Copyright by K L Miller 1016
These Paper Hearts, by Kathy Lauren Miller
The new comer is ducking and turning slightly to get through the narrow office door. A swoosh of chilly air follows him. Most of us sit with a book or a magazine in our hands. What else is there to do in a waiting room? We slouch in our uncomfortable chairs, glancing up as if we’d been expecting him, though of course we weren’t. Why would we? Each of us just islands, cocooned in our own little worlds, waiting to be distracted by the simple act of an opening door. I view the new comer from beneath my lashes. He has the appearance of an unmade bed. His dark coat, one of those Navy Pea Coats, has a scattering of white fur, cat? Ugh. I stifle a sneeze while fumbling through my purse for a tissue. I am not a fan of cats. Cats are unpredictable, everyone knows that. The new comer leans against the wall by the door, eyeing the only two unoccupied chairs, which happen to be on either side of me. He winks a blue eye and I cringe to have been caught staring. I bring my book up to my nose, pretending to be immersed. “May I?” he says, standing by the chair to my left. I nod, lifting one shoulder in a shrug. He settles in and I get a scent of soap, Tide? It’s warm in the room, warmer now that he is so close. From the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of him as he opens his coat, tugging a scarf from around his neck. It’s blue, but not like his eyes. It’s more of a blueberry color, a purplish blue. He’s staring down at it, twisting it, folding it and refolding it. There is morning stubble on his face, but it’s a nice face, I concede. Square jaw, straight nose and a high forehead; his unruly hair is dark, dark as onyx. It’s the kind of hair you itch to comb, or run your fingers through. ~~~~
#2 These Paper Hearts
Run my fingers through his hair? What? Okay, now I’m creeping myself out. I put a death grip on my book in case my fingers decide to do something horribly inappropriate. It’s just an impulse, I tell myself, not much different really than feeling the need to reach out to a lost dog or a crying baby, which I’ve been known to do on any number of occasions. Okay, maybe not so creepy then, I rationalize. But being that he isn’t either of those, it must be the lost thing. That has to be it. Actually, it radiates off him, this feeling of lost, or is it loss? Or, it’s none of my business? Read your book, Kylie.
He’s shifting in the chair now, eyeing the scarf as if it has a story to tell. A corner of his mouth lifts. It’s a nice mouth, full and curved; the kind of mouth that possibly charms, or is given to frequent smiles.
“Hi,” he says, turning to me. It’s not a statement though; it’s more of question, as if he’s asking why I’m perusing him like an item on a shelf at the supermarket.
Great, now I’ve done it. I’m a perv. I sink into my seat, which is impossible because its hard plastic, but I make myself as small as possible. Curling up into a ball would suffice.
“Come here often,” he quips, and I glimpse a row really white, even teeth. From his tone I can’t tell if it’s a true question or if he’s a wandering comic.
Mortified, a simple utterance seems beyond me. Instead I do something totally inane. I tap my front teeth and nod, as if it isn’t completely obvious why we’re all here.
Great, now I’m a mute.
“It’s my first time here,” he says, and then he smiles. I’ve heard of blinding smiles, but this is ridiculous. I hate him already. He mimics me by lightly tapping his right jaw. “A wisdom tooth, I think. It’s killing me.”
And you’re killing me. Stop smiling.
“Oh,” I reply, hearing my own voice which sounds fluttery, like the tweeting of a tiny bird.
He’s asking me a question now, but I don’t hear the words because I’m lost in his voice, the timber of it, deep and resonating, the kind that draws you in, the kind that buries itself in your belly.
“Um, what,” I say breathily, desperately hating the raspy sound of my voice. I have a nice voice, articulate, a melodious voice, I’ve been told on more than one occasion.
Smiling, he repeats the question, slowly. He must think I have a hearing loss. I’m beginning to agree.
“Dr. Kane, yes,” I manage tartly. And he arches a brow, a query. Has he offended? I can’t let him think that, can I? Try again, Kylie. You can do better, you have done better. Get a grip.
I breathe, “Dr. Jameson is my dentist, but I’ve been to Dr. Kane and he’s very good too.” There, I’ve successfully completed a sentence, simple, yes, but effective and well modulated. I congratulate myself by offering him a smile of my own. Ten seconds later I regret doing so because now he’s fully turned toward me and his eyes are smiling. Well, they are. And they are truly blue, like ocean blue. No, more like the blue of when the ocean and sky meet on a sunlit day. I’ve read about drowning in someone’s eyes, I just never thought I’d experience it myself. . .