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A young woman, perhaps in her early twenties, strolled down the bustling street. Her straight crimson-golden hair was pulled back, wrapped tightly in a sheer scarf and draped delicately to the side. She wore a large, boxy overcoat to disguise her feminine shape; its color was the same light beige of her complexion. Swiveling in a plain dress, she was an unembellished woman; yet, her cheeks were flushed pink and her icy reflective, sky-blue eyes flashed an inherent beauty—a characteristic she could not mask. Her cracked lips hinted a hue of red, dry in the numbing, autumn wind.
Commuters charged past her on their routes to work, as well as students with large knapsacks and individuals of the general populace, while vendors stood at the sidelines holding the off-field refreshments in the busy street game. She attempted to play in the game, as she strove alongside the men in their corporate black suits, hurrying to their destinations. A matronly woman dragged along her children, and a recruiter stalked an innocent fellow who peered up and down the avenue in puzzlement. She raced as quickly as those surrounding her, as if she was late for an appointment.
She shielded her body like that of a glorious peacock in its hovering feathers—a mere warning of protection but truly nothing more than a gallant show. Her muscles were tense and her frail, knobby fingers twitched. She shunned interaction with the breezy outside world, as she kicked the blowing leaves and peered down at the dirtied concrete. She herself was a nomadic leaf, swaying endlessly, without a destination and no secure place to anchor her limbs. What the others could not see—or bother to see as they glided swiftly past—was that her face was broken, shattered and stained, in the raw, chilled atmosphere. Her tense blue eyes cried for help, but she yielded no tears, as her eyes were dry basins plagued by drought.
It appeared that the wind had blown her to the music shop on the corner of an intersection—a temporary haven. With its bright lights and endless collections on three levels, it was a colorful store that drew in many by passers. The collections were divided by their various genres, and in each section, there were headphones for sampling. Potential customers could listen to any song. Many were enraptured by the stories told through the notes and voices of those in a foreign musical world.
As she strove through the automatic doors, a gust of warm air shot her in the face and wildly blew out her straight hair.
“Welcome,” said the greeter. She averted her tearing eyes, scurrying to the escalator which transported her downstairs.
As she immediately seized the headphones closest to her trembling body, her shaking gradually calmed; her tense body subsided to brilliant melodies. Notes ascended and descended. She closed her eyes, falling into an unknown, but strangely familiar world. Feeling warmth rise up into her pink cheeks, her glassy eyes illuminated like the revitalization of a frozen flower, gaining sparkle as they defrosted. Her fingers relaxed as they gripped the case of an album. Her formerly stoned face began to enliven as well, as her lips darkened in hue and the corners of her mouth began to inch up in a feeble smile. Her lips parted soon and let out a very low hum. Her head rose ever so slightly—up and down—and the toes of her left foot tapped gingerly against the ceramic flooring.
When she glanced at her watch, it was as if an electric shock of panic struck through her body, as her hands began to anxiously shake. With the album clutched in her trembling hands, she immediately hurried to the escalator. Rising to the upper floor, she rushed to the purchasing line.
As she waited, she held tightly onto the shiny album with a vibrant sticker of authenticity, scanning the details of the cover shyly, inching her toes gradually forward each minute.
“Next on line,” called a voice further down the line of cashiers. She glanced up, and with her trembling hands, she swiftly walked down to the cashier.
She placed the album delicately on the counter as if it was a sheet of glass—fragile and sharp around the edges. She did not look up at the cashier, but down into her purse where she withdrew her wallet carefully. He watched her hands tremble and an expression of puzzlement cascaded through his golden-brown eyes. Finally, when her head bobbed up, he caught her view of sight and smiled pleasantly.
“You have beautiful eyes,” the young man said through a grin, as he reached to scan the album. He locked his eyes on her, and she twitched in discomfort. Then, he said in the most calming voice, “I bet you get that a lot.”
She peered downward at the counter, avoiding his gaze, but the tight outer corners of her lips betrayed her as they rose up into a faint smile.
“Well, do you get it a lot?” he pressed again slowly. Shyly, she nodded, her eyes still fixed on the counter below.
He whipped out a plastic blue bag from under the counter. She shuttered.
“Come on,” he started, “they’re as blue as this bag—cerulean blue! If I got a dollar for every time someone complemented your eyes, I’d be one rich man.”
She looked up from the counter now, and looked at the strange man’s face. She was surprised to see he was young—perhaps her own age. She stared in amazement, as he had the most captivating eyes she had ever seen. They were a burnt yellow, sprouting from the pupil like the petals of a blossoming sunflower. With the warmth of the rays of the sun, they were cheery and inviting, and it was as if he smiled through his eyes as well as through the balls that formed in his clean-shaven cheeks.
“You know, they’re a good band,” the cashier’s voice sung through an unyielding smile, as he rang up the bill on the register.
“My favorite,” she whispered as she studied his face, and her trembling fingers calmed as waves when the wind dissipates.
He watched her carefully, outlining her face with his glorious eyes, pondering what to say next as she looked away and then stared back questioningly. He continued then, quickly, “May I have your name and phone number to enter into our monthly album giveaway?”
“I’d rather not.” She spoke now, louder than a whisper.
“Well, I would really want a girl with beautiful eyes like yours to win a new album.” He was soft and delicate, as if he was asking permission to hold her hand.
“Another time,” she replied in a nervous gush.
“But, I know I’ll never see you again.”
Her eyes studied his questioningly, and she wondered if she knew the man before her. She had never had a stranger take such interest in her before, and it was the newest, most sensational feeling to know that someone cared—cared slightly enough to stop the leaf that was blowing endlessly in the wind. He had burst her protective sphere in a gentle way and hypnotized her with his golden eyes. She felt herself uncoiling to a stranger, and it frightened her as she had never spoken beyond minimal words to a stranger since . . . the incident. He continued to look into her eyes, as if he understood. He saw the darkness of her past and responded with a calming smile that reassuringly said you’re safe.
“Devon Connolly,” she said finally. It was her normal voice, much higher than a whisper—the voice she had not used in public in a very long time.
He thanked her and she then quickly recited her phone number.
As his eyes continued to follow hers, he said happily, “Now, you have a most splendid day,” and handed her the blue bag. She turned, and with yet another spurt of panic, began to launch away.
“Miss Connolly!” he called after her. “You forgot your receipt!”
She turned back to face him, her cheeks warming with pinkness, as she extended a trembling hand to retrieve the receipt. She caught his eyes for a second, as he gently placed the receipt in her hand and squeezed her fingers. He held her hand for an instant; then, released her. She quickly turned again and dashed to the door. Her departure left him standing at the counter, watching her in confusion as she abandoned the store.
Ambling back into the numbing, cold air, her body trembled with overwhelmed feelings. She stopped abruptly and leaned against the brick wall of the building. She breathed in and out deeply, before the moving crowds of the busy intersection. Slowly, her breathing calmed and her shaking ceased.
Suddenly, she felt great lines form in her face. They were folds of skin she had not felt in a very long time. Her fingers passed through her lips as she felt the lines. Her cheeks had risen into balls.
As she peered out into the street, for the first time in years, she no longer averted her eyes. Like a glorious messenger from heaven, an elderly woman hobbling with a cane smiled at her and exclaimed, “What beautiful eyes!”
Devon opened her purse, where she had placed her wallet. Her fingers felt the album wrapped in the slick texture of the plastic bag. She felt the thin paper receipt. As she withdrew the crumbled paper, something unusual grasped her attention.
Her glowing eyes stared in astonishment and bewilderment. Her jitteriness collapsed. The lines were again forming and the balls of her cheeks this time burned with the rosiest pink. The name Joey had been scribbled at the bottom of the crumbled receipt along with a phone number.