Read A New York Romance Online
Authors: Abigail Winters
Copyright © 2015 by Abigail Winters
All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Charlie was a strange young man in the eyes of most. Never married, and had never considered getting married. He was the loner-type, quiet, with a kind demeanor that most people found pleasant but not attractive. He was the one in the crowd no one noticed, unless he wanted to be noticed. Usually, he did not.
Charlie liked the quiet days, when there was nothing to do but sit and stare out the window at the field and trees, and watch the clouds drift across the soft blue emptiness. It was a strange pastime for such a young man. Surely he appeared lazy to others, just sitting there in a seemingly thoughtless stare from his empty one-bedroom apartment, but he wasn’t acting like an old man waiting for his death. As he looked at the field, the trees, and the sky, he made himself aware of all the creatures upon the Earth and sent thoughts of happiness and love to them.
He could have spent his time drinking and socializing with his friends as most people his age did, but his solitary life did not welcome such things. He went out drinking once and swore he would never do it again, not because he did not enjoy his friends, and not because of the horrible headache the next morning, but because he became distracted and forgot to wish others happiness and love while his brain was swimming in a gallon of imported beer. To this day he only vaguely remembers waking up on the steps of a church next to a homeless man, for whom he ended up buying a late night snack.
Everyone around Charlie was busy accomplishing things, but what was wrong with just sitting there and wishing people kindness, happiness, good health, and most of all, true love? Charlie was not interested in knitting quilts all day or fixing cars as his parents had done, and he surely was not interested in going to work for some company for the next forty years. He saw the stress and misery in the eyes of the working class, whose companies would eventually leave them to retire in poverty. Charlie did not like paper work, taxes, forms and such, and so he never did them. He simply enjoyed wishing good things for others, and not just humans either, but the bugs that crept into his apartment and the jungle creatures living on the other side of the Earth, and the faintest creatures in the deepest depths of the sea. He was aware of them all, day and night, and he loved them all without distinction.
Yes, if there was a creature that breathed, Charlie loved it. This was the feeling he dwelled in all the time. It made him happy, though he did not do it for his own happiness. No one understood this about him. All they saw was a young man in the prime of his life, sitting there like an old man on a park bench with nothing to do and no one to talk to.
Charlie had his reasons for doing what he did and avoiding what he did not do. He had a secret he never told anyone, not even his adopted parents. It wasn’t a dark secret; in fact, it was quite the opposite.
In Charlie’s mind he was not exactly human. And unbeknownst to him, his life was about to take a strange and unusual turn into the simplest of human ways. A turn into something that even he had not expected: Love.
It began on a cold, late winter day on a bus from Brookville to New York City. Charlie was going to meet a couple for lunch the next day. The bus was an old school bus with a squalid interior and drafty windows. It was painted blue, faded from the weather, and old like the man who owned and drove it. The driver was about seventy, widowed, and just wanted to pass his time taking passengers around the northeastern states. Charlie was not even sure if the man had a driver’s license, but the ride was cheap and the driver did not like the highways. It was a long drive on peaceful, backcountry roads that led all the way into the city.
Charlie liked the low-priced rides better. They were usually quieter and out of the way of big crowds, mainly because anybody with an extra ten bucks would splurge for a quicker, more-comfortable ride, like one of those luxury Greyhounds. Plus, the passengers were usually less attractive. That was another part of Charlie’s secret and strange behavior; he avoided attractive people of the female kind. But on this trip, his luck was about to run out, as there happened to be a beautiful young lady, and she happened to sit right next to him.
Charlie remained cuddled up by the window in the third seat from the back of the bus with his heels on the edge of the torn plastic seat, his arms wrapped around his knees. He did his best to ignore her for the first half of the trip, staring out the window, wishing good thoughts to all the bugs and animals buried underneath the snow in their winter burrows, but out of the corner of his eye he caught glimpses of her smooth legs, sticking out from her knee-length plaid skirt. Her bare feet rested on the sides of her heeled shoes.
What’s a girl like that doing on a bus like this…dressed in clothes like that?
he thought to himself, then he quickly turned his attention back to the other side of the window, wondering what bugs and animals might be sleeping underneath the winter landscape.
But Charlie could not resist glancing at her now and then, higher and higher until he saw her face turn away from his prowling eyes. He saw the other empty seats and wondered why she sat next to him of all places, and then he turned his head away from her when she looked over in his direction.
Perhaps she didn’t notice I was in the seat when she sat next to me
, he thought to himself, remembering his ability to remain unnoticed in crowds.
Despite the tightening quivers in his stomach, he could not resist saying, “Hello, how are you?” as he heard so many humans start conversations that way.
“I’m fine,” she said as she turned to face him. Her straight, shoulder length, dirty-blonde hair swung around, collapsing on her cheek and then bounced back again to rest on her shoulders. Charlie glanced down and noticed every curve about her in a split second, as if time had stopped so that he could stare for as long as he wanted. A plain green sweater covered her arms and shoulders but hung open in the front, exposing her white blouse.
“So where are you heading?” she asked.
He swallowed his nerves and clenched at the sleeves of his brown corduroy jacket after putting his feet on the floor. She could tell he was nervous.
He looked back into her bright green eyes. Time seem to come to a stop. He stared at her for what seemed eternity. Only the puzzling look that began to color her face drew him back into the world.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. He recalled her questioned before eternity consumed him, “I’m heading to New York to meet some friends for lunch.”
“Are you going to do any sightseeing or anything else? Shop?” she asked.
“Nope,” he answered, glancing out the window then back again.
“You’re taking a bus to New York City just to meet your friends for lunch?” she asked with her delightful smile, the corners of her mouth pushing up into her rose colored cheeks.
“Yep, that’s it,” he replied. “I’m not sure if I’ll stay longer or not. We’ll see what happens.”
“Well that sounds pretty relaxing. Sounds like you got a lot of time on your hands.”
He looked at his hands. She noticed the confusion that set in. Then…clarity! “Oh! Yeah, most of my days are pretty easy,” he responded, noticing that she slid her hands, palms pressed together, between her knees.
Suddenly the bus jerked and they looked over the seats to see out the front window. The road was covered in snow and ice.
“Oh my God,” everyone screamed, including the girl next to Charlie, as she embraced the seat in front of her.
The bus hit another patch of ice and slid sideways, heading for the ditch on the other side of the road.
“Get down,” the girl told Charlie as she crouched toward the floor, but he just sat there as if nothing was wrong.
Then suddenly he wrapped his left arm around her waist and held on tight to the bottom of the seat, with his legs tucked tightly under the seat in front of them. The back wheel hit a dry spot on the road and the bus tipped over, Charlie’s head fell next to the glass which scrapped along the icy pavement making a sound like the Devil’s nails scrapping down his spine. The people on the other side of the bus fell toward the ground. The bus slid across the road into the ditch and snow piled in through the shattered windows until it came to a sudden stop.
No one moved. Charlie’s arm was still wrapped around the girl’s waist, her head resting softly on his chest.
“Are you okay?” she asked Charlie.
“Yes, I’m fine. There should be an emergency door behind us,” he said.
The girl noticed her unbuttoned blouse, probably from the crash. She quickly buttoned it up while Charlie’s arm was still wrapped around her, pinned between her and the seat. His back was now to the ground with broken glass around him until she stood up, her bare feet on the shattered window. She grabbed her purse and shoes, then knelt down beside the injured person next to her while Charlie headed for the emergency exit behind them.
There was an eerie silence. Only the faint moans of injured passengers could be heard above the scraping of broken glass. The engine had stopped. The front wheel spun effortlessly on its broken axis. Everyone slowly rose and started to panic. Charlie was calm, opened the door and helped a few people out, then the young girl who caught his fancy.
Outside the bus there was an icy silence but inside they heard the cries of traumatized passengers growing louder. Charlie went back inside and helped each rider out until they were all safe. Only the driver was still in the vehicle. Charlie raced through the bus above the seats. From his point of view he saw the engine burst into flames. The girl saw it too and backed everyone up. At the front of the bus Charlie found the driver lying on the broken door. He kicked out the front window and lifted the man onto his shoulders.
The young girl stood apart from the crowd and watched as the young man in the brown corduroy jacket stepped through the window over the broken glass carrying the driver. Then suddenly, the bus burst into flames and she turned her head from the sight of them. Glass and debris were scattered into the air and fell to the pavement and field below. She turned to look again, expecting to find them lying on the pavement but to her surprise, they were far from the bus. The driver was sitting up on his own and the strange young man in the brown corduroy jacket had stood up and started walking down the road, away from the accident.
She ran around the bus, still carrying her shoes, and caught up to the old man sitting in the snow. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, yes. I’ll be fine. The ambulance is on its way.”
She turned and saw the young man walking briskly down the road, as if trying to get as far away from the scene as possible. She realized her feet were beginning to freeze. She stumbled to put on her shoes then she ran as fast as she could and caught up with him, “How did you do that?”
“What?” Charlie shrugged his shoulders. His jacket was a size or two too big for him.
“I saw you come out of the bus just as it exploded. You weren’t far enough away. Then when I looked back you were a safe distance away. How did you get that far away so quickly while carrying a full grown man on your shoulders?”
“Humans can do strange things when under pressure,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders again, barely causing the oversized jacket to move.
“I guess so,” she reluctantly agreed as she suddenly realized again that they were walking down the street, away from the others in the accident. Her shoes kept slipping on the ice.
“And vehicles don't 'explode',” he continued, although she wasn't listening. “The fuel tank usually ruptures and leaks to the ignition system. It's really more like a sudden fire ball. ”
“Where are you walking to?” she asked.
“I’m going to New York to meet some friends. We already discussed this,” he said nervously.
“We were just in a crash, people were hurt, the bus blew up, and you’re walking away ‘cause you have to get to New York for lunch?” she grabbed his coat to balance herself on the ice.
“Well it’s over now. They’re okay. Help will be there soon.”
“We’re in the middle of nowhere! Help will not arrive for…” suddenly she heard several sirens. She let go of his coat as she turned back and saw a fleet of ambulances pull up with flashing lights. The paramedics rushed out the vehicles and began taking care of the people.
“How did they get here so quickly? How did they even know?”
she thought out loud, falling behind the strange young man who was still walking.
“Hey, wait up!” she cried out and caught up to him again, using small steps to avoid falling. “How are you getting to New York? Are you going to walk the whole way?”
“There will be another ride along in a minute or two.”
She turned around again and saw the firemen putting out the flames. The paramedics were already leaving with people. She squinted her eyes from the growing distance to look at the others more carefully. The fire was out and everyone seemed fine. She was suddenly aware of the cold again as Charlie continued stumbling off into nowhere.