TUESDAY: Emily’s Paper

BY NORBERT KOVACS

Copyright is held by the author.

AS HE wrote one evening at his desk in the corner, John lifted his head and saw his girlfriend Emily dash out the apartment door clutching a sheet of paper in her hand. He stood up worried, and bolted into the living room after her. Immediately on entering the room, he noticed the table behind the couch and went to rifle through the papers littering it, the sheets of past writing, old letters from family, forgotten bills past due. He had a hunch Emily had taken her paper from the many in the pile, though which he could not say. He trusted the sheet was meant for him, however, so ran out the open apartment door to fetch it back. He hurried down the brightly lit stairs of his apartment building to the street, where he spotted Emily walking quickly, a block up. At the corner, she turned to check the cross street, her dark eyes and lips showing tense in her pale face. She has some reason she’s hurrying, John thought as he started toward her, running harder than he supposed he could.

He followed Emily, who kept well ahead, all the way to the city square. The traffic on the street before it teased with John as he made to cross. The cars passed in blazes of chrome and fresh paint. The street lights switched, blinking at him. John sped from them toward the thousands of people in the square. Crowds thronged the open-air cafés and the outdoor theatre on the nearby avenue. Among the many people, John soon lost sight of his girlfriend. Eager to re-discover her, he went to a group of teenagers by a café table. He described Emily and asked them, “Have you seen her?” The teenagers gave each other inquiring looks, then one pointed him to the street half a block distant, another to the avenue across the square. John barely weighed the direction he took before he sped away. He spotted Emily finally as she turned and walked toward a side street at the square’s end. He considered calling out to get her attention. He decided not to: he worried it would send her bolting as she had from his apartment. Making it all the harder for me, he realized. He continued after her, the noise of the crowd receding fast behind him.

John did not run, being short-winded now, but kept a good, steady pace after Emily, who was still walking well ahead. As he followed, he observed the oval shape to the back of her dark head, her beautiful, lean body. She is attractive even from the back, he realized with a fond smile. He knew, however, it would be more worthwhile just now to see and talk with her face to face.

As he cut around a pair of people on the sidewalk, he saw that the paper Emily had taken was no longer in her hand. Had she stowed it in her pant pocket? he wondered. Slipped it into her shirt? Threw it away when he had not been looking? The possibilities ran circles in his mind, fascinating him. He considered if she had guessed that he was following her. She did not hint it by any sign: she never turned to look. He was far enough behind, too, that she would not have heard his footsteps. All the same, the idea she could know he was following and give no sign of it intrigued him. He meant to learn if it was so and quickened his steps.

The dark night deepened, but John managed still, by some great luck, to spot Emily up ahead fast as she went. On the next, long streets of downtown, the bustle outside the pubs absorbed and hid her from him. John went on, goaded forward by the herds of jostling people. In scanning the dark, he discovered his girlfriend many times, always well ahead. As if she meant to keep the distance and never stop. He felt amused considering this the longer he walked.

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