Read an Excerpt:
The crosswalk is the busiest place in town any time of the year, and even if Braddock has a fraction of the people in the summer, it’s still bustling. As I’m coming up, I spot a girl approaching from my left. She’s ghostly pale like me, with auburn hair cut in a short bob around her soft jawline. The most striking thing about her is her narrow, almond-shaped eyes. I’ve always thought chicks with eyes like that are really cute. They catch mine as I approach, and there’s a kind of click; two people in a crowd with matching energy. She greets me with a narrow, witty smile. I return hers in my usual unintentional way, soft and genuine and a little bit sad-looking without ever meaning to seem that way. And we stand there for a minute, waiting for the traffic to clear.
“Say, is it gonna be dry like this all week?” she asks.
“Um…” I wish I had a better answer ready. “I think so? I haven’t really checked the weather.”
“Why, I sure hope it is.” She stares back across the street at the shade of College Green. “Anything I hate is rain in the summer.”
Roll my eyes in agreement. “Ugh, totally.”
I sneak a look at her. She’s wearing a brown bell-shaped hat, the kind that were popular in the 1920s. She’s wearing a 20s style dress, too: green, knee-length, with a round-cut neckline and loose cap sleeves. She’s even wearing old-fashioned brown stockings and brown heels. It catches my eye and I stare for a second or two; it’s a hot day for stockings, especially the old-fashioned silk kind like that. And her shoes are really retro, like old church grandma shoes. She must shop at that vintage thrift store all the way up at the far end of Court Street; it’s the only place around here where you could get clothes like that, unless she goes thrifting in Columbus.
She’s standing here next to me, watching the street, not self-conscious at all. Like she wears stuff like that every day without even thinking about it.
Then she looks at me, glances away, looks at me again a little longer. Her eyes linger on my top and on my legs, and she looks away again, blushing. I’ve always been a little bit empathic and I can feel curiosity in her glance. And…attraction?
Nah, that can’t be right - girls are never into me. Maybe I look too preppy, I don’t know. I’m a D&D nerd, raised on video games from the age of five, but because I wear an Abercrombie hoodie or Hollister shorts or flat iron my hair, people assign me a whole package of expectations - Courtney is a bitch, Courtney’s stuck-up, Courtney’s a backstabbing gossip, Courtney’s rich. Courtney is heterosexual...? Look, I’ll be honest with you, I’m gonna have a hard time living up to all of that. Maybe not the bitch thing - because yeah, I’m probably a bitch - but the rest of it?
Sorry, no can do.
The traffic finally stops from the other direction. I give her one last smile - which she returns warmly - and step onto the street. A few quick steps take me to the other sidewalk. I stop and look at my slender Fossil watch, making a pretense to turn in her direction again for one last look. She’s awfully cute, and I love her chic vintage style. I wonder if she’d think I was creepy if-
There’s nobody there. I glance around to see if she took off in another direction. Nothing. There are plenty of people around, walking dogs, wearing flip-flops, riding bikes. But no girls with vintage clothes.
She’s gone. It’s like she was never there.
But she totally was there! I talked to her!
Unless I’m finally losing it?
I rub an eye with the heel of my hand, not really caring that I just stamped dry mascara on my skin. Maybe I need to get out more. Maybe I need friends. I stand on the busy sidewalk for a moment, completely disoriented, before remembering that I was looking for a place to sit down and eat my salad. But even as I make my way onto College Green and up toward the Civil War statue, looking for a place to sit, I can’t get that girl out of my head. Not just because she was cute. Something about her, that weird click when we saw each other.
Eh, maybe I’ll see her again. I shove a straw through the lid of my drink. Nobody just vanishes.
I wish you could just disappear.Though I guess if you wanted to disappear, this would be the place to do it. Outside the city limits, the nights are dark and old, and people who vanish are never seen again.
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