They traveled the same route all year. Marie cannot remember when it started. Somewhere along, it dawned on her, that, she was very aware of this particular man. They never spoke to each other. Marie just liked to see him around.
Her preoccupation, as it grew, became surreptitious. Of course, that had to be, given that her attachment was probably entirely one-sided. The quirk of his nose, the glint in his eyes, the riot of freckles on his face.. Marie could close her eyes and picture him with ease. He had a nice, clean smile, dark, mischeivous eyes. Marie would think about him and smile to herself indulgently. It made no sense to let herself carry on. But, she rationalized, it was all in her mind, no one was hurt, and she enjoyed it. So.
Duke also became aware of Marie. Its an evolutionary trait to unerringly sense when someone is attracted to you. And so Duke began to take more notice of her than he ordinarily would. He began to feel a vague sort of narcissism grip him every time they crossed paths. He began to return her smiles, a little extra sweetly, almost unconciously. It was harmless. If Marie took a little extra care of herself and imagined that darkening glow of appreciation in his eyes, no one was the worse off, for it. And Marie developed a special lilt to her gait for the rest of the day. More confidence, more energy, more motivation to live her own life.
Marie's obsession grew. Little bits of things we largely ignore about people.. all of it, got cataloged some place on her mind. Marie noted Duke wore a wedding ring, remembered the shape of it, memorized the pattern of the short scar that ran along his left arm. Marie began to know the clothes he wore.. knew his blue checked shirt had a mismatched button. Marie thought he looked particularly dashing when he wore blue. He was a software engineer, Marie overheard, when he was talking to one of the other passengers on their bus. She had learnt to pick up his voice in the crowd, without the need to turn around. What was he really like? Marie wondered. Seemed nice, sensitive, kind, intelligent.. a friend she would have liked to have.
Couple of times they got seats side by side. Thus forced into proximity, polite conversation was thrust upon them. Marie had hated the ocassions it happened. The magic of him was lost in mundane, casual conversation.
And then, Duke wasn't there on the bus one day. Marie kept looking in the hope that she will spot him. But inside, she knew she would not have missed him if he was there. And the next day and the next. A week went by in anticipation before she realized something must have changed. It felt horribly empty, and strange, missing him. Marie sat on her bus, going over the little bits of Duke stuck in her heart. The intimacy of their shared moments might have been only in her mind, or not. Now she'd never get a chance to find out. She sighed deeply as she tried to draw the wisps of her memory of him close.. memories that were slowly, but irrevocably, fading from her heart.