'Infatuation' by Emma Stokes

For 2 years, 6 months and 14 days, she was deeply in love. She watched from the back of the lecture hall as he entered the door, front right, making his way confidently to a seat two rows back, pushing his long dark hair from his eyes as he did so. The seats to each side of the one he chose were empty and he took time to get comfortable, rummaging in his bag for pens and paper, before spreading his elbows onto the vacant arm-rests, nestling down slightly and crossing his long legs. Comfortable – that's how he looked; comfortable with himself and oblivious of the effect he was having on the small, curly-headed girl at the back of the class. Had she been possessed of similar self-confidence, she would have hoisted up her bags of books and gone to take one of the empty spots next to him. There she would have smiled as she sat, savoured the feel of his shirt against her bare arm, made small talk about the lecture that was about to commence, known finally how it felt when their eyes met...

Alas, she was the owner of no such ease. Instead, as the lecturer entered the room, she lost herself in her usual daydream, managing to make inadequate notes that she would struggle to revise from later. The story she told herself was always similar: He approached her out of the blue as she walked home to her shabby rented flat. He had noticed her too. He called her name to get her attention. He knew her name. The feeling like being winded when he reached out to touch her as he spoke, the gentle resting of his hand against her shoulder acting like a direct blow that forced the air out of her lungs. The anticipation of being kissed by him making her so heady that she must have wavered slightly on the pavement, causing him to stoop down, to look up into her face, to check she was OK. To smile. To pull her in.

Roused by the movement around her, she realised that the lecture room was beginning to empty and hastily shoved her dog-eared notepad into a bag on which the zip had long-ago given way. The sun was shining as she left the college and she decided to treat herself to half a cider before the long walk home.

At the local pub she took up residence on an empty bench in a corner of the beer garden without realising that he was there. Only when his shadow fell across the table did she turn to look. He held out a clammy hand with chewed finger nails to introduce himself and when he smiled at her surprised expression, his teeth were stained. He straddled the bench to face her as he spoke and she caught his scent of damp washing and dirty coins. He had noticed her. He knew her name. It began to drizzle and she made her excuses.

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