“You’re gonna like her,” Logan promised.
Logan was about twenty years old or so. He was handsome enough, a face with unusually large lips for a man arched over by a swish of black hair. When he smiled, every part of him seemed to turn into straight, white teeth.
“I don’t want to like her.” Ethan had a voice slightly lower than Logan’s, and a hit few notes darker. “I want to love her.”
“Hey, hey,” Logan interrupted. “We’ve been good friends for how many years now? What, ten? Since we were teenagers is good enough for me. I know you like I know my brother. You’re gonna like her. She was made for you.”
“Made for me?”
“Made for you.”
A heavy sigh escaped two thinly parted thin lips that belonged to Ethan Wallace.
“What if she doesn’t like me?”
“Who cares!” Logan’s voice resounded all around the station. He quickly piped down. “Listen. Listen to me. We’re like brothers.”
“You used that one already, Logan,” Ethan stated dryly. “And no matter how close we are, I’m not going to feel any better about meeting…”
“Fyona.” Logan didn’t want to hear Ethan mess up the pronunciation of the name again. It wasn’t Fiona, it was Fyona.
“Fyona. Her.” Ethan still wasn’t sounding confident.
“Come on, buddy.” Logan gave his old friend awkward kind of hug consisting of his own right arm and Ethan’s right shoulder. “You’re gonna love Fyona. She’s a real beauty, did I tell you that? Did I tell you about her eyes?”
“Yes, you told me about how beautiful she is, and her eyes, and whatever else you could tell me about her appearance.” Ethan turned suddenly to his friend in earnest, feeling a hand slide reluctantly from his shoulder.
“She’s no good.”
“Did I say that?”
“You implied it.”
“I didn’t imply it, Ethan.”
“It was the way you said ‘Look buddy’.” He said the words with no tone himself, but let the past speak for him.
“It was the way you wouldn’t tell me what her personality is like.”
“For like the past week.”
Ethan and Logan exhaled simultaneously.
“Ethan, your train is coming.”
“What if she doesn’t like me?”
“You said you were desperate, Ethan. You said it. Now I’ve gotten you a…something to fill your desperation…that…what did you say? Hole in your life?”
Ethan looked up to Logan, who was a few inches taller than him, with his lips pressed tightly together, and some sort of worry he didn’t quite understand himself in his eyes.
“Anytime for my brother.”
Ethan was never particularly fond of trains in any way. But getting on this one was doubly as hard as it should have been.
He sat in one of those seats that didn’t go along the wall of the train but instead faced the opposite direction the train was going. Across from him were two girls, maybe a year younger than he was, staring at him and giggling slightly. He crossed his arms across his chest and looked down at the floor. There was an engraving down there, a heart with four initials inside of it. He slid his foot over the heart and looked back up. The two girls were smiling in the corner of his eye, but all he saw was whooshing gray with occasional blasts of color from spray cans.
Subways, in his opinion, were even worse than trains.
The two girls stared at him intently. He didn’t feel their gazes go away, so he didn’t dare look back to them. Looking out the window, he saw a bit of dirty-blond hair and a blue sweatshirt. The other girl was invisible to him entirely.
The subway slowed to a stop. Doors opened. Two pairs of long legs straightened in front of him. Since the girls were no longer watching him, he watched them leave. The girl with the dirty-blond hair and the blue sweatshirt wasn’t much to look at. But her friend, who had short-cropped, dark hair, so black it was blue, naturally, was pretty. She had smoky gray eyes and walked like a model, naturally. She seemed so natural, so beautiful. She looked back to him, and something made of lead dropped into his stomach.
The next stop was the one Ethan got off at.
Something about this station was a little cleaner than the one he had been at with Logan. Maybe it was everything.
Ethan shrugged the hood of his jacket down to his shoulders. Logan had given him a comb, and he pulled it through his hair in an attempt to look somewhat better.
Waiting for him with an expectant lift in the tips of her toes was a girl near a cement column. She fit every physical description Logan had been giving him over the last week. She leaned into him like he could never walk fast enough, like he might turn and walk away before he ever saw her. She smiled pointedly at him, and, with some kind of dread and some kind of reluctance in his heart, he dutifully strolled in her direction.
“Hey!” she said in a voice like maple syrup. “You’re Ethan, right?”
“Yeah. And you’re Fyona?”
“Yes. You really look like an Ethan,” Fyona commented.
“I get that a lot.” He shrugged.
“So do you want to…”
“Go?” Ethan asked, suddenly, as if startled. “Oh yeah, sure.”
Fyona wasn’t very tall. She didn’t even come up to Ethan’s shoulder. Her hair was long and a dark shade of chestnut, which waved its way down to her middle back. She held her hand close to his, close enough that static electricity buzzed between the two of them.
“What do you do?” she asked, looking right to him.
“For a living?”
“Anything I can,” he replied dryly.
“Hmm,” she murmured. “Do you believe in love at first sight?”
“No,” he answered honestly, with a bit of awkwardness in his tone.
“Yes, good,” she repeated. “You have common sense.”
Fear flashed across Ethan’s face before her answer came and drained the fear away.
“I know,” she smiled and looked up to him. “I get that a lot.”
“Are you…mocking me?”
“Maybe.” She stopped talking, and walking. “Where are we going?”
Ethan’s shoes scuttled to a stop. “I’m not sure.”
Fyona was wearing a green pea coat that looked new and sunglasses that, though large enough to swallow her eyebrows and the tops of her cheekbones, looked like an airplane pilot’s. She pinched the sleeve of the long-sleeved shirt she had on under the coat, which had skinny and even white and blue stripes, to her palms, using her fists. Leather boots that reached her knees, the same shade as her hair, seemed very natural on her.
“Well, I’m not particularly hungry,” Fyona began. “Maybe we could eat later and just walk around now.”
“Sounds okay,” he said, complying and nothing more.
The light of day was at the top of the staircase. The busy honking, stepping, and chatter of a city became clearer as the two climbed to the surface.
“You ever been downtown before?” Fyona asked.
“No,” Ethan answered. “Is that a bad thing?”
Fyona smiled and let out a half-hearted laugh. “I can show you around.”
“So would I be justified in asking you where we’re going, then?”
“That depends on whether you want to turn right or left here.”
To the left of the two of them lay a long strip of black stuff, upon which yellow taxis, red sports cars, and black executives rushed past. Turning left would mean having to wait for the traffic to stop, and then run across as the little white man in the light crossed his own street. Turning right would mean nothing more.
“Right.” She seemed to ponder his decision momentarily. “Okay, right it is.”
“Now do you know where we’re going?”
Fyona’s walk wasn’t glamorous. It was borderline on clunky, and it would be if she didn’t have a spark in her toes as she stepped up and again as she stepped down. She also slid her hips from side to side in correspondence with her feet, giving her walk an edge of supermodel. But it suited her. It was natural.
“You’ll see.” She smiled and looked up to him. The blue of the sky, some scattered clouds, and the tips of the skyscrapers were reflected in her sunglasses, in lieu of eyes.
“Are you going to blindfold me?” he asked jokingly.
“No,” she answered. “But I don’t think I have to. You seem to have done that yourself.”
“Oh? And how so?”
“Well, you said you’ve never ben downtown before!” she exclaimed with a laugh. “Speaking of which, we have to turn left here.”
Cars whirred by in a flurry of colors.
Fyona reached out and grabbed Ethan’s wrist.
“On the count of three we run.”
“What?” Ethan screamed, unashamed. “Are you crazy!?”
“Wait, are you serious!?” Ethan shouted over the traffic. “Are we really going to run through traffic!?”
The couple dashed across the busy street. Horns blared. Tires screeched. A flash of a headlight, orange and red, sparked inside of Ethan’s eye. Time slowed down, and even the slapping of his own feet on tar made only infrequent, dull thuds inside his ears. The expressions of drivers as they stomped onto their brakes were all reflected in his own.
Then he felt Fyona’s hand. How long ago was it that she had twisted it around his wrist? Now it was in his palm. His palm to her palm. Time returned to its normal passage, yet somehow his panic was subsided.
He almost tripped over the curb.
“Was that so crazy?” A happy, out-of-breath Fyona asked.
“No, not at all,” Ethan replied.
Fyona smiled. She removed her sunglasses, adding another element entirely to her smile. Her eyes were like emeralds. No, they were like peridots. Peridot eyes.
“Man, just wait until I tell Logan about the crazy things I’ve already done with my new girlfriend.”
Fyona stopped going wherever she was headed, and moved her feet to the curb. Ethan followed her. Despite their difference in height, their lips were only inches apart.
“Have you ever had a girlfriend before?”
Her peridot eyes seemed round, wet, and innocent, even though the long and naturally black eyelashes surrounding them made it obvious that they were actually narrow and intelligent. Either way, the color reflected so many different lights that the emotion hidden within the eyes and of the person behind them was up for interpretation.
“Yes,” Ethan said, sounding more defensive than he intended.
“What was she like?”
A blush of embarrassment danced across his cheeks.
“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want.”
“No, it’s okay.” He exhaled sharply, then continued. “She was named Rachel. She was tall, leggy, and blonde, you know that type. She didn’t really care about what you were up to unless it directly involved her.”
“I know that type,” Fyona commented with a sour tone.
“Then I forgot to call her on her birthday.”
“That was a mistake,” Fyona admitted.
“No it wasn’t.”
Those eyes. It felt like they could see right through him. They didn’t need to, though, because he wasn’t going to hide anything from them.
Fyona turned her gaze down to her feet, then back up to Ethan.
“Do you…think I’m like her?”
“Not at all,” Ethan replied, meaning those words more than he’d ever meant anything in his life.
She put her hands in his. It felt so natural.