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Park Bench

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There's a man sitting on a park bench in New York City reading a newspaper. An untouched steaming cup of coffee from the local café stands next to him on the ground untouched. He's deeply interested in whatever he was reading as his eyes got squinty and he pursed his lips, a clear thinking face. The guy was maybe in his mid-twenties with black hair and well kept stubble. He was built strongly with broad shoulders and a flat stomach under his tight tank top. Over that tank top was a black leather jacket-wannabe bad boy, suppose? He was probably the "touch her and I'll kill you" type of guy.

Those were all those important details but the one that ran through Erica's head first was, 'Why the fuck is a twenty something year-old man reading the newspaper?'

She sat down on the bench opposite the stranger and observed him. He was alone and seemed perfectly content with just reading the paper. He paid no attention to the many pedestrians all around.

Boyd came over and sat next to Erica with two tacos in his hands and handed her one. "What're you staring at?"

She shushed him and motioned to the man. Boyd raised his eyebrows when he turned. "Why are you starting at that man?" Jealously seeped through his words which caused Erica to chuckle and kiss her boyfriend on the cheek.

"Relax babe, I'm just people watching. Everyone here has a different story which I find fascinating. At the moment I just seem to be very intrigued as to what his is."

Boyd studied the guy for a second before shrugging. "I don't understand you sometimes."

"But you love me," she said cheekily. Boyd nodded with a big grin.

"I do."

While the two were caught up in the moment another man approached the bench and sat next to stranger #1. The two greeted each other with big smiles. Erica assumed they were good friends.

"Shh," she said to Boyd and pointed at the pair across from them. "His friend showed up I think."

"This is kind of creepy Erica," said Boyd with a laugh.

"Wait," she put a hand on Boyd's arm to stop
him and eagerly gestured to the two.

The men were sitting closer now, too close for any male friends. Especially because their hands were intertwined between them. They were hiding it between their thighs but Erica could still see it. "Aw I think they're together. Look at how happy they look."

It was true, the man from before seemed like a completely different person now. He was smiling at the guy next to him and laughing at almost everything he said. Before stranger #1 was intimidating in his dark clothes and neutral expression but now it was clear, he was in love.

"I think we've invaded on their personal space enough," Boyd said and tried to distract his girlfriend with something else.

"Boyd just watch," she said seriously and he sighed before turning back to the pair.

The newer guy was putting his head on the other man's shoulder and still talking. The man listening wore a fond smile and it was like they were in their own little world. "That's real love right there."

"You can tell?" Boyd asked, now intrigued.

"I can." Erica turned to the man next to her and looked into his eyes. "It's how we act."

A plot twist happened though as the smaller man started tearing up. His partner immediately wrapped him in his arms and kissed his head. Erica felt a pang in her chest at the sight but was happy they had each other. They both started crying together and it was a sad sight but also beautiful at how the two men treated each other.

They then stood up together and embraced each other tightly. The shorter man hid his face in his partners shoulder and they just stood there, crying with each other for a bit before pressing their lips together in a delicate kiss.

"I wonder what's wrong," Erica said. Boyd hummed next to her in agreement.

Then stranger #2 left with a longing glance. The other man watched him go until he couldn't see him anymore then sat back down. The newspaper was long forgotten at this point and instead he hung his head in his hands and braced his elbows on his knees. It seemed he started crying again by the way his shoulders were slightly shaking up and down.

"Come on," Erica stood up. Boyd tried to stop her but it was too late, she was already walking towards the crying man.  Boyd just sighed and got up to follow his girlfriend.

"Excuse me?" Erica said cautiously. The man's head shot up and he wiped at his red and puffy eyes.

"Hello," he said in a gravelly voice from crying.

Erica gave him a kind smile and took the seat his partner used to occupy. "Is everything alright?"

The stranger gave her a shrug and played with the ends of his leather jacket. "Not really. Just some tough family issues."

Erica frowned at the man and tried to comfort him the best way possible. Boyd let her handle it as she was better in these situations. "I'm sorry. I'm Erica and this is Boyd," she said. "Hey, if you want to just vent to a stranger we're all ears." Boyd nodded from where he was standing in front of the bench.

The man offered her a grateful smile. "I'm Derek," he said. "Well, I came out to my parents the other day and they didn't take it that well."

"That was your boyfriend, I'm assuming?"

"Yeah," a slight smile crept on his face. "Stiles. He's amazing but my parents are forbidding me from seeing him, threatening us and punishing me."

"That's awful," Erica said with a gasp. "You guys really seemed in love."

"We are," said Derek. "We meet up here everyday at this very bench before Stiles goes to class. It's valuable time I treasure."

"That's good for you," Boyd chimed in. "Do you live with your parents?"

"Unfortunately," Derek sighed and frowned again. "I've been looking for a place but now they refuse to support me in any way if I move out so I've been working two jobs. I want to live with Stiles and give him a life he deserves but if we moved now we'd be living in a shack. I'm super protective of him and I just want him to be safe."

"Well, here's my number," Erica grabbed a pen out of her purse and wrote down ten digits on a small slip of paper. "Call us sometime if you need anything at all, even a place to stay. You'll get out soon Derek, I know you will. Then you and Stiles can be happy together."

Derek looked between her and Boyd in surprise with his eyebrows raised. "Wow, thank you. That means a lot."

"Of course," Erica said sweetly. "You really love him."

Derek smiled fondly. "I do. I even want to propose but in the situation we're in that won't be for a while."

"Then trust me when I say true love will over come this all." Erica stood up and grabbed Boyd's hand. "I know that's such a cheesy statement but it's true."

Derek stood up as well and surprisingly wrapped Erica and Boyd in a hug. "You two are amazing people. Thank you again."

The couple said their goodbyes to Derek and walked towards the exit of the park. "He was sweet," said Erica. Boyd nodded and kissed her forehead.

"You were amazing."

And a week later, when Derek called Erica in a state of panic, she gladly let him and Stiles sleep in the guest room of her and Boyd's apartment. The four of them became fast friends after that and she helped the struggling couple any way she could.

Who knew by observing a man on a park bench, Erica would discover so much about both herself and a new friend?