"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)



He sat in the bolted down, hard back orange chair watching his clothes tumble behind the glass door.  They chased each other as though bewitched, forced into a never ending circular game of tag.  The buzzer sounded, the spell broke, and they fell limply to the bottom of the canister as it came to a slow stop.  He opened the door and swept the still hot clothes into the basket he held beneath them.  He walked over to the folding table and dumped the clothes out once again.  He began folding them quickly to make sure they didn't wrinkle, just as his mother had taught him before sending him off to a far away school.

The door chime sounded, and he looked up just in time to see her struggling through the door.  She had a laundry basket balanced on her hip, and she dragged a full duffel bag behind her.  He dropped his gaze quickly as she walked past him towards the washing machines.  Her back to him, he was safe again to watch her as she pulled clothes from the bag and stuffed them in a machine.

She was pretty.  Her soft brown hair was pulled up in a high pony tail, exposing a graceful neck.  She was dressed, well, for the laundromat, in an oversized t-shirt and pair of shorts.  Her legs were long and tanned.  He looked away again quickly when she turned around to reach for the laundry detergent.  He didn't want her to catch him staring at her butt.  He did manage to catch a glimpse of her face, though, and he could tell she wasn't wearing any make up, just a hint of lip gloss.  He liked that.  She turned back to the machine and measured out a cup of blue liquid.  He noticed her hands were delicate with long slender fingers.

She shut the lid and punched in the required four quarters.  She grabbed a book from her basket and looked around for an empty chair.  It was then that she glanced his way and caught him staring at her. 

He caught his breath.  Their eyes were held together by a tenuous silver thread that was a moment.  Other moments arrived and took their place in line, waiting to occur: a greeting, a joke, a walk home, a first date, a first kiss, a revelation, an engagement, a marriage, a baby and another, a life together, a happily every after.

A blush rose from his neck to cover his face in crimson.  He tore his eyes from hers just as the corners of her mouth began to lift into a smile.  The silver thread was broken.  The possibilities dissipated like a tiny wisp of smoke.

He shoved the remainder of his clothes into his basket, scooped up his detergent and dryer sheets, and stumbled out through the laundromat door.  He kept his head lowered as he fumbled for his keys.  He drove away, cursing himself for being so stupid.


The prompt today is: A signal is misinterpreted...  Funny, because I misinterpreted the prompt and thought it said: A signal is missed...  Anyway, I think my entry works either way.  Kind of.  If you would like to play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.


Anonymous said...

I can really feel the embarrassment of the main character and the awkwardness of the situation. Such an opportunity missed. I wonder how our lives would be different if we simply took advantage of opportunities that came our way.
Adam B

Vetta said...

I can feel the character's discomfort at the end - if he had only stayed a few minutes more, his life might have changed. And I love the line: "the possibilities dissipated like a tiny wisp of smoke."

Anonymous said...

Exquisite: Other moments arrived and took their place in line ... The silver thread was broken. The possibilities dissipated like a tiny wisp of smoke.

Shelli said...

Adam -- Thanks! I'm so glad my husband of 21 years was not one of those shy kind of guys. I would have hated missing out on this wonderful adventure.

Vetta and Cathryn -- Thank you so much! That was the part I agonized over, wanting to get it just right. I had a picture in my head that I wanted to capture. I'm glad it worked.

John Pender said...

Such has been my reaction to many a woman. I liked this one.

Shelli said...

Thanks, John! I hope there were a few braver moments in your past, as well. :)

Eileen Andrews said...

I'm lost as t what was misinterpreted. He looked at her with hope and interest, but I didn't sense the misunderstanding. Embarrassment was keen though, wowza

Shelli said...

Eileen -- yeah, I accidentally misread the prompt and thought "missed signal," not "misunderstood signal." The missed signal was her smile welcoming his attention. Thanks so much for coming by!

NewToWritingGirl said...

There's quite a strong message in this story - don't miss those chances. It's the total opposite to my story. Now I'm lost what to do when someone smiles at me, ha!
It's so sad too. Great work!

Shelli said...

Thanks, NewToWritingGirl!