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Maggie O’Brian was not a romantic sort of person. In fact, even as a child, she scoffed at the happily-ever-after endings of the bedtime fairytales read to her, and even after lights-out and goodnight kisses, she wondered how such endings could be true. Maggie knew of the monster that people called love; she’d watched it pour tears down her mother’s face each night after the divorce and rip her best friend’s heart to unrepairable shreds. She learned the places that this monster lurked–bars, sappy movies, even the cozy corner of your favorite bookstore–and did her best to avoid them. Maggie’s greatest fear was to be swept away, like so many others, by the churning seas of infatuation. And so, fiercely, Maggie vowed that the day love seized her would be her last.
The strange day began with the dream.
Yawning, Maggie stumbled out of bed, rubbing her squinting eyes and heading toward the shower. As she turned the handle, a cold blast of water hit her and she yelped, her senses jolted awake. Maggie relaxed as the water grew warmer, and she began raking shampoo through her long, dark hair. At first, she remained unaware as a few words and images drifted across her mind. But suddenly, her eyes snapped open as the images became faster and more familiar.
A bouquet of roses. A red flannel shirt. A deep laugh. Cold snowflakes. Eyes so blue they couldn’t be real...
Heart thudding, Maggie turned off the shower, trying to stay calm. But it wasn’t the dream that bothered her so much; she only remembered flashes of it and they didn’t make any sense. What bothered her was the immediate ache in her chest, the sudden feeling rushing around in her veins, an unknown emotion taking over her body. Turning, Maggie faced her reflection in the foggy mirror. Staring back at her was a rosy-cheeked, wide-eyed creature, looking as helpless and panic-stricken as a deer in the headlights.
An hour later, Maggie was driving to work, singing along softly to her favorite Queen song on the radio. Snowflakes swirled around outside in the wind, sticking to the car windows. She parked her car and headed into Starbucks for her routinely morning latte. As she sat down contentedly in her favorite corner, she sighed in relaxation, cradling her cup. The dream had been shoved to the back of her mind, and by now, she had almost forgotten about it.
Sipping her latte, Maggie glanced around and saw, to her surprise, a man she hadn’t noticed sitting close to her, painting. On a real easel and everything, and in a Starbucks on a Wednesday morning! Strange, she thought, but the man had a light smile on his face as he drew the brush across the canvas in steady strokes. Curiously, Maggie craned her neck to see what he was painting. On the canvas, a bunch of scarlet roses lay across a table. It was beautiful, and, intrigued, she inched forward to get a closer look, her chair tilting underneath her, and she almost lost her balance.
Suddenly, an arm reached out and touched hers, steadying her, as a deep laugh rang out around her. “Trying to see my painting, are you?” said a low, slightly accented voice.
Maggie lifted her eyes slowly, and took in first the man’s flannel, which matched the scarlet roses, and then his blond, scruffy hair and beard. As their gazes met, Maggie froze completely.
Eyes so blue they couldn’t be real...
In a rush of sudden panic as everything somehow collided into sense, Maggie dropped her cup and dashed out the door, leaving coffee spilled all over the floor and the man calling out after her in confusion. All she knew is that she needed to leave, to escape whatever was happening. As she skidded out into the street in the whirling snow, her breath came in short gasps, and horrifyingly, she found herself unable to move, as cars swerved around her, this helpless girl, with eyes like a paralyzed doe...the headlights drew nearer and nearer, but her feet would not move, they were stuck to the pavement like the snowflakes on the window....all she could see were those blue, blue eyes as the impact came and she fell, those terrible words echoing endlessly in her ears...