The Reader This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 12, 2016
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Books were like water to her, or at least that’s what Nick observed. Ninety-nine percent of the time, she was reading. She was an easy thing to watch, easy on the eyes.

She was beautiful; she dressed nice and wore makeup, but Nick had also seen her every Monday when she wore her dirty blonde hair in a messy bun, and not those cute buns posted all over the Internet. The buns where strands of hair stick out, and the hair tie is wrapped around the middle of the bun. Yeah, those.

Anyway, he’d seen her in the messy bun, oversized baggy sweater, and leggings with her god-awful bright pink UGGs that he couldn’t understand how she liked. He’d seen her makeup-free on those Mondays, with bags under her eyes from what he assumed was staying up late reading.

She’d always been easy on the eyes.

Nick “observed” her every day, except Thursdays, in his dad’s office building. He’d asked about her, but his father never gave him a name. Just, “Oh, the new intern? Yeah, she’s nice.”

“I’m such a creep,” he mumbled as he watched her from across the room, half walls covering her desk and hiding the book she was reading. Sometimes Nick wondered if she’d get in trouble reading when she was supposed to be working.

It wasn’t as if she didn’t do any work. In fact, once for an entire week he hadn’t seen her read at all. His father had loaded her up with work, and there just was no time.

Today, her hair was curled, and her makeup was a small wing with brown eye shadow on; it wasn’t that noticeable. Nick was just looking closely. She wore an olive green dress with long sleeves and a light brown scarf.

She smiled a little at her book, and Nick’s heart fluttered. She’d been here two months, and Nick hadn’t talked to her once. Just observed her from his desk. Even though he never interacted with her, he’d managed to have a crush on this girl whose name he didn’t even know.

She laughed quietly, and Nick’s smile widened. Then she looked up and caught Nick’s eye.

He froze, his goofy grin dropping and his face burning with embarrassment.

“Why do you do that?” she called out. Her voice was not high or low, perfectly in the middle. He’d only heard her speak a few times. She didn’t speak unless she was spoken too.

“Do what?” he replied, trying to feign naiveté. He knew what she was asking. He’d finally been caught.

“Stare at me.” She put her book mark in her book and closed it. “You do it all the time. Why?” She didn’t sound angry or creeped out; her smile was still there.

He didn’t know how to answer. He couldn’t just say, “I think you’re really cute and like watching you when you read. The facial expressions you make are entertaining.” That would creep her out. So, he settled for, “You’re interesting.”

“Interesting? In a bad way?” Her smile faded.

“No, no,” he said quickly. He mentally knew what was coming: the outpouring of words he couldn’t control. It happened when he was nervous. “Interesting as in, like, cute, beautiful, unique. You know? You’re all of them, and I enjoy seeing you be them. Also interesting like you read all the time and you never seem to get bored, although that’s not really unusual. What’s unusual is that I watch you all the time and never get bored. Now that’s weird. But, like, you get so drawn into your book, I thought you weren’t really into the this world, you know? You’re just interesting and pretty. Especially on Mondays, you know?”

In the ensuing quiet Nick hated himself for his dumb quirk. He got the word-vomit from his mother. Of course he did. The girl stared at him, and he felt his cheeks burn.

Grand, he thought. I’ve terrified her and now she’s going to leave.

“You don’t even know my name,” she said.

“Well, no, but …”

“It’s Abigail,” she said. She walked over. Reaching out, he shook her dainty hand.

“Nick,” he replied.

“I know. Your father told me,” she said, before walking back to her desk and reopening her book. In the absence of her warm palm were the sharp corners of a note. Unfolding it, Nick read:

I’ve been working up the nerve to speak to you; I finally got the nerve. Call me sometime.

At the bottom was her name and phone number. He smiled – she’d been observing him too.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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