The Stranger

This is an interactive story. I’ll be writing short bits and then asking for input from readers about where it should go next.

It was a dreary week in February when she started to notice them. The first was on a bulletin board by the door of the little coffee shop she owned. A poem, or possibly a message to someone, though it didn’t say who. And there was no claimant, no name or signature. Just:

I’ve been searching for you
all across the globe,
and now I’ve found you here,
that unassuming apron
hugging your form,
the strings tight around your waist –
where my arms should be.

Emily pulled the yellow pin from the top of the message, rubbing the paper between her fingers. It was soft and crumply, as if it had lived in someone’s pockets for some time, and she wondered what had inspired the writer to finally place it here, out in the open. For some reason, Emily felt the need to protect the message, but she also worried that removing it would ruin the writer’s chance of connecting with the person they had intended it for. And so she put it back on the board, pushing the yellow pin back in to the same hole that had already been poked through it.

The second message popped up a few days later, slipped under the glass on one of the tables, amongst the busy collage of business cards and artwork, and scribblings of other patrons:

I watch you move through the room,
light on your feet,
hopping, bird-like,
from place to place.
Your smile open,
your face fresh,
and as you brush by me,
that lemony-scent of
dish soap and sanitizer
mixes with the heat of you,
latching on to everything you pass,
including me.

The same crumply, soft notebook paper, bright white and lined with blue and pink. The same thick, black pen. The same insistent loops and lines, a strong cursive, quite obviously a practiced hand and intently written, the pen pressed hard against the paper.

She wondered first about the fingers, which, in her mind, as she began building the fantasy, were those of a man. Thick fingers, inked along the inside of the middle one on the right. A writer’s hands.

The third note appeared on Sunday, folded, the ruffly edges still attached after tearing it from a notebook. This time, the paper was crisp, divided into perfect quadrants, the creases so clean, she imagined he’d run his fingernail across them.

She unfolded the paper.

I’d like to get to know you better.


That was all. Somehow, then, she thought the notes were for her. Into the empty shop, she softly spoke the word, “How?” Inside her mind, other questions bubbled quietly. Who? Why? And in her chest, anticipation began to rise.

Emily, with her gray hair pinned to the top of her head, wild wisps floating around her ruddy cheeks. Emily, with her wide hips and calloused hands. Emily, with her worn floral dresses and sensible shoes.

Could it be? That these messages were for her?

And if so, who was “C”? A traveling stranger taken by her quiet beauty? A mad killer attempting to trap her with his charm? Someone she knew? A regular customer?

She found herself, eyes on the ceiling, hands on her hips, fingers tapping thoughtfully, rummaging through her mental rolodex. Who did she know that had a name beginning with C?

Where should this story go next? A. Emily should find more messages. B. Emily should write a message to the stranger. C. The stranger should call her. D. Other (please explain)

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