Esmeralda

It was pouring cats and dogs that day. Heaven seemed to have been flooded, it seemed, and someone was doing a mighty good job of cleaning it. Richard stared at the sheets of rain wondering when it would abate. He was stranded alone at a bus stop a while from home.

He looked at his watch. 12:30 pm. It would already be half an hour into the meeting. Richard hid a grimace, forcing down his feeling of guilt. His presence was required in this one, else their venture would never succeed. More than anything else, Tom would kill him. Tom had been insisting on him leaving his home earlier, but Dick had refused, knowing that he would be there on time.

He was wrong. He stared out, watching the blurred outlines of cars moving slowly on slippery roads, the sounds of their horns and wheels mixing with the steady patter of constant rain in a rather jarring fashion. Richard gritted his teeth. He did not like loud noises.

A cow mooed near him. He turned to look. It was staring at him, its eyes clear, bored and uninterested. He was just another random human, no different from the thousands of pedestrians it saw on a daily basis.

‘Is this what I’ve been reduced to?’ thought Richard bemusedly. Staring at cows and analysing their thought processes? Conan would kill me. Conan always accused him of thinking too much. Richard countered by saying that Conan had air between his ears. Despite this argument, though, Conan was the man Richard would bet his life on whatever the situation. Though he didn’t look the type, he would give an arm and a leg for his friends if needed.

The sound of footsteps broke him out of his thoughts. He looked up to see another person hurry into the shelter of the bus stop.

Richard looked at her in interest. She was a fine specimen. He could see brown hair peeking out from under the raincoat and two very dainty hands fiddling with the bag. The green raincoat went well with her fair complexion. She looked youngish, close to twenty if he wasn’t mistaken.

Almost as if she could feel his gaze, she looked up at him.

Black eyes, was all Richard’s mind could come up with before his thoughts caught up with his body. He immediately averted his gaze, cheeks flaming. Getting caught staring was always a humiliating experience. At least, thought Richard wryly, I’ll get to know what she looks like when pissed. He kicked himself mentally. Way to go, Dick. You just lived up to your name. Now she hates you without knowing who you are.

He looked out at the street again, irritated. He was stuck with a pretty girl in an awkward situation of his own creation. The bus system was also down, he had no idea about the length of time he would be spending with this unknown girl. It just didn’t get worse than that.

Almost inadvertently, his eyes moved to catch another glimpse of her…

…just to see her eyes shift away from his face.

Richard was flabbergasted. She had been staring at him? At him of all people? He suddenly felt ten feet tall and as well endowed as the greatest of porn actors. She’d been staring at him. In his moment of elation, it didn’t even occur to him that the only reason she was doing that was because there was no one else to stare at. Right now, there was one hill, and he was king. Hell yeah, it felt great.

He sneaked another glance at her. She was looking out at the street, but Richard was sure that she’d been staring at him just a moment ago.

He took a deep breath. He fixed his eyes on the goal.

And he began walking.

His field of vision narrowed and his heart rate sped up. Time slowed down as he became acutely aware of his own movements. Every step, every swing of his arms, every breath going through his nose, they all seemed to be twice as noisy and awkward. His footsteps rang loud in his ears as he made his way towards the final destination. If life would have had background music, decided Richard suddenly, the “Mission Impossible” theme would certainly fit this situation the best.

His throat was dry and his lips chapped. He silently cleared his throat before coming to a stop before her. Her eyes were on him, with what seemed a questioning lilt to that gaze.

His eyes drank in her features. Up close, she was even more beautiful than he had imagined. Her hair was a deep, chestnut brown. Her skin was fair, almost pale, the only imperfection being a small spot on her chin. Her eyes were perfectly shaped, the lashes just the right length. Her nose was regal, giving her a royal appearance.

“Well?” she said, her eyes betraying her amusement. “Are you going to say anything? Or keep staring till we both drop dead?”

Richard blushed. “Well,” he said, “I was thinking of introducing myself.”

“Go ahead then.”

Richard sighed. “You’re not gonna make this easy, are you?”

“Nope!” she replied cheerfully. “What’s the fun in that?”

“Oh kay,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Here goes nothing. Hi. I’m Richard.”

“Esmeralda.”

“I’m twenty one.”

“I’m twenty.”

“I’m a physicist.”

“That’s a load of bull.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Oh yes it is.”

Richard huffed and crossed his arms. “Oh, and how do you figure that one out?”

She tilted her head and stared at him in a pitying manner. “Elementary, my dear boy, all you have to know is where to look.”

Richard stared. “So where did you look?”

She smirked. “Wherever I looked, I found it wanting.”

Richard’s cheeks heated up. She was baiting him! Well, he thought snidely, two can play that game, mademoiselle.

“I of course cannot say the same,” he said, a winsome smile playing on his face. “I found you very gifted, I must say. Almost too gifted.”

It was her turn to flush now.

“So,” Esmeralda changed topics rather pointedly, or so Dick thought. “What are you doing out here on such a stormy day?”

Richard shrugged. “Nothing much. The same as you I guess, waiting for a bus to take me from point A to point B.”

She laughed. “No silly,” she said, “Why are you out at all? Why did you not go back when you saw the weather change for the worse?”

“Because I needed to get to a meeting.”

She raised an eyebrow. “A meeting? You’re twenty one.”

He smiled. “And I had to be in a meeting. What’s so unbelievable in that?”

She shook her head. “Richard, Richard, Richard…”

“What?”

“Richard!”

And suddenly, the scene dissolved. Tom stood in front of him, peering at him from behind his glasses.

“Get up! We have to reach on time for the meeting today!”

“Esmeralda?” croaked Richard.

Tom stared at him. Richard never saw the glass of ice-cold water that ended up on his face.

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