodles and began the short walk home, eating the noodles as he went. Will liked where he lived. Everything he needed was only a few blocks away from his apartment.