Amanda rode the bus she always took downtown, saw the faces she always saw, passed the sites that no longer impressed her. She did, however, take notice when a strikingly handsome man boarded the bus and began a slow advance down the aisle. He scanned the interior and their eyes met momentarily before she glanced back out the window. She wondered if his eyes had lingered. She looked down at her watch and as she did she had a funny feeling. She looked up to see him still approaching, but he was leaning near one passenger after another, asking a question to which each person was shaking his head. She caught a word or two and recognized the sounds of Spanish; he must be asking for directions.
Amanda rose and headed forward; the bus was nearing her stop. She wondered if he would speak to her. She smiled, hoping her college Spanish wouldn’t fail her if he did, wondering if she should use the polite or the casual form of address. The man smiled back and turned sideways to let her squeeze past. She smelled his delicious cologne, was struck by the width of his shoulders and noticed the cute unevenness of his eyebrows. She used a Spanish phrase equivalent to “excuse me” and he reached for her elbow to stop her. He rattled off a request so fast that she thought she might have been mistaken about the Spanish, maybe it was Portuguese or Italian.
“Lo siento. No te entiendo,” she said. I’m sorry, I don’t understand you. She used the familiar form of address. “Habla más despacio, por favor.” Speak slower, please.
He did and despite being distracted by how his eyes danced around her face as he spoke, she understood enough to tell him to get off the bus one stop after her. He thanked her and told her his name: Miguel Santibañez. She nodded and mumbled her first name. Finally releasing her elbow he offered to shake hands. They held on a little longer than was normal.
The bus slowed, stopped, the doors opened and Amanda stepped off. She half wished he would follow her. She turned left and then right and headed toward her destination with the eerie feeling that yes, she was being followed. She replayed in her mind what she had told him, not sure now if she had made it clear. One stop after her. Had she paused between the phrases, changing the meaning?
Without looking back she broke into a semi-run, the fastest she could do in the crowded morning rush. When she had to stop at the intersection, she glanced back and saw him walking fast to catch up. He smiled and waved. He was flirting. This was what she had wished for. Half wished for.
The light changed and she quickly crossed the street and entered the first door she came to. A security guard was lounging behind a counter and he gestured to a clipboard and told her she had to sign in. The stranger was at her elbow again; she could smell him. She wrote her first name and thought about using Santibañez as her last name. Should she flirt so boldly? She turned her head and stared into his eyes. There was no pretense there. Trusting her instincts Amanda slowly wrote her last name. Then she hurried down the hall knowing it wouldn’t take him long to memorize her name, sign in and follow. The first doorway opened into a large room packed with boxes. There was a curtain along one wall and she rushed over and hid behind it, leaving a small opening from which she could spy.
Miguel stepped in almost immediately. She could see him scan the room in the same searching way he had on the bus. Had he been looking for her then?
Amanda watched him move slowly closer, his smile widening, but then he stopped and waited. She breathed in slowly, relishing the moment. The decision was hers. She trusted the Spanish stranger intuitively and without question. There was chemistry. There was mystery. There was chance. She pulled back the curtain and the unexpected romance began.
Copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton