This is the first part of a love story that I wrote, it isn’t complete yet, I still haven’t decided how to proceed with it. However it’s been floating around on the computer for a couple of years, and hopefully by setting it free, it might inspire me. Enjoy.
“Excuse me” I called out to the red head, dropping the contents of her pockets along the chiller aisle. “Excuse me” I called again, but this time louder. She still didn’t hear me. I stood shivering along side the rows of cheese and watched as her long red hair fell on her shoulders in a tangled web of curls. Rummaging frantically through her pockets she suddenly spun round, searching the floor for her lost possessions. My heart stopped. There was no mistaking her face. I hadn’t seen her in ten years, and yet looking at her now was like rewinding time.
“Clarice” I croaked. Her name echoed across the empty store. She turned to look at me. Her deep blue eyes, searched my reddening face.
I am sure I heard alarm and shock in her voice.
“I think you dropped these” I replied. I reached out to hand her the phone and keys, I had gathered up from the floor. Hesitantly stepping forward, she took them from my open hand,. She looked older. She had Laughter lines in the corner of her eyes. Her hair was longer, but still had that unruliness to it. She looked almost unchanged.
She was looking up at me, with a look of surprise. I stepped back, to assess the situation and gain some control.
“Wow, how , what, when, I mean how are you?” Clarice asked.
“I’m good, I’m living and working back here now. I thought you had moved away” I tried to keep my voice calm, but my heart was beating so fast I was sure she could hear it above the humming fridges.
“I did Nathan, but that was years ago, I’m back here now”.
I wanted to ask if she was well, happy…single. But instead I made a stupid comment about how she obviously still liked drastic hair colours. She hung her head and looked at the floor, I wanted to tell her how beautiful the red hair made her look. But I didn’t get the chance. She lifted her head, looked straight into my eyes, and said
“I have to go, Nathan, it was nice seeing you again, take care”.
I leant against the chiller cabinet and watched as the girl I had always loved hurried away from me. My mind wandered back to that hot summers day in 1996 when I left to follow my own selfish dreams. I was sure Clarice would be better off without me. We had different paths. She was a bright girl, but lacked ambition. Her rebellious streak saw her change her hair colour weekly. She was wild and out of control, when I was with her, I felt out of control. I loved her more than I was capable of expressing. I was scared. I made the mistake of walking away from her, and spent ten years missing her. I had stupidly let her walk away from me again. I looked down at the floor, at my feet, a flash of bright red hair caught my eye, lodged beneath my empty shopping basket was Clarices work badge. I ran my fingers across the fresh face, and read the details. I gasped, a soft rush of air filled my lungs as I realised that I had been wrong, so very wrong.
I needed to get away. I needed to get to work. Why had he acted so cold towards me, tears stung at my eyes as I considered his surprise when he had seen me, how fast he had been to say he thought I had moved away, and what’s so wrong with my red hair. I reached the doors to the school, and rushed through to the staffroom. My first lesson wasn’t for an hour, but I needed time to get my emotions back in check. I sat in the corner chair behind the old forgotten pile of peoples friend magazines left behind long ago by a former teacher.
“Clarice, someone just popped into the office to hand this in”
I looked up over the magazines at Maureen, the school secretary. She was old and forgetful, due to retire at the end of term. She handed me my work id badge.
“What did they look like” I asked.
“ I don’t know Clarice, I was too busy dealing with the paperwork to look, Sorry.” I watched Maureen head toward the staffroom door, my heart thumping hard in my chest. Had I lost the id in the supermarket, with the other bits, had Nathan followed me over here, and handed it in? I stared at the girl with the red hair in the picture, I had worked so hard to become that girl, but all he saw was the seventeen year old he had left behind. I gathered up my things and crawled out from the corner. Maureen popped her head back around the door “Clarice, don’t forget you have the talk with your class today, he is just setting up in the hall now”. I let out a deep sigh, I had forgotten. “Ok Maureen, I’m just off there now” I replied with a cheerful smile, that hid the turmoil I was really feeling.