There was a time that the lines in his face, expressive, seductive, were unfamiliar to her. Unknown. A time that she hadn’t yet been up close enough to watch the intricate golden patterns flicker in the blue of his eyes.
In the beginning, there were months that she watched him and she didn’t know he was watching her. Back then, she barely even understood she was being drawn in herself, that she was responding to an allure she couldn’t name.
It wasn’t until one weekend during that first summer, as she lay awake watching the hours tick by on the luminescent dial of her watch, that she realized she had been overwhelmed, that her feelings were tangled up in images of him. It was hot that weekend and the windows were open onto the little river. She could hear the late night cars driving by, interspersed by minutes, then hours, the sound of crickets and frogs filling in the silence.
Gradually, as the summer stretched on, she came to know him. The delicate way his fingers played across the keys of his computer, the refined way he held his pen, the feathery gestures he made when he was addressing a room full of people. His gestures were masculine, self-assured, yet delicate. This dichotomy made an impression on everyone, not just her, she realized. She heard people talking about him and she bent her head to hide the jumble of emotions exposed upon her face.
She began to wait for him to arrive. To look for him, scanning the building, working with one ear tuned to the elevator.
The first time they spoke directly to each other, about something other than work, it was about a book. This opened up the door to other conversations, about music, art, more books.
During those conversations, she found herself watching him closely. She noted the small things that would one day become familiar, a part of the whole.
The way the translucent skin around the corners of his eyes crinkled in mirth. The way he threw his head back when he really laughed, exposing the skin of his neck. The sensual plumpness of his lips, parting to reveal perfect, white teeth. The small, fine nose. The long, fair lashes that turned golden in the sun. There was a careful elegance to his clothing, a crispness and a thoughtfulness, and this extended to his smooth leather briefcase, his stainless steel coffee cup, his neatly trimmed hair and smooth nails.
As the months passed, their mutual attraction grew. Whenever they found themselves in a room together, whether alone or with others, the air began to sparkle and crack. There was no need to even acknowledge each other’s presence to set off the magnetic forces. To onlookers – colleagues and friends, both in the office and out – their drawing together was visible, inevitable, a sure and unavoidable path leading each one to the other, like two shirts pulled together along a clothesline.
The first moments they stole together seemed to stretch out, giving them more time than the clock claimed they had. She traced the face she had stolen glances at for so long, saw for the first time the gold in his eyes. She felt nervous and yet deeply calm all at once. She felt herself. She felt she belonged there, with him.
Years later, sitting in their sun-drenched library, she would look at him over the top of her book and think this was the way she always thought it would be, their life together. The two of them were, after all these years, intimately familiar with each other, no trait or idiosyncrasy a mystery any longer. Yet for all their familiarity, she still felt wonder, as though each glance was the first time she had really looked at him. As though she was still just acquainting herself with his features.
Over time, their lives had wrapped around each other, calm and quiet, surrounded by books and drenched in sunlight and silence. She had come to love the comfortable silence of his presence.