London Falling(4)

By: T. A. Foster




I repressed an inner sigh. Guys were always the root of drama. If it wasn’t a wide receiver breaking up our trio, it was Nina pining after Derek and his brilliant playwright mind. How many nights had we stayed up until two coming up with ways for Nina to tell Derek how she really felt? If he couldn’t see how she gushed over his every brilliant idea and volunteered for all of his projects, then he didn’t deserve my best friend. She had too much to offer to waste her time on a guy clearly more interested in what was happening downstage than right in front of his face.



Although, deep down I understood Derek’s passion for the theater, I wasn’t about to tell Nina. I loved being on stage more than anything. It was where I felt completely alive and calm all at the same time. Something happened every time I walked in front of an audience—I didn’t care if I was only part of the ensemble, or if I was the lead. Being on stage felt as natural to me as breathing.



Alone in the basement, I turned off thoughts of my friends and their distorted love lives and focused on the pictures in my lap. It looked like Nina was going scene by scene, pulling out potential costume options for each act in the script. It was time to divide the costume assignment among the characters to round out each one’s style in the play, rather than the scene itself.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. Awesome. I had at least two hours before the next group invaded the Encore Theater in the basement of Graham Memorial Hall. I tucked earbuds in each ear, hit play on my phone, and started styling for the production.



***



The blanket of snow cast a soft white glow throughout campus. It was after five, and except for the illumination from the street lamps, the quad was dark. I watched as my breath turned to a frosty cloud. Tugging on the edges of my collar, I pulled the coat closer to my neck. It was freakin’ cold.



Something about the way the fluffy snowflakes drifted through the sky reminded me of magic. When I was twelve, I played Clara in the Nutcracker and the snow on stage looked just like this. With one palm turned toward the clouds, I couldn’t help but reach forward to catch one of the heavy flakes. My eyes followed the quiet dissent as the cluster of flakes made their way to rest in the bowl of my hand. I was glad Nina wasn’t here to witness the smile and giddiness forming. This place was beautiful—freezing snowy wonderland and all.



“Watch out!” A voice cut through the serene stillness.



Before I could shake my momentary snow trance and sidestep the oncoming biker, I hit the cold pavement under my feet.



“Ouch.” I rubbed just below my right hip, which had taken the brunt of the fall.



“Oh, man, I’m so sorry.” The frantic biker dismounted, propped his two-wheeled ride against a lamppost, and crouched next to me. “Did you break anything?” He eyed my heavy coat and scarf.



“No. I’m fine. Just a little banged up.” Startled and embarrassed, I looked at the assailant. Was I really that absorbed in a snowflake that I walked into an oncoming bike? Maybe the handlebars clipped the side of my backpack just enough to send me spiraling to the sidewalk.



His hand was outstretched and his face worried.



“My fault. Let me help you up.”



No arguments here. He clasped my hand in a firm grip and I pushed off the ground. The biker pulled me straight up before I was ready to be vertical. I caught myself before I slipped again.



“You sure you’re ok?” He tilted his head. I noticed earbuds dangling from around his neck. He was wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt. Not exactly cold weather gear.



“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Thanks.” I dodged his concerned look and retreated in the direction of the bus stop.



“Uh. Ok. Bye.”



As I scrambled from the scene of the accident, I thought I felt him watching me. Not wanting to get caught with a sneak peek, I waited until I crossed the street before turning around. I watched as he grabbed his handlebars, slung one leg over the side of the bike, and pushed down on the pedals.



Through a confetti parade of snowflakes, he wheeled off and disappeared behind Graham Memorial. I hadn’t even bothered to berate him for his crazy steering or thank him for taking the time to help me up. After four years of dodging maniac bikers, one had finally hit me. It was bound to happen.