Dinner had been unbearably awkward. She had never felt the length of a moment as she did tonight.
After hearing his name, she had wondered at so many different things. She wondered how close he had been to his father, wondered if he had known about his father’s recent passing. She wondered about the lives they lived, the roles they played in the other’s life through time. She watched him, as he tried to coerce her into conversation. The way he would anxiously reach out for his glass of water and take a large gulp when he ran out of things to say.
Her answers were precise. When he asked her something she didn’t want to share, she simply gave him a general answer that may or may not apply to her. She didn’t ask him anything about himself… didn’t feel she needed to.
Malcolm Hunter II watched her. There was scarcely a single moment through the night when his eyes were off her.
She didn’t know what that meant.
She ate quickly. Only pausing to drink her water or answer the questions he kept aiming at her. As soon as the meal was over and was paid for, she got to her feet. She didn’t want to spend more time here than she had to, didn’t want to spend more time with him than she had to.
Sirens went off in her head, common sense pushing her further and further from Hunter as she stuck her hands in the pockets of her jeans and stalked out of the restaurant with him chasing behind her.
She whirled around, pulling her arm away from his grasp before he could reach for her.
With a sigh of frustration, he held his hands up before him in surrender. He held them there for a moment before running them sloppily through his hair. “Look, I don’t-” he tried to find the words.
Looking at him, she watched him fight through emotions. Her brows furrowed together as she watched him, his lips pursing together as though there was something trapped there.
This whole thing was ridiculous. What could possibly come of this? Even if the last name in her box wasn’t the name it was, what could happen?
She lived her life in the shadows, unseen and unspoken of. Easily forgettable and hardly noticed, and alone.
Hunter had come into her life like a marching band, loud and demanding all her attention, and she couldn’t live a life like that, not now, not after so long. She was a creature of habit, and to disrupt this could very well mean her death.
It was dangerous and not even something she would consider, so why has she come here? Why had she spent almost an hour sitting across an intimately lit table as he went on about himself and tried to coax her story out of her.
Why had she participated, even added to conversation? Sure she hadn’t given him anything about herself, but words of wisdom, observation, she had given those away easily enough… For her.
“I have to go.” She turned to leave and hesitated. There was something about him, despite herself she couldn’t walk away. It was magnetic, locking her feet in place before she could fully turn away and shut him out.
Silence grew between them as she stood half turned away, half frozen.
Hunter moved to stand before her, forcing a smile though his eyes shone with defeat. “You know, I’m not going to give up on you.”
His words stiffened her.
“I can see you hiding there behind your wall. You’re not used to people seeing you, are you?”
Turning quickly, she stalked away. Moving quickly through the crowd to get away from him. She suddenly felt like she couldn’t breathe, like she had just sunken below the surface and knew it would be awhile before she could take a breath.
She didn’t feel like she could breathe again until she was back in her apartment with her back pressed against the thick steel door.
Her eyes were glued to the box that sat on the dresser across the room.
She undressed on her way across the room, kicking off her shoes and dropping her sweater to the floor.
Such a pretty little box, she thought. A box used to house pretty memories, and hold precious moments.
Her hand paused above it, it was as though she could feel the grooves in the old wood on her hand without touching it. The wood that had lived in her hands so often, she knew it by heart.
Taking in a deep breath, she rested her thumbs under the corners of the lid and slowly pushed it open. Closing her eyes for a single moment, she reached in and grabbed hold of the paper on top folded tightly on white paper that hadn’t had the time to darken with age like so many others of the squares in the box.
All this trouble for a name, she thought.
She knew better though, knew that it wasn’t the name itself that mattered but what the name meant.
Unfolding the small square of paper she opened her eyes and read the name written there: Malcolm Hunter.
All these years collecting names, she never thought she’d find a name that ever mattered.