O n e
The first time he laid eyes on her was when he was busy, dashing through the streets of New York alone, suitcase from work in hand and forehead increasingly sweaty from the hasty movements. It was when he had to stop at a crosswalk that he caught sight of her, standing at the other side of the wide street, with lowered head, and looking just as stressed.
He frowned, forcing his mind to focus on the traffic lights, willing them to finally turn green to continue his even for an inhabitant of the metropolis quick step. A while ago he couldn't have cared any less for the restrictions of traffic and would run every red light without even looking around anxiously to discover whether there were policemen around, but after his mother's accident after following the same patterns as her son, Marcus supposed he should from now on tread carefully, too.
When the lights still refused to change, he dared to throw a glimpse her way again and found her now looking up and staring in vaguely his direction. Usually, he would not linger on such thoughts, but there was something about that woman that prompted him to keep his eyes on her; perhaps it was the way her hair got slightly ruffled by the warm summer breeze, or her irritated scowl at the interruption as she attempted to put her mane back in place. It reminded him of himself when something didn't go according to his plan and he let a small smirk form on his features.
It wasn't until the crowd around him began to move forwards that Marcus realised the traffic lights had turned green and he grabbed his belongings more tightly and gathered his composure after a moment of inadequate diversion to keep on making his way to his destination.
In spite of his annoyance with himself for having let his distraction go this far, Marcus searched his environment for her head when he, now more slowly than before, made his way across the street. It resulted in him almost coming to a halt and being pushed by disinterested New Yorkers who cared for nothing but making it home on time. He carefully turned his head in every direction he could, but did only reluctantly so, for he could miss her walking past his right side when he was looking to his left. Eventually, he ended up staring against the harsh and uncovered sunlight of summer that stung his eyes and blinded his vision, and that was when he saw her again, walking at the same pace as him, but not seeming like she was looking out for anything or anyone at all.
Disappointed, Marcus let his shoulders slump and turned away resignedly, he should have been more cautious before making a fool of himself so willingly. Apparently, she was not as oddly captivated by him as he had been by her, or she had not actually seen him in the first place. Both options didn't appeal to Marcus and he released an impatient sigh and despised himself for wanting to catch her attention like a smitten schoolboy, because those times were over.
He could not refrain from staring at her though, and was all the more surprised when she threw him a glance and widened his eyes, which earned him a smirk from the woman. From afar, he had not been able to see as much of her as he could now; he had not seen the laughter lines around her eyes, the shade of lipstick that adorned her mouth, the almost black color of her eyes that seemed to virtually draw him in and drown him in the amount of air he sucked into his lungs when he gazed into them for the first time. Marcus dared not look away from her face, he wanted to memorise what she looked like, to remember her beauty for another day, another time he might see her again.
They now both stood, the crowd around them still filling the road, people seeming to come out of nowhere to reach the other side. In a way, Marcus was glad about it, because him now standing didn't bother anyone when the street was not yet abandoned by now and they were not the lone ones dwelling, hindering the busy traffic from flowing as usual.
The woman was still staring at him while he took in his surroundings quickly to ensure they did not in fact bother anybody by having halted in the middle of the street. When he turned toward her again, he felt like he was being sucked into an orbit, one like the black holes in space, the ones you don't feel until you are already spinning and losing your head.
This time, she sent an apologetic smile his way and made to return to her quick pace and head for her destination and Marcus felt the ground being pulled from his feet. If she left now, if they didn't exchange anything, not even their names, he would never find her again and them reuniting would be left to fate, and Marcus was a man of rejecting fate and taking action himself.
Before he could make a move to prevent his sudden fear from taking place, she was nowhere to be found anymore, and he wondered whether he had been hallucinating, as nobody could just disappear from view that quickly and leave utterly unnoticed.
Marcus lifted a hand to his forehead and wiped at the sweat in confusion, and decided he had wasted enough time for the time being and should make his way home. Remembering his reason for running across the city, he picked up his speed again and refused to linger on the thoughts of her any longer.
He was even more embarrassed of his foolishness when he arrived at his doorstep and made to unlock the door and enter his home and was still wasting thoughts on the strange turn his day had taken.
Fortunately for him, his time to dwell on his encounter was taken by the sight of his mother busily moving around the kitchen, seemingly preparing tonight's dinner. A sudden whim overtook Marcus and he approached Vera with frustration overwhelming his senses.
"Mom, hadn't we talked this over?", he asked impatiently.
"What exactly?", Vera inquired calmly, still not looking up at him, but Marcus could tell she was wearing her mask of innocence paired with an almost invisible smile.
"This, this – you just showing up here and doing whatnot, for all you know I could, you could – ", he stopped to look at her with a significant look, expecting she would gather his implications.
Of course she didn't.
"I could what? Marcus, if you don't choose to talk plainly to me someday, I won't understand you for the rest of your time, I'm afraid", Vera replied, but she could not hide the knowing twist upwards her mouth made.
“For all you know, you could be walking in on me with somebody”, he admitted quietly, abashed, before he quickly added, “Someday”
This statement caused Vera to finally look up from her son and Marcus was met with a curious expression of slightly raised eyebrows and wide eyes. Vera slowly angled her head to the side and changed her features to a swiftly spreading, knowing smile.
“Is there someone?”, she asked expectantly, ignoring the heat that rose in her son's cheeks.
“No-no-n-”, Marcus stuttered, raising his hands in defeat and upon seeing the look on Vera's face, as if she dared him to make excuses, decided to go with a different strategy.
“Marcus, don't even try to cover it up. I can see the signs, you know”, Vera said with the hint of a tone of amusement in her voice.
By then, he had given up on trying to fight his mother's know-it-all attitude and supposed it would be wisest to give her what she wanted to shut her up, and to ultimately reach his goal. Coming home to find his mother in his flat was the last thing he would wish for, especially when he thought about how badly men still living with their mothers were spoken of. He did not want anybody to get the wrong impression.
“Okay, fine, you're right, mom”, he told Vera, pursing his lips and keeping his gaze steady.
“Of course I am”, she wasted no time hesitating, “Now tell me, who is she, do I know her?”
This was about the worst it could get. Both of them knew Marcus preferred to keep to himself, both at work and privately, thus Vera had never been introduced to any girlfriend her son might have had.
Worse yet, as he took a few seconds to form an answer, Vera had another question at the ready.
“I get it, I haven't met her. So when will you introduce us?”