She in the striped blouse // a short story

I espied, from the corner of my eye, a lady in a striped blouse – its black and white lines racing to no end around her circumference. She has worn such a blouse several occasions. In fact, I think the dress has already settled itself on the impressionistic portrait I have of her.

I didn’t dare look back. I knew, I feared, that if I did, I might realize that it wasn’t actually her that stood behind me, but some stranger who fitted her sweet, saintly silhouette, and in that instant all my rapture would vanish, much like when a child realizes that the magic is but a rabbit hidden in the sleeves.

So I continued to look ahead, pretending to not have noticed her, and imagining that were I glance behind, she would immediately notice me and smile.

The skies soon began to rumble. I wondered for how long more I could remain here, poised to cast the first sparks. In my peripherals, I could still see her fidgeting, perhaps searching for her umbrella, I thought. The opportunity beckoned to me, but I was fearful. Why? Was I afraid that I would have nothing to impress her with nor anything meaningful to speak to her about, and the conversation would quickly wither into an uneasy silence? And then I shall have ruined not only a great opportunity but also the impressions which she has formed of me. More than that, I might never again be considered by her heart. And what harsher punishment can be dealt a pursuant than to be doomed from the outset of his pursuit?

I figured at that point that I simply wasn’t ready to speak with her; to assume a delighting character and set her in such an ease that our next encounter would be made as seamless as the meetings of decennial friends.

The skies rumbled once more, this time consuming the crepuscular glow along with the quiet hum of nature. I took it as a sign that this opportunity is one to be let pass. Fate works in the most enigmatic ways. It is up to us to discover and decipher the many messages it playfully hides among the ordinary. “Save your the valor for another day, Winston,” the party of clouds murmured.

Just as I was about to stand and leave, a butterfly settled itself at the edge of the bench. Calmly, it brought both its orange wings to a vertical still, revealing a light brown underside. It was the first time I ever saw such a butterfly here. Unhesistantly, I took as a sign. In fact, I think there were black markings at the edge of the wings that seemed to spell a certain discouragement. “The flames are not be fanned today,” spoke the butterfly.

I heaved a sigh of submission, looked up, and through a gap in boughs above caught sight of an especially bright star. Whenever I think of bright stars, I always immediately think of the Corsican stars. Frobisher had in his final notes told his lover that they shall in the next life meet again under the Corsican stars, and I can only imagine how beautiful they are to have been among the last thoughts of a dying man. “The clouds will soon come to conceal me,” lamented the star of Corsica.

Finally, I stood up. A droplet of rain tapped on my sleeve and dissolved into a darkened patch. Time’s up. How tempting it was to venture a quick glance and discover whether it was truly her that sat behind me.

Then, all of a sudden, it came upon me that the answer had already been revealed. Fate hadn’t been trying to tell me what to do – it had been trying to show me the answer which I didn’t dare discover myself.

I seized my umbrella.

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