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Why Did the Cute Guy Cross the Road?

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Richie Tozier was 25 years old. He had a steady job at the radio station, cracking funny (anyone else would say bad) jokes, playing music, doing his voices, getting listened to by thousands every day. He lived in his own apartment, had his own car and cooked his own food. He had great friends. He would go out drinking with Ben, Bill and Stan every Friday, eat lunch with Beverly every Wednesday, and spend time with the four of them together every Sunday. They would watch movies, go bowling, go on drives, picnics, whatever they felt like doing that day. It was nice to have the routine.

In a way you could say he had his shit together, living his best life, doing pretty well. He was making money, being social, eating semi-healthy, and even sometimes working out when he had the time (he couldn’t believe it either). And in a way it was also true. There were parts of his life he really had going for himself. His friends would agree on this.

There was only one thing Richie did not have going for himself. When it came to his love life, all of his friends would tell you he was a mess. At least three times a month, he would call the three of them on their group message and tell them he had met the love of his life. A girl he locked eyes with at the supermarket, a guy who had smiled at him on the train, a girl who had let him cut in line in Starbucks, all people Richie had claimed to be in love with. Then Richie would talk about them non-stop for the next three days before inevitably forgetting them, and repeat. It was getting ridiculous.

Richie knew himself that his love life was a mess. He just didn’t want to admit it. All his friends were in stable relationships and were planning their futures. Beverly had just moved in with Ben, Bill and Audra were engaged, and Stan and Patty were getting a dog together. All Richie had was a goldfish named Deborah.

He had decorated her fish bowl with all sorts of nice things. There was a tiny house with a blue seashell ceiling, some cute seaweed in Deb’s little fish garden, white sand, three pink rocks. He was pretty proud of it. He wanted to buy a big aquarium at some point with salt-water fish, he thought they were prettier, no offense to Deb.

He was still waiting for the perfect person to meet, and just knowing, really knowing, that they were the one. Sure, he always told his friends that he was certain he had met the love of his life, even tricking himself into believing it sometimes, but deep inside he knew that no, of course not. Eye contact wasn’t enough to know if someone was the right person for him, and he wasn’t stupid enough to actually think that either, no matter what his friends thought.

Richie decided then, as he was driving on his way home from work, that he wasn’t going to tell his friends that he had met his soulmate until he was absolutely sure.

The sun was in its final moments before setting, lighting up the world around him in golden tones. It was undeniably beautiful, and his stupid lovesick brain couldn’t help but think how perfect it would be to meet someone with the sun looking like that. It seemed like he couldn’t ever stop imagining romantic scenarios.

A soft tune was playing on the radio, something he hadn’t heard before. The melody really fitted with the sun’s warm embrace. Sunlight reflected in the windows of the buildings around him, enveloping him like a blanket, and he smiled.

So what if he was single. He was happy, content with how his life was, and damn it if he wasn’t going to enjoy it. The love of his life would come into his life when the time was right.

With that thought swirling around in his head and the sun shining into his eyes, he almost didn’t see the man waiting to cross the street. He was looking right at Richie’s car, obviously waiting to see if he would stop for him. Richie slowed down, barely managing to stop in front of the crossing, noticing the man was probably around his age. The man locked eyes with him, tan skin glowing in the sun, soft blonde locks moving with the wind, and Richie was entirely mesmerized.

Angel. That was the only word coming to mind as the glow from the sun surrounded the man’s head like a halo, turning his blonde hair golden. And then the man smiled, cheeks round, freckles dusted across his nose. Finally regaining control over his facial muscles, Richie managed a smile in return. He grabbed his sunglasses and moved them up into his curls, squinting at the man before putting both his hands back on the steering wheel.

With sparkling eyes and pink lips quirked upwards, the man nodded in gratitude, and Richie grinned wider, showing his teeth. The man’s gaze drifted off as he started crossing the road, and Richie was in love.

In an instant, everything was in slow motion. The man took a step, a slight bounce to it, arms swinging faintly by his sides. The sun disappeared behind him as he strode in front of it, blocking the light and creating a silhouette comparable to one of a Greek god. His pink denim jacket fit perfectly around his shoulders, the color of it making his tanned skin glow. As the sun once again emerged behind his head, the blonde waves looked platinum in the brightness.

The man was about halfway across the road when he turned his head to meet Richie’s eyes once more, eyes gleaming cheekily, almost as if he knew he had Richie’s full attention. His cheeks were a rosy color, smile still ghosting over his lips, and Richie couldn’t do anything but stare.

He knew he probably looked ridiculous, being so obvious with his staring, glasses in his chaotic hair, squinting through the sunlight.

It seemed like a lifetime had passed when the man took his last step over the road. He took a last glance at Richie, smiling shyly. Richie returned the smile; more reserved this time, realizing with a broken heart that this was when the two of them parted ways. It felt like a mutual conversation had passed between their eyes, both of them feeling the sparks. Or maybe it was wishful thinking, and Richie was being silly again. The man raised his hand then, giving a small wave, a gloomy goodbye. Richie nodded his head, waving back.

The man winked at him before turning and starting to walk away. Wanting to look at him for as long as he could, Richie kept his eyes locked on the man. He had a regal presence in his steps, moving his hips in light washed denim jeans. Obviously showing off, he ran a hand through his hair, sunlight hitting it just right. He definitely knew he had Richie’s attention.

A blaring horn rang through the air, and Richie jumped out of his staring, the sound not making any sense in his trance-like state. He looked in the rear view mirror, seeing a car behind him, an older woman glaring in the front seat. Heat pooling in his cheeks, he raised his arm as an apology. Then he quickly threw a glance towards the man. He had turned back around at the sound, and it looked like he was laughing. Richie smiled sheepishly in return, shrugging his shoulders in an ‘oops’-motion, not letting himself be too embarrassed about it.

The woman behind him hit the horn a second time, and Richie finally managed to react. Pushing the gas pedal sadly, he got the car driving.

The man disappeared when Richie drove around a corner not long after.

Two day went by, and Richie could not for the life of him stop thinking about the beautiful man he had seen. Kind of ironic how just seconds before the two of them had locked eyes, he had promised himself to not tell his friends about the new love of his life until he was absolutely certain it was real.

He had picked up his phone more times than he could count, finger hovering over the call-button on the group chat before sulkily deciding not to. With tingling fingers and bouncing legs, he had sat through lunch with Beverly, biting his bottom lip several times to stop himself from spilling everything. He had gotten questionable glances from her all throughout the meal, obviously not being as discreet as he had hoped. She hadn’t asked about it.

On Friday night, now four days since he'd seen the beautiful man, he had gone out with Ben, Bill and Stan to their favorite bar, just like they always did. He had to restrain himself from drinking too much, knowing he would burst if he passed a certain point of intoxication. They had all been looking at each other in confusion when he kept zoning out, fingers tapping unsteady rhythms on his pint glass.

Then Sunday came, and all five of them together with Patty and Audra decided to have a barbeque in the summer sun. They decided to have it at Stan and Patty’s house, as they were the only ones with a back yard. Six days had passed since Richie had fallen in love with the man crossing the street, and he was still very much infatuated. Usually his small stupid crushes on strangers only lasted about three days, but this time he couldn’t stop thinking about the guy.

He knew he was close to cracking, and having to spend the day with all of his friends and their lovers, he just figured he wouldn’t last even for an hour.

They were all eating hamburgers and drinking red wine around Stan and Patty’s garden table when Richie finally cracked. Ben was telling a story about his day at work, and everyone was laughing, and so was Richie, but he didn’t really follow.

“And then he takes out a box from the fridge and says: ‘I’m so tired of people leaving their leftovers to rot in our fridge’ and something about having seen it lay there for a month. And that’s when I recognize it as my box of strawberries that I had brought with me a month ago and forgotten about”. Ben laughed.

“No way”, Stan said.

“And I'm just, like, holy shit, but I just nod my head and say: ‘I know, right? I can’t believe someone would do that’, and then he throws the whole box in the trash. And sure, I don’t want the strawberries, but the box was mine from home, so as soon as he walks away, I go over to the trash to pick it up.”

“I feel like I know where this is going”, Audra laughed.

“And just as I’m holding the box, he actually comes back around the corner with a co-worker.”

“Oh no”, Patty said, putting her hands in front of her face.

“And he looks at me, and down on the box I just picked up from the trash, and I say ‘I knew I recognized that box’, and he just laughs and shakes his head, and I thought I was going to die.”

Everyone continued laughing around the table, and Richie laughed with them, deciding now was the time.

“Uhm.” He cleared his throat. “Guys,” he said, getting their attention. “I have to tell you something I’ve been dying to say for almost a week now.”

Beverly raised her eyebrows over her wine glass. “Good news, I’m hoping?”

“Totally.”

“So what is it?”

“Okay, so six days ago.” He paused for suspense, because he liked to be dramatic like that. “I met…” He held up a finger. “… The love of my life.”

Beverly, Stan and Bill all groaned at the same time.

Audra gasped. “Wow, Richie, that’s so great!”

“I know, thank you.” Richie smiled at her.

“No, he does this all the time”, Stan sighed.

“Honestly surprised he hasn’t mentioned it until now”, Beverly said.

“Yeah, I’m impressed, Ruh-Richie”, Bill added.

“Okay, first of all, rude.” Richie leaned back in his chair, pretending to glare at his friends. “Second of all, I haven’t even told you about him yet.”

They all sighed fondly at him.

“Okay, well, did you at least get his name this time?” Stan asked.

Richie stopped for a second, considering his options. “Uhm, yes.” Lying was probably a mistake.

“What’s his name then?”

As soon as the question was out of Stan’s mouth, every single boy-name in existence disappeared from Richie’s brain. He couldn’t even remember his own name in that moment. For some reason the only word coming to mind was ‘pencil’. Yup, definitely a mistake.

“Uhm,” he fumbled. “Edmund?”

Stan narrowed his eyes. “Why did you say it like a question?”

“Uhm…”

“His name is not Edmund.”

“Hey, his name could totally be Edmund.”

“Oh, my God”, Beverly rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. “So you don’t know his name, but how did you meet then?”

“Okay, so we didn’t technically meet, but…”

“No, stop”, Stan interrupted. “This is going to be one of those ‘I locked eyes with a cute guy while grocery shopping, and now I’m in love with him’ things. And Richie, I know you’re a hopeless romantic and believe in all that ‘love at first sight’-stuff, but you do realize love doesn’t actually work that way, right?”

Patty grabbed Stan’s hand. “Babe, don’t be so harsh”, she said softly.

“No, he needs to hear this”, Stan replied, but kept a hold on her hand. “Richie, you know we’re totally rooting for you to find someone, and will support you one hundred percent when you do. But just because you see someone cute and they smile at you, that doesn’t mean they’re the love of your life. You need to at least talk to them before you decide.”

Richie exhaled tiredly, prepared for a negative response, but definitely not for a lecture. “Listen, Stan, I know that, okay?” He opened his mouth and closed it again, feeling pretty dumb, not really knowing what to say. “I just had a different feeling in my stomach this time. I know I’ve told you guys I’ve met my soulmate more times than I can count, but I’m not stupid. Of course I know that I don’t actually love them, but something was special this time, I could feel it.”

“Why don’t you tell us about him?” Patty said, smiling warmly.

Richie looked over at Stan with raised eyebrows, waiting for approval to continue. Stan sighed, but then his lips stretched out in a smile. “Tell us, Richie.”

Instantly, Richie’s eyes lit up like fireworks. “Of course, Stan the man, your wish is my command.”

“It’s not really a wish…”

“It was a beautiful Monday evening”, Richie interrupted loudly, “and I was driving on my way home from work, and I get to a crossing. And there stands the fucking most beautiful man I have ever seen, even more beautiful than you, Stan the Man,” Richie winked at him, “and he looks like this Greek god, like, absolutely stunning. And he smiles at me in gratitude for stopping, and I swear to Jesus, he was swinging his hips knowing he had my attention, and I am so in love with him.” Richie was waving his arms around while rambling. “Fucking soulmate, I swear. I can’t stop thinking about him.” He fell back into his chair.

A moment of silence passed through the group.

“Seriously, why duh-didn’t you talk tuh-to him?” Bill asked. “If you’re suh-so sure he was your s-soulmate?”

Richie shrugged. “Well, I didn’t want to seem like a creep, and the old lady in the car behind me kept pressing her horn to get me to continue driving, I don’t know, I’m stupid, okay?”

“Yeah, you are kind of stupid”, Beverly said. “But if it’s been six days, don’t think I didn’t notice this is the longest one of your crushes has lasted, and you’re still thinking about him, I feel like that has to mean something, no?” She looked around the table for confirmation. Audra, Patty and Ben were all nodding. “And lets all just ignore the fact that you’re basing all of this on looks, because that would make you seem kind of shallow.” She winked at him. He flipped her off.

“Yeah, you should have talked to him”, Ben said.

Richie sighed. “I know. Every time I’ve passed that same crossing, I’ve hoped to see him again, but unfortunately…” he drifted off, an unsure expression on his face.

“Well, if you do ever see him, promise me you’ll talk to him, no matter the situation you’re in, no matter how awkward it would be, just promise me.” Beverly held out her right pinky, a challenging yet hopeful look in her eyes.

Richie looked around the table. They were all smiling and nodding at him. “I promise”, he said and locked their pinkies together.

The next day came and it was Monday once again. Exactly one week had now passed.

As Richie was driving on his way home from work, he tried to not hope too much that the man would be at the same crossing. With the rain pouring down around him, the wipers going crazy on the car’s windshields, there were barely any people out walking. He didn’t blame them. If he as much as stepped out of his car, he knew he’d end up soaked in seconds.

People were all probably cuddled up with their significant others on the couch, watching movies, and Richie would kill to be doing the same. Just need to get that significant other first.

At this point, Richie was starting to get upset with himself for not being able to find someone. Everything else in his life was pretty great, and exactly how he wanted it to be. Now all he wanted was someone to share it with.

He turned a corner, and he could see the crossing in the far distance. A hope was building in his chest, massive and stupidly unnecessary. There were a few people that could be seen walking around, some even without umbrellas. Some of them looked like they couldn’t care less about the rain while others were running in panic to take shelter.

The crossing was coming up next, and there was someone walking towards it. This person was the only chance to be the man Richie was hoping to see, and he made the decision to drive slower so they’d make it there at the same time. As he got closer, he could see it was a man, and his heart started pounding just a little bit faster. The man lifted his umbrella and looked over at Richie just as he pulled to a stop in front of the crossing.

It’s not him.

Richie tried to swallow down his disappointment, but it was hard to ignore the feeling of his heart falling to the pit of his stomach. He watched the man walk over the crossing, heaviness in his chest.

The street was empty except for his car, and he let himself drop his head to the steering wheel, closing his eyes. Fuck this. He’d missed his chance. It was time to let it go. He sighed loudly, the sound of the rain hitting the roof echoing through the vehicle. The weather certainly matched the sadness he was feeling. It was almost like the sky was crying for him.

He raised his head, his sight of the world blurred by the water on his windows, and pressed the gas carefully, ready to get home and under the covers in his bed. Movement in the corner of his vision caused him to stop abruptly. Someone was just about to cross the road, but had halted just before stepping off the sidewalk as he’d started driving. Eyes met his, and Richie’s heart skipped a beat.

It’s him. Holy shit, it’s him.

The man was holding a rainbow umbrella, the bottom of his jeans wet from the rain. Richie wasn’t sure the man could even see into his car, but a flicker of recognition seemed to flash over the man’s eyes. He then raised his available arm and gave a little wave, a small smile playing on his lips. Richie was in absolute awe.

It’s now or never.

Richie had not prepared for what to do if he actually saw the man again, and a moment of complete panic coursed through his veins. He raised his hand to wave back, smiling widely. Seeing that he had the man’s attention, he needed to get his message across before he looked away and started walking. His wave instantly turned into a point directed at the man. He then proceeded to frantically try to sign for the man to cross the road and wait for him, flailing both of his arms. He mouthed 'please wait' as clearly as he could all the while the man cocked his head to the side, a confused smile on his lips.

Richie then pointed to the bus stop just a small distance away, and the man seemed to understand. He nodded carefully, a small blush seeming to spread over his face. After he had crossed the road, Richie drove over to the bus stop, constantly checking to make sure the man wasn’t walking away.

He wasn’t.

Hopefully no buses were coming anytime soon.

Richie stopped the car, looking in the rearview mirror, seeing the man approaching him. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and stepped out.

The rain soaked through his bomber jacket in seconds.

“You could’ve just opened your car window, you know?”

Richie looked up as the man stopped in front of him. He let out a small laugh. “It was a spontaneous decision, I wasn’t really thinking.”

The man smiled widely. ”You’re the man who stopped for me last week, right?”

Richie nodded. “Yeah, I am.”

“Kind of a cool coincidence that you stop for me at the exact same crossing two Mondays in a row at the exact same time.”

Richie put a hand through his wet hair, the rain fogging up his glasses. “Yeah, I’m on my way home from work.”

The man seemed to remember it was raining, and Richie was standing in the middle of the pour. “Oh shit, hey, get under here.” He waved Richie over, lifting his umbrella to fit him underneath. Richie took off his glasses to dry them quickly on his t-shirt before putting them back on. “What do you do for work?”

Richie was freaking out about how good this was going. Being so close to the man made it easy to really get a good look at him. Even without the sun shining, his tan skin still seemed to have a glow to it. With shining eyes and a smile so blinding they didn’t even need the sun, he was looking up at Richie, and Richie sincerely thought he was dreaming. Angel.

“I work at the local radio station”, he replied. “Just cracking jokes and playing music mostly.”

“Oh! That’s so cool. Maybe I’ve heard you on air? I don’t know. I don’t really listen to much radio to be honest, sorry.” The man smiled sheepishly.

Richie laughed. “That’s fine, didn’t expect you to.”

They looked at each other for a few moments, both of them smiling softly.

“What about you?” Richie asked.

“What about me?”

“Are you also on your way home from work?”

“No, I uh…” He blushed and looked away briefly. “I recently started taking piano lessons on Mondays, so I’m on my way home now. I actually considered just staying home today because of the rain, but my roommate Mike forced me to go.” He chuckled to himself. “He knows I don’t really care about the rain, but rather used it as an excuse to not go.”

“Why didn’t you want to go?”

The man shrugged. “I’m not very good yet, and I also forgot to practice the scales I was told to learn for this lesson.”

Richie made a quick decision. “I’d love to hear you play sometime.”

The man narrowed his eyes. “Are you asking me out?”

“I really tried not being too obvious.” Richie bumped the man’s shoulder with his own.

They both laughed lightly. The rain was still pouring down around them, but the sun had just started to peak through the clouds, filling the town with a soft light. Richie was certain that had to mean something.

“I mean, sure”, the man said softly. “But I’m still very terrible at it, just warning you.”

“I don’t mind.”

The man looked at Richie as if he was studying him. “This was kind of a weird way to meet someone.” He was shaking his head as if he couldn’t believe what was happening.

“I guess so”, Richie said. “But I thought you were really cute the first time I saw you, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I felt like we had a mutual moment, so when I saw you again, I knew I had to talk to you.”

The man just stared at him, and Richie started freaking out about revealing too much and probably coming off as a creep.

“I uhm- I can be very forward and honest, sorry if that came out the wrong way”, he backtracked. If he had managed to mess this up, he was seriously going to flush himself down the toilet to float in the sewer with his departed goldfishes.

The man just smiled. “No, I like that you know what you want. And I thought you were really cute too”, he winked, “squinting through the sunlight, being tooted at by the car behind you.”

Richie felt heat pooling in his cheeks immediately. He laughed awkwardly. “You noticed that, huh?”

The man laughed. “I noticed.”

“It makes a funny story though. Might have to tell it on my radio show.”

“I guess I’ll have to start listening to it then.”

“Oh, definitely.”

Silence settled over them, both looking at the other shyly.

“Are you doing anything tomorrow?” the man asked. “I know a really great coffee place.”

Richie broke into a big grin, knowing his semi-crooked teeth were showing, but he didn’t care about that one single bit. “Sounds great.”

The man was beaming back at him just as big. He reached into his coat, pulling his phone out and giving it to Richie. “Just put in your number, and I’ll text you.”

As he put his digits into the phone, he checked four times to make sure he had written the right numbers. He considered saving the name under something lame, but decided to just write ‘Richie’ with a heart-eyes emoji.

“There you go.” Their hands brushed when he handed the phone back over, and all of his body focused on that spot, unable to feel anything other than the tingles in his fingers.

The man looked down on his phone, smiling widely. “Well, Richie, I’ll text you as soon as I’m inside and safe from the rain.”

“I sure hope so.”

Another beat of silence.

“I should probably head home, but I’m really happy I met you”, the man smiled softly.

“Me too”, Richie said. “But I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”

“Definitely.”

They looked at each other, and then the man pushed up on his toes, kissing Richie’s cheek sweetly. “Bye.”

“Bye.”

He started walking backwards, and soon after, Richie could feel the rain once again envelop him as the umbrella disappeared from over him. They smiled widely at each other. Then the man turned and started walking away for real.

Richie was about to get into his car when he remembered something.

“Wait! I never got your name!” he yelled.

The man turned around, smiling widely. A rainbow could be seen in the distance behind him. “You can call me Eddie.”

“Eddie?” Richie was ready to burst. “Short for Edmund?”

“No!” The man gaped. “Eddie, short for Edward! Definitely not Edmund.”

Richie laughed out loud, eyes twinkling with drops of rain dripping from his hair. “Hey, your name could totally be Edmund.”