prompt one: beginning
They meet, quite literally, by bumping into each other. Papers go flying, coffee spills--not on her, luckily, but on the leg of his trousers.
"I'm so sorry," she says, gushing the words out as she ducks to the ground to brush off his pants with the handkerchief in her purse and gather his papers. The coffee's old and more lukewarm than hot, but his pants are stained regardless, and his papers are flying in the wind. It's a great start of the day, considering--except it's not a start for her at all, but rather an end, an all nighter pulled to finish the last of her work before the beginning of summer.
The lack of sleep would explain this.
Above her, his voice comes, a pleasant baritone marked with a bit of an accent (southern, her mind places, the good old boy drawl the girls in her dorm swooned over). "It's okay," he's saying, although it's really not, Madeleine thinks. His pants are ruined.
"I can buy new pants," he adds, and now he's laughing a little. The hitch of breath with his laugh catches on his vowels, smooth and rounded. It's a very pleasant voice, all in all. Madeleine understands the swooning all of a sudden.
"I just," and she makes a little fussy motion with her hand, her cheeks bright red, "this is so embarrassing. I'm so sorry!" And she looks up then and--and a pleasant appearance accompanies the pleasant voice, and that's unfair, isn't it. He's tall and blonde and handsome and Madeleine's a frizzy little mess who just spilt coffee all over him and lost all of his papers.
But he's smiling at her, and his hand is extended out as if to pull her up. It takes her a moment to realize that's exactly what it's for. When she grasps it, his palm is rough and warm against hers, and their hands fit perfectly and she's cursing the professor who wanted a twenty page paper turned in at six in the morning even more than she had been already.
It really isn't fair.
"The way I see it," he's saying, "I owe you a coffee." And he's still smiling and Madeleine's thinking, no, this is all wrong, I owe you pants, but she's saying yes before she even realizes she is and if anything his smile grows even brighter.
So it's over a warm coffee an hour later that she learns his name--Alfred--as he jiggles his stained leg up and down under their table. For it being the end of something, it feels strangely like a beginning.
She thinks she might write her professor a thank you note later.