There he was, sitting by himself.
She had to pause in her walking and gaze at him, utterly mystified by his presence. What was it that had possessed him to sit there, gazing at a newspaper as though it were the most natural thing in the world? Perhaps, on another day, it would have been something natural, but certainly not today.
She rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, troubled by his presence. Perhaps she should go speak with him, but she hadn't a single clue why she'd do so. She didn't know the man, after all. He wasn't even vaguely recognizable. She wondered if, perhaps, she thought he looked like someone, but she knew for certain that he didn't. She stayed paused in her tracks and continued to stare at him. Why was his presence so bothersome?
She was a teenage girl rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet and eyeing a man; people might get the wrong idea. She cast her gaze around herself, but she was unable to see further than a few feet away. She tugged down the red goggles sitting atop her head, wondering if it would assist her sight, but it only made it worse. Still, she kept them on, because she didn't feel as strongly the need to blink when they were on.
She pulled her sights back to the man as his eyes flew across that paper once more. Did he notice that it was bent in his hands, that the letters were no longer letters but illegible smudges? No, he didn't seem to. He was too pleased with his literature, too content with what he was doing.
She stared at him longer, studying his eyes. Was he really content, though? She felt that maybe he was unhappy, and that was what had brought him to this park bench as the world crashed down around them. She stopped on his glasses, wondering how he could see a thing past them. A thin trail of worry worked its way through her skin as she bounced in her spot, still in position to continue her dash home but utterly captivated by this man. She hadn't a single idea what to do, so she decided to speak.
"Hey, sir!" she called, hoping he wasn't impaired in hearing and would still be able to hear her. She paused to wait for his answer, but she received none. She frowned a little, vexed. Evidently, he was simply being rude; he wasn't old enough yet to have a hearing impediment. She had trouble believing he was even as old as twice her own fourteen years. So, stubbornly, she cried again, "Sir!"
She was certain that time that it was loud enough to hear, but she showed no sign that he'd noticed her, so she dashed toward him. It frustrated her, truly it did, that he'd behave in such an impolite manner to an impressionable young girl such as herself. Holding the parcel she carried in her hand over his head, she spoke to him quieter this time, but not too quiet. "Sir, what in the world do you think you're doing?"
This time, he noticed her. He started and looked up at her, looking genuinely perplexed as he stared at her. "I'm reading my newspaper, young miss."
The way he said young miss made her even more curious about him. She herself was a polite young woman, but for an older man to treat her so kindly was a true shock, especially a man as young as this one. Still, his presence there bothered her so much that she was forced to wonder, "But, sir, don't you think it would be better to read at home at a time like this?"
He stared at her with a curious look and questioned, "What's wrong with here, young miss?"
She drew back with an unimpressed look. So he was teasing her, then? Still, she was a polite girl, so she answered with, "Because it's storming, sir."
The man's eyes widened in shock as he looked around her to the rain pouring around them and the lightning that flashed in the sky. "Good God, when did that happen?"
She crunched her eyebrows together, now more bothered by the man then she had been before, and stated, "Approximately a half hour ago, sir. Have you been sitting out here all this time?"
"No, only a good ten minutes, at most," he remarked, his voice nearly drowned out by thunder. He gazed upward to the umbrella she'd lifted over his head upon arrival and said, "Well, what a kind young lady you are. Thank you for your consideration."
"I could walk you home if you'd like," she said out of simple politeness, though the idea didn't appeal to her in the least. Manners said that he was to refuse, only accept if she asked a second time, if she insisted. In any case, his clothes and paper were soaked through, so he really ought not to care, truly.
"What a kind young woman you are, but I must decline," he graciously responded. "I'd be quite glad if you could point me to the closest bus stop, however."
She paused and remarked, "Well, the answer differs depending on where you're headed to, sir."
The man stopped what he was doing then and laughed. The girl stopped, staring at him in wonder. There truly was something off about this man, so why did she find herself so drawn to him? Was it because he was off that she wanted to know more? Or was it something beyond reason, a fate decided by the gods for the two to meet on that day, at that time? Or was it merely all coincidence?
"What do you find so funny, sir?" she wondered.
He smiled brightly at her and stated, "I could have used that advice when I first got on the bus."
The idea of the storm seemed far off at that moment while she stared at him. Hesitantly, she murmured, "I don't understand."
He leaned back on the bench, letting the newspaper and his hands fall limp on his lap, and she followed his reclining head with the umbrella. She was feeling the rain falling on her now, but protecting this man seemed to take precedent in that moment. "Well, young miss, had I known that I needed to take a specific bus to get to where I was going, I wouldn't be here right now, but there."
It took her a moment to register that what he was saying was that he'd taken just any bus, hoping it would take him to where he was headed. Were she not a lady, she might have hit him over the head with the umbrella for being such an imbecile, but she was a lady, so she kindly refrained and said instead, "So do you know where you are, sir?"
"I haven't an idea, young miss," the man laughed easily. "I hadn't an idea where I was going when I left, though, so I can't say it's a problem." He smiled delicately and then wondered, "May I ask you, young miss, if I may know your name?"
"I'd prefer not to divulge that information," she said, frowning a little at his forward attitude. "You may tell me yours, though."
"You may call me Kiyoteru, no more, no less."
No more, no less? What in the world was that meant to mean, she wondered? She was finding his behaviour rather worrisome now, so she proceeded to ask, "Kiyoteru, then, where should I be sending you on the bus?"
He looked down at the soggy newspaper before lifting it up toward her. She drew back as he forced it into her face. "You may send me where I can find this girl."
She paused to stared at the soppy article, the illegible words and green blob of a picture. The green of the picture made her stop to think, however, as did the coloured blobs of the ads on the page. She froze and wondered, "What is the name of the paper you're reading, sir?"
As he recited the name, she felt her heart stuttered. She recognized the article immediately and drew back a step, no longer shielding him with the umbrella but protecting herself instead. She paused for a long moment to study his curious gaze. Quietly, hesitantly, he wondered, "What's wrong, young miss?"
She blinked and stared at him, fully at a loss, and then stated, "My name is Gumi. I'm the girl in that article. You're looking for me."
Author's Note: Yes, I know why he's looking for her. No, I won't tell you. Anyway, this was fully drabble, forcing myself to write since I'm facing severe writer's block. This came from the prompt "There's a guy sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper…" Gumi and Kiyoteru immediately popped into my head, and, so, here it is. Hope you liked it. Let me know what theories you have about this story, like why he's looking for her and such. Thanks for reading!