Nerve by David Batteiger

Photo by John T on Unsplash

Simon eyed the staircase that descended from the street. Any minute now. He shifted on the cold, metal bench of the subway station. His leg bounced quickly as he chewed the quick of his finger. 

He recognized her shoes—black trainers with the pink Nike swoosh—even before the rest of her body bounced down the steps. Her head bobbed rhythmically. Simon imagined a steady beat song pumping through her gloss white earbud—something by Ed Sheeran perhaps. Not like yesterday. Yesterday her head jerked in quick, fevered twitches. Something distastefully techno. 

She was late today, a good three and a half minutes. The train would be here in under four. Simon studied her long black hair, tight in a pony tail, as she approached the platform to wait.

The station wasn’t busy at this time of night; a few vagrants, a handful of second shift workers starting their day, and her, heading home from the gym in her unfailing routine.

She stood just behind the safety line where the train pulled in, twenty-seven inches from the edge of the platform. Cozy in her white fleece jacket, nuzzled beneath a peach scarf that chased the line of her sculpted jaw, she was oblivious to the noises of the station around her.

Simon smiled as he caught himself bobbing in time with her silent rhythm. She brightened his mood every night and he didn’t even know her name.

Tomorrow. He’d work up the nerve to ask her tomorrow. 

A woman passed in front of him, blocking his view. She had blonde hair, curly. It reminded him of Sarah and his heart quickened.

Sarah smelled of vanilla and lavender. She sat on the bench next to him night after night, never giving him a second glance. He’d worked up the nerve for her finally. 

“Your hair smells lovely,” he’d said to her one night with a broad, toothy smile. The look on her face bordered between terror and disgust. She moved quickly away from him, to stand by the platform. He followed. Things didn’t go well. 

He had to find a different station after that. They’d recognize him at Sarah’s station.

But it was fine, he was here now, she wouldn’t be like Sarah. 

The scene played out in his head over and over again. He’d walk up and tell her he liked to watch how she moved to her music. It was clearly so important to her that she shut the world out so she could listen.

It was fine that he had to change his routine and come here, because she would smile and ask him if he wanted to listen with her. They’d share her earbuds so they could both listen as they waited. He was sure her hair smelled of lavender and vanilla too. 

It was fine, she’d be different. He wouldn’t have to read her name in the newspaper. Sarah Jenkins who fell onto the tracks at 9th and Broadway. 

About The Author

David Batteiger lives in central Ohio with his wife, daughters, turtles and a precocious Australian Shepherd named Echo. He works in the IT field, but has always had a passion for literature and fiction.  Some of his flash fiction and short stories can be found at Flash Fiction Magazine, Altered Reality Magazine, Every Day Fiction and 101 Words.  Additional works can be found at www.davidbatteiger.com

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