Strangers In The Night

The title for this short story is inspired by the song that was made famous in 1966 by Frank Sinatra.
Romance isn't one of my strong points, but I thought I'd have a go at a short story for the Valentines competition.

I had written an ending to this but it disappeared when I tried to publish it so there currently is no ending.

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1. I

It was late afternoon and the sun was low on the horizon, setting the sky on fire. Long shadows stretched across the quiet streets and I could see the locals going about their daily lives in the shops and street markets. I could see housewives hanging bedsheets over balconies and children playing games on the streets below. Couples walked along the pavement, hand in hand, embracing on street corners. This was the romantic city of Paris.

I sat inside a small dingy café somewhere along a backstreet by a cluster of market stalls selling books and antiques. Frank Sinatra was crooning from the jukebox by the counter. I often came here to contemplate life. I liked to look out the large front windows and watch life pass me by. I'd sit there and sketch things, people, that interest me. I carry a sketchbook with me everywhere because the world inspires me.

The waitress came over and set the cappuccino on the table that I had just ordered. I was in my usual corner of the café, sketching a mother cradling her baby on a nearby bench, when I spotted a pretty little brunette sitting outside on one of the umbrella-tables, reading a book. What struck me was her absolute vulnerability as she sat there; she was alone, lost in her own little world, oblivious to her surroundings. She had a calm, graceful demeanour. Her pale complexion seemed to glow in the evening warmth. She had big, watery blue eyes and a sprinkle of freckles on her nose, which gave her a kind of childlike innocence. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, I found myself attracted to her. The way she smiled, as she read, touched my heart. And the lonely look in her eyes; in her eyes I could see a hunger for happiness. She strived for the happiness she could only find in books. 

I sat there staring at her, wondering what her life story was. I wondered about her whole past. I wondered what had made her so lonely. I wondered if she had ever loved, and whether she could ever be loved. She looked broken inside, fragile, as though she'd been damaged. Life can do that to a person. 

The sun soon disappeared over the horizon and it quickly grew dark. It wasn't long before the girl got up to leave. As I watched her recede down the cobbled street I felt a sudden pang; I imagined her going to bed alone that night and crying herslef to sleep. I wanted to run after her and hold her, and tell her that she didn't have to be alone. But instead I watched her disappear out of sight.

I flung my sketchbook on the table. It was open on the half-finished sketch I'd done earlier of the woman holding her baby. They had long since gone from the bench, which I failed to notice after my attention had been diverted to the girl reading. I sat in that café for most of the night, thinking of how lonely I was and how lonely that girl was. We were just two lonely souls in a big city. 

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